Office etiquette


It’s impossible to please all of the people all of the time (as the oh-so-wise saying goes), and never was a truer word said than when dealing with the minefield of what passes as ‘appropriate’ workplace behaviour.

At Office Angels, we love how wonderfully eclectic our clients and candidates are, and we think that gives us a real snapshot of the sort of diversity you enjoy in your own offices; but it also means that whether you’re differentiated by generations, genders or personalities, it can be hard to keep everyone smiling.

That’s why we were irresistibly compelled to ask what annoys you at work, what you think is more than acceptable, and what’s just bang out of order. And the results made for interesting reading on what it takes to stay ahead of the game.

It seems that people talking loudly on the phone drives many of you mad; with 46% of employees and 36% of employers deeming it unacceptable. Furthermore, 78% of employers -- and 67% of employees -- feel the same about swearing; meaning you’d better mind your volume, more than your P’s and Q’s. This is backed up by the fact that 53% of employers and workers think that shouting across the office is bad form.

But whilst you’re sticklers for decibels, almost double the number of employers (56%) than workers (27%) frown on using earphones in the office, making professionalism the order of the day; further compounded by the fact that whilst 89% of employers and 66% of workers think it’s occasionally ok to take personal calls at work, only 51% of employers and 57% of staff think it’s acceptable to chat to colleagues about the weekend during office hours.

Continuing the conscientiousness, more workers (20%) than employers (17%) think it’s unwise to eat breakfast at their desks, and 42% believe it’s unacceptable to shop online during office hours (compared with 40% employers). Although a higher percentage of workers (30%) think it’s wrong to look at other people’s computer screens -- a view shared by just 27% of employers, who will understandably be interested in what you’re up to on those desktops.

Employers are however a little understanding when it comes to medical issues: 64% being happy for staff to visit the doctor or dentist occasionally during office hours; compared to 60% of employees.

Of course when it comes to email etiquette, you all had pretty strong feelings: 48% of employers think it’s unprofessional to add kisses and smiley faces to the end of emails, compared with a whopping 67% of employees; but both employers and employees agree (70% and 75% respectively) that it’s entirely unprofessional to use text speak, such as ‘lol’, in emails.

In conversational terms, almost half of employers (44%) think it’s ok to use terms such as ‘love’, ‘dear’ and ‘darling’, against 48% of employees; but when it comes to workplace relationships, the feeling was a little more relaxed -- 62% of employers agreeing that it’s ok to have a romantic relationship with a colleague, compared with 59% of workers.

As we established at the beginning (by stealing somebody else’s saying), you’ll never please all of the people all of the time; but whether you’re a receptionist, PA or hiring manager, you can always give thought to how professional you are in the office.

Work would be a sad place indeed if we couldn’t bond with colleagues over a morning brew round or exchange pleasantries about our weekend activities, but refraining from shouting down the phone, bellowing over the desk, or getting lost in the beats from your iPod can all help to ease office relations.

You might even find yourself pleasing a lot of the people, a lot of the time.

Download our ahead of the game research on office etiquette.