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FedStyle: Avoid these etiquette faux pas

Committing an etiquette faux pas can be mortifying for anyone, especially if it happens at work. But for young employees, a lapse in decorum could mean the difference between taking a step toward advancement -- or out the door.

Knowing the proper ways to conduct yourself could give you an edge in your career, especially if you’ve just entered the workforce. Problem is, many young employees don’t know the rules of conduct, either inside the workplace or out, says etiquette expert and international business coach Gloria Starr, who has counseled Middle Eastern dignitaries and Pentagon officials, among others. And if you ask Starr, proper etiquette is becoming a lost art. “I could grow to be 105 years old, and I’d never reach all those who need help,” she told me. Here, the manners maven discusses the top four etiquette faux pas to avoid at all costs, whether you’re a young public servant or a junior executive in the private sector.

1. Taking care of personal business at work. Spending a couple of minutes of your day to check your Facebook surely is OK? Wrong, says Starr. In the same way taking too long a coffee break or receiving or making personal phone calls, checking your Facebook or Twitter could be a one-way street to Unemploymentville, Starr warned. “This is a huge problem,” she said. “I think that younger people aren’t even aware of that it’s disrespectful and it should be in the ‘illegal’ category. I’d fire someone if they were doing personal things during business hours. When you send a paycheck their way, you expect respect and proper behavior.” Although Starr has a zero tolerance for employees doing personal things in the office, she says it’s OK for workers to browse social networking sites during their break -- as long as it’s not on their work computer. “On your own time, absolutely,” she emphasized.

2. Looking like a slob. You don’t need an Armani suit or Louboutin shoes to look a million bucks. The first step in looking presentable simply begins with clean, ironed clothes. A no-brainer? Sure, but Starr says many young people completely miss this part, which could hamper their chances of getting in on their manager’s good graces. Also, always putting your best foot forward pays off: First impressions are formed within mere few seconds of meeting someone, and one research team found it takes just one-tenth of a second to make a judgment about a stranger. “Because we’re so casual these days, anyone who dresses up slightly beyond baggy, wrinkled clothes would automatically be considered a serious, committed worker,” Starr said. “If I’m flying to the Middle East or Europe, I dress in a proper business suit with stockings, heels and a hat. Do I get an upgrade? Most of the time, yes, because I look deserving. Do I get better service? Absolutely, because I look the part.”

3. Demanding accolades and raises. One of the most commonly regurgitated gripes about the millennials is that they have an sense of self-entitlement unlike any other generation, which Starr says has tainted their expectations in the workplace. “Young employees are expecting recognition and promotion [early] in their employment, she said, “and that shouldn’t happen.” But that doesn’t mean young employees should abandon their ambitions. Those feeling the itch to advance should take a look at their achievements and then talk to their managers about how they can be better at their job. That talk could sound something like this, Starr suggested: “I’ve been in the company for a year, and I respect your judgment. Please let me how I can do more. I’m ambitious and would like to be honored with the opportunity to add greater value to the company. Thank you.”

4. Slacking off. No workplace is safe from the slacker who does next to nothing but appears to always be busy. I should know: I once worked with a guy who did roughly two hours of work and then spent the rest of the workday watching movies and checking sports scores on ESPN.com. “Why are we rewarding that kind of behavior?” Starr asked. “You can look busy and accomplish next to nothing, but it’s about bottom line -- our government is broke, what the hell are we doing? Why are we rewarding bad behavior? Let’s clean out the problems.” If you want to avoid being labeled as a slacker -- because everyone in an office knows who the underachiever is -- work! It’s as simple as that, Starr said, but always strive to do more. As example, Starr mentioned one particular worker in her own staff who in her five years of employment has never been late, always comes in with a happy attitude and never complains about 14-hour days. Go the extra mile, Starr encouraged, because your employer will notice and reward you in one way or another.

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Jan 06, 2012 at 12:19 PM


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