Office Etiquette 101

Office Etiquette 101

Congratulations, you have a career.

For your sake (and those that work around you), I am going to provide you with a laundry list of things that I have learned to drive people insane in the office.

  • Put down your phone. If you are talking to someone, don’t check your phone during the conversation.
  • Don’t bring seafood to work. It smells and will make the entire office smell. People will hate you.
  • Don’t chew loudly during meetings. Don’t chew loudly at all.
  • Always hold the door. If someone is just a little too far away make sure to say “you don’t have to run” because most people tend to go into hustle mode to get to the door.
  • If you are wearing headphones, don’t sing out loud. Maybe do this because it’s hilarious.
  • If you borrow office supplies, always return them the same day.
  • Community fridge? Always label your lunch. Do not eat anything that is not yours.
  • The reply-all button should be used in emergency instances only.
  • Be on time. I feel like this is so important I devoted an entire chapter to it.

Keep Personal Opinions to Yourself

Keep Personal Opinions to Yourself

I can guarantee that you will not like every person you work with. It’s not realistic to believe that you will. Everyone has different working styles and different beliefs and that’s okay. There will be people that you clash with. Keep it to yourself. Obviously, performance-related matters should be elevated but personal opinions have no place in the workplace.

If you have a problem keeping your opinions in check, try getting a notebook and writing them down and then throwing them away or texting them to yourself or sharing them with a close friend, family member, or significant other after work.

Sharing personal opinions can lead to creating a toxic work environment. Every person in an office should strive to keep matters professional.

Always remember that you are here to work, and you are getting paid for it. Avoid getting involved in gossip in any way shape or form. If you see that it’s happening, try to find a way to exit the conversation. You don’t want to be associated with it.

If you voice your opinion and others don’t agree, you end up looking bad. If you voice your opinions and others do agree you become part of the office gossip train which can spiral out of control quickly and potentially land you in hot water with the HR department.

Never put anything negative in writing. If you do you are setting yourself up for trouble. Additionally, you must be careful even when you are joking around with others. Make sure that you don’t make anyone the butt of a joke or call them out publicly.

It’s not nice, it’s not good etiquette. Just don’t do it.

Speak Up for What Is Right

Speak Up for What Is Right

Do not be a tattletale. I am in no way implying that you need to contact HR every time Betty prints her son’s permission slip on the company printer. It might not be right but perhaps Betty had to work late and didn’t have time to do it at home. It’s not your job to get other people in trouble, but it is your job to speak up for what is right.

If someone is being treated poorly or discriminated against based on race, gender, sexual preference/identity it is your responsibility to notify someone. If something feels wrong, it usually is. If something seems a little bit sketchy or shady it usually is. Don’t ignore these gut feelings.

Don’t get involved in other people’s battles, just notify the person who would handle it and then stay as far out of the mess as you can.

Be Honest

Be Honest

This one gets me mad fired up. You have no idea how passionate I am about this. There is nothing that I hate more than doing business with somebody who isn’t honest and open. I’m not talking drunk girl in the bathroom honest, I’m talking down-to-earth, sincere kind of honest. I hate being lied to. I hate being strung along and wasting my time. I can’t think of a single person that I have ever met that enjoys being lied to.

Here are some tips to make your work with your team and partners much smoother:

  • If you can’t take or use my business, don’t take meetings with me. We can continue to correspond over email, but I would hate to use my companies’ resources to fly out and meet you if there isn’t a chance in hell we will be working together.
  • Don’t lie about missed deadlines. Give me the courtesy of a timely heads up. Don’t tell me that something can be done on time if in fact there is no way that it can. I don’t like bad surprises. If there is going to be an issue and you notify me right away, I can act proactively. If you notify me at the last minute and I miss my son’s pre-school parent’s night because I am dealing with a dumpster fire that could have been prevented, we are going to have words.
  • Don’t know the answer. That’s fine. Let me know and we can work together to find it.
  • Late to the meeting – that’s okay. Don’t make up crappy excuses. I won’t believe them anyway.
  • Feel like a project is going in the wrong direction. Don’t let the train just go off the tracks. Speak up.
  • Don’t agree with a new policy. Let me know why and maybe we can adjust.

Being honest is a quality that every boss, manager, and college can appreciate. Being honest is more than just being upfront about missed deadlines and issues. It’s about speaking your truth and not holding back. Have you ever wanted to say something and didn’t and then three days later someone else says the exact same thing you were thinking and you’re like… “damn, I wish I had just said it when I thought it”? Be honest, be open and be you. If you say something that isn’t right or doesn’t make sense it can easily be ignored. What can’t be ignored is a missed opportunity because you weren’t honest with yourself and your team.



Say Thank You (all the time)

Say Thank You (all the time)

Have you ever held the door for someone just to have them whiz past you and completely ignore the fact that you existed – like the door just magically opened for them? If you’re like me this makes you want to chase them down and remind them that they need to get a set of manners and also share a few choice words with them.

One of the top tips I have learned in my career I learned at The J.M. Smucker company. This company believes that one of the most important things you can do to improve the overall company culture is to say Thank You, and I couldn’t agree more. From the moment I started working at the company, it was apparent that just about everyone felt valued, they felt cared for and they felt like their hard work and dedication didn’t go unrecognized. Every presentation is opened with a list of people that worked on the project and made it possible.

Saying Thank You is so easy and makes such a big impact. You don’t have to write a lofty letter or even send an email – all you do is take a few minutes to let your team know that they made a difference and that you noticed.

Sometimes, it can be easy to forget that you work with other people outside your direct team but take a few minutes each month to think about all the people that make what you do possible and spend a few minutes putting together a couple nice notes or making a few phone calls to extend your gratitude to the rest of the people you work with like print vendors, the HR department and training teams – really anyone who touches your business and makes a difference. Put on a calendar notice quarterly to express your gratitude towards anyone that makes your life easier.

I have found that the more tenure folks tend to get in their career journey, this starts to become one of the tasks that they don’t have time for. When I saw how much of an impact it made when an entire company with every person at every level of their career embracing the Thank You mentality, I was shocked. When you walk through the building you can feel it in your bones. People like working here and they love what they do.

I keep a set of Thank You cards at my desk now, so that it’s easy for me to write up a little note and drop it off when someone makes a difference in my day.

With that being said… Thank You from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to read every page of this book. I spent a lot of time writing it and I’m hoping that it’s been a beneficial experience for you. If you found any bit of useful information in this book, I ask that you share it with your colleagues that might benefit.