Work Place Ethics – Common Sense and Courtesy Aren’t So Common

I’ve noticed a lot of little things around the office lately that have been very grating on my nerves.  Nothing big, but, at the end of a long, stressful day, it all adds up.

So, I’ve come up with the following 8 Principles of Work Place Ethics:

  1. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever take the elevator up or down a single floor unless you have a physical ailment. Even up or down two floors is debatable. Seriously, there’s no reason you can’t hike up or down 20 stairs. Besides getting some much needed exercise, you’ll avoid the death stares of the people who don’t appreciate you interrupting and slowing their justifiable elevator trip.
  2. Replace the paper towel roll if you use the last sheet. This is so common sense that it shouldn’t need to be included on the list. Unfortunately, common sense and common courtesy simply aren’t common enough. Don’t be selfish. Throw out the empty roll, reach up into the cabinet, unwrap the next roll, and put the fresh paper towels out for the next person to use.
  3. Don’t pee all over the toilet seat. Everyone misses once in a while; nobody’s ever 100% at everything they do. Knowing this, if you get a little bit of moisture on the toilet seat, be courteous and wipe up after yourself. Actually, why are you peeing with the toilet seat down in the first place?!?
  4. If you drink the last cup of coffee, brew another pot. This, like the paper towel rule, falls under not-so-common common sense and common courtesy. It’ll take you just a minute or two to get everything situated, and the next person to go in to grab coffee will be very appreciative. As a side note: unless you have a legit medical reason, don’t drink decaf coffee. It’s nothing more than impotent swill.
  5. Never take up more than one parking space. I don’t care how nice your 7 series BMW is, or how fast your new Mustang can go. There’s plenty of space within your single parking space to provide a nice force field protecting your car from door dings. Just because you drive a nice car doesn’t mean you’re allotted more space than dudes like me who drive Dodge Neons.
  6. Step outside to take personal calls. If you have an office door, close it. Otherwise, for the rest of us working stiffs stuck in cubes, grab your cell, walk out the door and then proceed to talk about why your boyfriend broke up with you, or discuss the awful things you did last night when you had one too many Jager Bombs. Because most people have the need to scream into their phones (especially cell phones) in order to have intimate conversations, you should probably know that nobody else gives a crap about your stories. Please spare us.
  7. Stop shilling your kid’s cookies or school fundraising crap. When you push your kid’s fundraising junk you’re a jerk because you make the rest of us feel obligated to buy stuff so that we don’t look like the jerk. I’ve already got 18,000 boxes of thin mints in my freezer because I buy stuff from my family (a legitimate obligation). I’ve done my part, now leave me alone.
  8. The recycle bin and the trash can are two completely different things.  There’s no reason for you to throw your trash into the recycle bin, and there’s no reason your aluminum cans and plastic bottles should end up in the garbage.  I know many times the two bins are put right next to each other, but, seriously, it’s not that confusing!

Get everyone in the office onboard with these rules and you’ll find yourself in a much more happy, productive and efficient workplace. If you can’t get everyone onboard, then you have the easy targets to start rumors about at the water cooler.

What are your thoughts? Have any other rules you’d like listed? Let’s start a petition to get these rules internationally recognized.


  1. These two are my favorites for sure!

    Never, ever, ever, ever, ever take the elevator up or down a single floor unless you have a physical ailment.

    Never take up more than one parking space.

    Great list.

  2. Remind me to never, ever, ever, ever ride in a car with you. You video demonstrates distracted driving.

  3. Good list Brian! I’m guilty of using the elevator way too much, even that it is two floors, but I’ve been working myself out of the habit. Walking the stairs every time you get a chance is just a smart thing to do health-wise. And I’m game with the other 6 already, and in fact, I don’t take any parking space, cos I use the bus or ride a bike to work (both which I highly recommend too)!

  4. This is my absolute pet peeve –

    “Never take up more than one parking space. I don’t care how nice your 7 series BMW is, or how fast your new Mustang can go”

    Add on don’t park in a “small car only” if you have a SUV.

    This is a great contribution. Should be posted (anonymously?) in every office.

  5. Oh this list is just too funny. Makes me glad I’m not heading into an office anymore. Peeing on the seat.? YUK!

  6. Birney,

    I never, ever, ever, ever look at the camera and my eyes are always on the road. It’s the same thing as carrying on a conversation with the person next to you. Trust me, I wouldn’t do something to put myself or anyone else in jeopardy.


  7. Antti,

    Thanks for the comment. I’m sure we’re all guity of taking the elevator too much, it’s just the habitual one floor users that tend to cause me to shake my head!


  8. Corrine,

    GREAT call on the SUV in the compact car spots! Although, I hate it when you’re searching for a spot, and you think you’ve found one, only to be duped by the fact a tiny car stuck between two SUVs actually has the spot already.


