Office Etiquette Rules Every Professional Should Know

We spend a good chunk of our day at work and its the place where we learn and grow in our careers. How we behave in a work environment reflects on our productivity and reputation among our peers. Being kind and respectful of your co-workers is important, but it goes beyond that.

Office etiquette these days is no longer by the book as it once was. Today there are many unwritten rules that we need to follow in the workplace. Here are a few tips that can help you get ahead at work.

Don’t Use Social Media

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Photo Illustration by Chesnot Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Chesnot Getty Images

Over the course of our day, we may be tempted to reach for our phone and check out the latest posts on Instagram and Twitter. Unless it is a professional requirement, as a rule of thumb, it is important to stay away from social media during the workday.

Surfing the net during work could harm your productivity and performance. It could also affect your reputation as your boss will notice your lack of enthusiasm for the task at hand. Make sure to check your social media outside of work hours.

Take Personal Calls Elsewhere

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Photo by Hugo Philpott via Getty Images
Photo by Hugo Philpott via Getty Images

Since we have our phones on us at all times, getting personal calls through the day is pretty much inevitable. If you have a door, make sure to close it before you take a call and if you don’t, you can tell the person that you will call them back during your break.

The workplace is an open space, so it is important to be mindful of other’s privacy when taking personal calls. If the call is urgent, you can always excuse yourself and go to a common area to take the call.

Always Accept a Lunch Invite

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Photo by Kaveh Kazemi via Getty Images
Photo by Kaveh Kazemi via Getty Images

In today’s age of social media, it is often easy to overlook the value of meeting your friends in person. We’re all busy in the workplace but this is still no excuse to avoid spending time with your peers. Hence, always accept that lunch invite.

Meeting peers outside of work helps strengthen those bonds and connect on a deeper level. Whether you are discussing work or personal matters, having lunch with a friend can strengthen your relationship. Making connections, both inside and outside of work is always important.

Show Respect To Everyone

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Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Good etiquette essentially means to show respect to everyone. When opening doors or getting out of the elevator, always remember to hold the door for your boss or coworker and let them enter first. This reflects well on your personality as well.

However, while you may think it is only important to respect your boss, you need to show respect to the people you work with and those that work beneath you. Companies expect all employees to be respectful to each other regardless of their designation.

Stay Home If You Are Sick

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BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

This may seem quite obvious but if you have a nasty cold or sense a fever coming on, it is best to stay at home. While you are trying to advance in your career, taking a few days off can feel like you are taking a few steps back but showing up to work sick is not the answer.

For one, you need to remain conscious of your peers and stay at home so as to not spread the flu. Secondly, showing up to work sick can harm your productivity and you would be better off resting at home until you are free of the flu and show up to work refreshed and rejuvenated.

Don’t Eat at Your Desk

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Vince Talotta/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Vince Talotta/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Bringing in your leftovers from the previous day and eating it at your desk can lead to terrible odor in the workspace. All companies should have a designated space to eat your meals. One of the most important etiquette rules is to remain mindful of others’ privacy and eat your food in the appropriate area.

When you are busy, it can seem easier to just eat at your desk but as the smell disperses, it can distract your coworkers. You should make it a habit to eat in your company’s lunchroom even if it is for a few minutes.

Keep Emails Formal

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Photo by Robert Nickelsberg via Getty Images
Photo by Robert Nickelsberg via Getty Images

It is often easy to misread the tone of an email so as a rule, it is always important to keep your emails professional. Even if you are discussing a light matter with your peers over email, it is still important to keep your language direct and professional.

Many people believe that the use of exclamation points in e-mails is unprofessional but this is not always the case. When showing your co-worker some appreciation, an exclamation point can help reiterate your gratitude. However, too many exclamation points can come off as unprofessional.

Dress For Success

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Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images
Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images

They say that ‘you should dress for the job you want.’ While you may already be in a job you love, this is still no excuse to get sloppy with your outfits. The way you dress reflects on your personality and your manager will also appreciate the effort taken to show up to work in professional attire.

Research also shows that people who showed up to work in formal attire were more productive during the workday. If you want to make a good impression on your company’s management you should dress for success.

Be Mindful of Your Language

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Photo by Taylor Weidman/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Taylor Weidman/LightRocket via Getty Images

You may be close to your co-workers or work in a casual environment but this is still no excuse to blurt out the occasional curse word. Although your boss can be super casual in aspects relating to work, cursing in a professional environment speaks ill of your character.

Additionally, when working with your subordinates, discussions can get heated at times but it is important to stay mindful of your vocabulary. Criticizing your co-workers with harsh language can demotivate them and affect their productivity. Instead, you can give them constructive feedback on their work.

Reply to Everyone on the Email

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Photo by Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Photo by Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images

One of the major causes for conflict in an organization is miscommunication so many experts recommend that you get everything in writing, no matter how small the issue may be. Having proof of a discussion or points of action can help avoid conflicts in the future.

