Coworker Relationships and Office Etiquette

Coworker Relationships and Office Etiquette

Every office is going to have a team with a diverse collection of personalities and backgrounds.  Office efficiency, morale and productivity depend on the ability of potentially very different people to get along civilly and amicably.  Barring extreme conditions, however, most people can comport themselves civilly and professionally in a professional setting.   An office team that makes a point of basic friendliness with each other and aims for an upbeat attitude will likely weather many storms.  In many cases, office teams have the potential to struggle with individual self-awareness.

Individual self-awareness

How individuals behave will shape the collective behavior of the whole office team by lowering or raising the baseline for acceptable or standard behavior.   Moreover, many people find it very difficult to address minor concerns or annoyances with offenders because they don’t want to be seen as ‘difficult’ or ‘pushy.’   Here we list 13 common do’s and don’t of office etiquette.

Be pleasant and friendly.

Do: Be nice to and friendly with coworkers.  Keep language appropriate and body language pleasant, (i.e. smile, make eye contact, respect personal space, speak in a clear voice). Try to make a point of saying good morning and good evening to people in your office. Try to walk to someone’s cubicle or space to speak to him or her.

Don’t: use profanity.  Don’t discuss sex, religion or politics, ever.  Don’t stand too close to people.  Avoid entering or leaving the office at the beginning or end of the day without speaking to anyone. Avoid speaking over cubicle dividers or leaning on someone else’s cubicle wall.

  • Dress right.

Do: Wear work appropriate clothes.  Wear nice clothes.  If you work in an office, this means dress shoes, slacks and collared shirts or blouses (at least).  If you meet clients or customers in person, mimic their uniform (ie, selling to doctors in a hospital, wear scrubs, selling to office workers, wear a suit, selling to farmer, wear khakis and a collared shirt).   Wear clothes that fit properly.

Don’t: Wear revealing clothes.  Midriffs, cleavage and chest hair should be minimized.  Skirts should rest at least mid-thigh and preferably come the knee.  Don’t wear shorts in an office environment. Avoid jeans, or other ‘casual’ clothing in a professional setting. Avoid open toed shoes in any circumstance.  Don’t wear under or oversized clothing, tailor if necessary.

  • Respect privacy.

 Do: Mind your own business.

 Don’t: Jump into private conversations or comment on overheard personal calls if you happen to be in physical proximity to the speaker(s).

  • Be helpful and self-sufficient.

Do: Offer help freely and genuinely when you can.  If stepping out to a café while others are desk-bound, offer to bring something back.   

Don’t: count favors, offer tech advice if you don’t know anything about tech., Don’t ask for help on the same issue repeatedly or ask others to finish your work for you.

  • Share with discretion.

Do: Share as necessary about your personal life to further trust and bond with coworkers.  Exchanged personal stories also help to build friendships.

Don’t: over share, discuss personal medical issues, bodily functions, tell the same story or discuss the same subject repeatedly if the story or subject only relates to you (ie, YOUR pets, YOUR kids).   Don’t discuss yourself at length without asking about the other person.

  • Keep personal calls out of the office and bathroom.

Do: Step out of the office for personal calls.   

Don’t: Step into the bathroom for personal calls or try to socialize with coworkers while they’re ensconced within toilet stalls.

  • Maintain personal hygiene.

Do: Maintain a neat and hygienic personal appearance and see to hygiene/neatness at home or in the bathroom.

Don’t: clip or chew finger- or toenails at your desk.  Don’t blow your nose at your desk if it can be avoided.  If possible, avoid belching, passing gas, etc. at your desk.  Don’t wear strong perfume or cologne; avoid wearing at all.