Minding Your Business Manners

Steps to improve workplace etiquette

All too often these days, workers exhibit rude, inappropriate or self-absorbed behavior. Sadly, in many places of business across the country—including boardrooms, offices and plant floors—appropriate business etiquette is not being observed. What’s more, bad behavior might lead to confrontation and even violence that can threaten someone’s well-being and the business as a whole.

This does not mean you have to adhere to the strict regimen espoused by Emily Post almost a century ago, but employees will take their cues from top managers. By making a conscious effort to improve your own manners, you can set the tone for the workplace. Consider the following suggestions:

  • During meetings, put your cell phone on vibrate. Better yet, shut it off completely, especially if you tend to forget about it.
  • Pay attention to the people in attendance at meetings, not your cell phone or other electronic devices. Avoid scrolling through e-mails. Do your best to fully concentrate on the task at hand.
  • Dress appropriately, and avoid wearing strong-smelling cologne or perfume.
  • Stay home if you are sick. Do not risk spreading germs or otherwise disrupting the workplace.
  • Be on time for meetings. Reschedule them if you simply do not have enough time to attend. It is rude to constantly keep people waiting.
  • Stick to the schedule. If workers are just standing around and waiting for you, productivity suffers.
  • Don’t disturb others who are working. If you need to have a loud conversation or conference call, find a private place to do so.
  • Eat lunch or snacks in the break room, if there is one. Food odors can permeate the workplace.
  • When talking in areas where others are congregating, try to keep your voice at a reasonable level. This also applies to your conversations in cubicles or hallways.
  • Respect the property rights of others. That includes items hanging in a closet or stored in a refrigerator.
  • Don’t be so quick to fly off the handle. Yelling and screaming is not only counterproductive but also can be quite embarrassing.

If you are in a position of authority, how can you best deal with offenders? For starters, do not react to bad behavior with rants of your own. Second, take the person aside in private, and explain the problem without getting emotional or angry. Sometimes, a little sympathy can go a long way. Make it a point to follow up with the worker and commend him or her for any improvement.

Naturally, there are no guarantees that bad or rude behavior will stop. If it continues or worsens, follow the procedures required by company policy. When necessary, update your company manual.

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