Office Etiquette – Acceptable Behaviors at the Workplace

Workplace Behaviours & Etiquette


Office (or work) etiquette refers to rules of acceptable social behaviors and conducts in a workplace or an organization. Such behaviors may involve actions, words or even physical gestures that may be the cause of the other person’s comfort or discomfort.

Office etiquette is just as important to business entities as performance; and as such, all members of an organization should be aware of their own behavior and how it impacts on others.

The workplace can actually become stressful when employees don’t follow basic etiquette, this could negatively affect employee morale and productivity, and that’s bad for business. 

In this article, I have carefully assembled a collection of standard etiquette rules everyone should strive to follow at work:

Concentrate on Your Work:

Seriously…. Do your work. You are employed to work, and work you should. Don’t make other people do it for you; and don’t disturb others from doing theirs.

Don’t play truancy. Always aim to exceed expectation. It’s good for you and everyone else.

Don’t leave your desk, loitering around and gossiping about recent political happenings in the country or latest football transfer deals. There is time for such – during lunch or break.

Communication / Music / Noise:

Remember to say: “Please”, “Thank you”, “You’re welcome”, as part of your everyday courtesy.

Mute your cell phone (or put it on vibrate mode) in the office to avoid disturbing others. You may also use low volume simple ringtones -- No fancy ring tones, no religious prayer tones or such that may offend people around you. Consider their values too.

Be aware of how loud you speak on the telephone. Avoid loud noisy phone calls even when discussing official matters. If you must speak loudly on phone, especially on personal issues, step outside the office to avoid disturbing others.

Don’t yell and scream at others at work, even when they have offended you or failed to perform their duties. Try to understand the reason for their actions and correct them respectfully.

Keep your speakerphone to a minimum (if at all, you must use it).

Listen to music responsibly (if you must): If you share an office, use headphones and keep the sound low enough to hear communications around you. If you use external speakers, keep the volume down so the sound doesn't get into other people's workspaces. Otherwise, turn the music off.

Dressing Etiquette:

Wear appropriate office attire, for example don’t wear flip flopping footwear – they are strictly casual.

Don’t wear see-through clothing – especially for the ladies. You are at work to showcase your skills not private body parts, so let others see those skills.

Don’t expose your midriff to display tattoos and/or body piercing.

Avoid wearing perfume or cologne right inside the office. Someone may be allergic to it.

Eating Manners:

As much as possible, eat your lunch in the cafeteria or canteen.

Avoid eating smelly food at your desk.

You may eat only ‘finger’ non-smelly foods or drinks on your desk, such as tea and simple snacks.

Chewing gum and popping bubble gum in the presence of co-workers is degrading. So, chew your gums silently.

Neatness and Toilet Manners:

Be neat and clean as much as the business requires you to be. Even a mechanic / technician should wear clean and properly washed coveralls, and be sure to wash them regularly to avoid choking others with stinking clothes.

Be sure to shower regularly and use a suitable deodorant to eliminate body odour -- we are all put off by smelly people.

Avoid coughing or sneezing in someone's direction. Use a tissue, if possible, to contain the germs, and then say "Excuse me".

Bathroom etiquette is crucial. Always leave the toilet clean after using it – flush it well. Hello…. Would you dirty your own toilet? No? Then don’t do it at the office.

Respect Others:

Avoid outbursts of anger, or yelling and cursing, even when provoked by people’s actions.

Avoid gossip. Don’t say negative things about other employees behind their backs.

Avoid talking too much about other people’s personal lives (whether good or bad).

Shun intolerant remarks that borders on race, gender, sex, religion, ethnic or nationality status.

Respect your co-workers’ property (and company property too).

Don’t take things from other people’s desk or drawer without asking. They may say nothing, but are they really cool with it?....

Behaviours During Meetings:

Always show up for meetings on time. If you’re running late, call and explain.

During discussion, avoid interruptions. Strive to keep your interruptions of others to a minimum and always apologize if you intrude by mistake.

Be attentive during meetings and avoid distractive actions like scrolling through emails on your smart phone or laptop – that’s actually not a ‘multi-tasking’ skill (duh… it’s simply wrong).

Beware that frequently complaining and/or criticizing others during meetings is a bad manner.

Final Thoughts:

Workplace etiquette makes the work environment respectful, pleasant, and productive. The above simple codes of conduct will enhance work relations, create a friendly workspace and ultimately boost employee morale and enhance performance and productivity.

(Main version of this article was first published by the Author in a company magazine, Indorama Impact)

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