Friday, March 25, 2011

Do Workplace Etiquette Rules Need to Change?

What's the rudest behavior you've seen at work by someone with a smartphone in their hand? It may take you a minute to think of the No. 1 worst behavior (many people seem to carry a list in their pocket), but before you spout off, I want you to consider something else. What's your rudest workplace behavior? Are you snarking about someone else's behavior when your manners are less than stellar? Think about it as you read this story I did for Gannett/USA Today...

More than 40 years ago, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said that while it was difficult to define pornography, "I know it when I see it."

The etiquette police who are trying to keep up with the rapidly evolving world of mobile devices and their effect on the workplace probably would say the same. They may not be able to define what is considered bad manners, but they know the terrible behavior when they see an employee's email, text, tweet, blog entry,Facebook posting or YouTube video — or see someone trying to create one on the fly.

It appears others do, too. A recent Intel survey found that 9 of 10 Americans report they've seen others misuse technology; 75% agree that mobile etiquette is worse than it was a year ago.

The results don't surprise Lisa Grotts, a certified etiquette consultant.

"Welcome to the new world," she says. "Someday a sociologist is going to have a heyday studying how our (etiquette) rules have changed because of technology and online communication."

Because technological changes are so constant, she thinks it's inevitable that some social and professional gaffes will be made.

"Bad manners are inescapable," she says.

The Intel study found that we're often aware of our own poor behavior. Almost 1 in 5 respondents report they know they're being rude but do it because everyone else does.

So it's a little difficult to gripe at a cubicle mate for talking too loudly on a cellphone when you've been guilty of doing the same thing — or something equally obnoxious.

Adding to the problem: What may be OK in your social circles could be considered annoying in professional ones.

Still, the Intel study found that it's worth making an effort to adjust your behavior when using your iPhone, BlackBerry, Android or other mobile device if you want to keep the peace in your office and not irk the boss. Of those participating in the survey, 65% say they get angry at those who are disrespectful toward others with their tech use.

So, even though your cubicle mate talks loudly on her cellphone or texts her boyfriend constantly, it doesn't mean you should do the same thing. Instead, taking the time to find a private place to have a private conversation may impress colleagues and your manager with your professionalism.

Here are other ways to stay on the right side of using technology in professional settings:

• Don't look down. How would you feel if you were speaking to a colleague, and the person immediately picked up a newspaper and held it in front of his face to read? It's the same feeling others get when you look at your smartphone to check email, tap out a text message or play with an app when they're speaking.

"I think the best idea is to follow the Golden Rule," Grotts says. "It's all about showing mutual respect."

• Use "text speak" sparingly. Years ago it would have been considered extremely unprofessional to use "tho" for "though" and not include a salutation in an email. But when firing messages back-and-forth to a colleague from a smartphone, it's more acceptable to keep the missive short and to the point. Just be aware of your receiver and whether the person might be offended with such shortcuts.

• Avoid multitasking. Most people complain about rude behavior when people are trying to do too many things at one time, so they are aware of their bad manners. For example, talking on your cellphone while walking to lunch with a co-worker or while using the company restroom isn't usually necessary and should be avoided.

You represent your employer. If you're being rude with your tech use while on the job, it also can reflect poorly on your employer.

While you may not think that texting during a conference session is rude, your boss may not like the unprofessional message it sends to competitors or colleagues.

What's a rude workplace behavior that drives you crazy?



Steve said...

Sad that a post like this is necessary isn't it? It seems our innovations move faster than our ability to develop etiquette to match! =)

andria said...

Etiquette rules are necessary to maintain the decorum of an the rules must be followed and should be changed if not suitable.


Michael Dvorscak said...

I agree it is unfortunate that there is a need for blog posts such as this. However, as new technology comes and goes, so must new rules and norms. That being said, common sense and respect go a long way too.

Patricia Robb said...

I try to keep a balance. When I am at work, I have to keep in mind that work comes first. If a co-worker is in my office and the phone rings and I see on the display it is someone I have been waiting to hear from or from a client then I will excuse myself and take the call. I don't think it is rude, because my first goal is to get my job done.

I usually give a brief explanation after I have done that so the person I am with understands who the caller is or sometimes it relates to what we are talking about so is relevant to our discussion.

I have also set a rule in Outlook for my bosses emails and they ring differently than others so if I hear the ring, I excuse myself again and scan it quickly to see if it requires immediate action or if it can wait.

I have turned off my email notifications however so don't get distracted or tempted to check if others email me and I have let calls go by when I see it is another co-worker or someone from home that I can easily let go to voicemail and call back later.

If I am at a restaurant with someone socially, then it does bother me that they are looking at their BlackBerry or answer their phones. I find it is like the other person has allowed someone to interrupt our conversation. It also makes me feel they are distracted and not engaged in our conversation if they can so easily go to someone else.

So definitely where I am affects how I feel about the interruption.

Anita said...

Well said!

Anita said...

I recently experienced a man chastising his young son in church for making too much noise. Then, the father pulled out his iPhone and began checking messages. Common sense is needed, indeed!

Anita said...

I think you echo the thoughts of many people. Someone once told me that good manners means making the other person feel at ease. I'm never comfortable when someone would rather spend time gazing at a gadget than listening to what I have to say! :)