IT Employment

Unacceptable behavior in the workplace


OK, first of all, get your minds out of the gutter. I'm not talking THAT unacceptable.

In an article for BusinessWeek, Liz Ryan, at-work expert, speaker, writer, and CEO of online networking organization WorldWIT, outlines 10 types of behavior that are totally unacceptable in the workplace.

A few of them are things we've already talked about-excessive use of BlackBerries, airing personal dramas, and excessive cologne. But she also mentions some new ones:

  • Issuing invitations only to select people. She stresses that it's rude to walk up to three people and only invite two of them to lunch.
  • Talking about money, whether it's about how much someone makes or how much he spent on his house.
  • Spamming co-workers
  • Giving unsolicited advice

But the one she listed that seemed to garner the most emotional response from people was to keep personal habits personal. Or as she says, "I can live with a quick hair-brushing at your desk. And I think most of us wouldn't flinch if you reapply your saucy pink lipstick right there in your cube. But you can't floss your teeth, tweeze your eyebrows, or -- God forbid -- clip your fingernails."

The overwhelming response seemed to be a resounding "Ew!" You just know there's someone out there reading that and wondering, "What about toe nails?"

What would make your list of unacceptable work behaviors?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

60 comments
tillie23
tillie23

Is farting in the office considered harassment?

m4rk.gm4il
m4rk.gm4il

and Gossipping is also unacceptable.

kenbergins
kenbergins

Ew, cliping your toe nails??? YOU are crazy. Who cares if you clip your nails, toe or finger, who cares if you pick your nose. Who cares if you put on lip stick. Get real, be an adult, or be like Heather Mills and complain that you might commit suiside because the life you are living is just to harsh cause you havent got half of Pauls money. If all this bothers you, then finding a hair on the floor of the kitchen in your home probably sends you looking for the Brinks phone number. Cause its your hair. Toni, you need to find something important to do, your talents are wasted being a senior editor with this kind of subject matter. If you dont think so, then you really need a new occupation, maybe garbage collector. You would then have something to maybe complain about. I say that because I dont want to disrepect the garbage man, cause I still want him to get mine. He can leave yours. hows that for my very first post.. I even have more important things to do. kb

JustinF
JustinF

One of the things which bugs me the most is when co-workers try and convert me to their religion. I don't believe in God or any other higher power, leave me alone to be another mammal who will just die one day.

jdclyde
jdclyde

Women that dress provocatively and then wonder why everyone is always treating them like eye candy. Keep it professional and tasteful. I even had a talk with my ex-wife once because what she wore to come see me at work one time was not something anyone should wear into a professional office, even if it does look good.

Leee
Leee

At my last place of employment, there were two women who, incidentally, couldn't stand each other. The first one, 'Rita,' belched and burped continually. Lest one think this was a medical condition, she could turn it on and off (mostly on) at will. Whenever she'd get a call from her boyfriend, however, the digestion problem stopped. When people near her got on the phone themselves, the burping amplified to the point where the person on the other end of the line could hear it. The second one, a single mom named 'Sheila,' abused the schedule. She'd blow in at three o'clock and then, after everyone left, would leave and then log back in from home around midnight, saying how she was 'so tired' and was leaving the office. (I know this because being in the IT department, it was easy to track her logs.) She blamed her schedule on her daughter, volunteering at the school, helping with homework and afterschool clubs, participating in various activities, etc. Turns out that when Sheila actually did have to go to a parent-teacher conference, the girl was flunking out and none of the teachers knew who Sheila was. To my knowledge, both are still at their jobs. You guessed it -- 'Rita' could claim medical discrimination, and 'Sheila' could accuse the place of discriminating against working moms. Ruins it for everyone, doesn't it?

