Simple manners in the workplace are not always noticed but bad manners certainly are. To get ahead and stay ahead simple courtesy can make you stand out.


I remember a case where a candidate, while waiting in the lobby for an interview, saw a woman struggling to get through the door with a pushchair and several bags. She got up, opened the door and held it open. She then asked if she could help with the bags. This act was witnessed by the person who was about to interview her and he offered her the job there and then, realising that she was a polite, considerate empathetic person.


Conversely I know someone who was flatly turned down for a role due to the dismissive manner in which they spoke to the waiting staff in the restaurant where they were being interviewed. The interviewer felt that if they had this attitude they were not the right type of person to join their team.


I recruit a lot of PAs and, as a result, interview a lot of people myself and I must say, first impressions really do count. While there is a handbook of advice on professional appearance, I’m talking about manners, small things, such as saying, “thank you” for a glass of water, or “please” when asking to borrow a pen.


While the politest thing you can do is remember your Ps and Qs, the worst you can do is to be late. It shows a lack of respect for other people, be they colleagues, clients or suppliers. It also gives the impression of disorganisation and a lack of planning. Obviously it is not always your fault, but a courtesy call to let people know your estimated time of arrival can make all the difference and is respectful of other peoples’ time.


These are my top 10 employee etiquette tips:


  • Say please and thank you – this is face to face, on the phone or in emails
  • Ask before borrowing things – whether it’s a pen or something from the kitchen, just ask
  • Hold doors open for people – everyone appreciates and notices this
  • Offer to make drinks for people – it breaks the ice and is always appreciated
  • Keep your desk tidy and wash up after yourself – being untidy suggests disorganisation


  • Be late – show respect for the people you work with.
  • Make private calls in the office – others don’t want to hear you chat to your BF.
  • Leave your mobile on during meetings – it is disrespectful to others. Put it on silent.
  • Dress inappropriately – let others see your skills, not body parts.
  • Interrupt – colleagues deserve the right to be heard, even if it’s nonsense.


Following these simple rules can help you gain popularity and respect, and will help you scale the career ladder.


As an employee you are an ambassador for your company and what you say, do and wear generates an image which is equally as important among your colleagues. If you have an offender in your workplace, try to react kindly and positively and follow these five steps:


1         Initially let it pass – everyone has bad days and becoming angry will not improve the situation in any way.

2         Stay calm – offer a sympathetic comment which sometimes can act as an incentive for the person to change their ways. Share your struggles with time-keeping or maintaining a tidy desk for example.

3         Chat to the person in private and let them know how their behaviour is negatively affecting colleagues, you among them. Often people don’t realise and are shocked at this feedback.

4         You can offer suggestions, based on the DOs and DON’Ts above. Help them tidy their desk, or share ideas such as planning meetings well apart from each other to ensure they can be on time.

5         If the behaviour continues, seek help and advice from your manager, a representative from HR or other colleagues. Not doing so just condones this kind of behaviour.


Speak up, but do so with compassion. Remember the words of Kahlil Gibran, “The real test of good manners is to be able to put up with bad manners pleasantly.”


Thank you for reading!

I hope these preparation tips are helpful and would love to hear of any success stories - please do get in touch with me via For other helpful tips and advice, visit: www.SarahCollier. ... (Read More)

One comment on “Manners in the Workplace

  1. Nutthanit Towan on

    To Whom It May Concern,

    I’ve come across your website while researching on topics to create series on our own YouTube Channel for Office 101, which will be everything about training employees to office etiquette.

    I am wondering if you would like to be our partner in creating vieos, which means I will get some of the contents from your website or you can even provide us with the script and we can create a video for you. We can put your logo as credit at the end of the video.

    Please let me know if you are interested. We will promote the videos and mainly to put on our YouTube Channel and Facebook.

    Looking forward to hear from you soon.


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