This means you need to make emails your best friend. When discussing important details on a project make sure to include everyone involved in the email thread. This ensures that nobody is out of the loop on the tasks that need to get done.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

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TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images
TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images

The office is a professional space where you need to work with your peers on a daily basis. Hence, it is important to stay tuned into the world around you and remain courteous of others. If you wish to listen to music while you do your work (depending on company policy) you can do so with headphones plugged in.

Alternatively, if you need to concentrate on an important report, you can sneak off to a conference room for some alone time. However, you should not make a habit of keeping to yourself. This could hurt your reputation as you may come off as anti-social and not a team player.

Stay Positive

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Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

One of the best ways to show your commitment to your job is to remain positive at all times. When talking to your boss or coworkers, make sure to stay cheerful and wear a smile on your face. Your enthusiasm will make a lasting impression on the management of the company.

When you have a positive attitude, you are more likely to have a more productive day. When taking on a task always be willing to get it done and do it with a smile. Managers like to see their employees content with the work they do.

Knock Before You Enter a Room

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Photo by Duane Prokop via Getty Images for MoveOn.org
Photo by Duane Prokop via Getty Images for MoveOn.org

When your boss or coworker shuts their office door, they do this for a reason. They may be buried under a mountain of work and when you pop in to ask a question, it could completely derail them from their productivity. Your boss is not available 24/7.

Even if you want to talk about something important, it would be best to send them a private message to find out if they have a few minutes to spare first rather than just barging into their office. Alternatively, the person may be on a conference call even if doesn’t seem like it from the outside.

Always Give It Your Best

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Photo by Neil Godwin/Future via Getty Images
Photo by Neil Godwin/Future via Getty Images

One of the best ways to show commitment to your job is to give every task your 100 percent from day one. While your coworkers may only perform the task to get the job done, going the extra mile to do more than the minimum requirement will always pay off in the long run.

Managers like employees who take initiative for their work and it will help you stand out from the crowd. Additionally, if you come across a roadblock, you should voice your questions and concerns and ask for more information so you can get the job done.

Keep Questions to a Minimum

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Photo by Taylor Weidman/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Taylor Weidman/LightRocket via Getty Images

Meetings are a great way to discuss important issues and bring up any questions or concerns you may have. Alternatively, you can receive feedback from multiple coworkers on a single problem. However, in some cases, when there are too many items on the agenda for the meeting, too many questions can derail the meeting and waste everyone’s time.

Hence, it is important to keep questions to a minimum, especially during priority meetings so that you are able to cover all the points of discussion. If you have any additional questions, you can always set up a meeting with your supervisor or the person in charge to resolve any questions.

Use Your Full Name When Introducing Yourself

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Photo by Leon Neal via Getty Images
Photo by Leon Neal via Getty Images

One of the biggest challenges of a new job is remembering everyone’s name. For most people putting a name to a face can be quite hard. If your organization has numerous employees it can be easy to forget names.

A good way to overcome this hurdle is to use your full name when introducing yourself. This helps you distinguish yourself from a sea of people who might even have the same name as you. People are also more likely to remember your first and last name rather than just your first name. It also makes it easier to connect on professional networks like LinkedIn.

Know the Trash Policy

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Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

You need to be mindful of your co-workers’ space and keep your personal and common space free from clutter. Many companies have specific policies so make sure to read up on them during your first few days at work.

Nobody likes a messy person so having a desk crammed with things you no longer need can affect your reputation among your peers and managers. Make sure to dispose of your clutter in the appropriate trash can. Don’t assume you can take out your trash anywhere you please, especially when it comes to food items.

Keep Your Thank Yous to a Minimum

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Photo by Spencer Platt via Getty Images
Photo by Spencer Platt via Getty Images

Showing gratitude for a coworker or client is always important in the workplace as it makes them feel appreciated. When your team wraps up a project, it is always professional to send out a thank you email to the people involved.

However, when it comes to showing gratitude, too much isn’t good either. If you are repetitive with your thank yous, it loses its meaning and you may come off as a little insecure. When appreciating your coworkers, make sure to keep your thank yous simple and sincere.

Don’t Get Involved In The Gossip

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Photo by Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Photo by Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images

One of the worst things you could do in the workplace is gossip about your co-workers. This could be detrimental to your reputation and in a worst-case scenario, you could even lose your job over it. Your co-workers want to be around people who exude positivity so your personality needs to reflect this.

While you may be tempted to discuss personal matters in the office, it is important to remember that gossiping about others can portray you in a bad light among your peers.

Be Mindful of Allergies When You Bring Your Lunch

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Photo by Tim Boyle via Getty Images.
Photo by Tim Boyle via Getty Images.

This is especially true in a small workspace. Your co-workers may have different allergies so it is important to remain mindful of the lunch you bring to work. Alternatively, if you want to bring your coworkers a few of your favorite baked goods, make sure to enquire about their allergies before you do this.

Smells travel so the food you bring should not have a strong odor which can cause the whole office to smell like your lunch. You need to be careful of allergies and smells when bringing your lunch to work.