Skip to main content



) -- U.S. workers are increasingly swimming in the "wounded duck" pond. Getting discouraged about career momentum is a problem many Americans can understand because they experience it themselves, but the downward spiral-behavior of a frustrated worker can cut off opportunity to move up in the workplace.

Case in point: The human resources services firm


reports that 43% of American workers say their career path has slowed, and that it will be more difficult to make up that lost ground.

In the failure to make up lost ground, workers can be their own worst enemies. But what about workers who engage in behavior that isn't an indication of career blues but a rarer workplace malady: ethical lapses during the office elevator ride experience. Seemingly innocent and innocuous, the elevator appears to be a toxic laboratory of bad behavior, rude interactions, and eye-opening ethical lapses that, once the powers-that-be get wind of them, can slow down even the speediest fast-tracker, according to

a study from

that is part-business ethics guide and part-high comedy.

The study of 3,800 U.S. workers, completed in collaboration with

Harris Interactive


, aims to pinpoint and catalog the worst behavior on workplace elevators.

From dental hygiene to right uppercuts, the CareerBuilder study shines a harsh light on an experience that instead of providing a career lift or opportunity for classic "elevator pitch" to the venture capitalist, may keep even the most ambitious worker from rising to the corner office.

"While most people follow standard elevator etiquette of facing forward and generally keeping to themselves, quite a few workers reported less-than-ordinary experiences while in transit," the report states.

American workers cited these "real-life weird behaviors" as the worst in elevator ethics:

"Pantsing" (yanking someone's pants down) a co-worker

Changing a baby's diaper

Flossing teeth

Clipping fingernails


Showing someone a rash and asking for a diagnosis

Moving the entire contents of a co-worker's office into the elevator, including the desk

A woman with her arms full of papers using her head to keep the doors from closing

Granted, a bloody fistfight on the climb to the 61st floor is more likely to be a career-ender than a flying fingernail, but CareerBuilder does note that employees have their own code of behavior that equals or even goes beyond what management demands (so just because the fingernail clipping didn't land on the CEO's cuff doesn't mean it was acceptable).

CareerBuilder asked workers what they considered to be the most egregious behavior on elevators. They may not be career breakers, but these annoying behaviors certainly won't help the offender's standing in the office:

Talking on a cell phone: 35%

Not holding the door open: 33%

Invading one's "personal space": 32%

"Squeezing" into an elevator: 32%

Cutting in line: 23%

Taking a "one-floor" ride: 20%

In business, just as in life, the details matter. So if wounded ducks are their own worst enemy in the office, eager beavers also need to understand that they can put a dam between themselves and advancement. The next time you pull out your nail file, or line up an obnoxious co-worker for a haymaker between the 10th and 11th floors, think again. Bad behavior on the ride could cost you the respect of your co-workers, and the trust of your boss.

More on careers:

7 strategies to be your own boss

American worker pay not rising about rate of inflation

How women can avoid work burnout

--By Brian O'Connell





and become a fan on