The Rules of Office Etiquette

Just when you think you’ve elegantly smashed the mysterious office culture, you come to realise that you aren’t the golden child of the office. There always are and always will be some bad habits you need to guard against in the event that someone is offended, put off or inconvenienced. Most importantly however, remember that old adage; treat people the way you want to be treated? It completely 100% wrong. The things that bother some of us don’t bother others so regardless you need to rather treat people the way they themselves want to be treated. This gentle shift in thinking will make the world of difference to the lives of your colleagues and the general office culture.

Lunch, Snacks and Nibbles

There was once a colleague who would feverishly devour small cups of yoghurt unaided by cutlery. In this day and age; with private education, a boujie upbringing and access to actual utensils, this is a gargantuan faux pas. It’s not pretty and although the sight of this messy affair would aid in pre-beach holiday fasting due to shear appetite loss, it was still unsightly and utterly offensive. The person in question had no idea how offensive this endeavour was to those around her – but that’s no excuse.

Intrusive Odours

One of the most intrusive office no-nos is that of strong smells. Your lunch, perfume and bodily odours are more than likely offensive to those around you. Scents of floral patchouli, microwave sushi and gas inevitably mix to produce wafts of unwelcoming horror – at best they are stomach churning. Please; for the love of the shared space, be cognisant of the olfactory sensitivity of those around you.

Handling Sexism, Racism and Bigotry

Okay, this is a serious one. Your personal views need to stay at home. When co-workers touch on tricky topics don’t engage. Getting messy just isn’t an option – human rights laws are in place to ensure equal and fair treatment for everyone, not only those privileged enough to afford a lawyer. The entire psychology behind bigotry is that by squashing others with oversimplified and pointless criteria, the bigot feels a false sense of superiority. As cliché as it sounds, the trick is to not stoop to their level and to rather avoid them at all costs. When that isn’t possible you need to keep a record of the incidents and consider reporting them to the HR department. No amount of; ‘I’m not racist/sexist/prejudiced, but…’ is excusable.

Auditory Invasion

There is always that one person in the office with a painful, unending ringtone. It’s a little-known fact that it is actually possible to keep your phone on vibrate or even silent and still keep tabs on incoming calls and messages. Think of it this way; your obnoxious ring tone is not more important than the conversations and concentration your colleagues. Moreover, when someone comes to your desk to chat or vice versa, make sure that no one else is being disrupted. Loud and irrelevant conversations will disturb those around you are nothing short of inconsiderate. No one needs to know about the boil you had to have drained! Hushed tones, silent phones and headphones are the best way to prevent uncomfortable situations.

Email Etiquette

Emails are a minefield of misinterpretation and seemingly strange caveats. In the event that too many rules may leave you dazed and less confident than before; these are the basics.

– Write a clear and concise subject line
– Don’t use caps unnecessarily. Words written in all capital letters are the equivalent of shouting and it’s nothing short of offensive.
– Before you hit reply all, make sure that everyone in the email thread actually needs to receive the email.
– Keep your exclamation marks to the minimum, it’s always difficult to precisely decipher the tone of an email and often times exclamation marks can be misunderstood when used unnecessarily.
– Proofread, proofread, proofread. An unclear email leaves far too much room for error.
– Use professional greetings and sign-offs, every time. Even if it’s merely an internal email, it’s just more professional and respectful.

If you have managed to commit any of these office etiquette faux pas, the best way forward is to acknowledge your mistake and apologise immediately – regardless of how important you think you are. No one is perfect but the sooner we realise it and take responsibility for our foibles, the better. Our workplaces are always evolving and we have to try our best to remain as unoffensive as possible at all times.

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