Don’t Be an A**hole at the Office

Dear Soph-
I’ve worked in the corporate world for some time now…it can be an interesting place…full of interesting people. Whatever career you embark on after college, Corporate America or not, these tips will serve you well.

Cube Etiquette: Take your private calls on your cell phone – outside
I’m not saying you can’t call a friend (or your mommy!) from your desk; however, if you think there is even the slightest chance that you may raise your voice – or if you’re talking about something that you really wouldn’t want your coworkers to hear, then take a walk.

I sat next to a woman a few years ago who was always having inappropriate conversations at her desk. And when I say inappropriate, I mean yelling profanities like she was at a boxing match. She provided a fair amount of gossip fodder for the ol’ water cooler, but the time that takes the cake was her screaming battle with the poor folks at her cable provider. If I remember correctly, she was trying to get some charge reversed on her bill and having little luck.

They kept putting her on hold and passing her from one representative to the next, because – I can only assume – she was so verbally abusive to each person who picked up the phone.

“I can’t keep holding,” she seethed through gritted teeth, “I have a f*cking JOB!”

“Do you understand what that means? Or do you not understand because you’re just a f*cking customer service rep?!”

“Don’t put me on hold again.”

“Don’t…don’t put me…DO NOT PUT ME ON HOLD AGAIN!”

This went on for the better part of a half hour.

I couldn’t believe what was happening. I just stared at my computer screen unable to concentrate on my work. I half expected John Quinones to pop over my cube wall with the What Would You Do? camera crew in tow.

“Now, Emily, tell us why you didn’t step in here.”

“Well, John, because she’s batshit crazy.”

Email Etiquette: Think before hitting send
First and foremost…go easy on the “Reply All” option. We recently endured not one, but two, instances where someone sent an email to a group list (of several hundred – if not several thousand – employees) by mistake. I opened the email and realized, within about an eighth of a second, that it was an accident and was not meant for me. So I deleted it. What followed started off as funny and then just became sad. Hundreds…and I mean HUNDREDS…of people hitting “Reply All:”

“I think this was sent to me by mistake.”

“I don’t handle X, Y and Z.”

“You have the wrong John Smith.”

“Please remove me from the list, I don’t support this area.”

“Hey everyone, stop replying all!”


“This was sent to me in error…I’m not on that team.”

“Seriously just delete these emails…STOP REPLYING ALL!!! You are clogging up everyone’s email boxes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The irony was completely lost on all these people “replying all” and then angrily typing “STOP HITTING REPLY ALL.”

At some point, some jokester sent a picture of a goat to everyone and then the “reply all’s” seemed to die down. Good times.

Another thing that really grinds my gears is when people leave me hanging. I understand people are busy; I understand you might not be able to get back to someone right away or you might need a day or two to look into a request. But if someone sends you an email asking for your help at least let them know you’re working on it. Have the common courtesy to say “Hey, got your email…need to look in to this…I’ll get back to you by Friday.” Don’t leave anyone hanging. It’s unprofessional. And just plain rude.

Meeting Etiquette: Get in, get out, get on with your work
I’ve sat through A LOT of meetings. Some are extremely productive…most are not. Thankfully, I have found myself working for a leadership team that seems to know the difference and has narrowed down meetings to only the essentials. But when you find yourself in one of those pointless, agonizingly long and drawn out, seriously-just-send-me-an-email-instead-of-making-me-sit-here meetings, please keep the following in mind:

Do not ask a question just for the sake of asking a question and do not speak just for the sake of hearing your own voice. Nothing irritates me more than someone stating something blatantly obvious or paraphrasing the speaker’s words right back at them in an effort to appear more engaged or insightful than the rest of us who are probably glazed over staring at our blank notepads. Believe me, no one is sitting there thinking “Wow, John is so insightful…what a great question.” Instead, they’re thinking “Awesome…thanks for making us run over, John.”

If you are hosting a meeting that involves any kind of projection or technology – GET TO THE CONFERENCE ROOM EARLY AND SET EVERYTHING UP BEFORE THE MEETING BEGINS. Seriously.

If you are given a work phone, do not bring it in a meeting and if you do, do not sit there emailing. Unless you are working with a Vice President or above – or you are the Vice President or above – it can wait. I highly doubt the company will fold if you need to wait an hour to respond to an email.

Try to avoid using buzzwords. If I hear “low hanging fruit,” “quick win,” “value add” or “bandwidth” one more time…

So there you have it, kid. I could probably blather on here, but I figured I’d give you the three most important ones in my book. Oh and if you’re going to talk trash about someone, don’t do it over email…do it over coffee. Never leave a paper trail.

Love, Mom

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