The workplace has changed, and we have to evolve along with it. It’s always important to try and have good office manners, be more respectful of people, and to try to make people feel positive and at ease in your presence. This is true no matter where you work – whether it’s in an office building, a warehouse or from your home office.
Manners create a framework that allows us to communicate with fewer misunderstandings, and with clear expectations for what will happen. Good office manners mean simply knowing how to behave in a way that doesn’t make the people around you uncomfortable.
Being mindful of those around us can enhance our job prospects and can help us get ahead more easily, both in the workplace and in life. Whether you are working remotely from home or in a busy office environment, it’s important to always remember your Ps and Qs.
Here are 30 things you can do to make life in the office easier for you and for those around you.
1. Don’t “Blame-storm”
It’s like brainstorming, but where everyone gets together to decide who messed up. If you’ve made a mistake at work (and we all do from time to time), admit it and work out how to fix it if you can.
2. Chewing gum
I love gum. Once after working in a very small office for over 6 months, a coworker turned to me and remarked with irritation, “That drives me crazy! Stop chewing!” Turns out I had been annoying her for some time, without even knowing it. If you have to chew gum, make sure it’s not audible or overly frequent.
3. Dressing with respect
Looking presentable shows that you have respect for other people. Showing up looking too casual or inappropriately dressed makes you look lazy and disorganised. Your company should have a dress code set out, but if you’re not 100% certain what is appropriate, take the cue from your superiors.
4. Personal hygiene
Use deodorant, wear clean clothes, brush your teeth, use breath mints and brush or comb your hair. We’ve all sat next to someone who is seriously “on the nose”. As an adult there is no excuse for not taking a few minutes every morning to make sure that you don’t smell a little whiffy.
5. Cover your mouth and say excuse me
It’s simple: If you sneeze, say excuse me. If you cough, cover your mouth. Four-year olds can manage this one, and it shows that you care about the wellbeing of those around you. In a time where there is extreme awareness around germs and good hygiene, it’s more important than ever to do your bit!
6. Keep interruptions to a minimum
Try not to make loud personal phone calls, don’t constantly bother your desk neighbours and interrupt their work flow. Show a little caring and respect – it goes a long way.
7. If someone does something nice, be appreciative
If your colleague makes you tea, buys you a coffee, saves you a seat at a meeting or holds the lift door, be grateful; Say “thank you” - whether this is in person or via email.
8. Be helpful and cooperate with your colleagues
If someone has a problem you can help them with, don’t ignore them. We all know how frustrating a jammed photocopier or a missing file can be. Take five minutes out of your day to reach out to those around you. People notice small courtesies.
9. Don’t be afraid to apologise
If you have done something wrong, say sorry. Many people think of an apology as admitting defeat and letting the other person get the better of you. Don’t attach too much weight to an apology – offer them freely. It’s no big deal.
10. Look after new employees
We all know what it’s like to be the new guy. We’ve all been there. Taking a few minutes to help out a newbie can be a really worthwhile thing to do. Help them find the stationery cupboard, show them where the mugs are kept. Demonstrate how to use the Nespresso pod machine.
11. Keep your desk tidy
Make an effort to keep your workspace tidy. No one likes to come into a war zone every day and clutter can actually make some people feel stressed. Don’t let old coffee cups and Tupperware pile up on your desk either. Besides looking untidy, it’s also a bit gross!
12. Wait your turn to speak in a meeting
We’ve all been at meetings where someone just won’t stop talking. It’s the stuff they teach you in kindergarten, but some people just can’t get a handle on it! Don’t interrupt, let others have their say and don’t talk over people. This is also true for webcam meetings when you’re in a virtual space. It can be difficult to hear what is being said when more than one person is trying to talk at the same time.
13. Respect your elders
This one keeps falling further and further out of fashion. It’s not just your superiors that you need to show respect to, it’s those with more life experience than you.
14. Manners at all times
From the desk to the boardroom, from the kitchen to the lunchroom and even in the bathroom – mind your manners. Wait your turn.
Don’t push, be impatient or too loud. Whether you’re waiting for the microwave or the hand-dryer, wait your turn.
15. Keep your phone on silent!
Have your mobile phone on silent at all times and don’t take personal calls at your desk, unless you can keep them short and quiet. No one wants to overhear your personal conversations, and they can be very distracting. Step into an unused meeting room or go outside.
