Office Etiquette: The Devil is in the Details

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Our office etiquette leaves a lasting impression and sets the tone that can affect the way a colleague, client, boss, or vendor views us. Good manners and proper office etiquette build authentic relationships and lead to harmony, productivity and profitability.

On the flip side, poor behavior can damage your reputation, your credibility and your ability to work successfully with others.  Treating coworkers and colleagues without courtesy and respect can limit career growth and opportunity.

It’s just plain smart to observe certain rules of office etiquette. Here are eight.

  1. Respect your coworkers’ privacy. Hovering over your coworker’s cubicle to grab attention is a no-no. “Knock” on the other person’s imaginary door and wait for a signal to enter before you forge ahead. Don’t lean on your colleague’s desk, place your papers on it or scan what is on the computer screen or desktop. If your name isn’t on it, don’t read it, touch it, or share it.
  2. Don’t borrow without permission. We’ve all borrowed a coworker’s pen in a pinch—only never to return it. Nothing is more annoying than borrowing—and losing—someone else’s property without their permission. Just because your peer is not present does not allow you to rifle through that person’s desk looking for a gem clip or a stapler without asking first. Pick on someone whom you can ask.
  3. Standing up shows respect. Whenever someone enters your office (assuming you have one), stand up in greeting. Even if you don’t have a private work space, stand up. When you remain seated, you are sending a message of discourtesy and disrespect. You might as well say, “You are not important enough for me to get up.” By all means, come around from behind your desk to greet and shake hands.
  4. Don’t email time-sensitive information. If you need a colleague to send you a copy of a report immediately, walk a few feet over to that person’s cubicle. Don’t send an email. If the person’s desk is not within walking distance, pick up the phone. It may seem more practical to send a text or an email, but you risk being viewed as lazy or lacking social skills. What’s worse is that you may not get the material you need when you need it.
  5. Watch your language. Cursing has been slowly creeping into the workplace. We are constantly exposed to four-letter words today, but that doesn’t make them acceptable in “polite company”. Your coworkers should be considered “polite company”. People who feel the need to curse are not only being disrespectful to others; they send a message that they have a limited vocabulary. When you draw that name for the office party, you might consider giving the “curser” a dictionary.
  6. Write thank you notes. That may sound like an antiquated idea, but it will enhance your relationships. When a coworker does a favor for you—perhaps helps you out with a project, write a note. It is a low-cost, high-impact way to demonstrate your professionalism.
  7. Keep your voice down. Talking loudly on the phone in your cubicle can be distracting and annoying to your colleagues. If you don’t have confidence in your phone’s microphone, take your call elsewhere. Find another area of the office or move to a conference room. Speakerphones have no place in an open office. It doesn’t matter what you are talking about or to whom. No one else wants to hear your conversation.
  8. Keep it clean. Office wars have been known to start in the kitchen. You know—those people who never clean up after themselves, drink the last cup of coffee and don’t refill the pot, always leave their food in the refrigerator until a hazmat team needs to be called in, and worse yet, eat someone else’s lunch. Be responsible, respectful and considerate. People are watching!

It’s the details that count. The smallest things can either build or destroy relationships. Good manners are relationship builders.

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