01 THE ELEVATOR RIDE
On the way up to your corner office every day, you’ve probably encountered one of the following: the Cell-Phone Shouter (“Sorry, what? I’m in the elevator. The elevator”), the Weather Reporter (“Rain all weekend! Better start building that ark!”), the News Analystthanks to omnipresent LCD screens (“Whatever, O.J. Where’s your buddy Kato Kaelin now?”). Most egregious of all? The Door Crasherthe guy who sprints through the elevator bank and thrusts a limb between the shutting steel slabs in an attempt to make it to the second floor 20 seconds faster. “If you’re running for the elevator, just say, ‘Please hold the door,’” says Barbara Pachter, author of New Rules @ Work. That sounds simple. But when current etiquette makes it okay to pretend to be deaf-mute when a wild-eyed colleague makes a run for the elevator you’re in, the aggressive approach is sometimes understandable. Still, that doesn’t make it polite.
02 THE MORNING GREETING
Maybe it’s the gregarious millennials. Maybe it’s that comfortable silence has become a lost art. Whatever the reason, morning attacksco-workers accosting fragile colleagues on the last steps of their walks to the office or before they’ve had a chance to hang up their coats to talk weekends (or worse, business)are on the rise. Do not propagate them. In a civilized society, there would be no talking at the office until everyone had had a quiet moment with a cup of coffee. As for the polite way to deflect the morning attackjust smile, nod, and say something along the lines of “I’ve gotta check my e-mail. I’ll come talk to you in a bit.”
03 THE E-MAIL EXCHANGE
Misspellings, emoticons, and e.e. cummings-style lowercasing in office e-mails are no longer just annoying, they’re officially rude. They can also be woefully misinterpreted. Are those smiley faces genuine or contemptuous? Even those who know better than to end an e-mail with :( can offend in other ways, like by using highest-priority flags for e-mails about the shortage of mugs in the kitchen or sending announcements about a friend’s charity road race to the entire staff. “These especially aggravate people on handhelds,” says Will Schwalbe, coauthor of Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home. “The more indiscriminately you communicate, the less effective your communication will be.” Use your e-mail for work correspondence only, and insist underlings do the same. Your reward, according to Schwalbe: “The genius of sending fewer e-mails is you get fewer e-mails.”
04 THE CONFERENCE CALL
As phone communication has become marginalized in the workplace, it has also become abused. Apparently uncomfortable with speaking into a receiver attached to a cord, many professionals have started using speakerphonenot just for conference calls but for one-on-one conversations as well. On the rudeness spectrum, this falls somewhere between repeatedly canceling a meeting at the last minute and loudly yawning in the middle of someone else’s presentation. The other notable phone-related scourge involves cell phones and PDAs. The rules about using them are as hard and fast in the office as they are in movie theaters and restaurantskeep them on vibrate, and don’t set them out on the table in front of you during a meeting unless it’s absolutely necessary.