The Importance of Respecting Your Colleagues

More and more companies are going to the open space office concepts — few offices, no cubicles.  This can present a challenge.  I did a little research on the etiquette of working in an open space.  Here’s what Peter Post, grandson of Emily Post — who literally wrote the book on etiquette — has to say about working in an open space.

  • Turn the ringer on your mobile phone to vibrate.
  • Don’t take personal calls at your desk.
  • Keep your desk clean.
  • Show respect for your colleagues.
  • Don’t complain about your colleagues.

He offers this advice on what to do when you don’t get along with a colleague…

  • Try to stay out of his or her way.
  • If you can’t avoid him or her, say something like, “I’d like to speak with you about something.”  Then go into the issue you want to discuss doing your best to get his or her buy in.

This is great advice.  I once worked with a guy who just didn’t like me — and I grew to dislike him.  At one point we found ourselves as co-chairs of a task force.  The task force was virtual, so a lot of our work was done via email.  As we were doing our work, he wrote an email to the entire group making a suggestion and asking for our feedback.  I politely replied — to the entire group — and said that I didn’t think this was a good idea and why I thought so.  He responded to all saying that I was a destructive force in the team — because he had a great idea that I “shot down” and he didn’t appreciate my negative feedback.  Fair enough, maybe I should have responded to just him.

I sent an email to him alone telling him that I still didn’t like his idea and went into more detail on the reasons why.  I suggested a couple of alternatives.  He responded in an email in which he copied all of the team members, again accusing me of holding some sort of grudge against him.

Once again, I sent him an email — copying no one — telling him that I had no grudge against him, and that I would like to move on past our differences and figure out the direction for the team to go.  He sent another email to the entire team, once again accusing me of having a grudge against him and rejecting his idea because he was the one who suggested it.

The next day I went to his office — it was in a building about 15 miles away.  I closed the door and said, “Bob, the fact that I don’t like your idea has nothing to do with our personal relationship.  I don’t think it is a good way to go, and here’s why…”  Then I said, “You and I are co chairs of this team.  I don’t thing it is appropriate for us to be arguing about personal matters in public.  You asked the team for feedback on your idea.  I responded to the entire team (just like everybody else).  You took offense to my response and accused me of being a destructive force on the team.  When I responded, I didn’t copy the entire team.  I sent my response to you only.  Instead of responding to me, you included the entire team in your response.  You did this twice.  I don’t think watching the co chairs fight in public is good for the team.”

He said that he had mistakenly hit “reply all.”  I pointed out that this couldn’t be true because my emails went just to him.  He had to have consciously sent his responses to the entire team.

He had little to say about that.  He knew that I had caught him doing exactly what he was accusing me of doing — being a destructive force in the team.  I had a gotcha moment — but I didn’t use it.

I said that I would appreciate it that if in the future he disagreed with something I said or did that he would speak to me directly and not involve the team.  I would do the same.  We were co chairs and we should be setting a positive, collaborative example for the team, not letting personality differences get in the way.  He agreed and we went forward as a team, accomplishing what we were asked to do.

The career mentor point is simple common sense.  Respect your colleagues.  Don’t fight in public.  Be gracious when you win a battle.  In other words, act like a lady or gentleman.  It’s not old fashioned.  It’s career common sense.

Your career mentor,


PS: You can download a free copy of my popular book Your Success GPS at  When you do, I’ll begin sending you daily motivational quotes and give you a free basic membership in my career mentoring site.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.