Managers and Employees Don’t Agree on the Worst Workplace Etiquette Breaches



It’s no secret that workers and their managers don’t see eye-to-eye on all, most, some, OK, hardly any workplace issues.

So should it really come as a surprise that they hold different views regarding the most irritating workplace behaviors?

According to a report by Accountemps, managers get really ticked off when workers don’t pay attention during meetings. On the other hand, employees consider office gossip to be the top offense.

The table below shows the responses of chief financial officers vs. workers when asked, “which one of the following is the most common breach of workplace etiquette committed by your staff/coworkers?”

List of worst workplace etiquette breaches

Some of the responses seem to indicate major differences in perception between managers and the employees they lead. For example, twice as many workers than CFOs thought failing to give credit to others and criticizing others in public were major etiquette breaches. Interestingly, 11 percent of CFOs apparently don’t think staff members commit any type of workplace etiquette blunder. OK.

Houston, We Have a Problem spoke with Bill Driscoll, New England district president of Accountemps, about the survey results in general, and especially, to find out why managers and workers don’t even agree on the top etiquette offenses. “Managers might not witness their staff gossiping since this behavior isn’t typically done when executives are within earshot,” explains Driscoll. And he adds, “Workers will be more responsive to their manager’s voicemails or emails, but maybe not their colleagues’ messages.”

What’s the Big Deal?

You may be tempted to dismiss workplace etiquette as the opinions of an overly-sensitive workforce. After all, we’re busy people with more than enough to do without also having to dodge the touchy-feely landmine of etiquette breaches.

However, Driscoll warns that proper workplace etiquette is essential to career success. “While it takes more than just good manners to rise through the ranks, another Accountemps survey found that 85 percent of respondents believe displaying professional courtesy has an impact on your career.”

Treading Lightly Through the Workplace Etiquette Landmine

Now that you know how important it is to be polite and considerate at work, how can you make sure you’re not stepping on anyone’s toes?  Accountemps offers seven tips for being courteous at work:

  • Most jobs today require teamwork and strong collaboration skills, and that means following the unwritten rules of office protocol.
  • Workplace etiquette is about being aware of how your actions affect those around you.
  • No matter how many deadlines you may be facing, give your full attention during group discussions.
  • Don’t participate in office gossip. It can reflect badly on your character and damage others’ careers.
  • Be responsive to colleagues. Set aside dedicated time each day to respond to messages so you can stay on top of things while still having uninterrupted time to work.
  • Acknowledge those who help you along the way, and they’ll likely do the same for you.  
  • If you offend someone, make amends quickly. Also, consider how you might handle that particular situation better in the future. Repeating the same mistakes shows you haven’t learned from them.

Handling the Rude Offender

So now you know what not to do, but how do you handle a bad-mannered subordinate? You emailed a copy of this helpful article as a nice, subtle hint, but your suggestions and clues have fallen on deaf ears. Driscoll recommends discussing the matter in private remember that criticizing others in public was one of the offenses listed in the survey. Give the worker the benefit of the doubt: ask if they are aware that their behavior is offensive.

Also, allow the worker to explain their actions. Are they stressed or dealing with other issues that may be causing them to act rudely? However, if the behavior does not improve, Driscoll advises documenting each occurrence, and contacting HR for assistance.

Open Office Space Workplace Etiquette

If you work in an open office space, Accountants has another list of etiquette breaches that you should be aware of. These are the top five offenses in this type of environment:

  • Using the speakerphone or talking loudly on the phone
  • Loitering or talking around a colleague’s desk
  • Eating foods that have strong odors
  • Keeping a messy or cluttered workspace
  • Leaving the phone ringer on loud (and yes, this was different from using the speakerphone or talking loudly on the phone)

Most employees spend more waking hours at work than at home. However, that doesn’t mean you can just make yourself at home while you’re at work. Agreeing to treat each other with respect and courtesy can make the workday more enjoyable or at least less painful.


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