Friday, January 31, 2014

Theory 30: Workplace Etiquette training should be a graduation requirement.

Not gonna lie. As I write this, my hands are crippled with cold (you should see the typos in the rough draft), my house is a toasty (not) 55 degrees, Sharky is begging to get on the computer, and dishes are piled up with no Cascade in sight. I’m trapped by snow, icy roads, miserably cold temperatures, and no decent space heater to aid us. Plus, Sharky used up all the hot water in his first shower in three days so I had to take – YES – a cold shower. But, I’d rather be here than at work. Why? Sometimes we working women just need a break from the scenery. We need a break from the routine. And, we need a break from the drama and stress caused by our coworkers. Today, I present Theory 30: Workplace Etiquette training should be a graduation requirement. Hmmm, I’m a business education career technical teacher (vocational, ya’ll). I do my best to enlighten the students who pass through my class, but maybe I should hustle up a lesson plan for adults and charge a nominal, um, fair fee. According to my sources, there is quite a need. So, what if I did create such a course? How would that look?

Workplace Etiquette Course Description
In Workplace Etiquette 101, students of all ages will develop the attitude and behaviors of professionalism to advance one’s career and avoid premature retirement by the following: demonstrating appropriate dining behavior in break rooms, showing the ability to appropriately NOT speak for certain lengths of time, mastering telecommunications skills and equipment, analyzing one’s own and others’ body language, and exhibiting overall self-control with sensitive information.

Note to instructors: Common Core-ish Standards do not apply here. You must teach and assess with explicit learning outcomes. Standards are expressed in student-friendly terminology to maximize value added growth. Standards are broken down with specific non-examples for unquestionable clarification. Standards are addressed toward females for the simplicity of using only one gender in pronouns (her/she). “They,” “them,” and “their” are plural, dang it.


            ***I, Bug, gathered these peeves from Theories readers throughout cyberspace. These peeves are not (all) mine. Oh, no. Actually, I came up with a few of them because I am guilty. This post is not an opportunity to be offended, but an opportunity to be enlightened and improved. Plus, you can print it/email it/like it/share it onward to, ahem, enlighten and improve the coworker you tolerate who needs to benefit from such instruction. By the way, thanks to all my awesome readers for contributing!***

Now, let’s continue with the course, okay? Okay!

Standard 1: Real Estate Rules
1.1 Don’t touch my stuff. It is super rude to sling your nasty pocket-book up on somebody’s desk. Don’t you set it in the floor in the bathroom? In restaurants? Gross! Plus, no one wants your Black Lab tendrils all over her perfect lab reports. Don’t set a dripping drink on her day planner, either. She may be neurotic, but your dollar sweet tea could cause her to miss a meeting, a deadline, or the one-hour flash sale she’s hitting during her “sales call.”
1.2 Get off her turf. If you want to see what your coworker is up to on the computer, friend her. Don’t look over her shoulder. What if she’s writing a letter of resignation, checking her bank balance or— worse—ate hummus for lunch? You sure you want to take that risk?
1.3 Know the zones. General workers: Don’t let customers behind the desk/line/counter/employee door, especially if you wait tables. Once a customer has seen the restaurant kitchen, she is never the same. (Be sure to read Theory 7: Everyone should work in a restaurant for a deeper explanation. Teachers: Don’t send students to the teacher’s lounge/break room/copy room. Ever. They might hear some Common [Core] language they aren’t ready to hear.
1.4 Don’t come in my office/classroom and comment on what you see. Yes, my (Bug) students are loud because I am loud. And because they are just loud people.

Standard 2: Use furniture, fixtures, and equipment the right way or don’t use them at all.
2.1 Printers (especially personal ones) are off limits! If you need your coworker’s granny’s banana pudding recipe, ask nicely and she’ll print you a copy.
2.2 Don’t abuse the copier (machine) or the next copier (person). Manuals are online for a reason, but some of us do need paper for note taking and analysis. Plus, some of us can’t figure out how to find those online manuals in the first place. Everyone else, back off the toner. Walgreens and Snapfish are great places to order economical Christmas cards. Teachers, throw the page up on your Smart Board, don’t Xerox-waste thousands of copies and every other teacher’s planning period hogging the copier.
2.3 If you jam the copier, own up to it. Suck it up and call the number on the sticker. When you leave the copy room with the “original document” and nothing else, we know. We. All. Know.
2.4 Everyone should communicate on the same horizontal plane. When you set up your office, make sure the chairs or couch in front of your desk are the same height as your chair. When coworkers come in and sit down, they should look at you not UP at you. Just because you are “higher up” that doesn’t mean you have to literally be “higher up.”
2.5 Don’t abuse the break room.
If you are on a high protein, low carb diet, eat bacon. It is not cool to heat left over fish for in the common microwave…..gross!
2.6 Pack your own snacks. It is unsanitary to eat off a coworker’s plate or from the trash (true story). Also, chew with your mouth closed.
2.7 Everyone deserves a key to the building.

I see you back there.

