A lot of office etiquette is rooted in the golden rule: ‘treat others as you’d like to be treated.’ Straightforward, right? It is in theory, but offices can often be high-pressure settings where people with little in common are forced to work together. These sorts of challenges are great for innovation and personal growth… but can also really suck.
Here’s how you can mitigate the suck in your office while making sure you’re not the problem.
Bear with us, since some of these will just be recaps of basic human decency rules we all learned in grammar school. But as we all know, some people could use a reminder.
- Do use basic spoken manners. It may seem obvious, but little words and phrases like ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘excuse me’ can go a long way towards ensuring your colleagues feel respected and valued. Don’t lay it on too thick but being a relatively polite person is always a plus.
- Don’t be overly verbose or foul-mouthed. It’s one thing to be friendly and swap stories with your coworkers; it’s another to launch into an hour-long diatribe about how your friend wronged you last week and you’re still fuming. One has a place at work and the other doesn’t. Similarly, foul language is acceptable in many office environments, but try not to overdo it. It can become grating or project an image of hot-headedness or vulgarity.
- Do be a team player.At our company, there are only about five of us in-office on any given day. That means that when unexpected obstacles arise – like misdelivered shipments that need moving – we all have to pitch in to help. This sort of ‘one for all, all for one’ attitude helps foster a sense of camaraderie and unity among colleagues.
- Don’t refuse to help based on ‘rank.’ Similarly, don’t refuse to help out because tasks are ‘beneath you.’ While it’s understandable you might not have time to make a coffee run for the office, if someone asks you to drop an envelope off at the post office on your lunch break, say yes.
- Do practice engaged listening.
“Tell them you have to wear tennis shoes to work every day. That’s proper etiquette.” – Owen Franklin, CEO of Blue Summit Supplies
- Don’t interrupt. This is good advice for life, really, but it’s especially applicable in office settings. There are two kinds of interrupting: cooperative interruptionand intrusive interruption. Cooperative interruption means you’re supporting, clarifying, or assisting your conversational partner. These social cues are alright in moderation. Just don’t intrusively interrupt – don’t try to dominate a conversation or speak over someone else.
- Do keep your phone on silent or vibrate. Especially in open concept offices! A loud ringer or a repetitive text alert can wreak havoc on the focus of everyone around you, and no one is impressed by how popular you are. Keep your phone close at hand on silent or vibrate so you can stay connected without being disruptive.
- Don’t check your phone during meetings or conversations. Your phone may be on silent, but it can be just as distracting (to yourself andothers) if you’re constantly pulling it out during meetings and conversations. Not to mention checking your phone is a flagrant sign you’re not giving the speaker your full attention. No matter how well you multitask, that’s a pretty jerk move.
- Do be engaged and interested. Nod, make eye contact, ask engaged questions – all things to show you’ve been paying attention and are retaining what you’re hearing.
- Don’t be a gossip or pot-stirrer. Talking about other people is human nature but check yourself before talking about your coworkers. It’s one thing to discuss how excited you are about Emily’s adorable new puppy; it’s another to share what you overheard of Emily’s marital problems. Similarly, don’t involve yourself in interpersonal office conflicts that don’t involve you. In other words: don’t stir the pot.
- Do clean up after yourself. This one is so simple that it’s elegant: if you make a mess, clean it up. For bonus points, clean up messes you may not have made. Someone left an empty coffee cup in the hallway? Put it into the dishwasher yourself. Good job, you. Gold star.
- Don’t be gross. This really should be its own golden rule since it covers a lot of ground while being succinct. In essence, take care of yourself; adhere to proper hygiene, keep your desk tidy, don’t eat stinky foods, don’t crack lewd and offensive jokes. Just… don’t be gross.
- Do bring in treats to share from time to time, if your workplace permits it. Alright, so this one is going the extra mile, but who doesn’t love the guy who brings in treats? Everyone loves treats. ... I wish I had some treats.
What other workplace tips do you have for getting along in a shared space? Or, better yet, where are your favorite treats from? Let us know on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And, as always, if you have any questions, send us an email! Larry loves to hear from you.
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