What Is the Role of Good Manners in the Workplace?

Making eye contact and acknowledging colleagues are two ways to show good manners at work.

Making eye contact and acknowledging colleagues are two ways to show good manners at work.

You mind your manners at the dinner table, but what about at work? You have so many pressing things to focus on during a given workday that saying "please" to your assistant or "thank you" to the cafeteria server may sometimes fall to the wayside. Don't neglect to practice good manners just because deadlines and projects seem more important than mutual respect and kindness. In fact, bad manners at work can ruin a business and send colleagues and clients headed out the door for good.

Manners and Productivity

Employees who suffer for the bad manners of their coworkers become less engaged at work, less passionate, and less likely to put extra energy into a project, Barbara Griffin, an organizational psychologist with the University of Western Sydney, explains on HC Online. When you're treated with disrespect by a colleague, you feel undervalued. This feeling can translate into withdrawal from the company culture and a search for fulfillment elsewhere. In contrast, good manners facilitate mutual respect and inspire confidence in employees. The best teams are those where each member feels valuable and unique. Praise coworkers for their ideas and contributions, and don't forget to thank them for helping you with your own tasks.

Bad vs. Good Manners

Bad manners can take many forms, and a person who displays them may not realize she's treating someone poorly. Interrupting a colleague, excluding someone from a group, questioning the judgment or decisions of others, and withholding important information are forms of bad manners. Good manners, on the hand, are habits you develop by tuning into your colleague's feelings. Active listening, encouragement and consideration of colleagues' ideas all facilitate goodwill between you and your coworkers. For example, greeting a colleague in the morning, listening to a grievance, offering to bring back coffee from the break room, or tidying up a messy shared office are examples of small actions that convey respect.

Effects of Bad Habits

Common habits that annoy your coworkers can come off as bad manners. For example, letting your phone ring loudly in the workplace might disturb a colleague's focus, or eating garlic-heavy food in your cubicle might distract surrounding colleagues. To exhibit good manners, put yourself in your coworkers' shoes. Do you repeatedly "pop in" on someone while they're working? Do you frequently ask a coworker to bring you supplies, coffee or other materials? Though you might not mean to demonstrate bad manners, your colleagues may be negatively affected by some of your habits.

Beyond Good Manners

While showing up on time, staying tidy and listening carefully are basic good manners, go a step further to show respect to coworkers. If a teammate does a superb job on a project, leave a note on her desk congratulating her. Say "hello" to people who don't directly work with you, such as custodians or maintenance workers. Small gestures like these help build a sense of positivity in the workplace, and they make the environment more civil.

How to Deal with Mistreatment

Employ a few techniques for dealing with a colleague who has bad manners, but realize that you have more control over how you handle the colleague than you have over your colleague's decisions and attitude. Don't reciprocate the behavior or give the coworker "a taste of her own medicine." More bad manners are not the answer and can lead to aggression. If you can find an appropriate time and place, speak to the coworker respectfully and explain how her behaviors affect you. If the behaviors have led you to feel uninspired, insecure or unfulfilled at work, speak to a counselor or psychiatrist before these problems spiral. Your main goal is to facilitate a good working environment for yourself and those around you.

 

About the Author

Jan Archer holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a master's degree in creative writing. Roth has written trade books for Books-a-Million and has published articles on green living, wellness and education topics. She taught business writing, literature, creative writing and English composition at the college level for five years.

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