SURVEY SAYS: Manners at Work

September 8, 2014 ( - We covered a survey last week in which 85% of respondents said being courteous to coworkers has an impact on a person's career prospects.

The survey included a ranking of breaches of workplace etiquette, but it was a slim list. So, I asked NewsDash readers, from a much longer list, what breach of good manners irritates you the most at work? And, do you mind YOUR manners at work?

The most irritating rude behavior, according to 11.86% of responding readers is texting during a meeting or emailing or texting during a call, followed by being late for a meeting or call and interrupting a coworker who is speaking, each chosen by 11.02% of respondents.

Leaving a mess in the kitchen or break room was chosen as the most irritating breach of good manners by 6.78%, while missing a meeting or call without letting others know, using bad language or telling an offensive joke and leaving a paper jam in the copier or using all the paper without replacing were all three selected by 5.93%. Not saying please or thank you when helped by others, talking too loudly on the phone and getting on the elevator before others have gotten off the elevator received 5.08% of respondent votes each. Slightly more than 4% of readers are irritated most by someone at work taking someone else’s food from the kitchen or break room, and 2.54% of respondents, each, chose taking the last of the coffee or a kitchen or break room supply without replacing and playing music too loudly or singing to music.

Nearly 17% selected “other.” Not all were rude behaviors, some were just irritating coworker behaviors, but those responses included not responding to meeting invites, eavesdropping on conversations then butting in, popping chewing gum, taking credit for others’ work, the sound of flip flops slapping a coworkers feet, not putting cell phones on silent in the work area, being too loud in general, belching, personal grooming such as cutting fingernails, entering the rest room while talking on a cell phone, saying “that’s not my job,” talking to others over cubicle walls, answering a call while meeting with someone else, and “all of the above,” referring to the given list.

Interestingly, when asked which rude things they do at work, most readers admitted to doing the very things that most irritated them. Nearly 30% admitted to being late for a meeting or call, and 27.18% each confessed they text during meetings or email or text during calls. (Respondents were allowed to select more than one behavior for this question.) More than 17% say they talk too loudly on the phone, and 10.68% say they use bad language or tell offensive jokes. The rest of the behaviors on the list received less than 4% of votes each.

Nearly 15% chose “other,” and responses included none of the above, all of the above, cutting people off in conversation, saying “it’s all good” all day long, being impatient with others and “Expecting and telling new employees that they need to read their offer letter and follow the instructions on the documents required especially for enrolling in benefits.” (Do I sense some sarcasm?) One respondent explained that he or she interrupts others only when they are getting off track, and another said he or she is late to meetings, but it’s due to client obligations.

They say confession is good for the soul, and several verbatim respondents said the survey showed them they could have better manners at work: “Hanging my head in shame. Thanks for the wake-up call, PLANSPONSOR Survey.” Many took the opportunity to expand on their irritation with certain behaviors (I didn’t realize cutting fingernails, and even toenails, at the workplace was common). One reader advised people “to think how their Mom would respond if she was in the room at the time.” Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “Just saying a courtesy spray in the restroom is always appreciated”—and I would add, or a courtesy flush.

Thanks to everyone who responded to our survey!


Why do people dial on speaker then pick up the receiver when someone answers? Drives me crazy both listening to the ringing and when I'm the one answering and have to wait until someone picks up the phone - because I don't start talking until then.

Courtesy, respect for another person's space, not pushing your, for lack of a more pc term, "agenda" on others...can make your workplace a much, happier and healthier environment. After all's not like we are in high school anymore! In the words of my, less than pc, aunt...Suck it up, buttercup!

Other bad manners that should be avoided: talking about others, gossiping or fishing for information.

In companies with a multi-cultural workforce, manners and employee expectations will vary greatly. HR has to be aware and prepared for dealing with cross-culture issues. A dream would be to have a mandatory training class to discuss behavior expectations. It is probably called "The Impossible Dream".

it irritates me when I am obviously deeply focused and concentrating on something at work, each employee comes in and says good morning.

hanging my head in shame. Thanks for the wake-up call, PLANSPONSOR Survey.

