Remember all those old sayings your grandma used to quote? Adages such as, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" probably sounded really corny, but they're still applicable, especially at work. Combine those concepts with a few other basic tenets you likely learned as a kid -- be polite, don't take things that don't belong to you, and use your "inside voice" -- and you've got the foundation of respectful workplace behavior.
Common Courtesy and Good Manners
Greet people at the office with a smile, look them in the eye and make an effort to exchange polite conversation. A positive attitude can be contagious and your friendly greetings each day demonstrate your respect for everyone from the receptionist to your boss to the janitor. Fall back on the manners your parents drummed into you as a child: hold doors for people, say "please" and "thank you" and shake hands when you're introduced to someone.
Personal Space and Belongings
You know how you hate it when someone takes your last diet soda out of the breakroom fridge, right? One of the first rules of workplace respect is to leave co-workers' belongings alone. Don't help yourself to things that aren't yours -- this includes food, coffee mugs, office supplies and assigned parking spots. And respect co-workers' personal space, too. Don't barge into their offices or cubicles without knocking or announcing yourself, and don't interrupt when other people are having a private conversation.
There's usually one person in every workplace that can't seem to ever get to a meeting on time, and she often shows up late for work and lunch, too. She's always "sorry" and has some sort of excuse, but the message she's really sending is that she doesn't have much respect for other people's time or schedules. Demonstrate professional courtesy by showing up on time for meetings, presentations or other work-related events, including being on time for work every day. This also means meeting deadlines and completing assignments or duties that your co-workers depend on to get their own jobs done.
It might not seem like a big deal, but if your cubicle looks like a tornado hit, or you leave common-use areas a mess, it sends a message that you don't really care what others think or respect them enough to clean up after yourself. Your appearance matters, too. Everybody's entitled to an occasional bad hair day, but if you typically show up under-dressed or unkempt, you're sending a signal that you don't care how you look or whether it brings down the professional image of the office.
Silence Is Golden
If you have to hear about your co-worker's poodle's digestive problems one more time, you're going to scream. People who talk loudly on their cell phones, blast their music or don't seem to have an "inside voice" at work are demonstrating major disrespect for their colleagues. Keep your voice down and your personal phone calls private. Respect your co-workers by using headphones if you're playing music at work. A corollary to this is to listen more than you speak. Pay attention when co-workers are talking to you, keep judgmental or snide comments to yourself and try to stay out of the office gossip mill.
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