Ill-fitting yoga pants and other office no-no’s

Workplace decorum or etiquette—call it what you want—is essential to staying on a successful career path or just being likeable by the people who spend eight hours a day with you.

And although your employee handbook is loaded with do’s and don’ts on the issues of legal importance and organizational protocol, there are some things that are too weird to print.

These are the gaffes found in every workplace committed by many employees who, well, just don’t get it. And it’s worse when a boss doesn’t get it.

On second thought, maybe an addendum to the handbook might not be a bad idea.

In no particular order:

  • Tearing a slice of pizza and leaving half in the box. Great. You just left 600 calories in the Papa John’s box with a quick rip of a slice (raised pinkies doesn’t make it more acceptable). You also left a WTF look on your co-workers’ faces. Do you really think there’s a taker for the other jagged half that lost its cheese in the split? Do everyone a favor and take the WHOLE DAMN SLICE! Nibble what you need and toss what you don’t want.

  • Selling your kids’ overpriced fundraiser items cubicle-to-cubicle. It’s just what your co-workers needed: holiday wrapping paper at $22.50 a roll. Yes, there’s a bonanza of “customers” in the workplace to help your child out, but go easy on them. Don’t make individual solicitations. Co-workers will sour to that Pampered-Chef tactic real fast. Instead, put the order sheet in a common area and send an all-staff email alerting co-workers to the option of helping out. The key here: no pressure.

  • Dressing not-your-age. Dress-down casual is fine. We’ll even take jeans and a T-shirt now and then—and baseball cap. But there comes a time when skinny jeans, yoga pants or draw-string, high-water jogging trousers don’t look good on you. And it comes sooner than you think.

  • Bloviating about things co-workers don’t want to hear. Have a hectic morning because you couldn’t locate your cat? Don’t give your co-workers a blow-by-blow account of the search-and-locate ordeal that involved two neighbors and a garden rake. They have little appetite for it. Would you want to hear the details of their long, detoured commute that took them over the pricey toll bridge? See how that works?

  • Advertising your strong opinions. Got a favorite political candidate? A pet platform? A noble agenda? Keep the message out of your cubicle, off your clothing and certainly away from the breakroom chatter. Yes, we all have opinions, but you quickly become an a-hole when you billboard them in the workplace. And, surprisingly, even people who agree with you will begin to avoid you.

  • Not flushing the toilet (or other bathroom peculiarities). They’ll eventually guess right who you are.


Cal Butera is the editor of Business Management Daily’s Office Manager Today, Manager’s Legal Bulletin, Managing People at Work and Communication Briefings newsletters. He has been with Business Management Daily since 2007 and worked 22 years for midsize daily newspapers as sports writer, news reporter, layout and design editor, copy editor and city editor.