If you read my column about texting and dating the other day, you know that I hypothesized that there is one rule that most of us should attempt to follow not just in dating, but in life: don’t be a psycho. Much like “Rule #76: No Excuses, Play Like A Champion,” I believe that this easy-to-obey statute can guide us in all aspects of our lives, from dating to family to work.
But it’s clear that the folks at Glamour don’t agree that we need just that one simple decree to thrive in the workplace. So they consulted some “etiquette experts” to come with eight rules that they believe are essential to a happy work environment. But I’ve got some thoughts.
1. Respect your coworkers’ privacy. Peering over a coworker’s cubicle to grab his or her attention is a no-no, says Annette Harris, president and founder of Show Up! Always act as if your peers were guarded by doors, she instructs, and make a knock-knock motion before you enter his or her desk area. What’s more, steer clear of your peers’ possessions, too. “Whether it’s a text, email, snail mail, or paper on the printer or a desk, if your name isn’t on it, don’t read it, touch it, or share it,” says Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Texas.
I’m sorry, Diane, but I’m a nosy bitch. I like knowing everyone’s business and if you don’t want people to find your personal information then don’t leave it on the printer. How else am I supposed to get dirt on my coworkers that I can use to blackmail them into working the day after Thanksgiving for me? There’s a power pyramid in offices, and everyone knows that the person with the most info is always at the top. If it means I have to read that tax return you accidentally left on the copier to get to that peak, so be it.
2. Ask before you borrow anything. We’ve all borrowed a peer’s pen in a bind—only never to return it. But according to Pamela Eyring, president of The Protocol School of Washington, nothing raises the ire of your coworkers quicker than borrowing—and losing—their property without their permission. So, “remember what your parents taught you as a child,” Eyring says. “Never borrow something without asking, and if you do, be sure to return it as soon as possible.”
Yeah, well, my parents also forbade me from drinking all of their vodka and refilling the bottles with water, but I did it anyway and I turned out just fine, so what’s your point, Pamela? I will admit that I get a little peeved when people walk off with my old school need-a-sharpener pencils, since I buy them myself because Lisa the bitchy office manager apparently only believes in mechanical pencils, which I hate with a fiery passion. But given that they cost like five cents apiece, I don’t really think we need a rule about it.
3. Stand up to show respect. When your boss enters the conference room, don’t keep your nose buried in your phone, advises Jodi Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “You should stand to greet him or her,” she says, adding that the same idea applies when anyone enters your office. No matter where you are or whom you’re greeting, “standing is a sign of respect,” she says.
Oh, hell no, Jodi. The only people that I stand for when they enter the room are a priest, the President of the United States, a bride at a wedding and my nana. As that my boss is none of those people, my ass will be staying firmly planted in my chair upon his entry into the twelfth pointless meeting of the week he called and then will spend contributing absolutely nothing while scrolling on his phone. Maybe if he started respecting my time, I’d start respecting his person.
4. Don’t email time-sensitive information. You need a colleague to send you a copy of a report—stat. But instead of walking the five feet to her cubicle, you shoot her an email. “This tends to be a millennial move,” says Harris, “because they often try to avoid face-to-face encounters with coworkers like the plague. It may seem more practical to send a text [or email], but you risk being seen as lazy and lacking social or communication skills—which is not exactly a way to garner respect.”
You’re partially right, Annette – I hate speaking with people face-to-face more than I hate it when I run out of cheese when I’m making microwave nachos. But not only is sending an email more practical, it also covers my ass when Michelle the Moron forgets that I asked her for that quarterly report approximately three minutes after I walk away. If I put it in writing, there’s no she said/she said and Michelle is the one incurring the boss’s wrath.
5. Watch your mouth. Consider work a foul-language-free zone, says Eyring. “In an office setting, you are surrounded by people of all faiths, backgrounds, and moral codes of conduct,” Eyring points out. “Given this diversity, watch your language by editing out swear words, demeaning phrases, and other offensive remarks.” Keeping mum on curse words, she says, “will speak volumes about you.”
Fuck that noise. How the hell is everyone in the office supposed to know that I’m a badass bitch if I don’t use the words “ass” and “bitch” on a regular basis? I will say that I do reserve dropping the f-bomb for occasions when I really need to make a fucking point. I mean, a girl’s got to have some class at work.
6. Give thanks. Handwritten notes of any kind may seem like a lost art, but it’s time to resurrect at least one in the office: the handwritten thank-you note. “A written thank-you note is a low-cost, high-impact way to show your professionalism,” says Smith. Send one to thank a potential employer for an interview, your coworker for a being a peerless partner, or your boss for finally giving you that raise.
Ah, finally one that I can agree with. You can add handwritten thank you notes to the list of things I like both giving and receiving. Use your imagination on the other list items.
7. Keep your voice down. You could simply be discussing a project passionately. But raising your voice while you’re talking—or going hands-free by using the speaker feature on your phone—is a distraction to your peers, points out Harris. “You’re telling you coworkers that you have zero regard for their work, which is no way to make work friends,” she warns. “If you need to speak loud, make your way to a conference room or another area of the office.”
Annette and I agree on the speaker phone – I firmly believe if we want the terrorists to give us information, we just need to make them sit in a cube next to my coworker Mark while he’s making a sales call on speaker. They’ll tell us how to defeat ISIS within 10 minutes, guaranteed. But I literally don’t understand how to express my excitement about anything if I don’t raise my voice and gesture wildly with my hands; I’m from Boston, it’s just what we do.
8. Keep it clean. Many an etiquette faux pas occurs in the office kitchen, Gottsman says. (Of course, some people commit them in their cubicles, too—for example, your coworker who peels open a stinky pouch of tuna at her desk.) Make a promise to clean up after yourself in shared spaces and avoid bringing smelly foods to work, says Gottsman. We think popcorn is OK, though—as long as you share.
This one shouldn’t be a rule; it should be a federal regulation. People who bring stinky food to the office – fish, eggs, curry – should be subject to a minimum five year prison sentence. They will be joined in jail by those bitches that make popcorn every afternoon just as the satiation of my lunch wears off, but don’t share. As a bonus, their special prison should have someone that nukes their leftover fish tacos every day at noon, just to up the torture ante on their sentence a little bit.
Yeah…the more I think about it, I still think we only need one rule: don’t be a pyscho. .
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