Whether you’re starting a new job, transitioning from remote gigs to in-office work, or just want to brush up on a few workplace manners, business etiquette is important to understand. It will help you ensure that you’re staying on your colleagues’ good side and make it easier to build workplace friendships. The last thing you want, after all, is to make a bad impression without ever meaning to.
Fortunately, business etiquette is pretty straightforward and relies predominantly on being considerate of your coworkers and supervisors.
Want to make sure you’ve mastered the art of business etiquette in the office and guarantee that you’re not accidentally making any faux pas? The following six tips are a good place to start.
Rule number one of office etiquette-- or any type of professional etiquette, for that matter-- is to consider how your actions affect your peers. Even what may feel like tiny behaviors can translate into major transgressions if you aren’t paying attention.
Sure, your boss said you could take that extra day off or come in a little late. That’s great! But it might mean that someone else can’t take that same day off for their kid’s first recital while you hit the beach, or that they need to pick up your slack.
Think about requests you’re making and the impact it will have on your coworkers and your supervisors alike. This can typically help you steer in the right direction.
Politeness is excellent in the office because it can keep everyone on good terms, but you don’t want to let politeness fade into passivity. If there’s something that you want -- particularly if you feel that you’ve earned it — it’s typically a good call to be direct and ask for it outright.
Want to be considered for that upcoming promotion? Let your boss know and throw your hat in the ring. If they express that they don’t feel you’re ready, don’t take that as a permanent no, and ask what you could do to be ready for the position the next time it opens.
Are you looking to take the lead position on a new project, or request a little extra help on one? State your case, using past experiences as an example.
As long as the “polite” part is included in your directness, this is a great strategy to keep everyone on the same page.
When you settle into a rhythm and natural friendships start to emerge in the workplace, it can be easy to accidentally (or accidentally-on-purpose) end up excluding people.
If you head out to lunch and a few people tag along, make sure the rest of the team knows they’re invited to come if they’d like, too.
Let everyone know about happy hour after work, even if they don’t drink or you know they have to get home to their kids; no one wants to feel like people don’t want them to come, even if they can’t.
And if you celebrate someone’s birthday, make sure that the office does something for everyone else, too.
This will prevent bad blood from developing over typically minor incidents that were never intentional but could still be hurtful nonetheless.
This falls in line with “be considerate of how your actions affect your peers,” but this business etiquette tip is so important it’s getting its own section.
In the professional world, everyone is always waiting on something to move forward with that project, invoice, or next step. If you’re late to a conference call, you could have caused three other meetings to be bumped back or rescheduled, and if you end up taking a long time to respond to emails or Slack messages, you could accidentally be holding people up from completing the task at hand.
Respond to messages urgently, regardless of whether it takes a simple yes or no answer or something more complex. Be on time to meetings (or better yet, be early), and do what you can to ensure that you don’t ever have people waiting on you.
Every office is different, with their own unique company culture that encompasses a number of different things like dress code, workflow rhythm, and overall strictness. It’s important to try to mesh well with the office environment you’re working with, to prevent feeling out of place.
It’s good to follow the general office dress code, even if one hasn’t formally been established. You don’t want to overdress or underdress, because both can send the wrong message or more importantly, make you feel uncomfortable.
Use the communication tools and methods that your office relies on. If your entire company is using Slack and you’re insisting on email, it will throw everyone off and slow things down.
If one office environment isn’t for you, that’s ok, it happens. Stick it out while you can, as corporate etiquette dictates, and discreetly look for a new workplace that’s a better match for the company culture you’re looking for.
Good manners go a long way, even if some people supposedly claim that they’re overrated (which I’ll never understand).
There are a few that are particularly important in a corporate environment. These include:
Business etiquette is important, so don’t brush it off as being for uptight people who are too prim and proper to enjoy life. (I’m looking at you, fellow Millennials). There’s something to be said for maintaining the professional status quo, working to blend into your office environment instead of causing chaos within it.
Looking to learn more about business etiquette? Take a look at the following resources:
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