Prim and Proper: Basic Rules for Workplace Etiquette

Worketiquette_Oct2011_webYou accepted your first job offer after graduating from college and now work in a new world called the cubicle. Or, maybe you have just started a new job and your new employer and co-workers view interaction with each other in their workspace differently than you expected. No matter where you work, there’s always a workplace modus to help employees work better with each other.

Every job, employer, and industry is different in their work culture and what is and isn’t acceptable work behavior. So before assuming anything, check your employer’s policies and practices or ask colleagues about proper manners at work. But, here are a few basic etiquette tips to help you get along with your fellow co-workers.

Respect Your Boundaries

While some offices and cubicles have very open and relaxed borders where people enter and exit freely and openly share their ideas with others from a different area, not all workplaces are that open. Some work environments have boundaries for safety reasons, and you may need proper clearance or protective equipment before entering certain colleagues’ work zones. When in doubt, call and ask to visit their space to discuss something or arrange a meeting time. At a minimum, consider knocking and waiting until invited before barging in.

If a co-worker is busy on the phone, talking to someone else, or operating machinery, come back at a later time unless it’s an emergency. If they aren’t busy but look deep in thought, think twice before interrupting. Once you get to know your co-workers and understand their quirks and work style, it will become easier to tell when it’s good to approach them.

Also, avoid office gossip, even if it’s true. What you say and what you do reflects your professional image. Keep that in mind when conversing with workmates. Respect others’ privacy and your own by restraining from eavesdropping and revealing information too personal for work. If you need to make a personal phone call, make it short or take it outside.

Decorate with Taste

Your workspace is technically your own, but it is still a place of business and you should consider others when decorating it. While a cartoon or joke may be funny to you, it may be offensive to others. If you are old enough for a desk job, then you’re probably old enough to keep movie posters, risqué pop music idols, and toys at home. It’s important to portray a professional image even if you want to make your space more personal. When posting photos of family and loved ones, try to avoid photos of wild parties, use of alcohol, or any potentially offensive activities. If you want to completely redecorate or remodel your work space, come in an hour or two before or stay late after work so you don’t disrupt anybody.

Plants and foliage are good for sound bumpers, but tend to leak water, attract bugs, and drop leaves. Take the time to properly care for your plants. Also, be considerate of co-workers who may have allergies and reactions to different plants and foliage.

Odor Offence

Beware of excessive snacking at your work place. Not only does the sound of chewing and mess of wrappers tend to annoy others, but also the smell could be unappreciated. Others may be allergic to some snacks such as peanuts. Ask your co-workers if they mind you eating at your desk. Avoid strong odors like certain cheeses and fish that tend to linger, even if you eat them in a designated lunch room.

Pay attention to your smells while at work. Basic hygiene is important to remove unflattering body odor, but too much cologne or body sprays can be overbearing as well. Keep body scents to a minimum. You never know who does or doesn’t like your new brand of perfume.  

Different workplaces have different cultures of etiquette. It’s up to you to be mindful of what they are. If you are unsure of what is or isn’t allowed, just remember to be respectful to those around you to guide your actions. What are some office manners at your workplace?

Comments

  1. Jane Burdick

    I work in a hospital and am always surprised when people think it is OK to float in on a cloud of fragrance. I personally do not tolerate flowery scents and I’m surprised more pt’s don’t complain. I’m don’t tolerate workers being disrespectful of pt’s and frequently mention strong scents which people don’t like…go figure.

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