Do I have to teach simple considerateness? Sometimes, yes
  • leadership
  • Blog post

Do I have to teach simple considerateness? Sometimes, yes

You’d like to spend your teaching/coaching time with employees on relatively high-level stuff, like how to maximize performance and enhance teamwork. But if the low-level stuff isn’t working — like simple considerateness for others — it can snarl relationships within the department or team and foul up the important things you’re trying to do.

Here are a few common-courtesy-type admonitions that you might want to put into the ears of the folks who work for you, as appropriate:

  • Don’t steal co-workers’ food from the office cupboard or fridge. (And if somebody absolutely has to, because their blood sugar is crashing, for instance, they should replace the item ASAP.)
  • Don’t hog the treats. If colleague Betty Baker brings in a plate of her famous brownies, their deliciousness does NOT entitle anybody to take more than their share.
  • Be aware of the olfactory factor. Yes, fish is good for you. That doesn’t mean somebody who brings a dish of salmon for lunch should heat it up and then bring it back to their desk, filling the air with that penetrating fishy smell. And watch out for other smelly objects — like feet, if you take off your shoes under the desk.
  • Refill the coffeemaker if you empty it — or come close. Nothing rankles a trembling caffeine-starved wretch like a thin, cold film of six-hour-old brew on the bottom of the pot.
  • Don’t abuse speakerphone. Co-workers don’t really want to hear even ONE end of private phone conversations, let alone two.
  • Don’t play music so loud it escapes your headphones. People don’t necessarily like each other’s music, especially when they’re hearing only a faint, buzzy version of it.
  • Keep your cotton-pickin’ hands off the thermostat. People are never going to agree on the perfect ambient workplace temperature. Unless the thermostat has gotten out of whack, or a new Ice Age has started, leave it where it’s set.

The many ways we annoy each other
Unfortunately, there are many other ways that people working in close proximity can get under one another’s skin, and managers can’t be expected to think of everything.

But a manager CAN set the right tone with regular reminders that everybody is sharing the space and nobody should be imposing his or her appetites, smells, speech, sounds or preferred tropical (or arctic) temperatures on others.

Adapted in part from an article at

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