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Career Advice

Five Rules For Office Etiquette; Ways To Prevent Workplace Conflict

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

April 20, 2011

The time you spend working with others should be pleasant and free of strife. Working collaboratively requires compromise and good listening skills.  All too often, workplace conflict begins when some core principles are ignored. There are a few basic tenets to keep in mind that will improve office etiquette. While you can’t control every situation, the less friction you are involved with in the office, the more likely you are to be perceived as a team player and generate support for projects that need completion. Working well with others will facilitate your performance and likely help you advance your career.

Say Please and Thank You
People like politeness and praise.  Any time you can give someone a well-earned compliment, do so.  Good manners go a long way in creating positive relationships in the workplace. Heck!  Forget the workplace,  good manners go a long way everywhere!

No one likes a boss who never acknowledges the good things his workers do.  A grumpy manager, focused on the negative, creates an environment of resentment and hostility. Likewise, a caustic employee can spread this bad energy to others in the department.

Did you know that a toxic work environment can even lead to criminal activity? In a study conducted by Greenberg and Scott in 1996, employee theft was closely associated with feelings of mistreatment by management. Conversely, feeling valued has been shown to increased employee motivation.

Be Your Brand
I often speak to my clients about the importance of portraying a well-defined brand in all business interactions. This requires identifying those traits and attributes that you wish to put forth and making sure to incorporate them into everything you do. How you dress, your work ethic, and your interpersonal interactions with colleagues and superiors define you.

Address Misunderstandings Rapidly
To prevent conflict from snowballing out of control, it is critical to clear up confusion. Many workplace miscommunications stem from conflicting roles that overlap. If you feel your toes are being stepped on by a colleague, it is best to get clarification quickly.  Managers must effectively define what each team member is responsible for and keep the lines of communication open.

Watch Your Language
I am not talking about profanity here, although calling your coworker a $#%& is a definite no-no.  That is a no brainer. What I want to discuss is the importance of language in terms of how you phrase requests.

Using ‘would you’ or ‘will you’ rather than ‘could you’ or ‘can you’ can go a long way towards gaining cooperation when enlisting help from colleagues and subordinates.

Saying ‘will you’ implies that you are asking for aid whereas ‘can you’ may come across as a directive. In his book Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, John Gray mentions that men are more likely to react favorably to ‘will you’. Try it, it works!

For example, if you say “Will you create a spreadsheet with a breakdown of annual office expenses?” this should most likely garner immediate assistance. If you instead say, “Can you create a spreadsheet?” it may suggest that you question the individual’s capacity to do the task at hand, and in some cases it might result in unnecessary delays due to resistance. It is a subtle distinction, but an important one nonetheless.

Work Judiciously
If you have ever had a coworker who chats with their friends, surfs the web, or polishes their nails (yes, can you believe it?) during working hours, while you are diligently getting everything, including their workload done, then you know what I am talking about.  If you are the one with the perfect nails, get with the program!  Your colleagues will become resentful if they see you slacking off while they are slaving away.

The bottom line is to be aware and respectful of how your behaviors in the workplace impact others.  If you do have a disagreement with a colleague or superior, address it quickly and take responsibility for your part. The environment you work in is important to your overall career opportunities and it makes sense for you to optimize your situation. While it is impossible to control everything about your job, you can control your own behavior and etiquette to promote workplace happiness and harmony.

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