These actions may seem harmless, but they can do a lot of damage.
BY STEPHANIE VOZZA
Chances are you might unwittingly be doing things that irritate your boss or coworkers. According to a new survey by Accountemps, senior managers believe the top etiquette blunder is missing or running late to meetings, while workers felt gossiping about colleagues was the most common.
“Punctuality is very important to managers,” says Michael Steinitz, executive director of Accountemps. “For employees, they may be more bothered by office gossip since it may happen when their bosses aren’t within earshot.”
Good etiquette goes a long way in the professional world, says Tom Moran, CEO of the staffing and employment agency Addison Group. “While tardiness and office gossip are both prevalent in workplaces everywhere, it is not any more acceptable for someone to be guilty of these etiquette faux pas just because they are in management,” he says.
Whether you’re the boss or an employee, etiquette matters. Here are tips on handling the two most common issues in your workplace:
MISSING OR BEING LATE FOR MEETINGS
When key players show up late for meetings, it delays information sharing and decision making, says Laura Handrick, workplace analyst for FitSmallBusiness.com, a website that provides information for entrepreneurs. “It also disrespects your peers by wasting their time,” she says.
Arriving late to meetings can damage your career, says Steinitz. “Others may perceive a lack of punctuality as unreliability, which can reflect poorly on your professional reputation,” he says.
While it’s annoying, sometimes being late is unavoidable, such as if you’re traveling and are delayed or you’re booked in back-to-back meetings, says Handrick. “The best thing to do to escape the ire of your peers and managers is to let them know in advance that you’re running late,” she says. “That demonstrates respect for the meeting leader and participants. It also gives the meeting leader the option to postpone or reschedule the meeting. Giving them a heads up is the best way to not look like a schmuck walking into a meeting late.”
GOSSIPING ABOUT COWORKERS
Professionals at any level can fall prey to office gossip, but it’s how they choose to handle it that can make them come out on top, says Steinitz.
“Workplace gossip can lead to loss of productivity and trust within the team, hurt feelings, and workers forming negative opinions of each other,” he says. “In some cases, it could cause workers to leave the company.”
It’s also terrible for your career, says Handrick. “Saying mean-spirited things about your coworkers makes you appear negative, ugly, and untrustworthy,” she says. Change the focus of your work conversations to praise and recognition. You’ll find your work life will improve as coworkers learn to see you as a positive person worthy of their trust.”
Those employees who are most professional will do their best to stay out of the chatter, says Moran. “If you find yourself on the receiving end of either of these breaches in etiquette, there is a polite way of addressing it with the offender to ensure that the working relationship can be more productive moving forward,” he says.
If you’re the victim of gossip, don’t be sucked into the drama, says Handrick. “There’s not much you can do about being the victim of gossip, except to do a better job of telling your own story,” she says. “I recommend victims of gossip to never retaliate, and certainly never play the ‘victim’ by complaining to their manager or peers. It just makes them look small.”
Share your accomplishments in ways that undermine the gossipers. “For example, you could send weekly updates to your manager on what you or your team accomplish each week,” says Handrick. “Or you could pull your manager or peers aside and say something like, ‘I’ve heard a nasty rumor and I want to set the record straight.’”
Everyone is busy, but it’s important to remember that having common courtesy shows you have respect for your colleagues and business contacts, says Steinitz. “If you do have a minor etiquette slip-up, admit to your mistake and apologize to those you offended,” he says. “This can help boost your reputation as a courteous employee.”