Survey: Politeness Can Boost Opportunities For Career Advancement

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With five applicants for every job opening in the current labor market, it's not surprising that employers have focused more on employees' soft skills. After all, in trying times -- such as those experienced during the recent recession -- being able to handle stress with aplomb can go a long way toward maintaining harmony in the workplace.

Being adroit at office etiquette can also boost workers' chances for a promotion, a new survey suggests. Nearly half (48 percent) of workers interviewed said being courteous can help employees rise through the ranks, according to the poll, released last month by staffing firm Robert Half.

Another 41 percent of those polled said etiquette plays at least some role in career advancement, while only 10 percent said it was what or who workers knew that helped them get ahead.

The survey also asked workers to recount the worst or wackiest etiquette blunders heard about or witnessed in the workplace. Here's a sampling of responses:

  • "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."
  • "A coworker fell asleep at her desk and another team member took a picture of her snoozing and sent it to the boss."
  • "Someone was stealing other people's lunches from the lounge area."
  • "A colleague purposely sneezed in the boss's coffee cup."
  • "Someone thought he put a customer on hold and then used inappropriate language within earshot."

The results of the poll of 430 working adults contrast those of a recently released university study that showed rude workers out earn their polite colleagues, suggesting that at least in terms of pay, politeness may not reign supreme in the workplace.

Data from the 20-year-long study revealed that men who could be described as less-than-agreeable, determined by self assessment, earned about 18 percent -- or nearly $9,800 -- more than the "nicer" guys.

Interested in learning more about how manners can help move your career ahead? Robert Half offers these four tips on steering clear of some of the more common etiquette offenses:

  • Keep it "PG." Salty language, off-color comments and politically incorrect jokes can get you into hot water. When you wonder if you should say something or not, that's your internal voice telling you to zip it. Play it safe and watch your words.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 employees.

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