Next time you consider shouting to a coworker over the cubicle wall, think twice. Traditional etiquette conventions might seem like a thing of the past, but old-fashioned social graces still go a long way in the office. We spoke with Daniel Post Senning, the great-great grandson of etiquette pioneer Emily Post and co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” about the biggest manners mistakes in the workplace. To make the office a little more pleasant for everyone, follow his advice:
Manners mistake #1: Lack of social awareness One of the biggest reasons workers leave their places of employment is a lack of respect or appreciation, Senning explains. “Remember that business is built on relationships,” he says, “so awareness of others and how your actions impact others is essential.” Small gestures make the office a pleasant place to be. Greet coworkers with a hello when you arrive, look people in the eye and give colleagues your full attention during a conversation. And of course, always remember to say “thank you.”
Manners mistake #2: Poor communication choices “One mistake that people make is not thinking about how their choice of communication starts to become part of the message itself,” Senning says. “When you get something handwritten or personalized, it says ‘This really matters’. Similarly, if you text your boss about why you’re not going to make the most important meeting of the year, that might not show the seriousness the situation deserves.” The medium is the message.
Manners mistake #3: Clashing with coworkers “You get to choose your friends, you love your family, but you don’t necessarily get to choose your co-workers,” Senning says. “People don't take enough care with their work relationships, [but] the quality of our lives depend on it.” Senning suggests a twofold approach for dealing with challenging work relationships: Learning to have difficult conversations respectfully so tensions don’t escalate, and being diligent about respecting the privacy and boundaries of office colleagues.
Manners mistake #4: Failure to use discretion Office gossip is always tempting, but discussing a co-worker’s personal life reflects poorly on you and the professional environment. Find out surprising information about a colleague? Do (or say) nothing, and just let it go. “Learn to let people have their private space and time and lives,” Senning says.
Manners mistake #5: Carelessness about common space “Some of the most common conflict areas are shared spaces in the office,” Senning says. Failure to keep a tidy kitchen space, or loudly carrying on personal phone calls in an office bullpen make for an unpleasant experiences for everyone. Step up your game, and lead by example. “Hold yourself accountable,” he says, “maybe even to a standard higher than your own personal standards, for the sake of a shared environment.”