16. Clean up the kitchen
Don’t just do your share – be nice and clean up whenever you see a mess. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t the one to leave it. Wipe the benches, stack or empty the dishwasher, don’t leave things in the sink and don’t steal food from the fridge!
17. Don’t nitpick
Cut people some slack and remember that everyone has a bad day every now and then. Pick your battles, and don’t make a big fuss over a small error. If your colleague continuously makes small errors, then there are better avenues you can take in addressing these issues rather than making your colleague feel bad.
18. Don’t hover
If someone is on the phone or immersed in a task, don’t stand behind them and wait to interrupt them. The same goes for the kitchen and the photocopier.
Make sure you give people the correct amount of personal space and don’t tap your foot or drum your fingers impatiently.
19. It’s rude to groom yourself at your desk
It goes without saying that you should already be dressed appropriately before you enter the workplace, and this goes for your hair, facial hair, makeup and everything else as well.
If you really have to, save hair brushing and makeup application for the bathroom. Don’t take off your shoes or fiddle with your clothes, and never cut your fingernails at your desk!
20. Keep your headphones and radio low
If you work in a shared space, make sure there is no sound leaking from your headphones, as this can be really annoying to others. If you have a radio on, consider using headphones. As much as you love it, your colleagues may not have the same taste in music! But if you’re sure that all your colleagues like the music on – keep the volume low, and let everyone know that you are willing to switch it off if they need to concentrate.
21. Don’t be a bully
Watch your tone and manners. Treat everyone as your equal and don’t unfairly target someone for any reason.
22. Help others with computer problems
We all know how frustrating it can be when you have a problem that seems impossible to fix. If you know how to help, then do. Often it only takes a few minutes. If you can’t help and you can see someone struggling, offer to introduce them to someone in the office who can help.
23. Don’t be too loud
Keep your voice to a reasonable level and never shout at anyone, ever.
24. Don't come in late
Being frequently late for work is bad manners. It makes you look disorganised and unreliable Make an effort to get in at the same time as the rest of your team even if you have a busy school run to do or a long commute. Even better, get in early. And if you’re working from home, don’t use it as an excuse to sleep in. Make sure you’re logged in on time.
25. Don’t criticise, be constructive
Watch your language when you have to make comment on something someone has done. Too many criticisms can make someone stop trying all together.
Highlight where something has to change and give constructive feedback, rather than criticism.
26. Don’t gossip
Office gossip can be very destructive and hurtful, plus it can make people not trust you. Negatively speaking about another person’s work or personal life can make you seem vindictive and self-serving. And if you commit those negative words to email, be aware that they could come back to bite you if that email is ever forwarded to someone who was not the intended recipient.
Try to see the best in people and if you wouldn’t want someone gossiping about you, don’t gossip about them.
27. Fundraisers, garage sales, kids’ raffle tickets
Sometimes, it can make people feel uncomfortable when you try to sell them something at work. You never know what someone has to deal with in their personal financial situation.
Keep fundraisers to a minimum and if you have to target people at work, do so in an impersonal way such as a note in the staff kitchen. That way, people are free to give what they can without feeling pressured.
28. Don’t stand and wait for someone to finish a phone call
It can be irritating if someone is standing next to your desk, waiting for you to finish your phone call. It can distract you from what you’re doing. If you have to talk to that person – just leave a note or follow up via email.
29. If you borrow something – return it!
If you want someone to share their things with you, offer the common courtesy of making it a priority to return them.
30. And always remember to say “please” and “thank you”
It’s a common courtesy and something that should be ingrained into your daily activities by the time you are an adult.
Saying please and thank you means that you care for and respect the other person and shows that you have a level of social skill that sets you above people who are too busy to care.
This is true in both verbal and written scenarios. If you’re sending an email, remember to include these words when appropriate.
Be friendly, polite and courteous and you will see the benefits in your own life. Good manners make you a better person. Simple as that!
Now that your office manners are perfect, it's time to make sure you've also got fantastic professional communication skills.
Take a look at Open Colleges’ Professional Communications short course, and learn how to gain the confidence to communicate effectively with your colleagues, clients and superiors.