Most of us work with relatively sane people who try to behave during the eight hours or so that they’re in the office.  And we attempt to do the right things and avoid offending our co-workers as well.

But some people just don’t get it.  As part of a survey on workplace etiquette, the Robert Half organization asked employees to share some of the most outrageous workplace scenes they’d witnessed or heard about.  Here are some of the “winners” – although I would more accurately call them losers:

  • “A employee fell asleep at her desk and another team member took a picture of her snoozing and sent it to the boss.”
  • “Someone was stealing other people’s lunches from the lounge area.”
  • “A colleague purposely sneezed in the boss’s coffee cup.”
  • “After asking me a question, a co-worker talked excessively for 30 minutes without letting me get in one word.”
  • “I once heard an employee screaming at a customer.”
  • “Someone thought he put a customer on hold and then used inappropriate language within earshot.”
  • “Employees were walking around the office barefoot.”
  • “A person took a cell phone into the restroom while still talking.”

Don’t join this club.  Studies have shown that rude behavior at work hurts productivity, job commitment, job retention, morale and working relationships.  Even worse, it threatens the health and well-being of employees.

The word “courtesy” literally means “the way of the court.”  This means acting like you would in the king’s court.  Displaying the same actions and attitudes appropriate in the presence of royalty is a good guide for all of our everyday dealings with others.  Because when you treat others better than they are accustomed to being treated, their response is almost always positive.

Here are ten simple tips for proper – and more productive – workplace behavior:

  1. Watch your language.  Crude language, naughty jokes and insensitive comments don’t belong in the workplace.  If you question whether something is safe to say, it probably isn’t.
  2. Don’t criticize or complain in public.  Trashing a colleague, customer or boss where others can hear makes you look petty and unprofessional.  If you have a problem, deal with it in private.
  3. Stay cool.  Take a moment to collect your thoughts and control your emotions before responding to a difficult co-worker or an annoying situation.  If you gain a reputation for losing your temper, few people will want to work with you.
  4. Use technology appropriately.  While email helps avoid face-to-face confrontations, it’s still important to maintain a civil tone in your communications.  Think twice before you hit the send button, and use the “reply all” feature sparingly.  Make sure the recipient of your forwarded jokes, recipes or celebrity gossip really welcomes that computer clutter.
  5. Respond as promptly as possible to requests and questions.  Making co-workers wait for answers unnecessarily disrupts their schedules.  If someone is relying on you for information, be cooperative.
  6. Minimize interruptions to others.  Ask “May I interrupt you?” or “Is this a convenient time for a question?”  And if someone barges into your office when you are especially busy, politely ask when you can get back to them.
  7. Leave a signed note when leaving something on a co-worker’s desk.  Leave a note when borrowing items too.  Be sure to return items when you finish with them.
  8.  Be aware of the workloads of other staff.  Remember, just because it’s a priority for you doesn’t mean it’s a priority for others.  And when you have a lull in your schedule, the person in the next cubicle may have just been assigned a major project.
  9. Remember to say “please” and “thank you.”   So basic, but so important.
  10.    Respect each other.  Leave paper in the copy machine.  Clean up after yourself in the break room.  Don’t pry into personal information.  Beware of office gossip.

As I like to say, little things don’t mean a lot – they mean everything.  Common courtesy is becoming all too uncommon.  Help reverse the trend.


Mackay’s Moral:  Good manners are never out of place in the workplace.

About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}