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Lack of manners in the workplace can have serious consequences for your future

CareerBuilder | November 27, 2020

Bad manners

Eight in 10 (85 percent) people say being courteous to coworkers has an impact on your career prospects.

Attending etiquette class may seem old school, but minding your P’s and Q’s may help you move up the corporate ladder a little faster. According to a recent survey from staffing firm Accountemps, more than eight in 10 (85 percent) survey respondents say being courteous to coworkers has an impact on a person's career prospects.

“When using proper etiquette, you strengthen your reputation as someone who is professional and courteous,” says Bill Driscoll, New England district president of Accountemps. “People want to work with others who show them respect.”

While this may seem like common sense, chances are you may be breaking some workplace etiquette rules without even realizing it. Even little offenses can make an impact, especially if they continue over time. “Repeated etiquette breaches show a lack of attention to detail or common courtesy,” Driscoll notes. “This can cause others to perceive you as unprofessional and potentially affect your prospects for career advancement.”

Common behavior breaches

So what constitutes bad manners in the workplace? While it may be subjective, here are some common breaches of office etiquette in an open office space, according to the survey:

  • Using a speakerphone or talking loudly on the phone – 36 percent
  • Loitering or talking around a colleague's desk – 23 percent
  • Eating foods that have strong odors – 15 percent
  • Keeping a messy or cluttered workspace – 14 percent
  • Leaving the phone ringer on loud – 8 percent

Mistakes to make with your manager

Beth Ruffing, manager of HR Services at human resources and business solutions provider Insperity, says to steer clear of asking your boss the following questions, which can come across as rude and unprofessional:

  • “Why do I have to do this?” According to Ruffing, this question projects a bad attitude and makes it appear as though the employee only wants to complete the minimum job requirements.
  • “Will I get a raise for this?” “There is a time and a place to have discussions about compensation and performance pay, but asking about a raise for completing required tasks is unprofessional,” Ruffing says. “Managers don’t usually give raises to employees based on their assigned duties or the completion of one additional project. Employees are more likely to get a raise for going above and beyond their job description on a consistent basis.”
  • “How much money do you make?” Ruffing stresses that it’s always unprofessional and disrespectful to ask any colleague about their salary. “This is a very personal matter that should not be discussed among co-workers.”

Polishing a poor image

If you want to become a more courteous colleague, there are some simple ways to improve a tarnished image or strengthen an already solid one. According to Ruffing, one way to do so is to steer clear of gossip. “The water cooler is a well-known breeding ground for the rumor mill,” she says. “The average employee spends approximately 65 hours a year gossiping in the workplace, according to a study conducted by Equisys. As tempting as it may be, the ‘less is more’ principle can go a long way toward building a solid reputation as a trustworthy and reliable employee.”


Ruffing also stresses the importance of controlling your emotions, no matter how stressful of a day you’ve had or how unreasonable your boss or co-workers are being. “Avoid outbursts, such as yelling, screaming, making threats or reacting with violence at all costs. Not only can this damage a career, but it can also lead to termination. Instead, take a deep breath and remain calm, cool and collected when voicing concerns or differences of opinion. No one wants to associate with the office bully. Be professional and refrain from finger pointing. Focus on finding solutions to issues.”

Finally, consider your company’s culture and values and let the office climate guide your etiquette. “Pay close attention to successful employees and management and integrate their positive traits into daily tasks and projects,” Ruffing says.


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