Buying into business etiquette
Bad business etiquette can significantly impact your career. Follow these tips and advice to avoid future workplace faux pas.
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We’ve all had one of those “Oh, $&!#” moments when you’ve realized just a moment too late that you’ve breached some basic business etiquette rule. Or perhaps you’ve never had one of those moments, which is probably worse because you’ve likely been a bad business etiquette culprit and you never even knew it.
Professionals may be moving at a faster pace at work than ever before, but that doesn’t mean common courtesy should fall to the wayside. Of course, pinning down the most common workplace etiquette breaches largely depends on whom you ask.
For 34% of senior managers, running late to meetings or missing them entirely is the most common breach of workplace etiquette committed by workers, according to a recent survey by Accountemps. That offense is followed by:
- Not responding to calls or emails in a timely way (26%)
- Gossiping about others in the office (23%)
- Being distracted during meetings such as checking a smartphone or writing emails (7%)
- Not crediting others when appropriate (6%)
- Criticizing others publicly (2%)
Only 2% of senior managers said staff and coworkers do not commit etiquette breaches.
Workers surveyed paint a slightly different picture. For 24% of workers, gossiping about others in the office topped the charts as the most egregious etiquette offense, followed by:
- Being distracted during meetings such as checking a smartphone or writing emails (18%)
- Not responding to calls or emails in a timely way (17%)
- Running late to or missing meetings (12%)
- Criticizing others publicly (7%)
- Not crediting others when appropriate (5%)
- Other (3%)
Surprisingly, 14% of workers said coworkers do not commit etiquette breaches.
It’s important for all professionals to remember that how you interact with others in the workplace — in both big and small ways — can have far-reaching consequences.
“Courtesy impacts your career significantly,” notes Jim Jeffers, metro market manager for staffing firm Robert Half and Accountemps in Madison. “No one wants to work with someone who is rude, disrespectful, or unapproachable. The findings from our research support that — 65% of managers and 46% of workers say that being courteous can accelerate advancement.”
However, managers and workers did not see eye to eye when it comes to courtesy and moving up the corporate ladder, according to Jeffers. Among business leaders, 61% said professionals become more courteous as they advance, but nearly half of employees (48%) disagreed and said politeness declines as an individual progresses in his/her career.
So, what might explain some of the differences in the way managers and workers view etiquette offenses?
According to the survey results, punctuality is very important to managers — bosses said that being late to meetings was the biggest etiquette breach. “On the other hand,” says Jeffers, “workers said office gossip was the worst poor etiquette offense. Bosses might not witness their staff gossiping, since their behavior isn’t typically done when executives are within earshot. They are, however, typically present for many meetings and can tell when employees show up late for them.
“Workers also believe that courtesy declines for those climbing the company ladder,” continues Jeffers. “Professionals just starting out might be more courteous because they’re trying to advance their careers. They might not worry as much about their professional image once they grow into more senior roles.”