Where Have All The Manners Gone?
We laugh at the workplace sarcasm found in cartoons, such as those created by Scott Adams of “Dilbert” fame, then perpetuate the sarcasm and uncouth behaviors by Sharing them on Facebook. We have seen t.v. shows, like The Office, with their parodies of life at work, including the exaggerated personalities we can all identify with: the bombastic, egotistical boss; the snarky busy body; the sarcastic sales dude; and the my-crisis-must-now-be-your-crisis co-worker. When the laughter ends and the t.v. is turned off, we sadly realize that these personalities and lack of good manners are what gobble up any sanity we have left when we are in our work environment and indeed make it an unpleasant place to be.
T.v. sitcoms aside, the reality is that the office, the manufacturing floor, and the retail store have become annoying battle grounds, where good manners and overall office etiquette have taken a back seat to gossip, goofing off, pointing fingers, being unaccountable, and those TMI moments where you wish your cube-mate would keep parts of their personal life, well, personal!
Good manners in the workplace have gotten so scarce these days, that there is a week each year dedicated to office etiquette! It’s called National Business Etiquette Week and it occurs in early June. This is apparently something sorely needed, as many workplaces today could use a remedial course in office etiquette and what it means to be a kind, considerate, helpful co-worker. When did we become the very parodies we love to laugh at?
You might wonder if this is a “Chicken and Egg” question: what happened first, loss of manners in the workplace or loss of manners as a society? One truly spills over into the other, but which came first is really not important. What is important is that if one is “healed,” the other soon will be and we will all benefit from it.
Applying the Golden Rule, as many of us were taught when we were youngsters, and thereby adopting the “Do for others, as you would have them do for you” attitude would go a long way towards regaining a polite workplace. According to one source, “…the words please and thank you cannot be overused, especially in the work environment.”
So, where do we start? To take that first step, we should commit to using the following tips from an article in Entrepreneur magazine. 2 The basic idea from each tip can be applied to most workplaces.
- Respect another’s need to work.
Just because others are sitting nearby doesn’t mean they are available for conversation at all times. Respect one another’s privacy. Act as if there is a door between you and if they appear to be busy, ask if they have a moment to talk.
- Keep noise and distractions to a minimum.
Noisy conversations (either between workers or on the telephone) or habits such as tapping on the desk, fidgeting or getting up and down often can create an annoying distraction to those trying to concentrate. If you want to listen to music, podcasts or videos, use headphones or ear buds.
- Be tidy.
Your messy desk can be a distraction to others and will detract from the professional image your organization is trying to establish. Keep your belongings confined to your own personal space and tidy up your immediate area each day before leaving work. If you share a desk, be sure to clear away any personal items like coffee cups and office supplies.
- Respect another’s space.
Just because another’s workspace is within reach of your desk doesn’t make it common domain. Treat each person’s space as if it was a private office. Do not help yourself to anything on their desk or in their area. Ask first or go to the supply closet if you need a pen or a stapler.
- Be considerate.
Respect is key when working in an open-office environment. Act respectful and expect others to act in the same way. Set rules of conduct and reiterate boundaries when they are crossed. It’s best to address problems and concerns directly and diplomatically before they escalate.
- Be tolerant.
The open-office environment brings together myriad personalities, with different styles. Be tolerant of these differences and find ways to adapt. Everyone is not going to agree with you one hundred percent of the time. Keep an open mind, listen with the intent to learn and focus on the positive aspects of your job.
- Think like a team.
In order to maintain a cohesive team, do not spread gossip, cause another to feel like an outcast, or grumble about petty things. Hold regular meetings to set goals, share ideas and talk about concerns.
Until next month!
Carol Schoff, SHRM-CP, PHR
Director of Human Resources