What exactly is acceptable office behavior?

What do you consider acceptable behavior in an office environment?

For the sake of the question posed in the title of this piece, let's assume that you work in an "average" office made up of many people and varying departments. (In other words, if you're on the IT help desk for a traveling circus or strip club — not that there's anything with that — this may not be the place for you to speculate on office behavior.)

This topic came up a few days ago here in the TR office after someone seated a programming new hire amongst a bunch of online content editors. Although we editors have the need to focus in quiet much of the time, we also have to heavily collaborate. The poor programmer tried his best to deal — including wearing industrial strength head phones to drown us out — but finally he gave up and, I'm guessing, successfully pleaded with his boss to be moved somewhere less noisy.

This raises the subject of why those who do office layouts would be careful when blending departments, but it also brings up the question: What is acceptable behavior in an office environment?

Now, most of us are aware of the extreme no-nos (tube tops, the steady ingestion of grain alcohol, volleyball games played over cubicle walls) but what are some of the subtleties that should be considered par for the course?

I don't mind personal conversations (particularly if they're interesting and I'm not supposed to be listening) but even those become unproductive if they drag on too long. I don't like heavy perfumes or colognes because I think they can bother coworkers (especially if those coworkers fight allergies). Loud outbursts, like violent sneezes and sudden, explosive laughter scare the bejeezus out of me. I know sneezes and the volume of laughter can't be helped but if they become really frequent, they can be problematic.

I will recognize the fact that these kinds of issues may only be problematic to me because, as I've stated before, I have an abysmally short attention span. Click here for an illustration of that.

I'm being somewhat facetious but I thought it would be a good discussion point. What office behaviors do you consider outside of the norm?

About Toni Bowers

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.

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