13 wacky workplace blunders


A new survey asks workers to share the worst etiquette blunders they've witnessed in the workplace. Have you seen worse in your veterinary clinic?

If you catch your fellow veterinary team members clipping their toenails at work or walking barefoot through the halls, tell them to knock it off—it pays to be polite. According to a new survey from Robert Half International, a staffing firm based in Menlo Park, Calif., Nearly half (48 percent) of workers interviewed said being courteous to others can help an employee rise through the ranks. Another 41 percent said etiquette plays at least some role in career advancement.

Researchers asked more than 430 workers, 18 years of age or older and employed in office environments, “In your opinion, to what extent does being courteous to coworkers positively impact a person’s career prospects?” Here are the responses:

  • Greatly, it can accelerate advancement: 48 percent
  • Somewhat, but skills play a bigger role: 41 percent
  • No impact at all, it’s who or what you know: 10 percent
  • Don’t know: 1 percent

Robert Half also asked workers to recount the worst or wackiest etiquette blunders they’ve witnessed or heard about in the workplace. Here are some of the more memorable anecdotes:

1. "While collaborating on a project, I saw an employee yell, 'Forget this!' and throw all the papers she was holding into the air as she walked out."

2. "A coworker fell asleep at her desk and another team member took a picture of her snoozing and sent it to the boss."

3. "A colleague of mine would actually clip his nails at his desk while working."

4. "Someone was stealing other people’s lunches from the lounge area."

5. "A colleague purposely sneezed in the boss’s coffee cup."

6. "A coworker had a drink at lunch and returned to work tipsy. It was awkward."

7. "After asking me a question, a coworker talked excessively for 30 minutes without letting me get in one word.”

8. "Someone didn't get what he wanted and loudly hung up on a conference call."

9. "I once heard an employee screaming at a customer."

10. "A colleague was making fun of other people’s work in public."

11. "Someone thought he put a customer on hold and then used inappropriate language within earshot."

12. "Employees were walking around the office barefoot."

13. "A person took a cell phone into the restroom while still talking."

Continue to the next page for tips to steer clear of common etiquette offenses.

"In most cases, a minor etiquette slipup won't be career-limiting if you quickly acknowledge it and learn from your mistake," said Brett Good, a senior district president for Robert Half International. "But continual missteps have a cumulative effect that can chip away at your professional reputation and get in the way of advancement."

Afraid of offending your fellow team members? Here are four tips, according to Robert Half International, on how to steer clear of common etiquette offenses.

1. Keep it 'PG-rated.' Salty language, off-color comments, and politically incorrect jokes can get you into hot water. If you’re debating whether or not to say something, it’s always better to play it safe and zip it, rather than saying something you’ll regret.

2. Don’t air grievances publicly. Harshly criticizing colleagues in front of others or gossiping behind their backs typically only makes you look bad. Address problems with coworkers head-on, but do it respectfully and in private.

3. Take a breather. Although coworkers may do things that irritate you, take a minute to collect your thoughts before raising your voice or firing off a rude email. Losing your cool will exacerbate your problems.

4. Put the tweezers away. It’s called personal care for a reason. Confine your grooming activities to your home, or at least the restroom. The goal is to win over—not offend—your fellow team members.

Click here to check videos illustrating some of the most egregious examples of office etiquette faux pas as part of the firm’s ongoing video series, "Don't Let This Happen to You."

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