Have you ever wondered why certain people got promoted while you were overlooked, even though your work was as good as or better than theirs? Have you interviewed for multiple jobs and never received gotten a second interview? If you said yes to either of those questions, you might want to take a look at something besides your job skills.
Etiquette and manners are essential elements in any workplace. Showing up late for an interview is a sign that you might do the same during a workday. Focusing on notifications on your cell phone during a business meeting is rude and shows that you're not paying enough attention to what you're being paid to do.
It's also important to be able to work well with others. Business leaders understand that they are only as good as the people who work for them, so most of them encourage their employees to get along with each other. In order to do this, you need to follow certain social etiquette guidelines with a more formal slant that you would observe in a casual relationship with your childhood pals.
Never forget that you are in an environment where you were chosen for your skills and experience rather than your sparkling personality. All the charm in the world won’t do your work for you, but knowing the right things to say and do can make your workday a whole lot easier.
No one expects you to have a smile plastered on your face all day, but an ounce of friendliness will open some doors to communication. Ignoring people or being grumpy might throw a wrench into a team project or give others the impression you aren’t interested in working with them.
Quick and easy ways to exhibit friendliness in the office:
- Start out the day with a quick greeting. The person in the next cubicle will appreciate a smile to start the day.
- Shake hands and introduce yourself to anyone you don’t know.
- Ask the others how they are.
Keep in mind that there is a fine line between being connected and “in the loop” and getting involved in petty office gossip. It’s always a good idea to be in the know, but be careful about spreading information you are unsure of or listening to something that you suspect may not be true.
When you hear a new buzz in your office, pay attention, but don’t accept it as truth until it comes from one of the higher-ups. Office chatter often starts out as water cooler talk filled with what-ifs and may not be true.
If what you hear is something that affects you or your job, ask your supervisor if there is anything new that you need to know about. Avoid mentioning the gossip, or you might be asked for names. Or worse, your boss may think you are in on it. If what you hear isn't relevant to you or your job, it's best to let it go, unless it's dangerous not to tell someone.
Interruptions are likely to happen throughout the day in most offices, so it’s a good idea to learn how to deal with them. You need to first evaluate the urgency and deal with what is most important first.
Here are some ways to handle interruptions:
- If your cell phone rings during a meeting, shut it off without looking at it unless you have a very good reason to check it. If that’s the case, make sure the person leading the meeting knows beforehand.
- When someone walks up to you while you are in the middle of a task, let the person know you are busy. If the interruption is critical, deal with it as quickly as possible. In the future, let others know that you are only to be interrupted when there is an emergency that requires immediate attention.
- Never interrupt anyone else with something that can be handled through email or at a later time.
Unless you work alone and never interact with anyone during your workday, you will have to deal with office politics. It doesn’t have to be negative. Keep in mind that everyone in your office is working toward a common goal: the success of your company.
Ways to make office politics work for you:
- Offer to serve on committees, even when you can’t be in charge. This shows your willingness and ability to be a team player.
- Never be late for a meeting.
- Even if someone has messed up, never throw him or her under the bus. If you have a gripe or suggestion, do it privately and without an army behind you. There may be a time when you need that person’s cooperation, and you don’t want to alienate your coworkers. Mistakes need to be handled with tact and discretion.
- Remember to give praise where it is due. Implementing someone else’s idea is fine as long as you don’t try to get credit for it. That person will remember what you do in the future.
- When people are promoted, avoid pettiness that can happen by feeling as though he or she didn’t deserve it. Jealousy is never attractive. Be positive and maybe next time you’ll be the one with the promotion.
A team of employees is only as good as the communication among the members, so make sure you keep everyone in the loop about anything that concerns them. The easiest way to ensure no one gets left out is to set up an email loop that includes everyone. Follow up every meeting with a recap that get sent to the loop.
Additional tips to keep communication open:
- Have an out-of-office message set up on your email and voicemail.
- When you send an email, get to the point as quickly as possible. Rather than list dozens of key points in one long email (unless it is a recap of a meeting), address each issue separately.
- If you are ever unclear about a point, state it to the group. You may not be the only person who doesn’t understand something.
- If there is a conflict, try to settle it privately. However, if the entire group is involved, you may need to bring in a third party mediator to prevent the dissension from escalating. Be very cautious about clicking "reply all."
- Never state an opinion about anyone to the group. This can be the start of gossip.
Since humans work in the office, there is no way to get around all personal matters. Embrace them and learn to accept your differences. Office relationships can enhance your life, even when you don’t agree with the other people’s opinions.
Keep in mind that some people’s personalities will click, and they may establish a personal relationship out of the office. If you are not included, don’t feel bad. This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with their common interests, culture, temperament, or whatever else draws them together.
Before you try to sell your children's latest fundraiser at the office, find out what the company's policies are. If you're allowed to bring these things in to sell, be respectful and accept that some people won't purchase from you. Never take a "no" personally.
More Office Etiquette Tips
Every single day in the office can present new challenges. Be prepared to deal with them in an ethical way. Keep a positive attitude, project a calm demeanor, and show respect for others. By doing so, you'll have a head start on showing a professional image.