Etiquette Tips : Office Etiquette

Guidelines and rules on the proper way to behave at work, how to practice good business etiquette, and how to make a good impression on your boss and co-workers.

There are proper ways to behave in any social situation. Proper etiquette is to be followed when dining out, attending a wedding or funeral, giving gifts and even saying "thank you." Did you know there's also proper etiquette to be followed when working in an office?

When it comes to business, you're a reflection of your company. If you meet with a client and you're wrinkled, unkempt, loud or have a foul mouth, the chances are good that this client will want nothing to do with your corporation. Even if you don't deal with the public, there are general guidelines to follow. For instance, if you spend half your time gossiping about other workers, arriving late, or talking on the phone, not only will you look bad, but your co-workers will view you with resentment, causing bad morale.

Below are some ways you can practice good office etiquette.

Pay attention to your appearance - If you show up to work every day with a wrinkled shirt, uncombed hair or dirty fingernails, it will be noticed. Who do you think your supervisor is going to choose to represent the company on a business trip or in a meeting? The person wearing sneakers and T-shirt, or a co-worker who always shows up for work with well-groomed features and freshly ironed clothes?

Unclutter your desk - Your desk or cubicle should be an extension of yourself. If it's messy and cluttered, you'll probably have difficulty locating necessary items. In addition, business associates will not regard you in a favorable light due to the untidiness of your workspace. No one likes to wait while a co-worker attempts to unearth a missing item from under a mound of papers. It's best to keep desk clutter to a minimum.

Be on time - If you're late on a regular basis, people notice. While everyone has the occasional tardy morning, it's not fair to your co-workers to feel the rules don't pertain to you. If you have trouble leaving the house on time, or seem to always be missing connections, perhaps you should wake up earlier to remedy the situation. The same holds true for business meetings. It is never a good idea to arrive late for a business meeting. Someone has taken time out of his or her busy schedule to meet with you; the least you can do is show up on time. If you are late because your train is delayed or there's a traffic jam, call ahead to explain your tardiness. Never intentionally keep a client, or anyone else for that matter, waiting.

The greeting - There's a saying, "you never get a second chance to make a good first impression." No where is this more true than in the office. When meeting people for the first time, it's good practice to use eye contact and a firm handshake and tell the other person how nice it is to meet him or her. If you already know the person, but others in your environment don't, it's necessary to make the proper introductions.

Pay attention - Whether in a meeting, on the phone or sitting in a co-workers office, pay attention. It's very bad form to be caught with your mind wandering or to have no clue as to what actually took place. Be a good listener and take notes. Don't interrupt unless you absolutely have to.

Telephone etiquette - Just as they would resent someone who's constantly tardy, coworkers also have issues with those who spend most of their time on personal phone calls. Not only are they disruptive, but it's unfair to have pleasant chats while those around you are working. It's good business to keep personal phone calls to a minimum and to keep cell phones turned off during business hours.

In addition, there are ways to conduct yourself on the phone when you're speaking with clients. Never talk with food in your mouth, use foul language, or leave the party on the other end hanging on eternal hold. No matter whom you're talking to, try not to talk so loud that everyone in the office can hear every word of your conversation. This is distracting and inconsiderate, as is the use of a speakerphone. Try to avoid this as much as possible.

Other things to take into consideration:

- Use cologne or perfume sparingly. Not everyone enjoys your favorite scent.

- Avoid the use of profanity. Not only does it make you look bad; it makes others uncomfortable as well.

- Avoid sharing in office gossip sessions. Gossip hurts and there's a good chance it may not even be true.

- Respect the privacy of those around you. Don't read memos or faxes on other people's desks and don't make comments about overheard phone calls.

- Be respectful to all, no matter what their title.

- Return messages, emails, and letters. It wastes less time for all involved to make a short phone call to say "no thank you" than to keep avoiding a person's call.

- Don't borrow money. It can lead to a very uncomfortable situation.

- Stay awake. If you're prone to nodding off during business meetings or at your desk, bring in some coffee.

- It's great to practice good hygiene, but not so great to do it in public. Save the flossing, hair brushing and eyebrow plucking for the rest room during your lunch hour.

- Don't slouch. It's a poor reflection of yourself if you're slumped over your desk all day.

When working at any job, the key is to be courteous and polite, pay attention to your appearance and treat others with respect. Follow those simple rules, and you should go far.

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