Being polite and courteous are basic office etiquette requirements. But have you ever thought about obscure details like how much perfume you wear or how clean your desk is?
Indeed, these factors play a role in being professional at work. And if you’re looking to impress your new colleagues or simply improve your reputation in the office, there are several manners and social skills that you can adopt.
So, to help paint yourself in a professional light, we’ve compiled a list of 13 office etiquette tips and rules.
1. Don’t interrupt your coworkers
As much as you disagree with Sally from Marketing, try your hardest to hold your breath while she’s talking. Interrupting people mid-sentence isn’t just disrespectful, it’s also irritating, and it makes others lose their train of thought.
Challenge yourself to stay quiet, let Sally finish and then say your piece – politely, of course.
2. Be polite, not rude
Speaking of politeness, good office etiquette is being able to maintain politeness in the workplace – even with colleagues you don’t like. A huge part of work involves building relationships.
You can go a long way by practising polite communication and gestures - didn’t your mother teach you your pleases and thank yous? This essentially keeps things civil and positive in the office.
And if someone’s truly making things tough for you at work, be the bigger person. Try your hardest to maintain decorum and deal with this difficult coworker in the nicest way possible.
3. Don’t be loud
Being considerate for others is one of the golden rules for workplace etiquette. You can stay loud and proud – just not in the workplace.
Bear in mind that there are people around you who are focusing on their work. Not everyone can handle a noisy environment, especially on a constant basis. So, try to keep shouting or speaking loudly on the phone at a minimum. It derails others’ concentration and, quite simply, it gets annoying.
4. Keep your volume down
Other than your voice, it’s essential that you keep ringtones, music and computer sounds at an acceptable volume. You don’t want to be that colleague who gets a ‘Shh!’ every time your phone rings. Nor do you want to distract your coworkers when you feel like blasting some Nirvana to get you through the day.
Show consideration to others by wearing headphones and by turning your phone and computer volume down.
5. Watch what you eat
Do your colleagues roll their eyes every time you reach for your lunch bag? Have you heard the famous ‘you can’t sit with us’ during most lunch breaks? Then, it’s probably time to watch what you eat at work.
Indeed, there are certain foods to avoid in the office, including fish, onions and egg sandwiches. These types of smelly food can cause distraction and offence, so stop being a food offender and save your spicy chicken curry for the evening!
6. Spray less perfume
Strong smells in a small or closed environment can cause headaches, nausea and general discomfort. In other words, respect your coworkers by wearing less perfume to work. After all, some people may have allergies, and it can become a great distraction for those nearest to you.
So, instead of spraying that cologne on every pulse point, spritz it in the air and walk into it. Sounds silly, but it stops your office from smelling like a perfume store.
7. Dress appropriately
Some people are lucky to work in an office where dress codes aren’t important. Others, however, are compelled to follow strict dress etiquette.
If this is the case in your office, make sure to plan your wardrobe accordingly. For example, avoid coming to work dressed in shorts and flip-flops – not only will you be the laughing stock of the company, but you’ll look downright unprofessional.
8. Tidy your office
Show good manners and professionalism by keeping the office and your desk clean. Wash any dishes you use, throw away unwanted food, papers and wrappers, and clean the toilet after yourself.
You don’t want your boss to pull you to one side and give you a scolding about your cleanliness, after all – that's embarrassing! You dealt with that enough as a child!
Maintaining hygiene in the office not only helps you work comfortably but also those around you, too.
9. Don’t get too personal
Making friends is always great, especially at work. It makes your day more enjoyable, and you feel you have someone to rely on.
But work is work and play is play.
So, keep things professional in the office and avoid letting personal matters and relationships get in the way. Likewise, don’t get too chatty when there’s work to be done, and never, ever show favouritism.
10. Don’t be late
Running late to work on a regular basis is a big no-no for bosses. They want to see their employees arrive at the office on time.
Being late shows disrespect and it gives the impression that you don’t care about your job.
If you truly struggle with managing your time, try to set your alarm earlier than usual so you have more time to prepare for work. Most importantly, if you are running late, send a message to your boss or a coworker to let them know.
11. Stay out of drama
Surviving office politics can be tough. One day people are shouting over your computer, and the next they’re banging doors and tables out of frustration.
Drama in the office is a nightmare as it causes immense disruption, and those involved make themselves look incredibly unprofessional. So, try your best to stay out of any politics among colleagues by avoiding gossip, not taking things personally and, quite simply, being nice.
If it’s too late, though, and you’re already two years into arguments and conflicts, learn to control yourself, stay calm and take any serious issues to management instead.
12. Stay home if you’re sick
Coughing and sneezing? Cover it, please! Or, even better, stay home! No one wants to work around a sick colleague!
If you’re struggling to get out of bed and feel like a total mess, you’re better off staying put and keeping the bug to yourself.
In the case of sickness, proper corporate etiquette is not being in the office at all. Make sure you’re well and ready before returning to work after an illness – no one wants to catch your germs!
13. Use proper language
There are dos and don’ts when it comes to your way of speaking in the office – especially around your boss.
Inappropriate phrases like ‘I’ll try’ or ‘That’s not my job’ make you sound like a slacker, while using slang words like ‘sick’ or ‘badass’ diminish your professionalism.
Another no-go in the office is the use of curse words – filter your speech, think before you speak and stay as formal as possible during your working day.
Of course, etiquette is often a result of upbringing and life experiences. Either you have it, or you don’t.
If managing your manners and overall decorum at work is something that you need to practise, we hope these tips have helped put you in the right direction.
How has office etiquette helped you in the past? If you have any other guidelines or rules for staying professional at work, share them with us in the comments section below.