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Office Etiquette

Rules are made to be:

  1. Broken at every opportunity
  2. Circumvented whenever possible
  3. Observed unquestioningly
  4. Helpful in most circumstances

Some people have trouble imagining rules as anything except hindrances to getting what they want.  People that didn’t understand Office Etiquette used to constantly borrow my stapler without asking until I bought a small brass chain and attached it to my desk.  One day it went missing, leaving the broken chain behind, and turned up in the photocopier room.

I worked out the perfect spot for it on my desk, where I wanted it to be every time I needed it, and Super-glued it in place.  Someone decided that I wasn’t allowed to “win” this battle against theft and broke it off to “teach me a lesson”.  This is the domain of very small minds.

I will loan anybody anything, anytime, provided they ask.  I like to be thought of as kind, considerate and helpful.  I won’t, however, be taken for granted.

Office Etiquette

There are some simple rules, which are largely common sense, that serve to lubricate office interactions.  Unfortunately, sometimes, common sense isn’t the first choice of some individuals.  Listing some of the best choices for good office etiquette may help your favorite miscreant realize when they are doing something inappropriate.

  1. All it takes is for one selfish person who has “never missed a day’s work in my life no matter how sick I am” to decimate an office.  Office etiquette says: If you’re sick, stay home!  
  2. Before starting a presentation or entering a meeting, silence your phone or any other distracting noise makers.  If you manage to forget and it rings, apologize to everyone, send the call to voicemail, and turn it off.
  3. The “Open Office” concept was once regarded as very progressive, but former cubicle-haters suddenly discovered that they had absolutely no privacy and wanted their cubicles back.  The noise levels rose; it was harder to concentrate; there were ceaseless interruptions.  Office etiquette says: Treat your neighbors’ desks as sacrosanct by asking permission to interrupt them “when they have a moment.”
  4. Whatever your job, if you need to listen to an audio (say, a Podcast) use headphones or an earpiece.  If you need to be on the phone, modulate your voice so it doesn’t annoy the people surrounding you.  
  5. Eat in the lunchroom rather than at your desk, particularly if you’re eating strongly scented foods.  Someone might be dieting and starving, or offended/nauseated by your choices. Different people and different cultures are not going to have the same values as you.  Office etiquette says: Respect each other.  
  6. Be respectful and considerate of others and insist on the same for yourself.  There’s almost certainly a code of behavior so abide by it, or work to change it, if necessary.  If problems do arise deal with them immediately and directly, and don’t give them the opportunity to escalate.
  7. Don’t be a Glory-hog.  We seldom accomplish things entirely on our own.  Share the credit with all the contributors; that generosity opens the door for them to return the favor in the future.  Office etiquette says: Credit where credit is due; don’t marginalize any team member.
  8. Don’t use colognes, body sprays, or perfume because many people are sensitive or allergic.  The worst person in the office is always the one surrounded by a miasma of scent so intense that you can taste it in the air after they walk by.  Office etiquette says: Scentless is sensible, thoughtful, and considerate.
  9. Always be on time, or better yet, early.  If you’re late to a meeting with a customer it shows disrespect and reflects directly on the company.  If you’re late to a staff meeting it shows disrespect for your fellow employees.  Overstaying your time in a conference room, leaving the next group standing out in the hallway, waiting for you to leave, is grossly inconsiderate.  Office etiquette says: Be early rather than late, and don’t inconvenience or embarrass others.
  10. Add “Please, Thank you, and You’re welcome” to your everyday vocabulary.

The Takeaway

The whole purpose of office etiquette is to make things work as smoothly as possible.  If we tone down our own sense of self-importance and become more attentive to those around us with thoughtful consideration everything gets better.  Give it a try.


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