  9. Hi Brain,

    What a spot on article. Compulsory reading for office workers. I love the foistering your kids stuff on others… would also include kids”sponsorship” stuff to the list.

    Glad I no longer head to an office, brings back memories… but when it somes to etiquette, I’m now inspired to write my own on ski lift queuing.

  10. Michelle,

    All I have to say is lucky you!


  11. Lance,

    Thanks for the comment. Again, lucky you for not having to head into an office!


  12. There are so many things I could add to this list. Hold the door for the person behind you, even if they ARE ugly. Spill something? Wipe it up. Don’t leave it for the next person. Trash on the floor? Don’t walk past it, pick it up and throw it in the trash. NEVER help yourself to someone else’s lunch. If you’re hungry, ASK, don’t just take. I also agree about using the stairs instead of the elevator. There are too many able-bodied lazy (usually fat-ass) people who could use the exercise using the staris would bring. Anyway, thanks for the post, I enjoyed it!

  13. CC (otherwise known as Mom),

    I should have consulted you before this list was made. Stealing food from the fridge has got to be the worst!

    On that note, you inspired me to add to the list, and so as to not steal your thunder, I added a new item: understand that the trash can and the recycle bin are two different things.

  14. Brian, absolutely right. The recycle bin is NOT the trash bin, and vice versa!

    CC (aka Ma)

  15. Brian,
    My sons used to do stuff like that – drink the last of the milk or juice and put the carton back in the frig with less than an ounce in it. Frustrating! These coworkers are acting like young teenagers! When I was in the military I attended an NCO leadership school where we received demerits for lack of tidiness. At graduation the guy with the most demerits got the James Filthy McNasty Award – it was funny and it had its effect – that guy usually “got with the program”. My copy is still framed 45 years later.
    Maybe some of your office mates could use an award like that.

  16. Brian
    I’m really with you on No 5 – what winds me up is the number of people who insist on reversing into parking spaces and totally mess up, taking up the next space as well.
    My own pet hate is people borrowing stuff from our Department and never bothering to return it when finished with.

  17. In my entire life, no one has asked me “why do you pee with the seat down?”
    1) I’m a girl.
    2) The bare toilet is cold and it feels like I’m going to fall in.
    3) That’s how I was taught.
    4) we should stop now…lol!

    PS Is video-recording whilst driving the same as texting while driving?

  18. Bruce,

    I really like that idea. I wish we could find a politically correct way to incorporate that around the office!


  19. This is in reference to David Rogers post. David, that is one of my major pet peeves too. People that “borrow” things without asking, and then never returning them. Argh!!

  20. David,

    I like to back into spots, but I’m pretty sure that you’re supposed to use your side mirrors to make sure you stay between the lines! I’m definitely with you on the “borrowing.”


  21. Cheryl,

    Haha, I had forgotten that the “why do you pee with the toilet seat down” question wasn’t applicable to the women who visit this blog.

    In terms of the video, the camera is wedged into my steering wheel; it’s not in my hands or anything. And, again, you’ll notice that I don’t ever look at the camera because my eyes are ALWAYS on the road.

    I think it is akin to doing nothing more than talking to yourself while you drive. Please tell me I’m not alone in doing that!


  22. Man this is too funny.
    Just last week my neighbor told me about his 20 something niece who works in a federal government office was so disgusted with the condition and filth of the office restroom that she deliberately went out and peed in the hallway and then posted a huge notice on the office bulletin board as to just why she did it. I think she made her point.
    Great post, thanks.

  23. Haha, yes, Rich, I certainly think she made her point!

  24. well, if you want people to change these “habits” then a negative list will never work, not by itself. you either have to include in the list things that people are doing that you like or spin the items on the list so they have a more positive vibe.

    example change #2 to read: don’t you just love it when you go to get a paper towel and find a brand new roll when know that just yesterday there were only a few towels remaining? i wonder who that thoughtful employee was.

    you could even go so far as to say that anyone found replacing an empty roll with a new one will be rewarded.

    or change #5 to read: don’t you appreciate the skills of the driver that gets their car centered within a parking stall? with a little practice we could all park that good.

    you may disagree with my approach but we all know that posting a negative list is not working (if it was we would not be seeing the same office lists that we saw 25 years ago).

  25. Larry,

    Good point, I’m sure taking a softer, more tactful approach would likely get different results. But, how then, will I feel better and get all my anger out?!?


  26. as someone who got rid of anger years ago all i can say is writing something that angers others will never free you from your own anger … and it definitely will not get them to change their habits …

  27. My pet peeve would be sitting near someone who is eating stinky food at their desk beside you if the room is small with no windows. The trouble is that sometimes if you’re eating it you don’t realize it’s stinky :0)

    One thing that doesn’t seem to be easy to escape by working at home if you have kids – there is always an empty container or three in the cupboard or fridge – at least at my house there is!