akittencalledjen
akittencalledjen

A few years ago I did some voluntary work after university so I had some office experience for my resume. The organisation helped people lacking in qualifications find work. The organisation had some extra money and wanted to reach the more rural areas so this branch had just been set up. Instead of advertising the managerial post, one of the committee members (let's call her Sue) waited until the head guy was away then suggested to the other board member her friend (Sarah) would be great and they should give her a two week trial there to see how things went. After two weeks were up she railroaded them into agreeing that she did a good job and was made manager of the new branch where she had little to no support/supervision. Her previous job was as a clerk at a government job centre and had never had a position of seniority. Once she was manager, she brought in one of the clients from the old branch who she kind of viewed as her charity case project and made him her assistant. I'll call him Clyde. I came in two weeks later and it was pretty good for a while but then I started getting a weird vibe whenever I came into the office. Apparently she'd been sending Clyde so many "memos" (numerous post-it notes on his desk) he was thinking of claiming constructive dismissal. She'd say he was consistently late (how could she tell? She was never there?), that his clothing contravened the dress code (there was no dress code and she wore indecently low-cut shirts ripped jeans and trainers to the office) and wouldn't give him compassionate leave when his father died. During a spot audit it was found that some money went missing from the petty cash box (Sarah kept the key in the jar of paperclips on her desk) and after failing to account for the difference (she never kept receipts or balanced the petty cash), her and Sue tried to pin it on Clyde to hide her failings. She also started using me as free babysitting for her monsterous kid and was using her office hours to run her pub. I'd hear her ordering alcohol for the pub, take bookings for parties, hire cleaning staff, have blazing rows with her husband over how the pub should be decorated. This was all done on the branch's phone or using company stationary and stamps. Did I mention this was a charity? The morning I arrived at the office to find a note saying she wanted me to take care of the clients and office on my own was the day I turned whistleblower and quit. H3ll if I'm doing her job and not getting paid for it.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Its common courtesy to be considerate of others when you work in an office environment. Thats not new political correctness, thats plain old fashioned respect. But clearly considering your venting on Toni, you are unclear on the concept. James

Tig2
Tig2

If you don't like an article, don't bother with it. There is no requirement that you post your opinion- especially in that tone. Sadly enough, there are people in the world who need to hear these kinds of articles. And I will just bet that we all have a story or two in mind of people we've worked with that were objectionable. I would go so far as to bet that some of your co-workers find YOU objectionable. You need to learn the art of playing well with others.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]Who cares if you clip your nails, toe or finger, who cares if you pick your nose. Who cares if you put on lip stick.[/i] OK, so you don't have a problem with anybody doing any of this at their workplace? You won't care if you see the deli or meat clerk in your local grocery store picking their nose just before they wait on you? You won't mind waiting while your cashier clips her nails? The point of these posts is not to point out the obvious (although they often do), but to start a dialog. Some people contribute. You didn't. Edit: type, post, proofread

gadgetgirl
gadgetgirl

actually, ken, it's real life. We've all been there, seen that, as it were and are actively making mental comparisons as we are reading these posts. Personally, I've thought of at least three people I have worked with who have "contravened" workplace behaviour. All Toni is doing is giving us a lighthearted look at the things people get up to at work. It's not garbage. Toni writes well, and some of her topics make people (me, at least) think. If you don't like the topic, don't read it. But don't trash the writer purely because of the topic. GG

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

I believe I WILL pursue a career in garbage collection. My first pick-up will be your post.

too_old
too_old

1. gossip 2. lying 3. manager yelling and screaming at employee in public 4. spending all working time at desk but planning wedding, social get togethers, complaining about co workers unacceptable behaviour behind their backs while being a 'great friend' to them to their faces. 5. calling in to say not able to work because so upset a coworker made her feel stupid, was mean, and a bully when she actually had a long weekend planned with a boyfriend and had not met her deadline 6. using someone to show them how to do their work while telling everyone they had to help that person 7. and I could go on by the way, I have clipped my nails at my desk because of breaking nails to the cuticle...extremely painful if not clipped and allowed just to tear off if they get caught I have also used floss at my desk while under pressure to get a task done...food caught in a gap between teeth can be painful personal policy - never discuss politics and religion or lack thereof bottom line: be careful judging someone...ya never know when the tables will turn and you will be bewildered about what is now being believed about you

Leee
Leee

Yeah, in this band of mixed nuts were the prosthelytizers. If anything negative ever happened to me, the easy answer was that I didn't pray hard enough to their denominational God. (The belcher was one of these Bible-thumpers.) Looking back, I had so much grounds for litigation...

drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

I take these things with a grain of salt. People who espouse to be an expert in the bleeding obvious don't usually rate too highly in my feeble and addled mind - in this I mean the original author of the points. That's why I was frivolous on my response to (I think) jd. With regards your particular response: I agree. Full stop. I've also worked in many environments in 25 years, and can honestly say I have [b]never[/b] had any person try to [b]convert[/b] me to their religion. Yes, I have had people speak about their outside-work activities which include religion. Even in glowing terms. People speaking in either the break times or in loose corridor talk, talk about a lot of things - religion sometimes included. My desire to participate in that discussion is my choice, and if ever it crosses a boundary that I am not comfortable with, I can either say something or simply walk away. Having made that choice in front of them, I have never had someone so insensitive as to continue with the discussion or to target me later on, [i]in the work environment[/i]. I am fully aware that people's examples in these instances often incorporate a significant component of hyperbole. How many times, in an Australian work environment, have you been hit up to be converted? edit to clarify that I think the author of the original info-document was stating the bleeding obvious - no-one else !!!! Not you or JD - arrggghhhh!!

Jessie
Jessie

You're such a stick in the mud! :P What do you care if a woman comes into work wearing the same clothes she wore to her moonlight stripping gig... as long as she gets her work done, right? I myself never wear anything less than plastic and a whip. That'd be my credit cards and the whipped cream in my half-caff double shot mocha-chino. You guys have SUCH dirty minds!

drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

... are out of place in the office environment? SO THAT's the problem !!!!!!!! I thought it was just my bad breath, playing loud punk music and drinking problem. At least the author didn't have any words to say about those, otherwise my career would be truly stuffed. Is it okay to have a drinking problem as long as you offer your coworkers a snort on the bottle every now and then?

gadgetgirl
gadgetgirl

in the same office. Came in, sorted hair (usual: it's windy 90% of the time here), lippy, mascara, straightened skirt, checked cleanliness of shoes - especially heels - put on handcream, checked lippy again, re-tied hair, re-straightened skirt..... then made a cup of tea..... It actually took her 20 minutes to even switch the pc on when she got in..... For her first few weeks, the guys downstairs were convinced she was going out clubbing every night, because of what she wore. When they realised she wasn't, there was a race to get to bring out post upstairs in the morning, so they could check out the days attire! I once had a guy sat behind me who blew his nose every 10 minutes. Seriously. You could set your watch by him. It was as if he had either a cold or perennial rhinitis. It got to the stage where I was subconciously waiting for it, even whilst on telephone calls.... oh, and I also stopped eating lunch at my desk, too..... for bloody obvious reasons! GG Edit: Friday spelling. Oxymoron.

Shellbot
Shellbot

Now..I've never had anyone clip thier nails in the office..but.. the girl next to me brushes her hair, puts on lippy and applys the spray variety of underarm deoderant. If we had no bathroom on the premises, fair enough..but we've got one on each floor, and its literally 10 steps away from our office. I was going to bring it up soon..cause the deoderant thing it starting to really annoy me (the air is full of it for 10 mins).. but seeing as how I'm leaving in a month, i'm just going to leave it. Oh, we used to have a girl who took out her partials and picked the food out of them when she was speaking to you. That was always pleasant.. face it, some people are just not meant to be allowed out in public...

JamesRL
JamesRL

In the case of the second one, that just so wrong - the manager of this person should take a pay cut. I have busy people working for me too, and I can flex the schedule a little, but that is just too much. I have a number of staff who work in remote offices or from home, and I check in with them every day. Are you sure Sheila didn't have another job as well? James

Jessie
Jessie

...then it's probably YOU. And by YOU I certainly don't mean Tig, I mean Ken, who doesn't seem to think that these are objectionable things to do at work... so I'd imagine his coworkers find him quite objectionable.

jdclyde
jdclyde

But it is [b]TRASH[/b], not [b]GARBAGE[/b]. [b]Garbage[/b] is from waste food. [b]Trash[/b] is just about everything else that is worthless in this world. B-)

Shellbot
Shellbot

The post was a bit much wasn't it..i was going to comment but couldn't think of anything nice to say. Maybe he's one of the offenders??

