Workplace Etiquette – Getting Off on the Right Foot

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It’s a new year, but when it comes to workplace etiquette, there aren’t any new rules. Some people haven’t digested the old rules yet. Don’t be one of them. Here is a potpourri of tips on workplace etiquette for review in order to get off on the right foot in a new year.

When to start eating:

If you are seated at a table for eight or fewer, don’t begin until everyone has been served or until your host has begun. If you are seated at a long banquet table, you may begin eating when several people near you have been served.

What to put on the dining table:

Put on the table only those items related to food. That means no cell phones, car keys, handbags or sunglasses.

What if you don’t want to drink wine:

Simply touch the rim of the glass with your finger tips to signal the server not to pour. Do not turn your glass over. The same rule applies to the coffee cup when you don’t want coffee.

When and how to use speakerphones:

The only time to use speakerphones is when you want to include someone else in the room on the call or when you need both hands for taking notes. Let the person on the other end of the line know you are using speakerphone and why. There should be no surprises about who is listening in.

Holding doors for other people:

The first person to get to the door holds it for those following. Gender is not an issue here—just basic courtesy. When a man holds a door for woman, she need not be offended. The opposite is also true.

Using the office kitchen:

There are three basic rules—clean up after yourself, don’t put any stinky food in the microwave and remove your food from the refrigerator before it turns blue. The office fridge is not a science lab.

What to wear to work:

Know the company dress code. Even if casual dress is acceptable, don’t dress like you are going to the beach. Treat the workplace environment with respect.

When to talk or text on your smart phone:

The answer is simple—never in the presence of others. Think of texting in front of others like whispering behind their back. At a business meal or meeting, your phone should be on mute. And don’t look to see who called in or texted you until afterward.

Basic rules of email etiquette:

Use “reply all” judiciously. In most instances, only the person who sent out the email needs to see your reply. Don’t burden everyone on the list with unnecessary email.

Make completing the address line the last thing you do. Fill in the name and address of the recipient the last step you take. Hit “send” only after you have carefully proofed your message.

What to post on social media:

Only what you want the whole world to see. Not only can your friends view what you post, others can repost, copy, share or retweet anything you put out.

Behaviors in a cubicle workplace:

Be courteous and respectful of your coworkers. Keep noise, smells and other distractions to a minimum. When talking on the phone, keep your voice low.


Being on time is a basic courtesy. People who are chronically late show disrespect for coworkers and colleagues and send a message that their time is more valuable than other people’s time.

Travel etiquette:

Don’t crowd the boarding area. Move up only when your section is called. Stow your bags quickly and sit down so others may pass. Don’t treat your seat as if it is your living room recliner. Once off the plane avoid crowding the baggage carousel. Step forward only when you see your bags.

When to send a handwritten note:

Any time someone has gone out of the way to offer you a kindness, given you a gift or treated you to a meal. Nothing is as impressive or rare today as the handwritten note.

If you keep these workplace etiquette tips top of mind, you will enjoy a successful year.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: to find out how she can help you or your employees add the polish that builds profits.

Lydia’s mantra is “Etiquette and manners are not about following rules; they are about building relationships.”






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