Insist on a courteous work environment
Problem: Lately it feels as though you’ve been inundated with employees’ complaints about their co-workers’ lack of common courtesy. One person complained about people leaving dirty dishes in the break room sink. Another grumbled about co-workers not replacing paper and ink cartridges in the copy machine. Others have been offended by some of the language they’ve heard around the workplace. Although you’ve addressed each issue individually, it doesn’t seem to have resolved the core problem: Too many people are being rude at work.
Solution: The good news is you’ve already made the first move to fix your team’s etiquette problems. Taking each complaint seriously and speaking with the offenders personally is critical for moving your employees to behave courteously. But you shouldn’t have to deal with those kinds of problems day after day. Reduce etiquette infractions to a minimum by following these tips:
- Brainstorm a list of discourteous behaviors. Gather your team for meeting in which you all contribute to a list of rude workplace behaviors. That will ensure that everyone is on the same page about what is unacceptable. You should also allow team members to submit ideas anonymously, so no one feels as if they have to point out a co-worker’s rude behavior in front of the group. Note: Just like in other brainstorming meetings, everyone should feel comfortable making suggestions. Save comments, questions or revisions for the next round.
- Discuss the list. Once you have a long list compiled, encourage your team to ask about any items they want clarification on. For example, if “Taking shoes off in the office” was added to the list, someone might want to know whether it’s considered rude when at one’s own desk as opposed to walking around. The group can then come to a consensus on what’s considered OK. Note: As the boss, you can insist on items being included, even if the majority of the group doesn’t agree. For instance, perhaps only two members of your team are offended by cursing whereas the rest don’t feel it’s rude. You can still include “No cursing” on your list of etiquette rules.
- Set a zero-tolerance policy. Once you’ve established a list of rules, distribute a copy to everyone and include an explanation for how infractions will be dealt with. It can be as simple as “Discourteous behaviors will not be tolerated and will result in a written warning.” Follow through with the policy.
- Establish rules for responding to a teammate’s lapse in courtesy. People cannot respond to rude behaviors with anger or sarcasm; otherwise the problem will escalate. Clarify that even when offended by someone’s behavior, employees must remain calm and professional.
- Model good etiquette. As with any policy, make sure you are meeting—or exceeding—the standards you set for your team. Being in charge does not excuse you from being courteous.
It’s all too easy to let common workplace courtesy and business etiquette go by the wayside, especially during busy or hard times. However, doing so is a huge mistake. If employees fail to show respect for one another’s ideas, opinions, space, and mental and physical health, then teamwork, collaboration, productivity and innovation suffer.
If that’s not bad enough, when people witness others’ rude behavior, they are much more likely to act rudely themselves. So one person’s bad habits can have a ripple effect through the whole team.
Polite, Professional and Promotable: Etiquette for Today’s Workplace teaches you business etiquette ground rules for dealing with both technology and people. Follow them, and you will prevent conflicts, build stronger work relationships, present a polished and professional image, and be seen as a role model.
Everyone—from frontline employees to C-level executives—plays an important role in ensuring that your workplace is one of civility, respect and courtesy. Completing this training will ensure that you are doing your part to foster that type of environment.
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