Kessler International is releasing the results of a nationwide survey which outlined the state and fate of workplace manners, etiquette and ethics. Kessler International conducted a survey by polling upper and mid-level management at forty professional services firms, and found that the respondents indicated by an 84% margin that their staff was inconsiderate and rude in the workplace. In addition the same respondents cited by 65% that they felt a majority of their staff lacked a moral compass.

Etiquette and Ethics Lacking in Workplace

The survey was conducted by asking individuals to anonymously comment on their employee’s use of personal electronic devices, dress, manners, ethics and employees levels of respect for other employees. In fact some respondents expressed disgust of certain individual on their staff as well as their own inability to say something and correct the situation. They cited their company’s “political correctness”, their own inability to have confrontation and constraints instituted by their human resources department as stumbling blocks.

Among the items most mentioned by mangers were:

1- untimely and inappropriate use of cellphones
2- wearing inappropriate clothing to work
3- complete lack of courtesy
4- use of street talk and signs in professional meetings
5- the inability of younger staff to write a letter/email
6- the lack of personal responsibility
7- failure to say please and thank you
8- lying to phone caller
9- hanging up on phone calls when they are confronted and were uncomfortable
10- cheating on time billed to clients and stealing time by arriving late and leaving early
11- cutting corners on work product rather than staying after hours to correct the mistakes they made
12- visiting sex and dating websites on company time
13- sexting on company phones
14- the inability to interact professionally with clients during a business function
15- the lack of manners
16- the lack of integrity

Unanimously, every single person polled indicated that they observed untimely and inappropriate use of cellphones by their staff. Personal cellphones were noted to be used in meetings and at desks during work hours. One manager indicated that they routinely see one staff member taking a Kindle device with them to the restroom, while another indicated that an office mate was constantly receiving noisy text alerts and did not have the courtesy to mute the sound on their device. Another manager indicated that she constantly observed staff members looking at their personal phone when in office and client meetings. Not only are these examples of rudeness and theft of time by staff, Kessler’s computer forensics experts are aware through the use of computer forensics protocols in cases we investigated that personal electronic devices can also be used as listening devices, recording sensitive client data and proprietary meeting details and then sold to competitors or posted on the Internet.

Those polled also indicated that they constantly notice employees dressing inappropriately, with many noting that on Fridays employees seem to take it upon themselves to dress like “slobs” despite no casual Friday policy being in place. Hoodies, flip flops, torn and frayed jeans and tank tops were all listed in the responses as clothing staff wore that managers deemed inappropriate. One manager stated that his employee met him at a lawyer’s office from whom they were trying to solicit business, in jeans and sandals with no socks on.

Also among the responses were many indications that commonplace courtesy and consideration are a thing of the past, with staff displaying a total lack of manners and respect for their co-workers. Managers described a constant string of staff entering their offices and personal workspaces without first asking or being invited. Staff were described as “borrowing” other employees office supplies without asking or “borrowing” their lunches or drinks from the refrigerator or taking goodies from a coffee club of which they were not members! Please, thank you, and courtesy greetings at the beginning and end of the day were reported by more than half of those polled to be nearly nonexistent in the workplace. One respondent complained that an employee would stand in front of their desk and stare at them while they were on a phone call, waiting for them to get off. Another reported that an employee would consistently barge in on meetings with questions that were not at all germane to the subject of the meeting indicating that the employee was too lazy to get the answers themselves directly from the Internet where pages of information about the subject matter was available.

Many respondents additionally expressed dismay in the inability of staff to simply compose a business letter and others cited the sloppiness of spelling errors, incorrect punctuation and incorrect use of capitalization in words, causing embarrassment to the company and the loss of clients. Also cited were examples of staff cutting corners and producing an inferior work product simply so they could leave on time. Some managers indicated that staff used street language and signs in professional meetings involving clients.

Many polled indicated that they were embarrassed to invite younger employees to business functions because they did not know how to interact with clients and furthermore one cited that a staff member when told by the client, that the client was paying for the meal announce to the group at the table, buy the most expensive things on the menu since we don’t have to expense it. Another respondent noted that one employee regularly failed to tip wait staff because the tip came out of his meal per-diem.

One manager citing his problems with prospective employees, claiming that job applicants refused to complete employment applications instead simply attaching a resume in which much of the information requested on the application was not included.

Some managers mentioned that younger staff members had a complete disregard for the employer’s property and that their work ethics lacked significantly citing examples of lying to phone callers and clients while others reported that staff would routinely hang up phone calls when a caller confronted them on a particular issue.

Additionally most respondents’ cited the lack of training and acceptance by high schools, colleges and higher learning institutions of the lack of personal responsibility and accountability, as attributing to this overall breakdown of human behavior and the lack of a moral compass. Kessler found in another study it conducted last year that schools overwhelmingly were turning out amoral children because many of the younger teachers did not know the difference between right and wrong,
“Too many staff are overwhelmed by the pressure to achieve results,” he added: “It seems that the only results that matter are those which have created added value in terms of raising a pupil’s statistical level from one stage to the next, and parents are increasingly buying in to this notion.
There is tremendous room for improvement in the current culture of staff in the professional workplace. Guidelines and recommendations should be distributed to staff regarding their use of electronics, dress, and conduct in the workplace. When manners are left unchecked, companies may be exposing themselves to theft of information, embarrassment and the loss of valued clients. Susan Peterson, Chief Operating Officer of Kessler said “it seems like the workplace has changed significantly in the past 30 years and not for the better.” The complete results of the survey can be found at

Furthermore, Kessler will be posting on their blog throughout the next year various tips that employees can use to improve their manners and learn about ethics to make themselves more valuable in the workplace. Visit the Kessler Notebook at for the continuing series on workplace manners and ethics.

About Kessler International

Kessler provides forensic accounting, digital forensics and investigative services from its offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington DC, Chicago, Honolulu, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong and London, with affiliates worldwide. Established in 1988, Kessler’s clients include an extensive and distinguished list of Fortune 500 companies, prestigious law firms, government agencies and individuals.

For further information about the survey or the services Kessler offers, contact Susan Peterson at 212-286-9100, or visit Kessler International’s website at

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