|When things get hectic and deadlines loom, it’s easy to brush colleagues off or to be a little short with them – not because we’re trying to be rude, but because we’re short on time or stressed. It may appear to others as rude behaviour and it’s easy for them to be offended; even relatively minor incidents can spiral out of control and cause major disruption in an organisation.A staggering 96% of Americans report experiencing rudeness at work, according to recent research. What’s more, 48% of these employees admit to having intentionally decreased their productivity after such an experience. The end result of this, says Christine Pearson, co-author of ‘The Cost of Bad Behavior,’ is that workplace rudeness, apparently costs employers an average of £30,000 per worker, per year!“Those are very high financial consequences for seemingly inconsequential, inconsiderate words and actions,” notes Pearson.
Of course, the definition of ‘rude’ is a broad one and open to different interpretation by different people. However, there are some basic rules of office etiquette that we can all remind ourselves of in order to be proactive in putting our best foot forward with colleagues:Make an effort
Maintaining a positive attitude and good manners in the workplace can be quite contagious. Think: Pay it forward, ie asking that a good turn be repaid by having it done to others instead. Make a commitment to yourself to be more mindful of how you treat your colleagues and see others begin to do the same. All relationships take work, even professional ones.
Establish an open door policy
Notes on the fridge in the kitchen, email chains and inter-office memos make it all too easy to be passive aggressive when things are bothering us. Far less time and energy is taken from a work day when problems are approached head on, in an honest way. Encourage your team to let one another know in a respectful way when something is bothering them and give them the tools to solve the problem on their own.
Be on time and be timely
Time is a valuable commodity for us all, which is why it should be respected. Being late for a meeting, even an internal one, can send the message that you think your time is more valuable than other peoples. Be on time or let others know that you will arrive late, whenever possible. Likewise, when responding to ‘phone calls, voice mail messages and emails, do so in a timely manner as another means of respecting the time of others. Remind people that good timekeeping is a priority in your office by distributing handy desktop clocks so that there are no excuses, or stock all meeting rooms with a timer to keep meetings short and respectful of everyone’s time.
Avoid the urge to be helpful in other peoples’ conversations
In many workplaces – especially with the rise of open plan offices – privacy is hard to come by. If you overhear a private conversation, try to practice selective hearing. Do your best not to interject into the conversations of others uninvited. Not only will this be construed as nosiness, it can also disturb others around you who would rather conversations take place elsewhere.
Passing on rumours or information that you have ‘overheard’ is not helpful in a work environment and can escalate into a major issue. If you feel upset or hurt by a colleague’s behaviour or something you believe they have said, speak calmly and directly to that person to defuse the situation before it has a chance to turn into a major issue.
As you get to know your colleagues, you’ll learn how they prefer to communicate as well as their idiosyncrasies and their level of sensitivity to certain work topics. Adapt to these personality traits when working with individuals as a means of preventing conflict and building a strong team relationship based on understanding and trust.
Encourage respect and show appreciation
In the same way that you have made a personal commitment to be more mindful of your manners in the office, encourage others to do the same. Ask everyone to take a pledge of respect and outline office etiquette expectations. Hand out Post-It Notes or notebooks for everyone to sign up to this pledge. Or, develop a ‘workplace manners’ challenge to promote office-wide participation in conscientiously respecting one another on a daily basis. Distribute fun prizes or gift vouchers, like an Star Keyring or Star Shaped Bookmarks to your teams for them to distribute to their peers when they spot an office etiquette ‘star’.
Refreshing your office etiquette skills today will improve your working environment, relationships with colleagues and your overall approach to customer service internally and externally tomorrow.