The last fifty years has seen a great economic shift in this country. Many of our factories have moved to China. Technology has proliferated, creating new jobs in the white collar world. The service industry is expanding, creating jobs. All of this translates into a fundamentally different culture for many American workers. A culture that has necessary etiquette in order for people to work together without killing each other.
I find this intriguing at a personal level. As you know I was raised in a home with a working father and a stay-at-home mom. My parents, as I have said before, qualify as third generation hillbillies. My father was a sort of roughneck fireman in the days when lugging 200 pounds of limp body was the main qualification. We live in a four room house until I was fourteen. No washer and dryer, no dishwasher, no microwave, no luxury.
So I went to work in an office environment when I was 22 years old. That is when my education in office etiquette began. I remember those little plastic coffee stirrers that I thought must be straws. We has specific dress codes – shirt and tie and jacket – suits were preferred but we could have a sports coat. If we left our immediate office area, even to go the the in house coffee shop, we had to wear our jacket.
I always wore long sleeve shirts with a tie – one was not supposed to wear short sleeves with ties. How gauche! But we had rules that came from the professional world of IBM. We often just followed the IBM lead. They argued at the time that professionalism translated into pride in work – which translated into productivity and success.
2008 present a whole new set of challenges for workplace etiquette. Personal technology travels everywhere. Like with cell phones and Myspace. Wearing clothes that are seductive or just sloppy detracts from a healthy work environment. I am not talking about casual attire – but exposing breasts or men’s underwear is certainly distracting. I like the idea of exposed g-strings – that always helps my digestive system.
When we talk about etiquette in the workplace we are really talking about being civilized – respecting those around us. The opposite is disrespecting others. We are talking about a basic understanding of boundaries with our coworkers. Boundaries are necessary for personal health, sanity, employee morale, and productivity.
So let’s try to be civilized with a little respect for others.