Top Office Etiquette Rules: Pay Attention, and Be Nice

Man yawning, in a breach of etiquette

Yes, all the technological tools we use in the workplace these days have probably made breaches of office etiquette more common. And many of us are moving at a faster pace at work than ever before, which can make us more susceptible to bad manners and bloopers.

But according to an Accountemps survey, these changes in the workplace haven’t led to shifts in the code of office etiquette. Both executives and employees still notice breaches of the basic manners we learned in preschool: Pay attention when someone’s speaking to you, and if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

View an infographic of the full research findings.

When asked which rules were broken most often in their office, CFOs ranked being distracted during meetings at No. 1 (27 percent). Workers asked the same question put gossiping about others in the office at the top of their lists (28 percent).

With that in mind, we thought we’d address three common questions about office etiquette:

How much do manners really matter?

A lot. People may not be as formal in the workplace as they used to be, but managers and workers still expect their colleagues to be respectful and courteous. What’s more, employees with good manners project an image of professionalism, strengthening their reputation and improving their chances for career growth. In a previous Accountemps survey, 85 percent of workers said that being courteous has an effect on a person’s career path.

What office etiquette rules are the most important?

As the survey results show, paying attention in meetings and declining to participate in the office gossip mill are important. But CFOs and workers cited other common office etiquette breaches, as well, including the failure to respond to emails or calls in a timely manner, running late to or missing meetings, not crediting others when appropriate, and criticizing others publicly. So make sure to get back to your coworkers as soon as possible, try to arrive at meetings a few minutes early, acknowledge your colleagues when they help you, and keep any discussion of sensitive issues to one-on-one, face-to-face conversations.

What do I need to know about office politics?

How you handle sensitive workplace situations can make or break your professional image. Whether you work for a major accounting firm or lead a small business, there’s likely some degree of office politics within your company. Most organizations are not immune to political issues, especially small businesses with few employees, where office politics can have a big impact.

Find out How to Navigate Office Politics with this guide you can download now.

What if I make a faux pas?

Everyone makes mistakes every now and then, so don’t beat yourself up if you have a minor etiquette slipup at work. Simply acknowledge your faux pas and apologize to anyone you might have offended as quickly as possible. Then, think about what might have led to the mistake: Were you stressed, overwhelmed or handling a problem outside of work? Try to deal with the root of the issue, and consider how you might deal with the situation in the future so that you don’t repeat the slipup.

Whether you're a manager, who wants to set a good example, or an employee who wants to get ahead, good manners are important. And if you've broken one of the rules of office etiquette, know this: You can recover. The first step is to see your error.

Editor's note: This post was updated in 2016 to reflect more current information.

Tags: Etiquette