Wednesday, September 12, 2007
IMPERSONAL emails, bitching about workmates, poor phone manners and dressing inappropriately are some of the sins we commit every day in the office.
And Gen Y workers are the worst offenders.
That’s the opinion of two of Australia’s leading business etiquette experts, June Dally-Watkins, who runs the Business Finishing College in Sydney, and Tracey Hodgkins of the Australian Experiential Learning Centre in Perth.
“A lot of people have no idea about good manners and correct behaviour in the workplace because no one has taught them,” Ms Dally-Watkins, 80, told NEWS.com.au.
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“They’re brought up watching bad things on television every night, or on the internet and on music videos. I think this is why the behaviour of people is degenerating.”
Ms Hodgkins said most of the students in her office etiquette course were Gen-Yers just starting out in the workplace, and many were enrolled by their new employers.
"In universities they’re not taught about basic, everyday stuff. And it seems to be a big issue in a lot of workplaces."
Not knowing correct workplace etiquette has always been an issue with young workers, she said, but Gen-Y are more vocal about it.
"Gen-Y tend to speak their mind, whereas the baby boomers were happy to put up and shut up."
Send me an email
One of the worst office habits today was sending impersonal emails containing a cold request or comment, Ms Dally-Watkins said.
She believes pleasantries such as “hello” and “thank you” should not be forgotten in messages.
“On email be kind and considerate to the other person. Remember they’re a human being. That’s what we’re losing with technology these days. Everyone’s treated like a robot.”
Ms Hodgkins said Gen-Y tended to abbreviate words in emails, "which doesn’t really go down well with people from any other generation".
And email jokes are not appropriate in any shape or form, she said. "It sets you up as the person who is the joker rather than the person who is the expert. It’s not good for your career."
She also advised workers to be careful what they say in emails because they can be kept on record for a long time. "And avoid using office email for personal use, because your employer can access them."
Face to face
In today's workplace many people (particularly Gen-Y, according to Ms Hodgkins) are more likely to communicate with someone two desks away by email rather than get up from their desk and give the message in person.
It's a trend Ms Hodgkins doesn’t like. "There’s no replacement for face-to-face interaction," she said.
"Plus I think sitting at a desk all day is bad for you. Why not get up, have a stretch, walk a few metres to speak to someone rather than do it all by email."
And when chatting to someone in person, don't lean in too close. Ms Hodgkins said personal space was an issue of concern regularly raised in her workplace etiquette seminars.
"Some people are just not comfortable speaking too closely to someone," she said.
Meet and greet
One of Ms Dally-Watkins' pet hates around the office was the overuse of “how are you?” as a greeting.
“I don’t like the ‘how are you’. I think it’s false and a waste of time. People don't mean it, it’s so empty. I’m going to try to stop it if I can,” she said.
It’s much nicer to say, "so nice to see you" or "welcome", Ms Dally-Watkins said.
When shaking someone's hand look them in the eye and make sure your grip is firm. And when introducing people always mention the older person's name first, she said.
When workers walk around the office to go to the bathroom or kitchen, should they always greet the people they pass?
Ms Hodgkins says it's polite to do so, adding that office hallways are a great way to socialise and also have informal meetings. "They’re designing workplaces now so people have to bump into each other," she said.
Dress for the occassion
It’s vital to dress appropriately in the workplace, Ms Dally-Watkins said, and women should be careful not to be too revealing.
“I think plunging necklines for a woman is a terrible way to attract attention at work," she said.
"I believe it’s our face, our eyes, our expression and our personality that counts more. If we can only get attention by wearing tacky clothes, how sad”
She tells students to forget about just getting a diploma, because they have to look employable as well.
“Who wants to pay good money to someone who looks yucky and doesn’t present a good image for their company? You want them to be clever, have the appropriate education and look all that your company stands for," she said.
On the phone
The correct way to answer an office phone is, "Hello, (insert name here) speaking."
If you happen to work near a loud phone talker and find them disruptive, be direct and politely tell them it is preventing you from doing your work, Ms Hodgkins said.
Speaking on the mobile phone in the office was fine, so long as it doesn’t disturb your neighbours.
But never SMS anyone over a work-related matter, Ms Hodgkins said, as it's unprofessional.
Online @ work
Policies on personal internet use differ from office to office. The general rule, though, is to do it in moderation.
Bosses shouldn't be too worried about Gen-Y spending a lot of time online because they are very good at multi-tasking with the net, Ms Hodgkins said.
"They could have a chat-site open to talk to their friends while they’re doing their work – quite effectively, I might add. That’s the way they’ve been training their brain to work for the last 10 years," she said.
When it comes to those annoying or rude co-workers who get on your nerves, be polite, Ms Dally-Watkins said.
“I don’t think anyone has the right to tell someone they’re behaving badly to their face. It would be bad manners to point out their bad manners," she said.
Ms Hodgkins agreed. "There’s an awful lot of bitching that takes place in the workplace and I don’t think there’s any excuse for it.
"I’d advise anyone who doesn’t like someone else to just be polite. You don’t have to like everyone you work with. You’re there to do a job and you’re obligated to work as effectively with them as you can."
Key to workplace etiquette
The key to office etiquette is to communicate to staff what the local etiquette is. If people don’t know the culture and the rules everyone will go about things differently, Ms Hodgkins said.
And this story has allot to do with the below posts, about rudeness of generally Gen Y people, from Xbox live to internet forums, the art of communicating has been lost by many of these people!