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(Reuters) - According to "Happiness at Work" by author Jessica Pryce-Jones, American workers spend an average of 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime.
With so much time spent in cubicles and under the glare of fluorescent lights (and constant deadlines), maintaining civility and respect is not only important for personal success but also for the psychological well-being of your entire office.
Whether you are a recent hire or just need a refresher course on interoffice relationships, here are some practical reminders on maintaining professional decorum and respect in a shared workplace.
Volume Control: With open workspaces becoming more commonplace, a closed door can’t shut out a loud co-worker or someone on a speakerphone. If you have to make phone calls in an open setting, make sure to control your own volume and respect your neighbors. Or if your office has privacy rooms, utilize them.
Food for thought: The shared office kitchen is often the most contentious room in any office setting. From leaving last week’s half eaten lunch in the fridge to stinking up the kitchen with reheated kimchi, employees need to show respect and mind their manners when it comes to culinary concerns. If there is a sink, do your own dishes instead of leaving them for later.
Happy returns: Nothing can raise the ire of your fellow employee quicker than “borrowing” a stapler, a pair of scissors or a pen without asking. What’s worse is when you forget to return the item. Remember what your parents taught you as a child — never borrow something without asking and if you do, be sure and return it as soon as possible.
The late show: With our deadline-driven workday, time is more valuable than ever. If you have a meeting with a co-worker or team, show respect by being on time. The same goes for meeting deadlines on a collaborative project. Nothing leaves a worse impression than someone having to pay the price for your tardiness.
Language barrier: In an office setting, you are surrounded by people of all faiths, backgrounds and moral codes of conduct. Given this diversity, be sure and watch your language by editing out swear words, demeaning phrases and other offensive remarks. Showing respect in all forms of communication will speak volumes about you.
Idle gossip: No matter where you work, most of us have encountered office gossip, been a party to it, or been the victim of it. Constantly engaging in such behavior can lead to long-term unhappiness with co-workers. If you indulge in office gossip, think about what it’s doing to your own reputation — not to mention the hurt feelings of your office mates.
Credit score: No one likes someone who takes all the credit— especially for a team project. Remember that the most happy work environments are collaborative places where people share ideas and concepts. Even if you are the lead on a project, don’t forget to recognize the efforts of your co-workers.
Bittersweet smells: More and more companies are adopting a fragrance-free policy due to allergies, headaches and other reactions to body sprays, aftershave and even designer perfumes. For that segment of your work family that is truly bothered by such smells (including pop-up air fresheners), be a team player and save the sprays for the off hours.
Groom with a view: We’ve all heard horror stories about co-workers who clip their nails and even floss their teeth in a cubicle or open office. But please show some professional and personal decorum by arriving at your office pre-groomed and ready for work.
Private screenings: How many times have you been composing a private email and a co-worker stops to talk and glances at your work, giving your monitor more than a few seconds of screen time? Always remember to respect your co-workers’ privacy—especially with their online work.
(Pamela Eyring is the owner and president of The Protocol School of Washington, the global leader in international protocol, business etiquette and cross-cultural awareness training. With offices in Washington, D.C. and Dubai, the school was founded in 1988 and is the only U.S. educational institution of its kind accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET.org). For more information, visit www.psow.edu.)
Editing by Michael Roddy