30 Simple Ways To Mind Your Office Manners

by Yvette McKenzie
Posted: January 05, 2015

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The workplace has changed, and we have to evolve along with it. One of my goals for this year is to have better office manners, be more respectful of people, and to try to make people feel happy and at ease in my presence.

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.

Happy employees and colleagues

Being mindful of those around us can enhance our job prospects and get ahead more easily, both in the workplace and in life.

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

Mind your office manners

Looking presentable shows that you have respect for other people. Showing up looking too casual or inappropriately dressed makes you look lazy and disorganised. Take the cue from your superiors at work and put in a little effort.

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

I see this one all the time on public transport too. 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, and if you have to sneeze or cough, do it quietly.

6. Keep Interruptions to a Minimum

How to have the perfect office manners - smiling guy

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.

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

Take care of new employees

We all know what it’s like to be the new guy. 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 new fangled coffee machine.

11. Don’t Have a Really Messy Desk

Make an effort to keep your workspace tidy. No one likes to come into a war zone every day. Don’t let old coffee cups and Tupperware pile up on your desk either. Clutter can actually make some people feel depressed.

12. Wait Your Turn to Speak in a Meeting

We’ve all been at meetings where someone just won’t shut up. 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.

13. Respect Your Elders

Respect your elders - old man helping colleagues

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.

Young people today are revered like never before but it’s often the person with more life experience who has a lot to offer.

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. Say please and thank you. Look people in the eyes. If you do these things, you’ll watch your life improve.

15. Keep Your Damn Phone on Silent!

They are annoying. Even audible keyboard clicks can be a distraction. Have your mobile phone on silent at all times and don’t take personal calls at your desk, unless you keep them short and quiet.

16. Clean Up the Kitchen

Clean tidy office 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 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.

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 Not Nice to Groom Yourself at Your Desk

Don't groom yourself at your desk

Don’t paint or cut your fingernails. Save hair brushing and makeup application for the bathroom. Don’t take off your shoes or fiddle with your clothes.

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.

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

Colleagues in an office environment

No one wants to hear your conversation. Keep your voice to a reasonable level and never shout at anyone, ever. Don’t sneeze loudly – learn to control yourself – you are not a kid anymore.

24. 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.

25. Don’t Criticise, Be Constructive

Happy constructive employees

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.

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

Fundraisers, raffle tickets, coins

Don’t try to sell things to your colleagues. It can make people feel uncomfortable and 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.

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!

Borrowed a pen

If you want someone to share their things with you, offer the common courtesy of making it a priority to return them.

30. And Don’t Nit – Pick!

Even though manners are important – you don’t want to be one of the people who gets hot under the collar about every little thing. Cut people some slack and remember that everyone has a bad day every now and then.

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 delightful email etiquette - read our email etiquette guide here.


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Yvette McKenzie


Is the content strategist at Open Colleges. She has over a decade of professional experience at some of Australia’s largest media corporations, including Southern Cross Austereo and the Macquarie Media Network. With a degree in Communications (majoring in Journalism), she covers stories on education, new knowledge technologies and independent learning.

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