I spoke to Richie Frieman, who is the host of the popular Modern Manners Guy podcast on the Quick and Dirty Tips network, which has over 7.4 million podcast downloads. He is also the author of the new book, REPLY ALL…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career. The following is a brief interview I did with Richie on manners in the workplace, including how to manage relationships with co-workers, what to do at an office party and more.
Dan Schawbel: How do you go about managing relationships with co-workers?
Richie Frieman: Wherever you work, the people and the culture of the office will be different. And in every situation, you have to take proper time – and make an extra effort – to understand those around you. Even if you are the most outgoing and friendly person to ever grace an office, others around you may prefer a different route and won’t be too eager to kick up a friendly relationship. This is fine. There is no rule you have to be super friendly. You should always try but some people just like to come in, punch a clock, and leave.
However on the flip side, you’ll have others that love to interact, have lunch together, go for coffee runs, etc. With that, it’s completely acceptable to be better friends with some people over others. However, you should always (and I stress always) allow for your “circle” to be opened and welcoming of anyone else that shares your sense of humor and a similar personality. As well, even if some people don’t want to be social, you can’t hold that against them, and “play friends” when it comes to roles or responsibilities with others.
DS: What are some tips for employees who attend office parties?
RF: An office party is a great time to relax, kick back and enjoy your coworkers without the stress of dealing with deadlines or talking shop. Feel free to be more social, more jovial, and more casual with your colleagues. In fact, it’s best when you can connect on something that shows your personality. Use this time to network with coworkers and let them see (and you see in them) that there is more to the person than just the work persona. Use the party to show people you can be hard-nosed when you have to and completely casual on the other side.
However, always remember this IS a work event. Not your 21st birthday, or bachelor/bachelorette party, so don’t go overboard. Don’t drink to even a “buzz” or show up in something wearing something racy.
DS: What do you do if your manager catches you doing something that you shouldn’t be doing?
RF: Depending what you are caught doing, depends on how you have to answer for yourself. If it’s something like when George Castanza was caught sleeping with the cleaning lady in the office, well… it’s best to just pack your bags and save everyone the embarrassment. But if it’s something that allows for a second chance, take it! Own up to it, apologize and immediately move to getting back your reputation. As well, don’t harp on it. Don’t keep coming back to the issue — move on, work better and make your A game an A+ game.
DS: How do you make the most of business travel?
RF: For starters, business travel is work. You are still on the clock, regardless of the late night trips or early mornings. However, I always tell people to allow for your own comfort. This means, if you can, try to leave and arrive when it’s convenient for you. If you’re not a morning person, see if you can stay overnight, the night before so you are fresh in the morning. As well, when you have downtime, take total advantage of it. If the hotel has a gym, a pool, or the city you’re in has some fun attractions (and work is done) take the time to enjoy it. You may never be back in that city again (or for a while) so if there is time, use it to relax and spoil yourself.
DS: What are your top three etiquette tips for the workplace?
RF: Tip #1: Leave your ego at the door. If you walk in wanting everyone to think you are the King/Queen of the castle, it will turn people off immediately. Be confident, yes, but not cocky.
Tip #2: Don’t Hold Grudges. Fact – you will be burned by someone. It stinks to hear, or to witness but it WILL happen. But that doesn’t mean you should let it affect your entire time at the office. The best way to show someone you are not affected by them, is by being the bigger person.
Tip #3: Stand up for yourself. Even though (as I said above) you will get burned, you have to make it known you’re not a welcome mat. If someone tries to throw work on you, to do for them, let them know you have deadlines too. If someone tries to bully you, use your knowledge and skills to fight back. This is not an aggressive or unmannerly tactic. This is being a professional and showing that even if you are young or new, you have a role, you are driven and you can handle your own.