Workplace Etiquette

April 05, 2020

Workplace Etiquette

Etiquette is not a lost art. Knowing the proper ways to present yourself in a certain situation can help to make sure that you are moving toward success. This is especially true at work. If you have ever had a co-worker who ignores certain common courtesies, you know how distracting it can be.

Those distractions can also have negative effects on your team. Ignoring etiquette in the workplace can decrease productivity and team morale, and increase stress and frustration. Often, this becomes a never-ending cycle of negativity. To prevent this, there are many ways to practice workplace etiquette.

Return to the Basics

Saying “please” and “thank you” will provide a stable foundation in any situation. Whether you are the boss or a brand new intern, these words never go out of style. It is also a smart consideration to practice being on time – even early – for meetings. Once at your meetings, be fully present. This means putting your cell phone on silent and in your pocket, while participating in the topic being discussed.

Since each workplace is different, it is smart to review your employment manual, likely given to you when hired, to make sure that you are following workplace rules. This should cover appropriate clothing, technology use, and conflict management. If you do not know where your copy is, check with your Human Resources department. Making sure that you and your co-workers are on the same page can help prevent conflicts.

Cubicle Tips

Working in a cubicle environment provides its own set of rules as privacy is at a minimum. One of the main ways to approach a co-worker who works in a cubicle is to pretend that they are in their own office (because in a sense, they are). When it comes to your own actions at your desk, however, remember that you are not in an office. After taking those factors into account, follow some of these tips:

  • If you need to speak with a co-worker, try knocking on their cubicle wall. If they are not able to be disturbed, they can let you know with a raise of the hand, without hopefully being too thrown off from whatever task they were doing (even if it seemed like nothing to you).
  • At your own desk, consider making a sign that says “Please Do Not Disturb” if you are working on an item with a deadline.
  • Respect co-workers space and property by always asking to borrow an item that they have in their area. If they are not available, find another source.
  • Do your best to keep your eyes on your own work, and off of theirs.
  • When speaking on the phone, try to use a pleasant telephone voice that is loud enough that you can be heard on the other line, but not so loud that you are distracting those around you. Avoiding speakerphone is also helpful.
  • Consider keeping your personal phone on silent, and discussing confidential and personal topics in another location.
  • Decorate your cubicle to express your personality and motivate you, but remember that your co-workers and bosses will walk by. Keep your cubicle classy and respectful.

Things to Consider in Shared Spaces

There is more to consider than property and noise concerns at work. All of our senses are involved in our workday, and should be thought of when interacting with co-workers.

  • Your selected lunch might smell appetizing to you, but not so much to those around you. Keep your food in the cafeteria and try not to eat at your desk. Taking a lunch break can also help you feel better and re-focus your work when you start up again.
  • Pay attention to noises that you make that could be distracting or rude to others. Some examples include pen-tapping, chewing gum, or sighing.
  • Some people have a strong reaction to scented products such as perfume, cologne, and lotions. Choose mildly scented products, and keep your application minimal.
  • Keep yourself and your area clean: bring your lunchbox home every day and clean it out, maintain an organized system for tasks, and put your garbage in designated areas.
  • When you are sick, keep your germs at home and away from your co-workers. Consider attending important meetings via phone or video chat. If you must go to work, keep hand sanitizer and tissues within reach.

Conflict Resolution Tips

If you are noticing someone causing problems in your work place, consult your Employment Manual for how to resolve conflicts according to protocol. If appropriate, speak with your co-worker about their behavior. Approach them with respect and focus on the benefits that can arise from some changes, while also helping to seek solutions. If problems are not getting better, or are getting worse, speak to your supervisor or a representative from Human Resources to help resolve the issue.   


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