5 behavioural traits to watch out for in the office

By Robert Half on 14 March 2022

Has your inbox been flooded with emails from a colleague who routinely abuses the “reply to all” option? Have your nostrils ever been assaulted by someone’s leftover lunch at their desk? Do you avoid the pantry because you don’t want to be accosted by the office busybody?

Such annoyances, and many others, occur all too often in the workplace. What constitutes office etiquette – and simple manners – may be obvious to some people, but for others, it may be an elusive concept.

You spend a good proportion of your waking hours alongside these people, so they need to be harmonious. If you struggle to establish healthy relationships at work, this can have serious implications for your quality of life and also your career development.

However, the fact is, at various times in your professional life, you’ve probably been or will be on the receiving end of a colleague’s bothersome behaviour traits. You may however, be blissfully ignorant of how your own lack of propriety could be affecting others.

We're not always the best at spotting our own failings, or appreciating when we've crossed the line. Just in case you're unsure of where the boundaries lie, we've compiled this guide on how to be professional. The following are five examples of behavioural traits that could be working against you in the workplace:

Failing to use your indoor voice

There's nothing wrong with a bit of chit-chat with your colleagues, but always be respectful to other people you work with. They don't want their private matters to be discussed by colleagues who barely know them, particularly when all the facts have been jumbled up. Make sure you think before you speak. Broadcasting your conversations to the entire office is disruptive to people when they’re trying to concentrate.

So is broadcasting music from your speakers or even thinking out loud. Be considerate to those around you. Lower your volume when speaking on a hand phone or in person and save your singing for the shower. 

Maintaining an untidy workspace

One of the worse behavioural traits is failure to keep up with hygiene. Office cubicles are a little too close for comfort, particularly when it comes to odours. Eating pungent food at your desk or wearing heavy perfumes can be unpleasant for those who have workspaces near you.

Give everyone’s nose a break and leave the strong smelling food and other strong scents at home.

Over-killing managers with kindness

You’re never more transparent than when you blatantly stroke the egos of the management and treat subordinates condescendingly. A genuine person who treats everyone respectfully makes a better impression on leadership than a fawning employee.

Stick to the simple things, such as being punctual and helping recognise the success of others.

Being the office snitch

No behavioural trait is quite as contemptible as telling on someone. Informing the management about colleagues who leave a few minutes early or those who take a longer lunch hour will likely make you the least trusted and most disliked person in the office.

Unless there’s a violation of ethics or illegal activity involved, tattling on colleagues should never be considered an option. 

Raining on everyone’s parade

Habitually complaining about everyone and everything in the office can send colleagues scurrying when they see you approaching.

If you don’t have anything positive to say, sometimes it’s best to keep your observations to yourself.

Stay on top of behavioural traits

If you're constantly at odds with the other people and have no office etiquette, the negative atmosphere may impact on everyone's performance, productivity and job satisfaction. Also, if management see you as being a disruptive influence at work, it has the potential to affect your career prospects. Knowing how to be professional at work will help you develop your career, let's face it, who wants to hire or promote a trouble-maker?

Working closely with other people requires a certain amount of decorum. Be respectful of your colleagues and make a conscious effort to avoid behavioural traits that could be construed as annoying or offensive. When it comes to courtesy in the workplace, a common sense approach is best.

People may not be as formal in the workplace as they used to be, but managers and workers still expect their colleagues to be respectful and courteous. What’s more, employees with good manners project an image of professionalism, strengthening their reputation and improving their chances for career growth.

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