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Etiquette: The Office

Office Etiquette, what on earth is it? The manner in which you conduct yourself within the office environment has a direct effect on your productivity, your professional relationships and also how you are viewed and supported by others within your office. We all have our things; whether it be talking too loud, clicking pens, eating smelly foods or interrupting others when they are busy. We obviously don’t do these things deliberately, aiming to distract or irritate the people surrounding us; let’s just bring it down to habits and personality. 

In today's blog, we are going to break down the top 6 things that people do in the office that comes under “Office Etiquette” 


01: Understand the Point of Office Etiquette.

While the term “Office Etiquette” may conjure up images of stiffness and formality, it is in actual fact very simple. Office etiquette is about observing a simple set of rules for getting along with other people in an organisational context. Just as living in society requires us to follow a set of conventions (unwritten but well-understood expectations) and rules, observing appropriate social behaviour within the work context ensures congeniality, team respect and an enjoyable day-to-day working experience. 

While most etiquette remains unwritten, just because it isn’t written down in black and white or pinned to the notice board, doesn’t excuse a lack of observance or respect. There will always be a larger proportion of any social group expecting that the unwritten conventions of etiquette be observed regularly, with few expectations and no matter how quirky, rebellious or authentic you feel like being, there will always be boundaries or respect for others that you need to heed. 


02: Stay Away from Gossip.

It’s easily done in conversations, unintentionally or intentionally. Gossip can be a career breaker. If you are found to be the source of malicious gossip – things could end badly. It’s simply not worth it and it’s also quite disrespectful on many levels. The people that you spend your days with at work are professional acquaintances – keep it that. Gossip is most definitely one of the well-known points of office etiquette. As mum would say “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. Limit your comments about co-workers to positive ones. saying something negative about another person can reflect poorly on you. 

03: Keep It Down.

Some people do need a volume switch. Unless you have an office door to close – keep your voice down. The most frequent complaint made around etiquette is around noise from other people in the work environment. It can come across as simple disrespect also, especially in a shared working environment. If someone can hear your voice while in another room, on the other side of the office – I can guarantee that you have had some people wishing you would be quiet at some point in the day. In shared working environments it is simply common courtesy to keep your voice down. 

Keeping your voice down should be a priority in all work interactions; 

  • Whether you are on the phone, or talking to a colleague. 
  • Use your handset or headset – not your speakerphone to take calls unless you are behind a closed door. 
  • If you have received a personal call on your mobile, it’s a good idea to walk down to the corridor or find a room with a door so that you avoid disturbing others. 
  • Avoid speaking in a loud or belligerent manner. Aggressive or increasingly loud vocalisations upset people and even those who are not the target of the aggression will be left with a sense of unease and discomfort. 
  • Turn off your personal mobile phone during business hours, if you are awaiting an important phone call – put your phone on silent. Avoid making personal calls at your workstation – your co-workers don’t need to be a part of your “what are we having for dinner” conversation. 

04: Keep Your Work Area Tidy.

Try not to be messy. A messy workstation shows how confused and careless you can be. It can also reflect your personality or personal life at home. Don’t let people think that you are an unorganised person. Keep your desk tidy. If you like adding a personal touch to your workstation, do it tastefully. 

Not only does having too many personal effects make it appear that you’re rather territorial and sentimental, but it can make it hard for others to take you as seriously in a work context. 

If you have a communal kitchen area, keeping it clean is vitally important. If you spill something, clean it. If you use the last of the communal milk for your 10:00am coffee, tell the person who purchases the milk. Assuming you are a grown up, it is your responsibility to clean up your own mess. Don’t ever expect a co-worker to do your dirty work. 

05: Be Sensitive to Others Need for Privacy.

Never read the computer screen, email or fax of someone else. Only share personal things at work that you wouldn’t mind your boss knowing. Remember, that when you send an email, never write anything that would be a problem if it was forwarded; simply by virtue of the fact that anyone can forward an email, you need to know that this is a potential. If you need to discuss anything sensitive or private with another colleague, find a room where you can shut the door where nobody else will be able to overhear you.

06: Be Punctual.

Being punctual is very important, especially if you have an appointment or a meeting. It shows that you respect the time of your colleagues and in turn will compel them to respect your time too. The popular saying that would fit in this situation is that “Time and tide wait for no one”. Lead by example and everything else will fall into place. Avoid turning up later than your boss when you’re a junior. At the entry stage of a job, sending a clear message that you’re already working is vital.

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