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Workplace Etiquette: 25 Tips

It's important to have impeccable manners at work, whether you’re wondering whether to add your boss, co-workers, and clients to your social networks; speaking on the phone; knocking on a colleague’s door; receiving a text message on your cell phone; or eating at your desk or at your company event. To help, here are Blue Pencil Institute's top 25 tips for workplace etiquette. For more information about Blue Pencil Institute, please visit our website at www.bluepencilinstitute.com.


Workplace Etiquette: 25 Tips

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Use formal address. Don’t assume a level of informality in your relationships to which you are not entitled. Rather, assume the highest level of formality when addressing others, especially clients, by calling them by their formal names (Dr., Mrs. Ms.). Use first names only when you have explicitly been invited to do so. www.bluepencilins...

Watch your language. Profane language has no place in a professional workplace. Crude or foul language makes you look bad and can make others feel uncomfortable. Learn new speech habits if you are accustomed to using profanity. Remember that speech habits are learned and can be unlearned. www.bluepencilins...

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Monitor the volume of your conversations. Be sensitive to how loudly you speak. Do you notice that people down the hall comment on your conversation? That might indicate that your voice is too loud. Remove yourself to a private office with a door you can close when you need to have sensitive conversations either in person or on the phone or if the person with whom you are speaking has a hearing impairment and requires that you talk loudly. www.bluepencilins...

  • Jessica Johnson
    Jessica Johnson

    Hear, hear! (pardon the pun) Loud talkers make me insane, especially when I'm trying to WORK! I often find that loud talkers are loud for a reason, which is usually som sort of insecurity.

  • Dr. Laura Hills, Blue Pencil Institute
    Dr. Laura Hills, Blue Pencil Institute

    I grew up with a loud talker. I know how difficult it can be to have that noise in your ear when you're trying to work and do other things. I also know how much I disliked being talked to in such a loud voice. Big challenge for me.

Don’t snoop and share. Respect the privacy of those around you. Don’t read memos or faxes that are lying around in other people’s workstations. Don’t stand behind coworkers seated at a computer monitor and read what's on the screen, without their permission. Don’t make comments about overheard phone conversations or share what you heard with others. Don't share personal information about others using electronic media. www.bluepencilins...

Control social networking content and privacy settings. Don't risk blemishing your reputation at work by allowing the boss, co-workers, and clients in on your moment-by-moment status updates, posts, and personal photos. If you wish to include business contacts in your social networking, be mindful of the information you make available to them and how they are likely to receive it. Exercise good judgment and restraint about what you post. www.bluepencilins...

Be punctual. Being on time for appointments and meetings shows others that you respect their time. When you absolutely can’t avoid being late, call, apologize, and offer an explanation. Then, apologize again when you finally arrive. Send a note of apology afterwards when your tardiness has caused someone a serious inconvenience. Then, do whatever you must not to be late again. www.bluepencilins...

Respect your colleagues’ space. Do not enter a colleague’s office or workspace unless you are invited. Do not stand in hallways outside of their offices or workspaces to conduct conversations through doorways. Talk either in your workspace, in your colleague’s workspace, or in another appropriate place in your workplace. Don’t sit down in someone’s office until you are invited to do so. www.bluepencilins...

Pay attention. Stop what you’re doing when someone is trying to speak with you and give him or her your undivided attention. Continuing to work and keeping your eyes and hands engaged in what they were doing may be a good attempt at multi-tasking but it can also be construed as a brush-off or rudeness. Stop, look up, and make eye contact. www.bluepencilins...

Be respectful to everyone. Do not have different standards for different people. The CEO of your company and the custodian who empties your trash baskets deserve equally respectful and courteous treatment from you. www.bluepencilins...

Practice little courtesies and graces. Don’t let a door close on a person behind you. Hold elevator doors. Offer to help to others who are carrying bulky or cumbersome items. Share your umbrella. Say please and thank you with a sincere smile. Bring enough of whatever goodies you have to share. Small courtesies such as these make a big difference to others. www.bluepencilins...

Keep personal grooming private. It’s great to have good hygiene but not so great to do it in public. Save the hair brushing, makeup application, and flossing for the rest room during a break or lunch hour. www.bluepencilins...

