Manners matter in the workplace

Basic manners and etiquette are useful skills at work.

What workplace manners are being demonstrated here? Photo by MSU.
What workplace manners are being demonstrated here? Photo by MSU.

A basic definition of manners is a person’s outward way of behaving toward others. Etiquette, a synonym of manners, gets more at the historical set of accepted behaviors and conduct in certain societies, environments or groups.

Now picture yourself at work. Would you answer these statements true or false?

  • Open doors for visitors to your company or place of work.
  • A visitor or customer with an appointment takes priority over a telephone call.
  • Never take a photo without getting permission from the person being photographed.

According to Learning Seed, the correct response is true for these statements. Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H career education handout “Good Manners – Etiquette” suggests that “good manners put others before you and are a sign of respect and courtesy. They are practical guidelines to help you interact positively with other people and can add to your future success in the world of work. Manners are what is customary for the time and may differ by culture, environment and generation.”

Learning Seed’s Manners at Work resource indicates “manners and common sense good behavior are career assets as well as ways to build confidence.”

Here are some tips for individuals that find themselves working from a cubicle:

  • Treat the cubicle as if it has a door and walls. You should never yell at a coworker in a nearby area. Work on your steps, get up and walk to the person you need to talk to, or use the phone or email.
  • Avoid eating foods with strong odors in a cubicle.

Build positive relationships with your coworkers. For example:

  • When handling cash, have another coworker present.
  • Share the credit. Always credit a coworker’s idea or work that contributes to your success.
  • Remember to say “please,” “thank you” and “excuse me.” Otherwise, something small might come across as sounding like a demand.

Communicating via technology is an art all of its own. Here are a couple of tips:

  • Have you ever dialed a wrong number? Do not just hang up; be courteous and simply apologize for dialing the wrong number.
  • When you leave a voice mail message, speak distinctly and clearly.
  • In a work setting, it is very important to identify yourself to anyone you call.

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help to prepare young people for successful futures. As a result of career exploration and workforce preparation activities, thousands of Michigan youth are better equipped to be a part of and contribute to the future workforce.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth career preparation, money management and entrepreneurship programs, read the 2016 Impact Report: “Preparing Michigan Youth for Future Employment.”

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