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Grace Under Fire—Good Manners in Today’s Workplace

By Sue Fox for – 01/22/2009 – 10:17pm

Whether you work in the heat and heart of Silicon Valley or do business farther away from the high tech “fires,” there is no work on earth that has not been permanently influenced by the way of life created by the information age and information tools. And, as we all have noticed by now, being able to do business at the speed of light has done enormous damage to conducting business in a human and humane fashion.

A Refresher Course. I would like to offer a few ground rules on insights into how to bring some consideration, grace and style back into your work life. Read on to rediscover good manners you may have misplaced and perhaps learn a few new tips you can incorporate into the way you work. And, as you read through the guides, grade yourself on how you generally conduct yourself at work right now, noting where you can improve.

• Speaking. Use well-modulated tones when you speak in the office and over the phone. Raising your voice in haste, frustration, or anger is always inappropriate. It doesn’t foster clear communication and leaves all parties concerned with an “emotional residue” that will interfere with getting work done. And, when “speaking” in e-mail and online, all the same rules apply. Don’t “flame” with insults and rudeness and don’t “shout” by using ALL CAPS! Finally, do not swear, tell off-color jokes, or bring sexual topics or overtones into your work discussions. This is highly unprofessional and completely inappropriate at work.

• Work Attire. Pages have been written on how to dress at work and while an entire column could be devoted to this topic, we offer a few simple guidelines here. Dress as those in your work group dress. Remember that being casual does not extend to poor grooming—always be clean and neat. If your job requires you to interact with the public, you will probably be required to dress more formally. If this doesn’t appeal to you, don’t try to buck the system. Find another job. If you wish to climb the corporate ladder, look at the people in positions you want and dress as they do. Avoid clothing extremes, revealing clothing, and evening or party wear in the workplace. And don’t sacrifice comfort for trends or fashion. Use good taste or get help figuring out what is tasteful.

• Personal Life at Work. Everyone makes friends at work and there is a fine line that is easy to cross when co-workers become friends. Remember to conduct your personal life outside the workplace and you won’t go wrong. Use moderation in your exchanges with work friends so you don’t spend too much time socializing. If it is necessary to discuss personal issues or conduct urgent personal business of any sort in your workplace, be brief and discreet, so you don’t distract, disturb or offend those with whom you work. The best rule is to discuss personal issues in private and in moderation when at work, so you give your employer what he pays you for—your time, focus and work done well. Keep casual talk to a minimum. Don’t bring family members, significant others, friends, and pets into the office for extended periods of time.

• Interaction with Co-Workers. Don’t interrupt your work mates. Schedule times to meet whenever possible to go over mutual work. The occasional quick question is unavoidable, but don’t let spontaneity rule you and ruin everyone else’s schedule and concentration. Open cubicles already remove most of your co-workers privacy, so respect their quiet. And observe the “shut door” of your co-workers who work in offices. Avoid roaming the floor and disturbing others at work when you are less busy. Take your breaks in a break area or cafeteria for the same reason. If you are interrupted or if a co-worker is making too much noise in an adjacent area, calmly and respectfully inform him that you need quiet. You can be polite and firm at the same time. And always treat your co-workers with consideration and respect in all exchanges.

• Your Workspace. Maintain a high standard of neatness and professional decorum in your personal work area. Bringing personal items into that area is your decision, but be aware that what you display is a direct reflection of whom you are and how you wish to be perceived. If you line your cube walls with soda cans or toys, it may be amusing and show that “arty” or “witty” side of yourself, but it also presents you as someone who wishes his sense of humor or playfulness to be the first and most important thing people observe about him. Think about it first! And think twice about displaying controversial, religious, political or extremely personal items in your private work area. And, while it shouldn’t have to be said, we must: Never take things from other people’s workspace and return anything you borrow with haste! Use earphones if you wish to listen to music or the radio while you work. Don’t use a speakerphone without shutting your office door and never use one in an open area. It is extremely rude to carry on your business to the detriment of everyone around you.

• Sharing the Environment. Take care in shared areas. Don’t leave your clutter in a conference room after a meeting. And share the “visual, sound and air space” politely at work, too. If you have nervous habits, break them. Don’t twitch, jiggle your leg, tap pencils or other items on the table and so on. Never engage in personal grooming in your cube or in meetings. Comb hair, put on make-up, and engage in ALL personal grooming in the restroom or at home. Keep your casual and personal habits outside the workplace. Don’t smoke, chew gum, play with your face, hands or other body parts, or absentmindedly snack, whistle or sing in a shared workplace. If you decide to eat snacks, breakfast, or lunch in your cubicle, be considerate of those around you; try to select foods that do not have strong or unpleasant aromas.

• Group Politics. Don’t be a whiner, complainer, or negativity “black hole.” Do bring a positive attitude to meetings and discussions. You don’t have to be rude or sarcastic to say “no.” And, while saying “no” politely is a learned skill—it is the professional way to go. Further, don’t gossip about or discuss other employees or their performance in any way in their absence. And if you have something you absolutely must say, say it to that person and in private. Avoid bringing a bad mood into your workplace. And never abuse others when you have a bad day. Learn how to be a “team player” and how to take action to make the changes you think are important. If you find this is impossible in your job and that you are distressed by your inability to affect change, maybe it’s time to find a job where you can make changes. But don’t destroy your current work environment with your unhappiness in the meantime.

• In Closing…Strung together this list of “do’s and don’ts” may be daunting at first, but every well-mannered, successful working adult should know and observe them. Take steps to become more than a mindless worker bee. Bring some style and grace into your work behavior today! It won’t go unnoticed or for long.

Author Resource:- Etiquette For Dummies, By Sue Fox & Business Etiquette For Dummies, By Sue Fox

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