5 Pointers for Appropriate Office Etiquette

5 Pointers for Appropriate Office Etiquette

By: Alice Liang | October 22, 2018

Whether heading to the office at the start of your career or halfway in, don’t forget a key component of success: standard office etiquette. Politeness helps avoid tension and misunderstandings in the workplace while increasing productivity and job satisfaction. Go further in your career and earn your colleagues’ respect by following some standard practices.

1. Show Respect

Common manners such as saying “please”, “thank you”, “you’re welcome”, and “excuse me” go a long way, especially at work. These simple words empower those around you and indicate a grateful spirit others notice and appreciate.

Keep your emotions in check during disagreements or confrontations; yelling only belittles others and puts your job on the line. Never disrespect your boss by speaking in a defiant and insolent manner, especially in front of others. Rather, politely bring things up one-on-one later in an appropriate way.

Is there an issue with a coworker? Always address the problem with them directly first. Going over their head to their supervisor is condescending, causes awkwardness, and makes you seem incapable of solving problems. In any case, when approaching challenges with others, have a couple of solutions ready to propose at the same time you explain the problem. Your emotions are less likely to get in the way and the problem is more likely to be resolved efficiently and peacefully.

2. Mind Your Body Language

What your face and hands are doing almost speaks as much as the words coming out of your mouth. Don’t underestimate the importance of how you express yourself through body language. Hold good posture, always give a firm handshake, and greet people with a smile. No one likes a grouch clouding up their day. When colleagues speak to you, acknowledge them with a thoughtful response.

If your boss is addressing you, give them your full and undivided attention. This means looking them in the eye - not down at your phone, at the clock, or your computer screen. If your phone pings, it can wait! Your career is greatly impacted by the relationship with your boss and is more important than whatever message or notification just popped up.

3. Watch Your Words

Written correspondence via email or messaging should not look the same as texting a friend, with lots of abbreviated words, slang, and emojis. Keep written dialogue informal but professional with colleagues at the same level. Know your boss’s style. If they are casual, go one tier up from colleagues - slightly more formal. But if your boss communicates formally, you should match their level of formality. A good rule of thumb for anyone else above your rank, other than your boss, is to keep it to formal English.

Keep verbal communication in the office at a low volume level. Find a good balance of work chitchat, but don’t be a constant chatterbox about personal life matters. Most colleagues don’t care to hear all the details and the distraction decreases productivity.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. Complaining about your job (or personal life!) and gossiping in the office creates a negative atmosphere in the workplace and brings down morale. If there is a problem – address it kindly with a solution in mind, not with attacking speech.

4. Be Time Sensitive

Be on time for work and meetings. Always arrive at a meeting place before your boss. Maybe your boss is usually late, so you decide to show up 15 minutes after the appointed time. Don’t make this BIG mistake.

Respect your boss by always arriving five minutes early, and bring some work to be reading over or completing while you wait on him or her. Managers have many responsibilities and are trying to work as efficiently as possible. But really, it’s none of your business why they are late – your job is to be on time for your boss, not the other way around. Don’t waste their time and make yourself look bad.

Complete your work assignments in a timely manner, and always be working. Don’t sit around or browse your phone while on the clock; take the initiative to be constructive and complete any anticipated tasks.

If your company has a generous sick leave policy, don’t call in sick to skip out of work. Both you and your boss will be viewed in a negative light. However, if you catch a contagious illness, avoid infecting colleagues and stay home. Ask for vacation leave at least a month out

5. Think about others

Have some common courtesy and take a second to consider how your actions will affect others. Do your coworkers really want to smell your fish or burnt popcorn all afternoon? Do they want to listen to your personal phone calls? How does the third party feel when you’re talking in another language with a colleague? Does the coworker at the desk next to you like to hear your phone go “ping!” every few minutes?

If you're allowed to listen to music while you work, wear earbuds (not large headphones) and keep your audio volume lower than normal. Try to follow this guideline: if someone behind you wouldn't be able to get your attention by saying your name in a normal office voice, then you need to lower your music until they can. Don’t make colleagues have to shout or tap your shoulder to get your attention.

Set Yourself Apart

A successful career is not just about job performance. It is possible to get the job done while annoying every colleague and insulting your boss at the same time. Don’t be that person in the office no one can stand working with or hanging around. A bit of effort to follow these guidelines will enable you to earn respect, go further in your career faster, and make your workplace a better environment for everyone.

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