Standard 3: Time means money. Extra time means sanity. Personal time is personal.
3.1 If you walk into a coworker’s classroom or office and she’s on the phone, turn around. Don’t stare her down. Once, I, Bug, was on the phone with my cousin Bags during the workday. We were laughing it up when Bags sighed, “Ugh, Bug, I have to hang up. There’s a mouth breather staring at me through the glass.”
3.2 Don’t ask an employee to go Kroger-ing for work. If you do, give her the money (for stuff and gas) up front and send her during work hours, not on her own time.
3.3 Be on time for everything all the time. Or be early. Red Hot can hit two school zones, McDonald’s and Starbucks and get here on time. So can you. Broken down, flat-tired teachers are always getting rides from each other and they make it on time. So can you.
3.4 Support and attend or flat out cancel baby showers. Men, where are you on this one? Why do WOMEN do this to each other? If you are in a new company, don’t set a precedent for showers or birthdays. Ain’t’ nobody got time for that. See Standard 3.2.  
3.5 Don’t asked an employee to sell Visa credit cards on vacation! True story. My (Bug here) boss asked me to take Visa card applications on my vacation to Panama City Beach. He said, “We have branches there. You could go up to people while you are hanging out by the ocean and ask if them to apply. Really? Who wants to be accosted by a tipsy MiracleSuit-ed mama toting a clipboard and Paper Mate pen? I refused. He wrote me up.
3.6 Bladder health is crucial. Teachers (especially elementary schoolteachers) are known for poor bladder health. Why? Because they never get to tee-tee! If you are a school district superintendent, you should hire one security officer and one potty patrol officer for every floor of every school. Have the PPO check door to door and offer teachers relief. Literally.

Standard 4: Don’t be a techno-snob
4.1 Sometimes paper is better. You may zip through commands on your MAC at home or know all the latest apps, but the 70-year-old lending genius who says “hunt and poke” may be a genius on paper. Don’t judge.
4.2 Train for success. If your coworker moves the mouse, checks the screen to see “where it went,” moves the mouse again, checks the screen again, etc., gently offer a lesson or do the regulatory exam for her. FYI SEC/FDIC/OSHA officials, no one over 70 takes those tests. Their 30-year-old bosses do the tests for them.  
4.3 All supplies matter. If your coworker is old school and needs White-Out and mechanical pencils, order them.
4.4 Apply operating system skills to written communication. Emails should be no longer than a paragraph. Stop with the essays with attachments. Write with positive and neutral phrases. To explore this topic further in a more relevant context, visit Theory 29: There are right ways and wrong ways to date online.

Standard 5: Practice and interpret appropriate verbal and non-verbal communication strategies.
5.1 Master the art of workplace storytelling. Record the length, time, and date of your stories so you don’t repeat them more than once a month.
5.2 Tit for tat. If you tell stories, don’t act annoyed and too busy to listen when you have to hear a story. Again. This week.
5.3 Let sleeping dogs lie until a customer shows up. If you have an employee/coworker who sleeps, call her when the customer is about 20 feet away. That will give her time to sit up and wipe the drool off her chin.
5.4 Make eye contact.
5.5 Demonstrate phone call consideration. Really? Don’t text at 3:30 a.m. because the recipient may wake up and text back at 3:38 a.m. (sorry, my bad). Snow days are vacation days.
5.6 Don’t interrupt. For teachers specifically: If a fellow teacher is talking to you, don’t interrupt her story to tell students to be quiet. She may be having a romantic crisis. She needs you.
5.7 Smile. Don’t walk around without a constant frown on your face.  At least look happy!
5.8 Demonstrate polite behavior. If you are walking down the hall and someone passes, look up, make eye contact, and SPEAK.
5.9 Stop your whining. You work to work to make money that you are paid for working. Be positive! Don’t complain! Don’t’ make excuses and quit being all lazy bones.
5.9 Operate efficiently on the dreaded conference call. Who came up with these? Don’t be that chic who chimes in, states her name a couple of times, and touts some numbers just to be obviously present. We all know you are in the dressing room at Belk and you are the call take longer.

Standard 6: Watch your mouth. Watch your hands.
6.1 Don’t suck up to the boss. It’s obvious. We all see it. You are embarrassing yourself.
6.2 Stay out of the lounge if you are weak. Gossip and negativity are bad, even though everything you hear is absolutely true.
6.3 Keep romantic stories out of the office, especially if they take place in the office. We have to be able to concentrate on conference calls.
6.4 Be prepared to combat come-ons. Borrow one from Bug: A coworker invited me to skinny dip in his pool one night when his wife was out of town. I remarked, “It’s tempting. I’ve always wondered if my iridescent stretch marks would actually glow in the dark.”
6.5 Deflect compliments as they may be come-ons. Another one from Bug: When a lecherous male banker said, “You look beautiful today,” I responded, “Thanks! I am wearing new brand of control top pantyhose so I guess they work!”
6. 6 Hands off the pregnant belly. Yes, babies kick in the womb, but that’s no reason to grope an already self-conscious woman in the elevator.
6.7 Leave breast feeding conversations at home. Men, especially you. Nunya business.

~ ~ ~
Speaking of pregnancy and breastfeeding, I just thought of a new theory! Next week, let’s explore baby etiquette for new mothers with Theory 31: Mama’s behavior determines howwell other folks like her baby.

See you next post. Until then, think outside the barn.

Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

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Just thinking outside the barn...

Just thinking outside the barn...