5 Essentials for Encouraging Good Manners in the Office

Office Environment

Manners aren’t what they used to be, and while it’s a relief for men not to have to stand up every time a woman enters the room — for both genders — some of the old social norms really did keep things feeling more kind, civilized, and stress-free. Not too long ago, there was a very agreed-upon set of rules and decorum that almost everyone followed anytime they were at work, a church potluck, or any other social gathering.

However, things have changed, and they’ve done so in a very short amount of time, which means that knowing the best way to act in a work environment is oftentimes not even on your employees’ radar. That being said, there is no reason to expect less than professional and amiable behavior from everyone in your charge. If you’re in need of a Miss Manners to whip your team into shape, here are five essentials for encouraging excellent behavior among your employees and yourself.

Practice What You Preach

It will never be inappropriate for bosses and managers to emulate the qualities they want to see in their employees whether those qualities include being on time or always giving credit where credit is due. So, when it comes to manners, you can be sure that you need to toe a pretty specific line, so that when you do ask your team to improve their behavior, they won’t feel like you’re being hypocritical.

Spell It Out

Don’t assume that your employees know the first thing about how to behave in their work environment. Instead, take the time — ideally during employee orientation — to spell out expectations. More than just a one-time conversation, it’s helpful for offices and departments to have a written-out policy regarding everything from sexual harassment and time spent on fantasy football to email etiquette and reloading the printer when you use the last sheet of paper. As new situations arise — such as the increasing numbers of e-cigarettes in the workplace — add to your written code of conduct, and alert your team to the changes in it and your expectations.


Bear in mind that your workplace may include people from vastly different backgrounds, which means that you may need to take it upon yourself to gently and consistently remind some of your employees about expectations. While it can seem frustrating to over-communicate, doing so will help those employees practice the behaviors that will help them succeed.

Over-communicating will also let those employees who are bound and determined to eschew your efforts know where they stand when they don’t comply. While it can be unpleasant, make sure your team understands very clearly what the ramifications will be if they do not follow company policies.

Doing Unto Others

In much the same way that you need to practice what you preach, you need to also be open and available for feedback related to your manners missives. Employees need to know their needs will be considered and honored if reasonable, and it may be that some of your particular expectations chafe the group more than you realize. If employees appeal your decisions or ask for some leeway, consider it with an open mind. It may be that unlimited trips to the downstairs café for coffee really do make your team more productive — even when it means some of them are away from their desks more than others.

Regular Reminders

Don’t expect change to stick. Too often, a heartfelt campaign to shape up has been thwarted by lackluster follow-up efforts over time, which means that, if you’re serious about your employees engaging one another and working in a particular way, you’re going to have to send out regular reminders. While these shouldn’t occur weekly (unless, of course, there are obvious and problematic infractions occurring), slight updates to your policies every quarter will be more than enough reason to remind employees of expectations so they can stay on track in behavior.

While Khalil Gibran may have been right when he said, “The real test of good manners is to be able to put up with bad manners pleasantly,” a work environment does need someone to promote civility and social ease. Follow these five essentials with yourself and with your team, and you’ll keep bad manners at bay with ease.

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Paul Tomaszewski is a science & tech writer as well as a programmer and entrepreneur. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of CosmoBC. He has a degree in computer science from John Abbott College, a bachelor's degree in technology from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, and completed some business and economics classes at Concordia University in Montreal. While in college he was the vice-president of the Astronomy Club. In his spare time he is an amateur astronomer and enjoys reading or watching science-fiction. You can follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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