jdclyde
jdclyde

:p Not sure what you were replying to, as I refuse to read a post where the poster is to disinterested in the topic to change the stupid default title, but I know religion in the work place has never been an issue for me except for when people won't take my booklet on their first step to the conversion to JDism.... B-)

JustinF
JustinF

I've only encountered it three or four times in my 8 years in Australia but I found it sufficiently annoying to be one of the most inappropriate things to do while at work. One character used to pester me several times a week to attend his church & talked to me every day about believing in God & being saved & sh1t. I took it to our boss in the end as being polite didn't work. I used to work on an opposite shift to a guy who restored vintage Porches as a hobby. I'd come in after he had been on over a weekend or public holiday & our workbench/desk would be covered in old car parts.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

and you wonder why our minds are dirty.... :0

jdclyde
jdclyde

We are guys, so of course we have dirty minds. That is why I had three things I was praying for when my boys were about to be born. Be healthy not look alike be boys I got all three wishes. No way any daughter of mine would ever grow up to go out with a guy like me! ;\

drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

... if you never wore anything MORE than plastic and a whip. :) What are your thoughts on bodily functions in the cubicle? Is there a scale of acceptibility? Always looking to learn ...

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

I have a bottle of sugar free caramel syrup (for coffee) at my desk. Everyone that walks by does a double/triple take at it. Every now and then someone picks it up to see what it is (big glass bottle, looks like rum)... :^0 I keep commenting that I want to walk down the aisle and 'sip on it' to see how many people would ask for some, and how many would complain (or call security)...

jdclyde
jdclyde

how can you go wrong with coffee liquor? :D I was told about a "lady" that was canned about two months before I started for drinking on the job. She would have a big glass of vodka at her desk.....

GSG
GSG

I worked with a guy that always slept at his desk. He claimed he had Narcolepsy, but, even though we worked in a hospital, and this is an extremely rare condition, none of the managers made him bring a note from the doctor proving it. The opinion of his co-workers was that he had a grow light hidden in the ceiling tiles and was growing some "special herbs". Since he was always hungry as well as sleepy, that would fit our diagnosis.

jdclyde
jdclyde

Her work is done or it isn't. That is the measure of an employee, not how much time they are seen sitting around and office. Clock watchers hurt productivity.

Shellbot
Shellbot

your outlook.. (not MS outlook..but ahh..you know what i mean...) oh shag it..i'm off to the pub..i'll have one for all the trash on here.. (now where did i put that credit card...gonna be an expensive night!)

Jessie
Jessie

and I like me that way. And sometimes, I'm not even worthless. :D

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

Obviously, I'm going to have to develop a thick exterior! I think our regular posters and readers--bless their hearts!--take the blog for what it is -- a way to open up a conversation about a topic. I enjoy the comments more than anything. (Except for some.) ; )

JamesRL
JamesRL

and men....well....thoughts do tend to stray in one direction. As to your body, as Jacqui would gladly point out, there is someone(s) for everyone. There are all kinds of people with all kinds of predilictions and fetishes. And some may work in the same building as you! James

Jessie
Jessie

I have to wonder how your mind could conjure up dirty thoughts about my body which is freshly showered and shaved every morning! And then there's the fact that my body has never recovered from 5 pregnancies in 4.5 years. Grant that two of those were miscarriages, but they still have an effect on the body... nobody but my husband has dirty thoughts about my body.

alex.a
alex.a

The story is told, allegedly true, of a certain European monarch who was entertaining a visiting dignitary. The events of the day called for reviewing the troops on horseback. Wouldn't you know it, the Queen's horse farted. "Oh, I'm so frightfully sorry!" Her Majesty said to the dignitary. "Think nothing of it, Ma'am," the dignitary replied. "Had you said nothing, I would have assumed it was the horse."

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

were going into a grocery store. I was ahead of her about 30 feet when she kinda yelled in a whisper, "Tony!" "What?" "Did you?" "What?" "Come here!" Then in a whisper, "Did you fart?" I took a whiff, then proclaimed in a louder voice "Aw, no... I'd have claimed that one!"

