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Dos and Don’ts of Workplace Decorum

Dos and Don’ts of Workplace Decorum

Every workplace has a couple of people who seem oblivious to the idea of etiquette and common courtesy. You’ve undoubtedly come across them at some point: the person who finishes the coffee but doesn’t set another pot to brew; the one who monopolizes conversation during staff meetings and glares if they don’t get enough attention; the office drama queen who interrupts you with bits of gossip and doesn’t take the hint when you have work to do.

If you’re really surrounded by jerks, you may share a cubicle with someone who’s fond of rating their belches, or, if you’re in a shared open-concept space, you may have to put up with loud, obnoxious discussions by someone who doesn’t quite understand the idea of an “inside voice.” It’s important to remember that the workplace is a public environment where a certain measure of decorum should be adhered to. These are just a few basic Dos and Don’ts that should be common sense, but are often overlooked.

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Do:

Be polite

Whether you’re talking to the receptionist, assigning work to an employee, or on a phone call to tech support, keep in mind that everyone you associate is worthy of respect and courtesy. You might be a manager, a secretary, an office cleaner, or the CEO, but that doesn’t mean that you are any greater or lesser than anyone else in the company. Saying “please” and “thank you” is a courtesy that should be extended to everyone.

Keep your feet off your desk, and try to keep the surface tidy

If it wasn’t acceptable at your mother’s house, it sure isn’t acceptable at work. If the thought that propping your hooves on your desk makes you look edgy and cool, you’ve been watching too many 1980s flicks.

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As for keeping your space neat and tidy, there’s a difference between an organized mess and a cesspit. Allowing empty chip bags, takeout boxes, and styrofoam cups to accumulate around you is just disgusting, and if you’re old enough to have a job, you’re too old to keep a collection of dolls and toys on your desk. Clean it up.

Respect other people’s property, as well as their personal space

I once worked in an open concept office environment in which the managers would have impromptu meetings in front of my desk, and ended up using the desk top as a coffee table as they talked. Not only was this horribly disrespectful, but their inane chatter also distracted me from my work. Be aware of those around you and treat them with the same courtesy that you’d like extended to you.

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In a similar vein, it’s very rude to just grab an item from someone’s desk without asking if you can use it. If you need to borrow a stapler/ruler/pen from your colleague’s desk, ask them nicely first, and then return it promptly. Don’t eat anything from a shared fridge unless you’re the one who put it in there, or if it’s clearly labeled as something that’s meant to be shared around.

Don’t:

Chew gum during meetings

If you have to chew gum at all, please do so with your mouth closed and don’t snap it or blow bubbles‒you’ll drive your co-workers insane. Be diligent about spitting it out before meetings or you’ll end up looking either slovenly or juvenile, and those aren’t traits that any employer wants to see.

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Use mugs with obnoxious phrases or slogans on them

This also applies to neckties and T-shirts (yes, programmers: this means you too). If you’re fond of clothing and accessories that are redolent of sexual innuendo or pop culture references, indulge in them at home—not work. Coffee mugs shaped like toilet seats, or those with handles that look like brass knuckles are frowned upon as well, and for goodness’ sake, skip the animated character tie unless you work for Pixar.

Have loud conversations on office phones

No one needs to hear you having a fight with your partner while they’re trying to work, nor do they need to hear you braying with laughter if you’re trying to schmooze a client. Shared office spaces like lofts were likely dreamed up by someone from the seventh circle of hell, but those horrible environments are made even more intolerable when people don’t respect the fact that they aren’t the only ones there.

If the person across the room glares at you when you’re on a call, you’re too damned loud. Either lower your voice, or step out into the hall.

Even in offices where everyone is pretty laid back and relaxed, a certain level of grace and courtesy is always appreciated. Do try to maintain a respectable appearance, especially if clients ever stop by to visit, treat others as you’d like them to treat you, and everyone should be able to play nicely together.

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Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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