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Office Etiquette
By: Joanne Dunn, Joanne Dunn & Associates
and Michael C. Dennis M.B.A., C.B.F., L.C.M

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Office etiquette involves personal behavior by employees that promotes positive interactions between co-workers, employees and customers. Many codes of personal behavior are not found in the employee handbook. Why? Because they are "expected behaviors" not required behaviors. Examples of expected office behaviors include:

  • Always try to answer your phone rather than allowing it to go into voice mail.

  • Avoid chewing gum... it is impossible to do without making unpleasant sounds audible to those around you.

  • Avoid drinking alcohol at company events. Remember, whether you are at work, or at a work related function, your actions are always being observed.

  • Avoid eating at your is a work station, not a picnic table, and avoid eating food with strong odors for breakfast or lunch for obvious reasons.

  • Be a team player. This involves offering your assistance when something needs to be done.

  • Be polite to your co-workers.

  • Be courteous on the telephone, regardless of what the person calling has to say.

  • Be punctual in arriving at work, returning from lunch and especially for meetings at work during normal business hours. Employers can accept that workers are occasionally late to work because of traffic and other delays, but being late for a meeting during the day indicates the employee is careless, or disorganized, or does not care about their job.

  • Do not argue with your boss in public, and remember the corollary to this rule...don't argue period. Instead, offer a different perspective, and learn to back off if you see indications that your manager has heard enough.

  • Do not leave sensitive or confidential material on your desk where anyone might find it. If it's supposed to be kept confidential, lock it up.

  • Don't be a clock watcher. If there is an important assignment to be completed, offer to stay until it is done - and don't worry about overtime or comp time... that will take care of itself.

  • Don't curse at work --- regardless of the provocation.

  • Don't use a speaker phone except for conference calls. If you need to use your hands, get a hands free headset instead.

  • Don't use strong perfume or cologne. What is pleasant to some is offensive to others.

  • Even when you are in a hurry, take time for common courtesies.

  • Keep company secrets, secret. Having a reputation as one who cannot maintain confidentiality does not bode well for the employee's future with the company.

  • Knock before entering someone else's office, and wait to be invited in.

  • Limit the number of personal calls to family and friends, and keep all such calls brief.

  • Never engage in "intimate" personal conversations while at work.

  • Never write and send an email when you are angry. You may vent in haste only to repent in leisure.

  • Office décor should meet company standards and norms. For example, if the office norm is one family portrait, leave the rest of the album at home.

  • Remember that not everyone has the same sense of humor. Leave joke telling to comedians on television so you don't inadvertently offend a customer or a co-worker.

  • Remember that your appearance and the appearance of your office or workstation makes an immediate impression on others. Sloppiness is highly visible and has an immediate impact. It is easy for someone to associate a messy office or work station with an individual who is careless about their work.

  • The rule for paying the tab for a meal is easy to remember.. the person who extends the invitation pays.

  • Treat rude people with patience and courtesy. It is the one and only acceptable way to deal with such people.

Violating any of these guidelines, intentionally or unintentionally, demonstrates ignorance and a lack of consideration for others.

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