Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Co-worker driving you nuts?

Does it offend you when your colleagues use profanity to make a point? If you're in the U.S. or U.K, you're not alone but if you're Australian, it probably doesn't bother you. In fact, you might be one of the swearers. According to the International Business Etiquette Index, a global survey commissioned by an Australian office space provider, swearing is ranked as the most hated business behaviour with 79 per cent of all respondents saying it was unacceptable. This apparently doesn't apply in the denizens of Hollywood agents or restaurant kitchens a la Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and Entourage where profanity not only rules but seems to be the best way to get things done.

Arriving at work and not saying hello to co-workers came in at number two (77 per cent of respondents). We discussed the survey results at our weekly staff meeting here at Palette PR and this stat set off a debate about whether you needed to say hello to each colleague individually or just to the receptionist. We concluded that it was imperative to say hi to each person who saw you come into the office but admitted that could be a little tough in a large open space.

The third most annoying office behaviour according to the survey was talking loudly in the office. While the Palette team agreed this was annoying, we decided that it would move up or down the ranks depending on the office layout and would be more pronounced in an open concept or cubicle environment.

What makes this survey interesting are the differences across various cultures. Australians, for example, have a really high tolerance for cussing in the workplace but are offended when a co-worker has a drink and doesn't offer to buy or make one for someone else. 20 per cent of Chinese workers considered it impolite to address bosses by their first name but that didn't register a blip among U.S. or U.K. workers.

This highlights the need to adapt your etiquette approach when travelling and spending time in other countries. My reading list has some good suggestions for books that can help prepare you for the subtle differences in protocol you'll encounter while travelling.

And by the way, for those of you who insist on using smiley faces and dancing hearts to sign off your business e-mails, that was on the top ten list...so stop it!

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