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Anne Zimmerman

Anne Zimmerman

June 24, 2015

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Dealing With Rude Co-Workers

No matter how casual Fridays have gotten, good manners breed good business, especially if you’re trying to woo a new client or seal a big deal. But what do you do if your co-workers aren’t as concerned about etiquette? Here’s how to gracefully make over even the most impolite of office mates.

Review the rules. Before you flip out on a co-worker you think is sipping soup the wrong way, review modern-day etiquette for business and social situations. Check out Emily Post for answers to burning questions like: Should you chew gum in a meeting? What is the proper way to introduce yourself and shake hands? Is text messaging and e-mailing during a meeting okay in the modern business world? And what do you do with all those spoons and forks at a nice restaurant, anyway? But be warned: Once you’ve refreshed your memory of what good manners are, you’ll be spotting violations left and right.

Lead by example. Think about how you learned your good manners—probably from your parents or grandparents. Set a good example for your co-workers. Vow to be particularly rule-bound when it comes to behaviors you’d like to see them change. If you’re irritated by the way they interact with potential new clients, be sure to be friendly and polite when you’re the one in charge of the introductions and soft sell.

Reinforce the right way. Before a big meeting, meet with your co-workers to review important points, including etiquette: “Remember, this is a big presentation—let’s have cell phones off” or “I know we’ve all seen this PowerPoint a million times, but the Miller Technology folks haven’t, so act interested and engaged during the entire presentation.” By reminding co-workers that good etiquette is expected, they just might do it.

Start a campaign. If things are really bad (think flagrant rudeness or persistent offenses), you can take it upon yourself to start a crusade for good manners. Ask for etiquette tips to be included in weekly internal newsletters, buy an etiquette book for the lunchroom, make a poster. Be careful not to be too hoity-toity about your mission, or your snarky co-workers could respond with intentional bad manners… Ouch.

Speak up. If none of your covert efforts have worked, speak to your co-workers directly. Try to be gentle and nonconfrontational. Don’t pick on them, just point out the ways that improving their business manners might make them more successful in the field. Even if they’re peeved, they’ll soon be glad you took the time to point out minor, fixable actions. After all, presenting a solid, professional front will only help them improve in both the short and long term.