A Weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch




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Five stupid things

by Douglas E. Welch

June 11, 1999

While the majority of us have learned to conduct ourselves in a business-like manner I can guarantee that every company you work for will have people who ignore the basics of business to varying degrees. While the topics below may seem commonsensical you only have to look at your current company to see that common sense is not so common after all.

* Personal Hygiene and Attire

While I would be the first to destroy the outdated requirement of a suit and tie for most office environments, there are certain basic guidelines of personal hygiene and attire that need to be maintained. Unkempt employees effect everyone around them. Other employees will not want to work with them and you would never want them dealing with customers. While it can be difficult it is important to let employees know when their personal hygiene has slipped below basically acceptable parameters.

Attire is a more subjective area but the general rule should be to have a neat and presentable appearance. This allows some latitude for employees that don't deal with customers or those that work in physical labor. There are restrictions based around certain industries, of course. Lawyers and stockbrokers are expected to wear suits by their work culture but this doesn't mean that computer support personnel need wear suits when they are required to crawl around in dusty telephone closets. Presentable attire can and should be arrived at without being overly fussy or expensive.

* Drinking /Drugs

More and more we are hearing about workers who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs during their workday. While a drunken bus driver might cause more physical damage than a drunken bookkeeper, the result is the same. Companies suffer when their employees are impaired. One employee's drug problem could even bring about the failing of the company if that person is in a position to handle security or important relationships with clients and companies. Impaired employees, at any level, put the entire company and every other employee at risk. Employees need to leave the partying for the weekends and keep their work life sober.

* Ethics

Throughout the history of man there has been immense discussion about ethics. I would venture to say that it is probably one of the most addressed topics in western culture. Too often, we ignore our ethics and the ethics of others. We see a gray area where almost any behavior can be rationalized. In truth, though, we know when we are violating ethical guidelines. Our own conscience tells us when we have overstepped the ethics of our society. It is then up to us to act on that conscience and find an ethical way of dealing with the problem at hand.

If you find yourself wondering whether a particular action is ethical it is very possible that it isn't. The act of considering an action is enough to tell us it is ethically suspect. Instead of rationalizing your actions examine them ethically and take the higher road.

* Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment has become one of the largest work issues of our time. The subtle forms of harassment are difficult to address since almost any phrase can be said in a way to connote sexual content. It is up to each of us to avoid this type of conduct as much as possible, as hard as it might be. Unfortunately, though, there are many people who go far beyond subtle harassment and engage in blatant and frightening behavior from verbal abuse to outright physical attacks.
While subtle sexual innuendo can be hard to spot or control, outright and active sexual harassment is much different. Anyone engaging in such activity has no place in a professional work environment. These activities include posting or emailing sexually explicit pictures or text to other employees, aggressively pursuing a relationship with a fellow employee who has declined interest, using your position or control to compel a relationship with a fellow employee. There are many other forms of harassment but these are the ones so frequently violated in the office environment. Any employee witnessing such behavior should report it immediately and anyone engaging in such behavior should be dismissed at once. The detrimental effect on both employees and the company is too great to be ignored.

* Office relationships

While the workplace shouldn't necessarily be an anti-social environment, nor should it act as the local pick-up joint. Office affairs can range from the subtle burgeoning of a loving relationship to outright seduction in an attempt to garner better pay or title. Everyone involved must understand the detrimental effects office relationships can have on careers and the company. In most cases, it is best to keep the relationship very low-key when in the office and enjoy each other's company after hours. Otherwise, employees may become resentful or feel that one person is being treated better than they. It is especially disruptive when one person in the relationship is in a position of power over the other. The conflicts of interest are very difficult to resolve and such relationships will often result in one or both of the employees leaving the company. Don't enter into an office relationship unless you carefully consider the effects on your career, your life and the company.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/

He can reached via email at douglas@welchwrite.com