Basic Office Etiquette Tips

Coworkers talking in office
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Whether you are starting a new job or you've been working at the same job for years, it's never too late to check yourself for your office etiquette. Having manners around your coworkers and supervisors can make the difference when it's time for promotions or special assignments.

Every office has a personality, and it is essential to learn what it is as soon as possible after you start working there. There are certain proper workplace etiquette rules that apply to almost every business, so start with those and add to them as you get a better feel for what is expected.

Make a Good First Impression

You only have one chance to make a first impression, so make it a good one. The way people perceive you when they first meet you will last quite a while. Remember that changing a negative opinion is much more difficult than maintaining a good one. Gather clues during your interview and ask any specific questions (start time, dress code, etc.) to HR before you start.

Don't Be Late

Always show up for work on time. Not doing so can slow down business and create animosity because you have held up a project or appear to be slacking. If you see a pattern in getting to the office five minutes late, set your clock for five or ten minutes earlier. If you do encounter a rare late day, let someone in your office know when they can expect you in.

Be Respectful of Others

Whether you work in a private office, have a desk in a maze of cubicles, or sit in an open office with dozens of co-workers, you should respect everyone else. If everyone does this, you'll find that there is very little drama that adds stress to a busy workday.

Take turns speaking without interrupting. Allow each person to complete a thought and interject only when you have something constructive to say. Your coworkers and supervisors will appreciate you more and consider you a team player, making you a more valuable candidate for future promotions.

Don't get involved in office gossip about other employees or the company. Even when you hang out with coworkers on personal time, think of something else to discuss. You never know what will come back to you, and the last thing you need to deal with is someone thinking of you as the office gossip.

When working in close quarters, remember that not everyone loves the smell of strong perfume and the sound of your favorite rock band. Other things you need to refrain from doing include humming, foot tapping, long personal phone conversations, and filing your fingernails. Keep your workspace neat and clean. No one likes to work with a slob, especially when it spills over into community space. Never leave food in the break room overnight, and don't let food spoil in the office kitchen.

Be Friendly to New Employees

Remember what it felt like to be the newest person in the office. Smile at the new person, strike up a very brief conversation and ask him or her to join your group for lunch. Offer to answer any questions and comment about how you remember what it's like to be new. Check in with them after the first week or two, when they may be less overwhelmed and appreciative of a friendly face.

Boost Others

One of the things that can ruin your reputation in an office environment is to claim someone else's ideas as your own. When talking about a project during lunch or after work, make sure that if it comes up at the meeting, you give credit to the correct person. If a supervisor mistakenly thinks it is your idea, set the record straight, no matter how tempting it may be to let them continue thinking you are brilliant.

By the same token, never blame anyone else for your mistakes. This only makes matters worse and will create animosity. You are better off admitting what happened and find a way to fix it. Everyone makes mistakes, but try not to make the same one more than once.

Smart Communication Skills

When communicating with co-workers and supervisors, the key is to get your thoughts across in a way that can be understood. Using too much corporate talk can be confusing and you run the risk of using it incorrectly. If you are ever in doubt about what the other person is saying, come right out and ask. This goes for voice communication as well as texts and emails.

Dress Appropriately

Every office has a dress code. Don't break it. If you do wear inappropriate attire, you may find yourself in a boss-mandated seminar about how to dress for success. Or worse, you might get passed over for a promotion or even demoted. If in doubt, err on the conservative side until you are sure what is considered appropriate.

Think Before You Speak

People who blurt whatever is on their minds either spend quite a bit of time regretting and apologizing or they're perceived as someone who can't be trusted. When you're at the office, filter your speech. There may be times when you're confronted with conflict, so be prepared and keep a level head so the issue doesn't escalate.

Be Friendly

When you enter the office each morning, it's normal to greet your co-workers and mention something about what you did over the weekend or the previous evening. This doesn't mean giving away too many personal details. The people you work with don't need a blow-by-blow account of the argument you had with your significant other. It's none of their business and leaves you too exposed for a business environment.

If You Are Sick, Stay Home

When you have a virus that is contagious, it's rude to take it to the office. Not only will you get less work done, but you are also spreading your germs that can make other people miserable. Stay home and take care of yourself so you can get back to work and be more productive.