Professional Etiquette in the Workplace
Every organization has its unique corporate culture, and they can be wildly different. It’s understandable, then, to be nervous about learning a company’s particular workplace etiquette when you’re starting a new job.
Whether your organization holds a high standard of workplace etiquette or is more relaxed, setting a high standard for yourself and holding to some basic etiquette rules will set you apart as a true professional. Besides any information you’re given from human resources on the topic, it’s important to be especially observant for several months after starting a new job. You should try to pick up on how company rules are actually lived out as well as any unspoken rules that you are expected to follow. Researching and mastering corporate etiquette on your own time can be extremely beneficial, as well. A good time to do that is when you are furthering your education for career advancement. In fact, along with your degree, standing out in how you present yourself and communicate with others can become a stepping-stone to career advancement in and of itself.
With that in mind, let’s cover some etiquette basics that you can start practicing today!
The way you interact socially with others from work speaks volumes. Our social interactions are the foundation in helping us build professional connections. To protect and promote your character, follow these guidelines:
- Introduce yourself to those you don’t know with a firm handshake, confident eye contact, and a smile.
- Don’t engage in company gossip. Always take the high road on this one. Also, don’t stand around socializing with co-workers on company time.
- Demonstrate interest in people at all levels of the organization. Make an effort to get to know the custodian, the security guards, people in other departments, and the CEO.
- Remember that you’re always representing the company, even when getting together with co-workers after work or at company parties.
- Learn and use people’s names in your conversations. They will absolutely remember that you did, and you’ll build some social collateral.
- Greet people with a smile and a friendly “hello” (followed by their name) when they enter your space; also acknowledge when they leave.
- Recognize others’ accomplishments with a pat on the back or encouraging word. Everyone likes to be noticed for what they’ve contributed.
- Bring the coffee!
- Remember that what you post on social media could affect how you’re perceived at work – or even get you fired. So, be discreet.
You’ll need to manage your own time to stay on top of things, of course, and you’ll want to become known for holding yourself accountable to deadlines. Valuing and respecting others’ time in the workplace will earn you significant brownie points from your peers and supervisors. Here are some simple ways to practice time management:
- Arrive early to work. Get your coffee and check your schedule ahead of time so you’re ready to dive in right when your work day begins.
- Always arrive 5 minutes early to meetings – and come prepared.
- Finish projects on time. If there’s a hold-up, immediately communicate what it is and when you expect the new completion time to be.
- Schedule meetings in advance. Don’t barge into someone’s office and assume they have time for you. If it’s urgent, call ahead to see when you can connect.
- Let everyone associated with your role know when you will be out of the office or unavailable, as well as when you will be back.
- Offer to help out when a colleague needs to be gone.
- Be as flexible as possible, making yourself available to meet changing needs within your department.
Probably the number one complaint among employees is the poor quality or lack of communication from bosses and peers. To stand out, especially when you are starting a new job, commit to mastering good communication, which can significantly raise your chances for career advancement in the future. Try these tips:
- Ask people how they prefer to communicate. Then, make a note of it and use it. Your colleagues will generally be much more responsive when hearing from you through their preferred communication channel, whether it be phone call, text, email, or in person.
- Send well-written emails. Create a precise subject line, use proper grammar and spelling, re-read it for clarity and tone, keep your language professional, and keep the content subject related.
- Respond to all communiques. You know how frustrating it is when others don’t get back with you, so don’t be that person. Even if you have to set aside 30 minutes every day just for responding, don’t leave people hanging. Also determine if your responses should be to the group (Reply All) or individualized (Reply) so the communication doesn’t get overly complicated.
- Be a good listener. Whether you’re in a meeting or discussing something one-on-one, don’t interrupt the other person. Ask questions for clarity, and be prepared to make your points courteously, clearly and confidently at the appropriate time.
- Always show respect for leaders. Even when it’s hard, don’t undermine your boss or co-workers in front of others. If you disagree and need to work through an issue, do so in private.
- Follow the proper chain of command. Whether as part of doing your job, filing a complaint, or resolving a conflict, make sure you follow the appropriate protocol. Going rogue will almost certainly backfire.
- Keep your emotions in check. If you need to walk away to compose yourself, do so professionally. Even if others get heated, take the high road and practice self-control.
- Never post company stuff on social media. Period.
Now for a few easier workplace etiquette rules to follow. First, your workspace. Whether a cubicle or the coveted corner office, your work area says something about you. So, keep these tips in mind.
- Keep it clean and organized; avoid clutter.
- Make the space inviting – add some personal touches without going over the top.
- Be considerate of others working around you. Don’t play loud music or have personal conversations that can be overheard. Don’t have overpowering smells from food, perfumes or air fresheners.
- Be responsible for any messes you make in communal spaces, such as kitchens or break rooms.
First impressions count, and your appearance, for better or worse, is the first way people will judge you as a new employee. You can get it right by following a few simple guidelines.
- Identify the dress code for your workplace and meet or exceed it. Dressing professionally will allow you to fit in and not get noticed in a negative way. Don’t wear overly tight or revealing clothes or loud outfits. It’s okay to be unique in your style, but don’t overdo it. Also, make sure your clothes are clean and unwrinkled.
- Check your breath and always have breath mints with you.
- Make sure you are appropriately groomed - hair, beard, nails.
- Wear shoes that are professional but comfortable.
Just a few common-sense notes here:
- If you have to address a personal matter, do it away from your desk if you are in a cubicle, or take care of it during a break or lunch.
- As prevalent (and tempting) as it is, don’t engage in social media on company time.
- Limit the personal information you share with your co-workers, and don’t ask them for theirs.
- Don’t bring your personal problems to work or wear them on your sleeve.
Workplace Etiquette in the Classroom
Believe it or not, a great place to learn the basics of workplace etiquette for your profession is in the classroom. When you are furthering your education through Ottawa University's accelerated online degrees, you are taught by experts in the field. Often you have classmates who are experienced in the workplace as well. Both can serve as great resources for learning and practicing professional workplace etiquette.
Whether you wish to pursue a degree in nursing, elementary education, or accounting, all of our online degrees prepare you for success and equip you to confidently step into your career field. Get a head start today and reach out to an advisor from the best university in the Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Phoenix areas!
How to Create a Standout LinkedIn Profile
How to Choose a Degree Program
Benefits of the Ottawa University Online Education Experience