You encounter all sorts of people in the workplace.
Some you look forward to seeing every day, and others make the hairs on your neck prickle every time you talk to them.
Consider the co-workers with whom you dread working. Why do you avoid them?
It’s probably because they have bad manners.
As Emily Post said: “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.”
It’s everyone’s responsibility to do their part to make the workplace a comfortable, productive environment. Doing so makes us more willing to collaborate and propels both our businesses and careers toward success.
In an age when common courtesy is not so common, here are some simple ways to be a better co-worker:
1. Stop acting like you’re in a rush all the time.
Sure, sometimes you are truly are busy and don’t have time for small talk. Maybe you actually do have a hundred items on your to-do list and don’t have time to check your emails for errors. Perhaps you have back-to-back calls one morning and arrive late to a meeting.
But you’re not that busy all the time.
Your time isn’t more valuable than anyone else’s, so don’t act like it. Do your best to be on time for meetings. Read your emails before you fire them off. Say hello to your peers as you pass them in the hallway. Accept that you don’t need to be the first one off the plane once it arrives at the gate.
Rushing and saying you’re “crazy busy” all the time doesn’t make you look important. It makes you look arrogant.
2. Avoid talking about politics, religion or other polarizing topics.
You probably learned about a lot of your co-workers’ political leanings during the 2016 presidential election.
You probably also learned that you don’t agree with many of them.
Though we like to think we can talk about politics and religion without getting emotional or passing judgment, doing so is difficult.
If you can’t contain yourself and absolutely must participate in the discussion happening at the water cooler, keep the discussion light and positive. Focus on the areas in which you agree, and don’t try to change anyone’s mind or belittle them for thinking a certain way. No matter who wins a given election, you have to continue working with your colleagues. Do your part to make the experience as pleasant as possible.
3. Don’t swear.
Peppering your language with four-letter words doesn’t emphasize your point or make you look cool. It makes you sound unprofessional and crass, and it makes the people you’re talking with uncomfortable.
You’re a communicator. You have a large vocabulary. Use it.
4. Don’t be a close talker.
There’s one in every office. Is it you?
Most close-talkers don’t realize that they are encroaching on people’s personal space, but trust me, the person you’re speaking with is very aware of it. If you’re like Elaine’s boyfriend in this “Seinfeld” clip, try to be more aware of personal space:
5. Acknowledge your mistakes.
No one is right 100 percent of the time—even long-time leaders and industry veterans slip up now and then. Own your mistakes, and do what you must to correct them and avoid making them again. Trying to justify or minimize your misstep only makes you look arrogant and insecure.
6. Be encouraging.
Speaking of mistakes, no one likes to be called out for something they did wrong—especially in front of their peers. Let someone know if he or she needs to correct something, but don’t forget to give praise when a peer does something right.
A person doesn’t become a leader through a promotion or seniority; he or she becomes a leader by being encouraging, motivating and giving credit where it’s due.
7. When traveling by plane, give the person in the middle both arm rests.
Not everyone travels for work, and this isn’t exactly related to the workplace, but someone has to say it: If you’re lucky enough to have an aisle or window seat—give the poor traveler in the middle one of your arm rests. Air travel is uncomfortable—especially in the middle seat—and every extra inch helps.