Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Manners Are All the Rage; the BBC Has Opted for Polite Police as Experts Tell of Stress Leading to Unfriendliness in Offices throughout an Overworked Country Full of Anger

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Manners Are All the Rage; the BBC Has Opted for Polite Police as Experts Tell of Stress Leading to Unfriendliness in Offices throughout an Overworked Country Full of Anger

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDREA KON

RAGE and rudeness rule OK! That's modern Britain. How often do you see a fit young someone remain seated while older people, pregnant women or people who are disabled are left to straphang on a crowded Tube?

How many times do you leave a restaurant angry that a pleasant and relaxed meal has been ruined by mobile phones ringing? And we've all stood, waiting to be served in shops or in the bank while members of staff ignore us to finish conversations about last night's Big Brother, or offer curt responses to polite requests for assistance.

Now, it seems, bad manners are rife in the workplace, too.

Unsuitable job hopefuls rarely receive even polite acknowledgements of their applications.

Voicemail messages remain unanswered. Emails are often curt. And should you manage to breach the steel wall of technology and reach a human being, you may be told that your "target" is "in a meeting", which apparently lasts all day, every day.

The BBC is taking the effects of rude colleagues so seriously that it has just appointed News 24 morning news editor Simon Waldman as head of the "Polite Police". And, according to a survey of office staff by leading secretarial consultancy Office Angels, which showed that rudeness in the office leads to stressed employees who are unable to give their companies 100 per cent as a result, other firms might do well to follow suit.

Of 1,000 office workers polled, 60 per cent were irritated by colleagues who didn't even bother to say "good morning"; 85 per cent were annoyed by mobile phones ringing in meetings; 60 per cent hated it when colleagues gossiped about other colleagues; and 40 per cent were offended by those who help themselves to a coffee without offering to make one for anyone else. A further 25 per cent said they were furious when colleagues loitered by their phones while they were mid-conversation.

Waldman's unpaid role has involved drawing up a code of behaviour to help promote courtesy and civility among staff and to protect the victims of intimidation. He says it is intended to stop badmouthing other departments, secrecy and buck-passing and encourage staff to be nicer to each other.

According to business consultant Judi James, author of The Office Jungle and Body Talk at Work, people change character when they step into the office.

"Many workers don't realise that internal office rudeness is as corrosive to any business as rust.

"It starts internally, creeps to the outside so that people are rude to their customers and, eventually, when customers refuse to deal with 'that rude company', the company will become frail and fall apart.

"Sixty-nine per cent of customers refuse to do business with a company because of a single incident of rudeness."

Professor Cary Cooper, Bupa professor of organisational-psychology and health at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, suggests stress is at the root of the problem. …

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