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The New Normal: The Dos and Don’ts of Office Behavior in 2018

January 19, 2018 
By Russell Correa, Ed.M., guest blogger

Consider some examples of what are being referred to as the Matt Lauer guidelines at NBC, after his much publicized firing recently.

  • Do not share a taxi home with colleagues.
  • If you hug a co-worker, you have to do a quick hug, then an immediate release, and step away to avoid body contact.
  • Do not take vegans to steakhouses.
  • No office affairs or romances between colleagues.
  • If you are aware of an office romance or affair, you must inform the company or face termination for covering up.

Now, I think most of us will agree that it is long overdue that we take issues of power, bullying and harassment seriously and give voice to those who have been victimized in the workplace. And that we should not only focus on women’s issues, but issues across race, religion and culture as we can find decades of illegal and harassing behavior targeted against different groups.

The unintended consequence, though, of this nationwide review of workplace policies, is that inevitably many organizations will overreach (like the ones listed above) in a way that can potentially do more harm than good in terms of creating a culture of respect.

The opposite – a culture of fear – could actually develop as employees question how they are supposed to act in the office in today’s charged environment.  Hopefully, it is a safe assumption that we all want to create a respectful work environment, but just what are the dos and don’ts in the office now?


Well, while I’d love to list out some bullet points or a policy below that you could follow, the easy answer to the question I just posed is that there is no easy answer.  Consider the below example of a “workplace respect policy” that I read the other day.

  1. (Company) is firmly committed to ensuring a positive and professional working environment to building and preserving a safe, productive, and healthy working environment, based on mutual respect for all its employees. In pursuit of this goal, (Company) does not condone and will not tolerate acts of disrespectful behavior, including; violence, harassment, discrimination, or bullying against or by any (Company) employee, subcontractor, agency staff/contractor, supplier and client.

So what is your reaction to this? Sounds good, right?

Yes, it does sound good. However, this is where the problem lies in that policies like these are very vague and general and don't really give specifics about day-in, day-out behavior or give employees the opportunity to talk in an open forum about what these topics really mean to them.

I would also add that it’s very difficult to impose expected behavior on people or train employees how to act without their buy-in or agreement. Anger, resentment and fear typically result from this type of initiative.

So what is your organization trying to do to define guidelines for a respectful workplace?  Here are a few suggested Dos and Don’ts, from both an organizational and personal perspective:


DO - Acknowledge the past reality and context of our work environments and how they exist in a broader society that has struggled for decades with issues of racism and sexism.

DON’T – Impose blanket rules without soliciting feedback from your employees. Consider the use of an outside facilitator as these conversations can be emotionally charged.

DO – Review all of your internal policies and procedures related to office behavior to make sure everything is updated. This will also protect your organization against legal exposure.

DON’T – Be afraid of difficult conversations in the office related to gender (as one example). Problems and issues will not just go away without being addressed.

DO – Provide your employees with communication and conflict resolution skills to handle  these difficult conversations in a professional way.

DON’T – Assume all employees feel comfortable reporting issues when they take place. Make sure everyone knows that your organization is a safe space for them.

DO – Consider what you may be doing in the office that makes others feel disrespected. If you say or do something questionable , own it in the moment and think how you can do things differently in the future.

DON’T – Assume the intent or motivation of others. Before reacting or forming a conclusion, take a few moments to analyze the issue that may have upset or offended you. Consider getting outside input and feedback.

DO – Put yourself in the other person’s shoes, so to speak. How are others experiencing you?

DON’T – Be afraid to be yourself. We all can work on our style in the office but do it in a way that is consistent with who you are.


If you would like to learn more insights and tips into this topic, please register for a 45-minute webinar I will be hosting on January 31st at 12pm - The New Normal: The Dos and Don'ts of Office Behavior in 2018. The registration fee is $35 for individuals and $125 for groups and agencies (for 5 or more attendees). This webinar is part of my ongoing Working Smarter / Living Smarter series that I will be hosting in 2018. For more information and to register, go to


About Russell Correa, Ed.M., LMHC
As the Principal of Zeta Consulting Group, Russell Correa brings close to 20 years of experience as a licensed clinician, certified executive coach, HR & Management consultant and trainer to his work. Russell also serves as a board member for Allegany Franciscan Ministries, a funder of nonprofits in the Miami, Tampa Bay and Palm Beach areas. You can contact Russell at 786.457.5371 or [email protected]. You can also visit his website at


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