Office etiquette might sound like an old-fashioned concept, and perhaps it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s antiquated. Good manners have a purpose. They provide a social roadmap and foster a culture of respect where people on the job can get along better.
Of course, no one is going to deny or sacrifice the bottom line. Profitability supports the success and ongoing viability of any enterprise. However, people are the engine that drives that success, and a person’s impact is measured both by what they produce and how they produced it. Why is that important? Being civil to one another reduces stress in what is already a stressful environment, and therefore office etiquette sets a team up for better collaboration and productivity.
At this point, you might be thinking, “What’s in it for me?” If you adopt good office etiquette, people will want to work with you, helping you move up the corporate ladder or become attractive to recruiters. Your value to the organization increases, which can also mean more salary, benefits and autonomy.
According to career coach Jenn DeWall, good office etiquette leads to better networking and high-quality relationships at work, all of which improve your ability to advance in your career. If you’re able to show that your work has not only helped the organization but your attitude and manner have made you someone who boosts morale and motivates people to work better together, then your career advancement is assured. So, polish your office etiquette and bolster your career with the following 10 tips.
1. Say No to Noise Pollution
You wouldn’t throw your garbage on the floor or dump your uneaten lunch on your coworker’s desk. We’ve all grown up with hearing and seeing all those “Don’t Pollute” public service announcements to know that. But not as many of us are as aware of how we can aurally destroy our environment. Noise is a problem everywhere but doubly so in the office, where concentration is needed to focus on the task at hand.
Think about your phone and its constant notifications or personal calls during work. A simple solution to that is keeping your phone on vibrate. People work differently, of course. Some like music or talk radio, while others find it distracting. If you’re one of the former, then get headphones to keep the latter happy. But keep in mind, headphones are like a “do not disturb” sign, sometimes they’re appropriate in a work setting, sometimes they’re not. Be cognizant of that.
2. Be Respectful
It’s surprising how many of us need this reminder. Work is a professional atmosphere; there’s usually a hierarchy and the fear of losing one’s job, which combined help set a tone for how we treat one another. But work is also stressful, and people deal with that tension in all manner of ways. Some retreat into themselves and appear distant and disengaged. Others lash out, which creates conflict and increases the level of stress. Neither of these responses is acceptable, and they certainly don’t make collaboration easier.
Who wants to deal with all that anger, whether it’s passive or not? A good rule is the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them to undo you. Treat superiors, subordinates, coworkers and even lazy coworkers all equally and respectfully. They’ll work better and so will you.
3. Watch Your Body Language
You speak with more than mere words; think about how easy it is to misunderstand the tone in an email. The truth is that we communicate through many senses. What we say is like the bones of a conversation, but our body language is the flesh and blood that animates it.
Therefore, be mindful of your body language. That means looking people in the eye when you’re talking to them. Crossing your arms is often seen as rude, as it implies that you’re not listening or not taking what you’re hearing seriously. Do what you can to be a better listener.
4. Be Interested in Others
You’re not a robot just mechanically going through your tasks until the closing whistle blows (at least not yet). Any workspace is made up of people who must interact and help each other to succeed and reach the goals of the company. But we take breaks, eat and even socialize.
It’s during these downtimes that people recharge and return to work more energized. It’s an important part of any productive business. So, you want to know your coworkers and have genuine relations with them. After all, you must spend hours a day with them. Don’t just give them lip service, be sincerely interested in their lives and passions. And share yours with them.
5. Share Credit
No one does it all by themselves. Those who say they do are ignorant or are lying and suffer from self-serving bias. It’s the poorest of forms to take all the credit for a job well-done and throw coworkers under the bus when something goes wrong. Don’t do it.
Acknowledge the participation of the group, be one of the many who collectively made good, and if there were mistakes made, take responsibility with the others on your team. This is called being a team player and is what builds strong teams. It makes work a shared effort, which makes the office more palatable.
6. Help Others
Nothing is worse for morale than one person doing the lion’s share of work and others sitting around twiddling their thumbs. Lending a helping hand can mean getting off your seat when someone is obviously overburdened or asks for your assistance. But helping others can also be mentoring less experienced workers or showing the ropes to new employees or interns. Think about when you were new to the office and how some rules might have been opaque.
Okay, this might go against the grain for some. There are optimists and there are pessimists and neither position is right nor wrong. They’re just how individuals look at the world. Some people like to smile, and others don’t. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that. But in our culture smiling is the more acceptable norm. For many people it makes them, and others, feel comfortable and creates a less tense environment. Try it and see.
8. Be on Time
Work is about schedules, whether deadlines for tasks or when you’re supposed to show up at the office or a meeting. If you don’t respect time, then you’re going to build resentment at work. How would you feel if you struggled each morning against traffic to make it to work on time and then your coworkers just strolled in whenever they felt like it? Chances are you’d look up from your desk full of paperwork and it wouldn’t be to smile.
The same is true for when meetings are called. Yes, meetings often can be time-wasting endeavors, but that’s not for you to decide. If a meeting is called at a specific time, be there at that time.
9. Don’t Get Too Personal
This might seem contradictory to the earlier “Be Interested in Others” advice, but it’s really a matter of degree. You want to be friendly, but you don’t want to be creepy. Respect people’s privacy and everyone has a different idea of how public or private they want to be in a work setting.
Here’s another reason to avoid getting too chummy with coworkers, especially if you’re in a managerial position. It might cause others to think you’re playing favorites. Bottom line: it’s unprofessional.
10. Have a Professional Appearance
There’s the old saw that each employee is a walking reflection of the organization, and that’s true. But appearance goes further than that. It means being aware of your personal hygiene. You don’t want to smell, either from not bathing regularly or overdoing it with perfume or aftershave.
Appearance also means how you dress, obviously. This depends on the corporate culture. Many businesses embrace a more casual attire, though others remain in the suit-and-tie world. Shorts and sandals with a provocative T-shirt might fly at a younger startup but it’ll get you a reprimand if you work for financial services.
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