Bosses, coworkers, and HR reps take note- it’s time for a quick refresher on office etiquette. It’s incredibly important to create a positive and enjoyable workplace environment- happy employees are more productive and innovative. You may not even realize you’re committing one of these office etiquette faux-pas! Let’s work together to ensure all employees have a safe and happy work environment.
Be sure all new employees are introduced to the rest of the group. If you notice your boss was too swamped to do so, take the initiative. It will help the “new guy” feel welcomed, and it will encourage the other employees to interact with them. In our current age of temporary and contingent workers, it can be hard to tell who’s a new team member and who’s just stopping by for the day. That being said, you should even make introductions for your temporary workers- it’s good manners!
When making introductions, comment on what the new person’s role will be. This will help the rest of the team understand where they fit into the scheme of things, and also facilitate additional interactions and integration (as opposed to employees avoiding them because they are not sure if they handle this issue or that).
Outside of Work Plans
I’m sure you heard this when you were younger, but it is definitely worth repeating- do not talk about plans in front of others if they are not invited to those plans. No one likes to feel like the odd man out, feeling isolated at work is one of the biggest influencers on employee dissatisfaction. Write an email, send a chat or text message- do not discuss your fun happy hour plans in the common areas. As a boss, if you notice there are clear “cliques” in the office, host a happy hour or two to help your employees mix and mingle more.
Do not complain about your boss or employees on social media. If you need to vent, speak to a close confidant who does not work in the office. Even if it seems “everyone else is doing it”- it is still not an appropriate thing to do. Not only is there a risk that they could see it, it creates a negative and catty atmosphere if any of your coworkers see the post.
Open Office Considerations
In an open office environment there are some special considerations to keep in mind:
- Limit personal phone calls, take those outside. Did you know that people tend to speak three times louder on a cell phone than in person?
- In general, talk in a somewhat quieter voice if a nearby co worker is on the phone.
- Avoid strong smells, like nail polish, powerful perfume, or smelly food (especially fish and spices, which are not universally appreciated)
- Limit interruptions of other employees. Just because they can’t close an office door doesn’t mean they’re available all day long. Sharing calendars is an excellent modern day solution to this problem. Also, the old fashion tactic of asking “do you mind if I ask you a question?” works well.
- Do not hold private meetings in public spaces, unless you absolutely must. Shared spaces are for everyone, especially the kitchen! Be aware that most coworkers will feel uncomfortable interrupting your meeting and will avoid the space.
- Limit non-desk accessory personal items- like your after work sneakers or gym bag. Be considerate and do not subject your co worker, who sits 2 feet away, to your morning workout clothes.
- Do not borrow desk items without asking, just because you can see it does not mean you can help yourself to it.
- If you share a desk, make sure your desk items do not cross into your neighbor’s territory
Topics of Conversation
Hopefully you’re already well-aware that politics, religion, and sex are inappropriate office topics. But there are some other key ones worth mentioning as well. When discussing your kids, your wedding, or other aspects of your personal life that you find engrossing- ask yourself if your co-conversationalist would agree. It’s important not to over indulge or cross into “TMI” (too much information) territory.
Employee birthdays should be acknowledged equally. You should not throw one employee a party if you do not do it for all employees. This is especially important to remind your employees of, who may view it as an act of friendship to shower their office friend with attention, balloons, and banners.
Even if your office doesn’t often mix personal matters with business, birthdays are a basic human right, and should be acknowledged. Make it a policy to have some kind of dessert or to give a card. It need not cost much- employees can rotate who is in charge of providing the dessert and you can print a card out on computer paper. The important part is group participation. It is also not polite or nice to miss a birthday celebration if one is scheduled.
Don’t forget about your leave your remote workers either! Send a card to their home or office address, and have a least a short Google Hang Out to have the team wish them a happy birthday.
The Modern Office Kitchen
In today’s offices, the prevalence of modern office kitchen features bears some etiquette rules.
- Do not use other’s K-cups if they are not a part of the general office supply
- Do not leave your K-cup in the machine
- If you use up all the water in the Keurig, replace it.
- Do not leave your heated items in the microwave, causing the reminder beep to go off indefinitely
- If your dish considerably dirties the microwave, wipe it down
- Do your dishes each day, and do not leave actual food remnants in the sink
- Monitor your fridge items and be sure to dispose of them once the expiration date has passed.
- Warn others if you will be microwaving a dish for longer than 3 minutes. Ask if any one, with a 30 second item, would like to go before.
- Spills should be cleaned- anyone slipping could be a workplace liability