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Etiquette goes a long way in the workplace

If your co-worker’s exuberant inside voice has ever grated on your nerves, you’re not alone. But just how much does our workplace etiquette, or lack thereof, play into career success?

According to a new survey by Accountemps, the majority think courtesy can help us advance, yet those surveyed also believe the higher up the corporate ladder we go, the less courtesy we use. So which is it?

Raffi Toughlouian, Accountemps branch manager, says it has a lot to do with perception.

“People tend to downplay the importance of office place courtesy and take it for granted,” Toughlouian said. “As people climb through the ranks they tend to put less emphasis on or become shorter or less courteous with people.”

He said if a company feels there’s been a decline in the general way people are treating each other they could implement training or awareness programs suited to their office.

The study, published by Accountemp’s parent group Robert Half, notes open office spaces are more likely to increase bad workplace behaviors.

“Are people speaking loudly in open office concepts, are they using speakerphone, disturbing people around them? The first thing is to be cognitive of what’s happening and then addressing it as it happens.”

Despite this, he thinks there are great benefits to open office concepts and we shouldn’t return to personal offices for everyone.

“It’s kind of nice to be in the heat of the day to day goings on of a business and on the pulse of what’s going on,” he said. “It builds for more camaraderie among teams rather than having people in small office rooms.”

He notes that the findings reflect what he’s seen in office environments and how he felt about the common courtesy displayed. He notes that using speakerphone and having smelly food are two commonplace annoyances in open offices.

“It’s being cognitive of your personal tone and volume when communicating in the office, maybe not wearing scents that might be too strong, that might affect other people,” he said. “It’s when you microwave your food and eat it at your desk, make sure it’s not affecting people in the office. If your workplace is messy, it’s keeping it neat.”

More than 265 office employees in Canada were surveyed about their thoughts on workplace etiquette and success. A huge majority, 91 per cent, said showing courtesy to co-workers impacts your career prospects.

However, 63 per cent of those surveyed said they believe people become less courteous as they get promoted.

The biggest annoyance for office workers was coworkers who talk loudly on the phone or use speakerphone, at 28 per cent of respondents.

“At any stage in your career, the essence of workplace etiquette is about always being respectful and aware of your actions, and how they have the potential to negatively affect those around you,” said Dianne Hunnam-Jones, Canadian district president of Accountemps in a release.

“By the nature of their demanding schedules and external pressures, some executives may lose sight of how their actions affect their teams when it comes to exercising courtesy and leading by example.”

They were also asked “In your opinion, to what extent does being courteous to coworkers positively impact a person’s career prospects?” Nearly half, 49 per cent, answered “somewhat, but skills play a bigger role.” That was closely followed by “Greatly, it can accelerate advancement.”

“I think people do care,” Toughlouian said. “I think sometimes people don’t realize but I think that when it’s brought to people’s attention it’s something they address and work on, especially if working up the corporate ladder is something they’re interested in.”

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