Mind your manners in the office kitchen. Wash and return items to their proper places. Clean the inside of the microwave if you spill anything. Mark items kept in a shared refrigerator with your name and date. Don't leave food in there for others to have to discard. Don’t eat the food that doesn't belong to you. And, if you take the last cup of coffee, make another pot. www.bluepencilins...

Keep your workspace clean and neat. Use discretion when displaying personal items so as to be respectful to others. Also be mindful that any symbols you choose to wear to work including those in jewelry should be chosen with great sensitivity so as not to offend others. www.bluepencilins...

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Practice good equipment etiquette. Maintain shared items in “like new” condition. Leave the photocopier stocked with paper and working. If a machine stalls or jams, take time to undo the jam or to alert the proper person to attend to it. Printer and photocopier etiquette also dictates that you give preferential treatment to a co-worker who is printing only one or two pages when you have a large document to print or copy. www.bluepencilins...

Be sensitive when pointing out etiquette gaffs to others. Speak in private and let the person know as tactfully as possible that if the situation were reversed, you hope they’d approach you about it. Ask the perpetrator if he or she was aware of the effect his or her actions had on others. Then seek opportunities to discuss possible solutions. Look for ways for the person to save face. www.bluepencilins...

Be mindful before you borrow anything. Ask for permission first. Return borrowed supplies promptly and in ready-to-use condition. Replenish that borrowed stapler or tape dispenser if you use most or all of the supplies on your project. www.bluepencilins...

Respect others’ privacy. Don't take advantage of information you’ve gained just because you happened to be in a particular place at a particular time. Practice selective hearing if you inadvertently overhear a private conversation. Keep interruptions of others to a minimum and apologize if your intrusion is an interruption of a discussion, someone’s concentration, or another activity. Don't ask a work-related question of a colleague who's on break and quietly eating a sandwich or reading a book.

Be sensitive to the smells surrounding you. Use cologne or perfume judiciously and sparingly. Ask if fresh flowers or potpourri bother your colleagues before installing them in your workspace. Avoid eating foods at work that have strong smells, especially those that are likely to travel throughout your workplace or to linger in the air. www.bluepencilins...

Acknowledge everyone in the room. This is especially important when you must communicate with a co-worker in front of a client. Always acknowledge the client’s presence before addressing your co-worker. Also acknowledge people you know on the elevator. It’s better to ask a colleague how her weekend was rather than pretending that you’re not on the same elevator. A simple nod and smile may be all that is needed. www.bluepencilins...

Clean up after yourself in the restroom. Wipe the countertop and sink of any spilled water or soap after you wash your hands. Notify the proper person if supplies are low or out and of any plumbing problems. www.bluepencilins...

Don’t be a pest. Don’t use sign language or whisper to attract the attention of someone who is on the phone or talking with someone else. Return later to carry out the conversation. www.bluepencilins...

Return messages and answer requests promptly. Respond to emails and voice messages, preferably by the end of the day. Don’t put things off and don’t avoid an unpleasant phone call by concocting lies or not answering the phone. Pay close attention to invitations. Answer every one you receive graciously and promptly. And, once you accept an invitation, remember that you've promised to attend the event. If you can’t make it, do not just blow it off. www.bluepencilins...

Practice good telephone manners. Be mindful that others are nearby and that an office is not an appropriate venue for you to carry out your personal business. Don’t bring your cell phone where it doesn’t belong such as a restroom you share with others. Doing so is an invasion of their privacy. Cell phones also do not belong at meetings, even if they are set to vibrate. Many people consider it rude to look at a cell phone in front of others to see who the call or text message is from.

Stay awake and alert. It can be off-putting and insulting to be in conference with a person who is yawning or having trouble staying awake. If you’re prone to nodding off at meetings, do whatever you must to prevent this. It is also very bad form to be caught with your mind wandering or to have no clue as to what actually took place at a meeting. Be a courteous, attentive listener. www.bluepencilins...

Practice good dining etiquette. There’s more to good manners when eating than not talking with your mouth full, not putting your elbows on the table, and not pointing at anyone with your utensils, although these are good places to begin. Be courteous to the wait staff in a restaurant no matter what. Unfold and place the napkin on your lap at the start of the meal and use it. Sit upright and don’t hunch over your plate. Take manageable bites. www.bluepencilins...

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