    I’ll have to share this with my sister, she’s worked in a large office building for almost 10 years. She can probably relate. She’ll probably enjoy it while eating a stinky lunch at her desk :0) (now I better not show her :0))

  28. Hi Brian,

    This is a great post. I like the one how you said to not pee on the toilet seat. I so hate it when I go and see this happen in any office environment. Please for anyone who reads this to also remember to not do that as well.

    Keep up the good content!

  29. Great list Brian! Back when I had co-workers some of them failed to grasp the concept that cubicles aren’t offices! Meaning: everyone around you can hear your personal phone calls, music, humming, singing etc.

  30. Hilarious! It’s been a long time since I worked with other people, so this was more like a walk down memory lane. Unfortunately, I had been designated the “coffee girl” in the office – it was me and two men. That used to drive me nuts. Couldn’t agree with your points more. I’ve been trying to remember more points to add, but you did a pretty good job of it.

  31. Nice, Brain…

    Now why don’t we have a free report on diffusing the office douche bag… or diluting our own tendencies of douche-baggery!

    Most of this stuff strikes me as kindergarten wisdom, but judging by the amount of this stuff going on in the workplace… a lot of people missed kindergarten 🙂

    Truly a message for the new millenium…

    Don’t be a douche-bag!

    keep smiling,


  32. There’s one I’d like to add…the PHOTOCOPIER!

    If you ‘jam it – bloody well un-jam it. If it runs out of paper, fill it up. If it needs a toner replacement organize the replacement or change it. If it breaks down…ring the maintenance.

    The number of times I’ve gone to the photocopier and it’s not working drives me mad.

    Now I work from home – it’s only me who uses it! Thanks goodness.


  33. Great list! The elevator point is my favorite. I have no idea why healthy people can’t use the stairs!

    I work in a large office, so I am also going to add — “Turn off your cell phone when you get to work!” I can’t tell you how many cell phones are ringing throughout the office — what a distraction and interruption!

  34. Larry, at some point I’d like to be that way, too. However, now I’m just young and angry!

  35. Jan – Great point! It would be nice if stinky food could be contained to the lunch room!

  36. Tyrone – Glad to see you hate an unexpectly wet seat as much as I do! It pisses me off (haha, pun completely intended)!

  37. Merlyn – great point, although, I do have to confess that I have a squeaky chair, so I’m sure that annoys everyone around me. In my defense, I spray it with WD-40 pretty regularly!

  38. Keller – glad you like the list. I’m sure there are a lot more things we could add. If they come to you, leave another comment or two!

  39. Ben, I don’t think I could have worded it any better! I’ll come up with the anti-dbag list and post it here. Hopefully it’s as well received!

  40. Andrew – Fantastic addition to the list! If you use the last sheet of paper in the printer or copier, PUT MORE PAPER IN THE TRAYS!

  41. Lisa – I’m 75% with you on turning off the cell phone. Yes, they are certainly a distraction, but if you’re not sitting at your desk all day and someone – your kids, spouse, etc. – need to get a hold of you, your cell phone is the most convenient way. How about we compromise and say you should put your cell phone on vibrate once you get into work?

  42. Some people are just plain clueless, and as you say, common sense and courtesy aren’t so common. I see the same thing when it comes to Manners and Etiquette these days. Say please and Thank You, Excuse me when pushing past someone, chew with your mouth shut. Elbows off the dinner table or whatever table you are at. And for Gods sake don’t let your unruly little monster run through the restaurant, it’s not a frakking playground, it’s a place to eat, get a handle on your kid, your manners and etiquette. Sorry for the rant but I mean it, people are losing all their social etiquette it seems these days.

  43. This post made me laugh, but it’s also so totally true. Common sense and common courtesy… the common part is missing these days. It’s just the little things that ought to be done without even having to think about it, but people are just so caught up in their own little world they apparently can’t see they just used the last paper towel, or drank the last cup of coffee, or….

  44. A couple I would add:

    Stop talking about your medical procedures. I’m sure they’re important to you, but I don’t really care. And it creeps me out a little.

    For the love of God, quit heating up fish in the communal microwave. Seriously. It’s rude… and what kind of person brings a fish dinner to work, anyway? Have you ever heard of a freakin’ ham sandwich?

    That is all.

  45. I was reading your article with interest and clicked the video for more. Part of your title referred to common sense being not so common anymore – like people who drive distracted talking on their cell phones, text and, you know it’s coming, people who shoot videos while they are driving. How ridiculous is that practice? Sorry but you lost ALL credibility with your daring lack of common sense and lack of courtesy to other drivers around you.

    • So, out of curiosity, you never speak to a passenger in your car? That’s essentially what was done in the video considering the video camera was wedged in the steering wheel.