Office etiquette

Today’s cultural diversity in all business environments increasingly calls for good etiquette to all involved. There are rules and guidelines when it comes to dealing with people in an office context that should be observed in order to create a good first impression and maintain it. Notably, it is not easy to get along with all individuals in the workplace. Learning how to deal with difficult personalities is one of the crucial elements of work etiquette. No one likes an office showdown. It puts those involved and around in a potent atmosphere that is not conducive for work. Here are a few guidelines that you should observe as a professional.


Whether speaking to a colleague or on the phone, always use a calm and clear tone. Raising your voice in anger or frustration is unprofessional and inappropriate. Such outbursts interfere with the work being done. Always be clear in your communication. Yelling is not the only way to get a message across no matter how difficult the other party is.

Another habit to avoid in the workplace is constant complaining or bad moods. Bring a positive attitude to the work environment and do not subject others to your rude or sarcastic remarks. Learn to say ‘no’ politely. Gossip is a fostered culture in many businesses and in itself is distasteful and equally unprofessional. Do not discuss an employee’s personal or professional life in their absence. The correct thing to do is speak to the person involved in private, and that is if you absolutely must give them your opinion/observation.

Interacting with co-workers

Treat everyone with respect at all times and in any exchange. Do not interrupt your workmates constantly and ruin their schedule and concentration. Though an occasional quick question is acceptable, schedule meeting times wherever possible. In an open cubicle set-up, respect your co-workers (reduced) privacy and quiet and avoid roaming around looking for chit-chat when you have less work. If a co-worker is constantly interrupting you or making too much noise, politely inform them, calmly and respectfully, the need to keep quiet. Never use a speakerphone in an open area or without shutting your door.

Personal grooming/space

Always be clean and neat and dressed according to what you profession demands. Though some places casual wear is acceptable, this does not equate to poor grooming. Do not do any grooming i.e. cutting your nails or painting them in your work area. Do so in the washrooms or at home. Keep your personal work areas neat and with professional decorum.

You are allowed to bring personal items into your space but remember anything displayed is a reflection of who you are. Also, do not take anything from other people’s work area without permission, and return everything borrowed with haste. In spaces shared (for example the kitchen or the conference room), be sure to clean up after yourself. Be mindful of others; if you have bad habits such as tapping your pen or fidgeting, do your best to stop. If you will eat in your cubical, fish or any foods with strong aroma would not be the polite dish choice to bring along with you. Observe table manners and eat in moderation in the office or during luncheons.

Friendships at work

Though making friends in the office is quite alright, be certain not to cross a fine line that leads to unprofessionalism. Your exchanges should be moderate and, if you have to, conduct personal issues or businesses in a brief and discreet manner. Above all, remember that your employer is paying you for your time, focus and work done with excellence.

This goes without saying; leave your personal life at the door. Don’t let personal problems between you and a colleague affect the work environment.


If you want to make your way up the corporate ladder, emulate the dressing and the mannerisms of those in positions you wish to occupy.



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