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A man texted and checked his emails during a seminar despite the fact that he was seated directly in front of the speaker.

A medical technician lost her temper and trashed the practice where she worked in front of patients.

A salesman had a conversation about very personal information within earshot of customers.

These are just three examples of discourteous and unprofessional workplace behaviour I witnessed recently.

Some say that with today's 24/7 culture of never-ending pressure at work, people are throwing appropriate behaviour out the window.

Yet, no matter how much stress we are under, it's imperative that we keep our tempers, think about what we are saying and doing, and show courtesy and respect to both colleagues and customers.

Here are some tips on how to avoid discourtesy and inappropriate behaviour at work:

Pay attention during meetings, workshops and conferences. Fiddling with your mobile communication devices, reading or acting bored tells the speaker that his or her message has no value to you and is a waste of your time.

Keep your temper. Computer crashes, unrealistic workloads, workplace politics, personality conflicts can drive the most even-tempered person to distraction.

When you're nearing boiling point - and we've all been there - get away from the source and give yourself some time to cool down.

That might mean leaving your work area for a short walk or a bathroom break, putting your current project aside and working on something less stressful for a while, letting the phone go to voicemail, ignoring your texts and emails for a few minutes, or just sitting still and taking deep breaths.

After a few moments, you'll feel your blood pressure go down and you will be able to deal with whatever irritated you in a rational and calm manner.

Talk to your colleagues, superiors and customers in a respectful manner even if they are on your last nerve. Pause before you say anything, and then respond. Listen carefully to the other person's comment or complaint and clarify their point of view through appropriate questions before responding.

And always remember "please" and "thank you". They're the sugar that makes for much more effective communication.

Begin conversations, especially when you need something from someone else, in a courteous manner. Too often the first thing out of someone's mouth is, "I need you to . . ." or "I sent you an email a half-hour ago. Didn't you get it?" Notice how these approaches focus on the speaker and do nothing to encourage co-operation from the other person?

Never forget that you are the "face" of the company, medical practice, dealership or business where you work. If you are having a bad day, are frustrated with your work environment or bored and just shooting the breeze with colleagues, be aware that you can be overheard by others. Everything you say and how you say it makes an impression on not just your colleagues, but also customers, patients and clients.

* Marie Stempinski specialises in public relations and marketing and also consults on business trends and employee motivation.