Managers Report Inappropriate Worker Behavior

Managers report frustration over lack of manners, ethics and professionalism among employees.

Kessler International conducted a survey by polling upper and mid-level management at 40 professional services firms, and found that the respondents indicated by an 84% margin that their staff was inconsiderate and rude in the workplace. In addition, the same respondents cited by 65% that they felt a majority of their staff lacked a moral compass.

Bad manners or unethical behavior cited by managers included:

  • untimely and inappropriate use of cellphones;
  • wearing inappropriate clothing to work;
  • complete lack of courtesy;
  • use of street talk and signs in professional meetings;
  • the inability of younger staff to write a letter/email;
  • the lack of personal responsibility;
  • failure to say please and thank you;
  • lying to phone caller;
  • hanging up on phone calls when they are confronted and were uncomfortable;
  • cheating on time billed to clients and stealing time by arriving late and leaving early;
  • cutting corners on work product rather than staying after hours to correct the mistakes they made;
  • visiting sex and dating websites on company time;
  • sexting on company phones;
  • the inability to interact professionally with clients during a business function;
  • the lack of manners; and
  • the lack of integrity.


Some respondents expressed disgust not only of certain individuals’ behavior, but also their own inability to say something and correct the situation. They cited their company’s “political correctness,” their own inability to have confrontations and constraints instituted by their human resources department as stumbling blocks.

It wasn’t just bad manners or ethics, but a lack of business sense was revealed in specific scenarios reported by survey respondents.

One manager reported routinely seeing one staff member taking a Kindle device to the restroom, while another indicated that an office mate was constantly receiving noisy text alerts and did not have the courtesy to mute the sound on their device.

Many respondents noted that on Fridays employees seem to take it upon themselves to dress like “slobs” despite no casual Friday policy being in place. Hoodies, flip flops, torn and frayed jeans and tank tops were all listed in the responses as clothing staff wore that managers deemed inappropriate. One manager stated that his employee met him at a lawyer’s office from whom they were trying to solicit business, in jeans and sandals with no socks on.

Managers described a constant string of staff entering their offices and personal workspaces without first asking or being invited. Staff were described as “borrowing” other employees office supplies without asking or “borrowing” their lunches or drinks from the refrigerator or taking goodies from a coffee club of which they were not members. Please, thank you, and courtesy greetings at the beginning and end of the day were reported by more than half of those polled to be nearly nonexistent in the workplace. One respondent complained that an employee would stand in front of their desk and stare at them while they were on a phone call, waiting for them to finish. Another reported that an employee would consistently barge in on meetings with questions that were not at all germane to the subject of the meeting.

Many polled indicated that they were embarrassed to invite younger employees to business functions because they did not know how to interact with clients. On respondent cited that a staff member, when told by the client that the client was paying for the meal, told the group at the table to buy the most expensive things on the menu since they didn’t have to expense it. Another respondent noted that one employee regularly failed to tip wait staff because the tip came out of his meal per-diem.

One manager cited problems with prospective employees, claiming that job applicants refused to complete employment applications instead simply attaching a resume in which much of the information requested on the application was not included.

Kessler says guidelines and recommendations should be distributed to staff regarding their use of electronics, dress and conduct in the workplace. When manners are left unchecked, companies may be exposing themselves to theft of information, embarrassment and the loss of valued clients.