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Remember your manners, even while at your desk

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Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Let's say you're sitting at work, laboring over an important report.

It's been hours since you had lunch, but you don't have time to run out for a snack. Fortunately, you've got a bag of pork rinds in your desk drawer and begin munching away while focusing on your work.

About 20 minutes later, you're confronted by a red-faced colleague who is staring at your pork rinds.

“Would you like one?” you question politely.

The colleague makes no comment, just growls in her throat and stomps away.

While you may wonder why the colleague acted in such a way, it's clear to those sitting around you. Gobbling away on the chips is not only distracting with your bag-rustling and your crunching but is seen as a breach of office etiquette.

Then don't be surprised if colleagues don't invite you to participate in an important client dinner or fire emails around the office detailing your boorish ways.

While many people believe the key to career success is doing good work, the truth is that “it's more important to be popular and well liked.” says Vicky Oliver, author of “301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions.”

“Poor manners hurt your career because the little things matter. Very often, reputations are built on the basis of a first impression that takes someone approximately 3 seconds to formulate,” says Alexandra Levit, a career expert. “So, sitting at dinner with a new client and ordering the most expensive entree on the menu (when they're paying) is not a good move.”

If you want to clean up your act so you can improve your image at work, here are some other suggestions:

• Stop casual rudeness. Interrupting when someone is speaking and texting during a meeting are all signs that you're not giving someone your full time and attention, and that's off-putting, Oliver says.

• Communicate carefully. “In this climate, the most frequent complaint I hear is that people are too short with one another and that tone is misconstrued in virtual situations,” Levit says.

• Don't be loud. Many workers sit next to one another, so take care to respect someone's space.

• Look for mentors. “If you're unsure about a specific behavior, ask a trusted mentor who's not at your organization for his or her advice,” Levit says.

Anita Bruzzese can be reached at USA Today/Gannett, 7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, VA 22108. For a reply, include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Twitter: @AnitaBruzzese.

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