Did you know that September 2 is ‘Bring Your Manners To Work Day’? Yep it’s a thing – like ‘national children’s day’ – which I am pretty sure did not exist when I was a kid, because apparently little ones don’t get enough attention now a day’s *cough*. I digress… but seriously, this unique day of awareness was created by The Protocol School of Washington to remind people of the importance of treating people with courtesy and respect in the workplace.
Most of us spend more time at work then they do at home, so surely you would think having manners is as common as having a Netflix subscription? Sadly research doesn’t agree. Researchers at Lund University in Sweden surveyed nearly 6,000 people and their studies showed that being subjected to rudeness is a major reason for dissatisfaction at work and if not addressed can be contagious to those around you.
I have experienced enough in my 14 years of working to understand how having one less than nice colleague can affect workplace happiness, and these rudesters aren’t as rare as they should be.
Common rudeisms in an office can be those little annoying things like loud ringtones, not cleaning up after yourself, to downright uncool things (also known as bullying behaviour) like excluding someone from important information, or “forgetting” to invite someone to a communal event. Taking credit for someone else’s work is a common one, as is spreading rumours, sending malicious emails, or not giving praise when due. Ever been on the end of any of those beauties? It’s not so nice.
Manners are becoming as rare as old vinyl players ― I mean the real old ones, that you find in the Salvo’s shop and weigh about the size of a piano, not the £30 you find at Urban Outfitters ( no judgement here, I own one too).They are rare to find, totally awesome and everyone loves to be around them.
I know I would much rather work with someone less experienced that’s polite and nice to be around than someone at the top of their game who doesn’t engage in basic manners.
One of my first jobs out of high school was working at a photo lab at a local retail store. I loved working with photos, and it was close to work so it seemed perfect at first. One of my colleagues also happened to be a former schoolmate so I thought it would be a nice working environment. Boy was I wrong. From day one, the girls on the team were abrupt, rude and not all that helpful. It was like retail edition of ‘mean girls.’ I was pretty good at the job so I could not figure out why I felt so despised by these girls. I stuck it out (because let’s face it I needed money) and kept a smile on my face as much as possible. About six months later, one of the team members said to me “You know, Jennifer said some things about you before you first started, but you are not at all how she described. Now that I know you, it really has made me question her and why she would do that.” My jaw nearly dropped to the floor. I had not realized the very person I thought would be my advocate was in fact my enemy. What was more interesting was that my just getting on with my job and being polite had revealed something about her character. I said little (even though I hated the working environment), smiled a lot and did my job. And after a while, that seemed to wear people down. I didn’t win any lifelong friends, but I approached everyone (even the backstabbing school colleague) with kindness and manners, and after a while it at least changed my working environment in a way where I didn’t dread going to work anymore.
I love the fact that organizations like spread kindness and the kindness offensive have popped up, recognizing the need to remind people to practice kindness in their everyday life - and that something as simple as smiling and saying good morning to a colleague can set the mood for the entire office.
I’m not naïve, and some days I really am not in the mood to act like Pollyanna, particularly when I’m having a crappy time (or when a Netflix binge got out of control the night before), but as my mother always said ‘ If you can’t be nice, at least be quiet’. When just the sound of an office phone makes me want to throw my stapler at someone, this piece of advice has always been a life saver.
Editor of Society Magazine Tatler Kate Reardon says “It doesn’t matter how many A levels you have, what kind of degree you have.. if you have good manners people will like you. And if people like you they will help you. I’m talking about being polite and respectful and making people feel valued.”
I’m a fan of manners, even though there will always be people at work who don’t seem to hold them in the same regard, the least I can do is treat them the way I want to be treated, so says the Golden rule - it’s an international remedy that works in almost every situation.
So bring your smile in today, complement your colleagues and for goodness sakes clean up your lunch mess. Hopefully next year we will be looking forward to ‘Take Brownies To Work Day’, which would bring out my Pollyanna attitude anytime.
Rachel DeGiorgio is a blogger and communications manager for the National Health Service (NHS). She currently lives in London with her Australian husband. Follow her on twitter @rachdegiorgio.
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