Workplace Etiquette

By Sue Fox, The Hindu Business Line, India – 02/01/2006 – 12:00am


Behave with courtesy and act appropriately at all times.

In our high-tech, rush-rush world, it is very important to take stock of what really counts — like acknowledging someone with a proper introduction, making a good first impression or treating co-workers with common respect and consideration. Being able to do business at the speed of light has done enormous damage to conducting business in a human and humane fashion. Here are just a few guidelines and insights into how to bring some consideration, grace and style back into your work life.

Speaking: Use well-modulated tones when you speak in the office and over the phone. Raising your voice in haste, frustration or anger is always inappropriate. It does not foster clear communication and leaves all parties concerned with an `emotional residue’ that will interfere with getting work done.

Work attire: Remember that being casual does not extend to poor grooming. Always be clean and neat and use good taste. If your job requires you to interact with the public, you will probably be required to dress more formally. If you wish to climb the corporate ladder, look at the people in positions you want and dress as they do.

Personal life at work: Everyone makes friends at work. However, there is a fine line that is easy to cross when co-workers become friends. Use moderation in your exchanges so you don’t spend too much time socialising. If it is necessary to discuss personal issues or conduct urgent personal business in your workplace, be brief and discreet. The best rule is to discuss personal issues in private so you give your employer what he pays you for — your time, focus and work done well.

Interaction with co-workers: Try to treat your co-workers with consideration and respect in all exchanges. Do not constantly interrupt your work mates; schedule times to meet whenever possible. The occasional quick question is unavoidable, just don’t let spontaneity rule you and ruin everyone else’s schedule and concentration. Open cubicles already remove most of your co-workers privacy, so respect their quiet. Observe the `shut door’ of your co-workers who work in offices and avoid roaming and disturbing others when you are less busy. If you are interrupted or if a co-worker is making too much noise in an adjacent area, calmly and respectfully inform him that you need quiet.

Your workspace: Maintain a high standard of neatness and professional decorum in your personal work area. Bringing personal items into that area is your decision, but be aware that what you display is a direct reflection of who you are. While it shouldn’t have to be said, we must never take things from other people’s workspace and return anything you borrow, with haste! Do not use a speakerphone without shutting your office door and never use one in an open area.

Sharing the environment: Take care in shared areas. Do not leave your clutter in a conference room after a meeting. If you have nervous habits, break them. Don’t twitch, jiggle your leg, tap pencils or other items on the table — that can be irritating to those around you. Never engage in personal grooming in your cubicle or in meetings. Do it all in the restroom or at home. If you need to eat anything in your cubicle, try to select foods that do not have strong or unpleasant aromas.

Group politics: Do not become known as a constant complainer or one that brings a bad mood into your workplace. Do bring a positive attitude to meetings and discussions. You don’t have to be rude or sarcastic to say `no’. While saying `no’ politely is a learned skill — it is the professional way to go. Further, do not gossip about or discuss other employees or their performance in any way in their absence. If you have something you absolutely must say, say it to that person in private. Learn how to be a `team player’ and how to take action to make the changes you think are important. Whether you are answering a phone, opening a business gift or deciding how to address someone, you should behave with courtesy and know how to act appropriately and properly in all circumstances. Knowing how and being sincere, will give you the confidence to tackle all situations. If you bring style and grace into your work behaviour — it won’t go unnoticed.

(The writer is Founder-President of The Etiquette Survival Group, based in Northern and Southern California, and an international partner of Global Adjustments, the Chennai-headquartered cross-cultural training and services company.)

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