jan-career-gps-image-square-400-x-400John, the Sr. VP of IT, has an opening for a strong leader. He’d like to select one of his three top performers, and demonstrate his commitment to promoting from within. He considers his options, writing down the pros and cons of each employee.   All are equally technically qualified. To his surprise, what surfaces, in addition to technical knowledge, skills, and abilities, is the impact respect and manners make in the relationships with team members and internal, as well as external, customers. Jose clearly demonstrates every day the importance of manners and etiquette in the workplace – a skill that John knows is hard to instill when an employee hasn’t already embraced the benefits and importance of good manners in the workplace.

John considers the benefits of a good leader who demonstrates a respectful leadership style. He knows from his own experience that respecting others through words and actions leads to greater employee engagement, higher productivity, and increased retention rates. Employees who experience day-to-day events, especially those little comments like “thank you” and “good morning” confirm their boss is interested in what they think, what they need to do a good job, and creates an expectation for an environment free of harassment and bullying. A culture of respectful manners is a great differentiator for a team. John has made his decision – Jose gets the job!

Whether you know it or not, co-workers, leaders, customers, everyone you are engaging with has an impression of how they experience you. If you want that promotion, referral, or support for the new training program, paying attention to manners could be your ticket!

One of the best practices for improving workplace performance, civility, and teamwork is building a culture that encourages the demonstration of respect. The demonstration of good manners has the added benefit of building trust, improving morale, and increasing productivity, all outcomes good leaders are seeking. Do you present yourself in a way that your manager recognizes these solid leadership skills in your performance?

Here are a few tips to ensure a respectful workplace in 2017 utilizing common sense manners to build trust and respect, and the positive results you are seeking:

  • Don’t forget to say phrases such as: “please,” “excuse me,” and “thank you.”  Yes, these are the same kind gestures you learned as a child, and practiced when your parents were watching. Well it’s time to pull them out again. For example, it only takes a moment to say “excuse me” when you bump into someone in the hall, but that phrase demonstrates volumes when it comes to how others access your ability and willingness to acknowledge the ideas, contributions, and the space you share with them.
  • Practice active listening skills.  Good communication includes sharing information in a way that your audience can properly interpret your intended message, as well as soliciting and listening to the feedback they provide to ensure the intended message was accurately received.
  • Be practical when scheduling meetings. Especially in a workplace culture where there are a lot of meetings, it may not be practical to schedule meetings back-to-back, or even to have them start on the hour. No one wants to be late! Plan a 5 or 10 minute buffer between meetings and/or conference calls, to acknowledge a need to transition, while still maintaining an expectation for starting on time.
  • Be timely and present. For those that don’t get it, and I’m sorry to say there are many of you, put that phone on vibrate, keep it out of sight, and if you can’t resist the urge to constantly be looking at it, don’t bring it to the meeting. Texting and emailing when you should be paying attention is like whispering in front of others…not nice.
  • Make good eye contact.  Not all cultures value this practice the same as we do in America, so be aware of your audience. But for the most part, in the United States, making good eye contact demonstrates trust and honesty, along with the fact that you’re listening.
  • RSVP. Be respectful of the event host who needs to know who will be in attendance. RSVP as quickly as possible, even if it’s to share a tentative response. Your response helps the host confirm a good time for the greatest participation, or allows time if changes need to be made. Not responding is not an acceptable way to indicate you are declining the invitation.
  • Don’t gossip. The best rule is to not participate in gossip by repeating it or listening to it. Instead, take the upper road – stay positive and committed to your respect for others, maintain confidential information, and don’t bite the hand that feeds you – don’t bad mouth your boss or leadership.
  • If you see something, say something. Unfortunately, we still hear so much about workplace discrimination and bullying. If you hear or see something that appears disrespectful, figure out the best way of dealing with the situation – perhaps provide feedback directly to the person who said or did something to explain how it could be interpreted as discrimination / bullying / harassment. Maybe they just didn’t realize it could be received in that manner. Or, perhaps it’s beyond something you personally can handle, and a supervisor or someone from Human Resources should get involved.  Stand up for fair and equitable treatment for yourself and everyone you associate with.
  • Breakroom manners – the rule for the refrigerator is “if you didn’t put it in, don’t take it out.” Make sure you also clean up your leftovers. The cookies and snacks left on the counter with an invitation for all to enjoy is a different story, but monitor how much you take and remember to leave some for others.
  • Practice courtesies during business meals:
    • Conversation is essential for developing relationships – be ready to be real, vulnerable, ask meaningful questions, explore common ground, and share opinions
    • Don’t eat until everyone has been served
    • Stand up and walk around the table to shake hands, don’t do it over the table
    • Like your Mom always told you – chew with your mouth closed
    • If you HAVE TO TAKE a call, excuse yourself, take it away from the table, and make it short
    • Decline alcohol during working hours, and limit drinks after hours.   Even after hours it’s important to demonstrate professionalism
    • Put your napkin on your lap while eating, and on your chair if you need to leave the table
    • Be polite and gracious to the servers
    • If you’re not aware of proper use of place settings, glass and bread plate positions, take an easy crash course here.

Best of luck improving your 2017 recommitment to workplace manners and etiquette. Not only will your co-workers appreciate your efforts, but leaders will notice the potential your style has to offer the organization.

For more resources visit the following webpages: EMI Store, training events and information relative to career management.


This blog was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, RCC.  Ms. King is CEO and Executive Coach with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about assisting individuals with career development and transition, as well as outplacement support.  Contact EMI for more information about how we can assist you or your organization: www.evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032.