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Office etiquette: Some dos and don'ts

October 07, 2006 13:13 IST

You will recognise this guy because he (or she) is present in almost every office. Every time he uses the phone, you end up typing the same word 10 times till he finishes the entire conversation, thanks to his loud voice.

True, you can ignore him but you won't be able to concentrate and so your time is wasted too. Etiquette and manners at workplace are about putting others before you and treating them with respect and courtesy in all our actions.

A friend had once mentioned how a colleague of his screamed from his mouthpiece while interviewing a big cricket celebrity that his boss had quipped: 'If Karachi-India talks are on at this pitch, can I use the phone?' This anecdote is not an isolated case. It's common practice in the workplace to use high decibels when using the phone, in most cases deliberately (to catch the boss's attention towards your zealous self) and in some cases unintentionally, which in any case disrupts the work environment momentarily and is a total violation of office etiquette.

Another familiar workplace irritant is the constant complainer. The complaints are usually about the person's kids, health, work, maids and yes, the boss. The control freak is yet another nuisance at the workplace. This writer had the misfortune of working with one such 'creature,' who would bring the whole building down, even if the task of monitoring toilet paper every morning was given to somebody else!

Then there is the snake variety who sucks up to the boss at your cost and you end up getting the short-end of the stick at every meeting. Your promotions and increments would come, so it becomes difficult to quit but you can never warm up to your boss.

There is, however, one virus, which generally flouts all office etiquette and yet gets enough space to thrive in an organisation. That's gossip and the employee (she or he) will offer a free orientation course on who's sleeping with whom and also conspiracy theories. And you would have to be born on Mars to ignore such people.

The new and improved irritants are, of course, the mail versions. E-mail etiquette is proudly flouted when sick jokes are sent to everyone in the address book. And almost everyone opens the mail to read at least the first few lines before deciding to go ahead or not.

There could be many reasons behind odd behaviour in the workplace. Foremost could be employees suffering from attention-deficit syndrome. But how to deal with irritation overload is a matter of personal choice. While, one may choose to completely ignore such irritants, other's that are more affected can choose to confront such behaviour. In any case, the tactic should be to let you work when at work.

What is an absolute no-no is sexual harassment. Zero tolerance should be every company's policy when dealing with it. And even a 'friendly' comment can become a loaded weapon. Sample this incident: A male colleague told a longtime female friend of his (who also worked with him) that her rear-end had become huge and why didn't she do something about it! She retorted by saying, that she was bound to have put on weight after having kids. He replied by saying, you didn't have them through your rear, did you?

Well, I do know which category this would come in but as is wont to happen, most women would overlook shallow comments like this, even though they were personal.

The bottomline is your peformance should not suffer because of some attention seeking colleague's behaviour or some inappropriate comment made about you. And dealing with negative gossip in a forthright manner may be the right way to deal with it.

So how do you deal with office boors and malicious gossip? Ignore, ostracise (if possible) and/or return the favour, with help from coworkers, so that they learn a lesson!

Here's a list of dos and don'ts that may help you understand the parameters within which you must work.

What you must not do

  • Don't try and find 'best friends' among your colleagues.
  • Don't try and get up, close and personal with your boss.
  • Don't try and seek audience from the next cubicle when talking on the phone.
  • Don't keep ringtones of your mobile very loud when at work.
  • Don't peep over your colleague's shoulders to read their emails.
  • Don't entertain jokes that have sexual overtones.
  • Don't comment on people's sense of dressing.
  • Don't try and seek unnecessary attention by constantly talking about your achievements.

What you must do

  • Do reply to office mails and try to use lower cases while typing as bold letters signify a scream.
  • Do keep you voice low while talking.
  • If you have a problem that may force you to stay away from work, keep your boss in the loop.
  • Do congratulate a colleague on his/her achievements even if you do not approve of his/her ways.
  • Do not forget to shut you mobile phone during meetings.
Jhini Sinha Phira,