Survey: The most common workplace etiquette blunders (and the absolute rudest thing you can do)

Using good manners and being courteous can be as important for your career success as your technical abilities. Friendly, likeable people with effective communications have an easier time getting hired and promoted. So, doesn’t it seem natural that the ranks of managers and directors would be filled with the most polite and well-mannered people?

Not everyone thinks so. A new study from Accountemps found that while senior managers believe people become more courteous as they rise through the ranks, workers disagree.

Michael Steinitz, executive director of Accountemps, said: “How you conduct yourself in the office and treat others can be just as important to your career as your work performance. Remember to think about how others may interpret your actions, and always aim to be considerate toward your colleagues.”

What are the most egregious breaches of workplace etiquette? The hundreds of senior managers surveyed found that arriving late or missing meetings was the worst offence.

Most common breaches of workplace etiquette:

  • Running late or missing meeting – 34 per cent
  • Not responding to calls or emails in a timely fashion – 26 per cent
  • Gossiping – 23 per cent
  • Being distracted in meetings, checking phone or email – 7 per cent
  • Not giving others the credit they deserve – 6 per cent
  • Criticizing others publicly – 2 per cent

Interestingly, when workers were asked the same question, the most common response was that gossiping was the worst behaviour. Only 18 percent of workers thought that being late for meetings was a major problem.

The absolute rudest thing you can do in a meeting?

My Vice President of marketing point this out to me at a former company. We were in a meeting with the PR agency, waiting for the advertising agency reps to arrive. They were about ten minutes late.

When the three members of the ad agency team came in their senior member apologized. “Sorry, traffic was brutal,” he said putting down her coffee from the café in the lobby and pulling back a chair.

My VP was so incensed, he told me later that he almost cancelled the contract and changed agencies. It wasn’t that they were late – that can happen. Sometimes delays occur that are beyond your control. The issue was the coffee.

“There is nothing,” my VP said, “Nothing ruder that showing up late for a meeting with coffee.”

While I hadn’t originally noticed the coffee on the table as a problem, when he pointed it out, of course, I could see it. They were coming to our office to meet with us and another agency. Traffic was bad, so they found themselves running late. Regardless, they stopped to pick up coffee in the lobby.

That means they could have arrived on time – or just a minute or two late instead of ten – if they hadn’t decided to make the reps from two other companies wait longer for them to arrive because they wanted to have a coffee in the meeting.

It’s just a clear sign of disrespect for other people’s time.

“It goes without saying that you should show respect toward your colleagues, yet etiquette blunders happen every day,” said Michael Steinitz. “Showing up on time for meetings and paying attention when you’re there demonstrates that you value the time and efforts of others. Just being polite goes a long way toward creating a better work environment.”

And whatever you do, don’t show up late with a takeout coffee in your hand.

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