5 Do’s and Don’ts of Professional Office Etiquette (Hopefully you’re Not a Number 5!)

Though most of us are adults, it’s sometimes easy to forget the basics of establishing and maintaining good relationships with the people we work with.

Annoying businessman

Following are 5 do’s and don’ts of inter-office etiquette that everyone should know already, but which are often neglected:

1. Do: Show appreciation to coworkers and management.

Naturally, when someone does something kind for you, you need to say thank you. Failure to do so will result in you looking unappreciative, arrogant, narcissistic, or all the above!

For instance, if someone drops some documents you printed off on their way by your desk, make sure to thank them. Don’t be dismissive because you’re busy, or think you can pay it forward to them later with a kind gesture of your own. If they’re the type of person who takes manners seriously, they may well go back to their desk seething in anger, or talk bad about you to coworkers and smear your rep. At the very least, send them an inter-office email and explain you’re in hyper-focused mode, but really appreciate their kindness – offer to buy a coffee on your next break, etc.

2. Do: Always keep your manners in check

Bad manners can lose you clients, coworker’s respect, and even your job. A thriving office culture, with happy employees, a solid functioning team, and satisfied customers, all relies on good manners to avoid misunderstanding and/or outright conflict.

Here are just a few offensive bad manner faux-pas to avoid at the office (and everyday life in general):

  • You bump into someone and just keep walking or offer a curt nod to the person you’ve just accosted physically.
  • Eating dinner with clients and coworkers like you would while sitting in your living room with a large pizza in front of you – after you just fasted for two days!
  • Excluding team members from conversations (really bad, everyone’s input is important).
  • Snapping photos of coworkers and clients without their permission.
  • Leaving long-winded email or voicemails for hopelessly busy managers, coworkers and clients.
  • Sitting in the boss’s seat when you arrive first to a meeting.
  • Taking the last cup of coffee without setting another pot to brew.
  • Stealing people’s lunches and snacks.
  • Making negative comments about people’s attire, house, car, family, etc.
  • Programming your ringtone with “I like big butts and I cannot lie” and turning up the volume full blast.
  • Failing to turn your phone off during meetings of all kinds.

3. Do: Be on Time

Being fashionably late isn’t a practise that’s welcome at any workplace. You’re not Jennifer Lawrence arriving at the latest Hunger Games premiere, you’re a paid employee.

Whether you’re the boss or coworker arriving at a meeting 5+ minutes late, or a sales/marketing rep who got stuck in traffic on your way to a meeting with an important client; “timeliness is next to godliness”. Being late for any reason leaves the immediate impression that you value your own time more than others.

4. Don’t: Be a Scuttlebutt

Office gossips often believe themselves to be the most popular. The “go to” person that has their finger on the pulse of everything going on in and around the office. Often this is a sad delusion on the offending party’s part.

Every office has one or two people who love to sit by the water cooler waiting to tell anyone who passes by about “Mary’s latest boyfriend who’s just using her for her money” or how “Brad hits on anything that walks.”

If you’re talking to another gossipper, they’ll love you for the info you share and likely turn it against you when they tell the next person they see about what “you” told them about “so-and-so.” For the majority of everyone else, they’ll quickly learn to avoid you and will “gossip” about you with others of their kind, talking about how insecure you are for needing to spread rumors and personal information about others without their permission.

5. Don’t: Neglect Personal Hygiene

This is one of the most dreaded topics when it comes to inter-office etiquette blunders. You can’t expect to get respect from the people you work with if you won’t make the effort to shower before work and wear clean clothes – sans rips and stains!

Hygiene blunders, other than the very occasional (ie., your car broke down and you had to use your mountain bike to make it to work on time in the middle of a July heatwave) are a very avoidable way to lose the respect of coworkers and of course, clients.

Worse, it’s very hard for people to bring this up. After all, how do you approach an adult who’s supposed to be a seasoned professional and tell them they smell like a sewer, or that their clothes don’t meet the “documented” company dress code?

Share Your Own Experiences and Thoughts

There are many more office etiquette do’s to embrace and don’ts to avoid. Share your experiences with poor office etiquette in the comments. Feel free to offer any tips you might have for making friends instead of enemies with your coworkers and clients.


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