Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Proper Etiquette in the Workplace

Not too long ago, I used to work in an office environment. My employers were a team of brother and sister who had been in business since 1982. They're humble people, and we all had a good working relationship with them.

Except for one girl. Things didn't sit well between the Sister Employer and her.

Jennifer and I became very good friends while we worked in the same building. There were quite a few different companies for tax reasons, but were all ran by the Sibling team. Jennifer worked on the other side of the building and I would have to turn my orders into her so she could process them.  In my opinion, she was very good at her job; very fast, but didn't exactly exude positive energy. She was much younger- about 20 years old, and had been working there almost 2 years; so she took her job less seriously.

I wouldn't take her to be a very good team player; she often complained about the amount of work she had, and the tedious tasks she was given. Come 5 o'clock, she was already in the parking lot. She was very punctual when it came to leaving work. I often noticed she was very wasteful when it came to office supplies. When I would tell her to be more appreciative, her answer was "So? Don't worry- the company pays for it." It just never sat well with me.

She was a very generous and compassionate person with her colleagues however, I can never complain about that. But in the end, it was her missteps that ultimately ended her job.

She wouldn't ever tell the Sister Employer when she would take a vacation/sick day. Since the Sister Employee is in the same side of the building as I am, I heard her complaints, and decided to tell Jennifer about it, as cautionary advice.  She scoffed and said in her defense that she wasn't her boss.

Jennifer: I wasn't hired by her. I was hired by the other Executive V.P.

Ren: Ok, you may not have been hired by her directly, but she still runs the show. She's the one paying you. Just let her know next time. When I'm out, I let everyone know by email, regardless of the company they are with, and our relationship. It's a good announcement.... you know, just in case.

Jennifer: Whatever. She's just causing drama. We don't even work together.

On more than one occasion, I heard the Sister Employee said she was cutting her off, which resulted mainly in frustration of Jennifer's work, or when she didn't know she wasn't in the office that day. I can't blame her. It's only respectful to let the Owners of the company know you'll be out.

Sister employee eventually "let her go" due to Jennifer's company doing particularly poor in sales, and not making much profit. It was her way of cutting costs. Again, I don't blame my boss for it. Jennifer wasn't the only one- a couple of employees in the warehouse lost their jobs too. It was the poor economy. That year, we didn't even see a Christmas party.

Jennifer was given her final paycheck plus a week's worth of work as "severance pay." Pitiful in my opinion, but others have been let go for a lot less.

After 5 months from leaving the office, Jennifer made a surprise visit at work. She said hi to everyone except the boss who hired her and my boss [Sister Employee]. And it's not like she couldn't see them: We all work in an open area, so even if the V.Ps have doors, she made a deliberate act not to pass in front of their doors.  I thought she would make a gesture and offer to say hi to the two bosses, but nothing.

A complete snub, utterly unprofessional, disrespectful and uncourteous.

That lacks etiquette.

I understand that Jennifer may still harbor bad feelings about being let go, but she should at least have said "hello" to them, considering they are owners of the companies. And if she felt uncomfortable, then she should have not stopped by.

When her V.P heard her voice in the hall, he asked who was there, and we softly said "Jennifer."

V.P: Jennifer? Jennifer's here? [to one employee] Did you see Jennifer? Jennifer came by? Well why didn't she say hi? Where is she?"

Ren: She's in the lobby. Go see her.

So he did. I know there's no bad blood there, so she was very surprised and happy to see him. When the V.P came back to his office he told Sister Employer about Jennifer's visit and asked if they had seen each other. She said no.

After discussing the situation with one friend, he told me:

Vincent: Well, I don't know if it's correct, but I would have done the same. She's not obliged to say hello or see someone who fired her. Would you look at your boss and say hi with a smile?

Ren: No, I just wouldn't go. It's a snub.

Vincent: Well, you could go see your old colleagues if you had a good relationship with them without being obligated to see your old boss to say hi. Then again, she wasn't there to see her boss.

Hmmm, interesting.

What would you have done in this situation?


  1. Jennifer sounds like me when I got my first job as a data entry clerk in the same office my mother worked at [she got me the job]. I was so embarrassed about working with her and having to sneak off for cigarette breaks without her cronies spying on me, I tried everything in the book to get fired.

    I did try and hand in my notice but she wouldn't have any of it.

    In Jennifers situation when I've been let go I never show my face again because I find it too embarrassing and it feels like they think I can't let go! Bigger and better things.

  2. Weird that she stopped by the office... I agree with Claire - I would be too embarrassed to do that - can't you catch up with old colleagues at a bar or something? No awkward bosses AND alcohol on hand!

    Sidenote: "She was very punctual when it came to leaving work" made me LOL.