businessman late for work and interrupts meeting

The results of a recent Accountemps poll showed that for managers, the most common irritant was employees arriving late for meetings or missing them altogether. (Pressmaster/Shutterstock)

@Work | Tools

Are we seeing the end of etiquette?

Accountemps poll shows there’s a lot of room for improvement in our manners at the workplace

A Facebook IconFacebook A Twitter IconTwitter A Linkedin IconLinkedin An Email IconEmail

Is common courtesy becoming increasingly uncommon in the workplace?

Possibly, if you go by the results of a recent Accountemps poll. It showed that for managers, the most common irritant was employees arriving late for meetings or missing them altogether (25 per cent*), followed by checking phones, writing emails or being otherwise distracted during meetings (23 per cent).

Eileen Chadnick, principal of Big Cheese Coaching in Toronto and author of Ease: Manage Overwhelm in Times of ‘Crazy Busy’, has experienced all those annoyances.

“One of the casualties of our ‘crazy busy’ times is decorum,” she says. “People, quite frankly, are getting ruder. Disguised in the excuse of being too busy, far too many people in professional roles are slipping into behaviour that would simply have been unacceptable in earlier days. This includes not returning calls or emails in a timely way and not following through on commitments.”

This last breach is one that Adam Normandin, manager of human resources with Wells Fargo Equipment Finance Canada in Montreal, knows all too well. He recalls an interview candidate who never showed up for the interview and didn’t even bother to offer an excuse. “You can imagine what we did with the application,” he says.

So manners count, but can common decency actually advance a person’s career prospects? Although the Accountemps survey showed mixed results, Normandin believes it could make an impact.

“When it comes to advancement, civility counts just as much as skills,” he says. “We cannot give people a promotion if they do not show great ethics. They must be models.”


Do you want to improve your workplace courtesy quotient? Here are some tips from career coach Eileen Chadnick, as well as managers and employees.

Chadnick says:

  • If you are going to be late, let others know.
  • Speak directly, truthfully and with sensitivity.
  • Conversations are more than transactional exchanges. Always remember there’s another person on the other side.
  • Up your game on the listening front.
  • Park your urge to gossip.
  • Give people the respect you would want to experience yourself.


From getting the right exposure to becoming a subject expert, these five strategies will help any ambitious employee get ahead. Also, don’t miss these top accounting conferences that’ll help you build your network and expand your knowledge base.


Most common etiquette breaches

Managers: Running late for or missing meetings (25 per cent); being distracted during meetings, such as checking email, etc. (23 per cent)
Employees: Talking about employees (26 per cent); being distracted during meetings (15 per cent); not responding to work communications in a timely fashion (12 per cent)

Can courtesy accelerate career advancement?

Managers: 65 per cent said it has some impact, but skills are more important
Employees: 36 per cent said yes

Do professionals become less courteous as they advance?

Managers: 55 per cent saw no difference
Employees: 56 per cent said yes