by Candace Moody
The office is home away from home for your staff. Averaging eight to nine hours a day at the office means that your workers may see more of each other than their spouses, roommates or family members. Learning how to live together peacefully during working hours means adhering to both the written and unwritten office rules. The written rules are policy; the unwritten rules fall under office etiquette.
The written office rules include dress codes and what might be acceptable as office decoration. But few companies document rules about the small behaviors that, collectively, can make the workplace miserable, especially for workers in cubicles, where privacy is almost non-existent. When polled recently, here are some of the top pet peeves of workers at some local companies.
Using the speakerphone for routine calls. If coworkers have close offices or cubicles, this means that they can hear both sides of every conversation – twice the distraction. Callers also speak much louder than they would in an ordinary conversation, raising their voices to be heard clearly over the speaker. Consensus from workers – pick up the receiver! And the same goes for the very annoying “walkie-talkie” cell phones – the chirping noise and shouting in the hallway can be very annoying.
Eating loud or strong-smelling foods where everyone is subjected to them. This one ranked high on pet peeves of cubicle dwellers. One worker, experiencing morning sickness with her second child, dreaded the lunch hour, where she was subjected to everything from tuna salad to pizza, making her nauseated every day. Workers who expected clients or outside visitors were embarrassed by the lingering smells of lunch in the office. And cubicle dwellers unanimously endorsed a “crunch” moratorium (no apples, chips or hard candy) to go with the “no tuna and onions” policy.
Carrying on loud conversations near spaces where people are trying to work. This one is very difficult to combat – both because the offenders are often oblivious to the ruckus they’re causing, and because the worker who complains looks like a party pooper. This offense ranks up near people who drop by cubicles or offices casually, commenting on the weather or making small talk without asking if it’s a good time. “They just assume everyone’s free to chat any time,” fumed one worker. “It’s hard to find a way to say ‘I can’t talk now, I’m busy’ without sounding pompous or unfriendly. And some people just don’t read body language!” Two staff members who worked in an open space referred to it as “The Petting Zoo.” “We feel like baby goats that no one can pass without a pat on the head.”
You may not be able to write politeness into official policy, but you can address issues at an informal staff meeting. As a business owner, you can even take the heat for the request; tell them it’s your own pet peeve. That way, sensitive staff members don’t have to worry about recriminations, and everyone can get back to the business of doing business.
Candace Moody is vice president, communications, for WorkSource, the regional workforce organization that serves Jacksonville, Florida. She is currently serving as chair of the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center.
Her writing on business, career and employment issues has appeared in the Florida Times-Union, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and 904 Magazine, as well as several national publications and websites. Candace is often quoted in the media on local labor market and employment issues.