Mostly the politics get to me. People are pigs in general and I expect that. But the back stabbing seems largely useless (and unsupported by fact) and a massive time suck and I just don't want to hear it.

People have different ideas of what is appropriate. Funny, some have no clue, yet they think they do.

Chewing gum in a meeting should be on the list! Nothing worse than the sound of chewing and smacking on a call!

Since I am at work most of the day, manners are important. If I can't have good manners at work I won't have them anytime!

Replying to an email without your contact information at the bottom and forgetting to say please or thank you.

Manners matter. 

Verbatim (cont.)

I guess I do forget the pleases and thank yous. Thank you for the reminder to use them more often!!

My co-workers tell me I'm loud so I do try and speak quietly - but I have what my Grandmother called a 'carrying voice.' Manners, and the attempt to use them, make the work day go much smoother.

boys will be boys is still tolerated here...feet on the desk, expecting women to order food, set up, clean up, with no notice (as if "the elves" did the work), followed by belching, nail cutting and other personal grooming too gross to mention

During my long career I've observed manners deteriorating at all levels within organizations. "Do unto others..." has taken on a whole new meaning!

I believe some people think it's correct to be mindful only of the work needed and not mindful of the people who do the work. Recently a manager in my company asked me to jump through hoops to get something done for her and throughout the process never once said "Thanks." Oh, wait, there was one e-mail in which she said, "Thanks, but. . ."

Being courteous is extremely important, just ask Miss Manners.

I try to always say please and thank you and you're welcome when appropriate. But since when has "no problem" become the substitute for "you're welcome"? I find that expression most irritating.

I have a coworkers who will trim their nails at work. That has to be on a separate list!

I am one of the lucky few who works primarily from home, but each time I go into the office, I notice more frequent incidences of rude behavior and wonder: Is it just that I am more sensitive to a breach in decorum, or are people really becoming ever more thoughtless in the "rush-rush-to-get-it-done" environment that has become the workplace?

manners are important, but sometimes you just have to interrupt a coworker who goes on and on about a topic, repeats himself, and doesn't know when to quit

i've worked for several companies where I hear click click click all day - employees clipping their fingernails (and sometimes toenails) at work - this is the most disgusting irritating habit that I have witnessed from executive to administrative assistants performing

My biggest irritation at work is coworkers who do not acknowledge my presence.

Verbatim (cont.)

Tough topic. To respond, I fear, will label me as any one of the current list of self-deflective "...ists". Lordy, I'm surprised I can even get out of bed in the morning.

Just saying a courtesy spray in the restroom is always appreciated.

Good manners to all are key to collegiality.

The other thing that disgusts me is when you know people didn't wash their hands after going to the bathroom. And in our public restroom, it's easy to see through the cracks in the stall and know who the offenders are.

This list has made me realize that I really need to improve at some of these things. I consider myself polite but there is always room for improvement. And to be honest, most of the time someone is late for a call or meeting it is because they are on another call or in another meeting that went overtime, which may or may not be within their control.

It's irritating when a group of employees is having a loud conversation (whether work-related or not) in the hallway right outside of your office while you are trying to work.

I find that most rude behavior stems from an attitude that "it's all about me".

It is amazing how smart people can leave messes in the kitchen, leave dirty dishes in the sink, leave cabinets open, leave paper jams in the printer, etc. How do you test for "slob" before hiring?

you should add: sharing too much information about your personal life (TMI)

As I perused your list, two things come to mind; how many of those bad behaviors seem to be attributable to people still thinking they have Mom to pick up after them, the rest could stand to think how their Mom would respond if she was in the room at the time. Except that the mom that picks up after lazy children would likely tolerate the bad behaviors as well.


NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.
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