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

told me to excuse myself to the fire escape when I needed to fart ... big mistake ... the fire escape was a big enclosed stairwell that was connected to three other classrooms, so instead of interrupting one class, I interrupted four! :)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

My [then] 3-month-old son let go a blast on the bus in Wiesbaden. The lady in front turned around and looked at me. When I pointed to my son, she just shook her head and turned back around. :^0

drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

... on so many levels - none of them sophisticated enough to discuss any further. :)

jdclyde
jdclyde

I like to remind my boys to pick up their clothes in the bathroom after it has been properly fragranted.... :p They know better now, dang it.... B-)

neilb
neilb

Anyone who takes two breaths of this is greedy.

Jessie
Jessie

I would have gotten up at LEAST three or four times during that meeting to walk out and FAKE it!

Shellbot
Shellbot

I would actually PAY money to be in a meeting where that came up!!!! i'd be crying with laughter!

ganyssa
ganyssa

in a completely serious departmental meeting where the department head made a rule that people who had to fart had to go out in the hallway to do it.

jdclyde
jdclyde

Let a very impressive one go, thankfully there was an old guy next to me, so everyone just gave HIM the looks..... ;\

Jessie
Jessie

as long as nobody else hears it and can blame it on you. Belching, well, I've always thought the louder the belch the better, but if you do it too often it loses it's appeal. The cubicle is however NOT the place for peeing, pooing, or pumping breast milk.

JamesRL
JamesRL

My team generally writes interfaces between third parties and our own systems, we are not a custom shop but not mainstream either. We don't take calls directly, or even from frontline support. If frontline finds a problem with the software, and their escalation person can't resolve it either, it gets escalated to us to determine if it is a bug. We don't talk with customers unless we need to, and we don't interact with the frontline unless we need to. In another department with a bigger team, they designate the QA person as the "bug tracker" but my team is three programmers, and they generally act as each other's QA. It is great to have specialists, but it doesn't always scale to smaller groups. Its far from crappy. Down south they have much larger teams, and there is a whole department between the programmers and support. My team often expresses that understanding issues that come from support helps them better understand requirements from customers and support. James

Absolutely
Absolutely

"I expect my programmers for example, to collaborate on problems and issues, to be able to back each other up when support calls etc. They can't do that if they don't work a certain number of hours in common." Whatever it is, it sounds crappy. What programs do they write, for what kind of business function, that they need to be on call for the support department?

jdclyde
jdclyde

it was the very incompetent boss that was the problem in your office, not the worker that found out she could get away with less and less.

JamesRL
JamesRL

then log in for a bit at midnight and still do her work, then either a) she hasn't been assigned enough work or b) she is incredibly efficient and should be teaching others how she does this. James

JamesRL
JamesRL

But not anyone else's business most of the time. I have three techs who have to work closely together. They need to know each others schedules pretty well. But I leave that to them to work out. The big events - training, seminars, vacation dentists etc are in outlook calendar for all to see. James

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

what are the "watchers" [b]not[/b] doing while watching someone else's comings and goings?

Leee
Leee

I know that different people have different circadian rhythms (a buddy in the same department won the right to work nights because he got a medical certification stating he had trouble functioning in daylight hours), but 'Sheila' wasn't there with him during the time she supposedly was in... wasn't working... wasn't getting anything done. She basically moved all her job tickets around in her file and then dumped it off on someone else when she couldn't put it off any longer. And where was the boss? He feared her. You could tell how bad his stress was by the way he smelled -- one pack, two packs or more cigarettes sucked down by the time he arrived himself. Right down to the hour I got laid off (along with my nocturnal friend), I could tell (smell?) something was up. As for the boss, he got canned shortly afterward too. I am quite certain Sheila didn't have another job. Working two jobs halfway well (including meeting deadlines) involves motivation.

jdclyde
jdclyde

I would expect the same from a receptionist. MANY jobs though are not dependent on being there right at 8am till 5pm. As soon as people start watching the clock on when you show up, it teaches you that if it is important to be there right at 8, it is then just as important to leave right at 5. Being a clock watcher is a double edged sword.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I expect my programmers for example, to collaborate on problems and issues, to be able to back each other up when support calls etc. They can't do that if they don't work a certain number of hours in common. Its harder to measure that than a number of lines of code, but trust me its more important to me. James

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