Women arguing around a meeting table

Are you guilty of these worst breaches of workplace etiquette?

Elizabeth Bromstein|

How’s your workplace etiquette? Are you a paragon of politesse or persona non grata? Do you know what behaviours drive your co-workers nuts?

You can probably guess, right?

A new survey by staffing firm Accountemps asked that question, and found out which etiquette breaches are considered the worst offenses among American office employees.

The study of 450 workers over the age of 18 also asked whether people thought being courteous has an impact on one’s career, and found that 85% feel that it does. Interestingly, 70% of people also felt that we become less courteous as we move up the corporate hierarchy.

At the top of the list of pet peeves was using a speakerphone, or talking loudly on the phone. This was followed by loitering or talking around someone’s desk.

Here are the responses to “Which one of the following do you consider to be the biggest breach of workplace etiquette when working in an open office space?”

    Using a speakerphone or talking loudly on the phone – 36%
    Loitering or talking around a colleague’s desk – 23%
    Eating foods that have strong odors – 15%
    Keeping a messy or cluttered workspace – 14%
    Leaving the phone ringer on loud – 8%
    Don’t know/can’t choose just one – 4%
    Something else – 1%
    (101% total due to rounding)

These are all pretty obvious breaches of etiquette. But anyone who works in an open office – which probably means most office workers – knows there is always at least one person who has no idea his or her voice or ringer is too loud, or that their food is smelly. I would also add to this list: leaving your dishes in the office kitchen sink instead of putting them in the dishwasher. And clipping your toenails in a meeting room and leaving the clippings on the floor. This actually happened. I’m not inventing weird etiquette breaches just for your entertainment.

Responses to the question “In your opinion, to what extent does being courteous to coworkers positively impact a person’s career prospects?”:

    Greatly, it can accelerate advancement – 44%
    Somewhat, but skills play a bigger role – 41%
    No impact at all, it’s who or what you know – 14%
    Don’t know – 2%
    (101% total due to rounding)

Wow. It’s amazing that 14% think manners have no impact at all. I’d love to know where they work. But might not like to work with them.

And to the question “In your opinion, do people become more or less courteous as they climb the corporate ladder?”:

    More courteous – 21%
    Less courteous – 70%
    Don’t know – 7%
    Refused – 2%
    (101% total due to rounding)

So, if you climb the corporate ladder, remember the little people.

Also, turn your ringer down and stop hovering over people’s desks. It will, in the long run, help your career. Probably.


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