6 gold nuggets for good office etiquette
If as research in the last five years stands, we spent almost one-third of our lifetimes at work, then office etiquette is in all of our interests to make navigating the storms of our careers, a far smoother voyage. In highlighting the need for unspoken ground rules – even the most obvious – career coach and business consultant Lisa Quast presented the case of ‘James’; a corporate employee who schedules his meetings back to back and inevitably would show up to his next meeting 10-minutes late. He’d also take calls and send emails during his meeting and thought himself a trooper in coming to work when he was sick, but infected everyone else. Dedicated to his job? Yes. A great member of the team? Not so much.
Although our relationships in the workplace are built on communication and teamwork, the fundamentals of office etiquette are the unspoken rules, which convey equally unspoken respect and mannerism. “Bad manners at work can be bad for business by negatively affecting employee morale and productivity” said Quast. Approaching a touchy subject should always be done with kindness and compassion – adults working in an adult environment is a tricky situation to navigate when approaching your peers with a grievance – but in aid of improving everyone’s day, it’s a necessary evil; as Quast reiterates, “leaving it alone entirely can decrease employee morale and productivity.” Brush up on your own office etiquette and working diplomacy with our 6 golden nuggets.
Cutting to the chase, punctuality divides; some making it a priority and some placing more value in delivering the work itself. But turning up late to a meeting or missing a deadline – be it by a hair or a full hour – is an inevitable source of friction between colleagues and clients. “Meeting deadlines and timelines assures clients that they can count on you to get the job done” says World Outsourcing Solutions CEO Yeukai Kajidori. “Without professional punctuality, customers might look for another company to supply their needs. Striving to meet deadlines helps establish your strong work ethic and your desire to be productive.” Extra time is a luxury not all of us can afford but making the effort to be punctual is a key source of kindling workplace relationships; a simple indicator that you respect their time as much as your own.
2. EMAIL ETIQUETTE
The average US employee will spend a quarter of their work week filtering through, organising and sending emails. Aside from the assumed standard of full sentences, punctuation and grammar, the necessity of an email (and the overly keen ‘chasing-up’ emails that quickly become inbox fodder) is a common source of frustration in the workplace. Business consultant David Allen once worked with a client that had an average back-log of 3,000 emails; when he had finally sorted his inbox out for him, both his email traffic and daily schedule was reduced, through the amount of chase-up emails he cut down on. “Email handled well reduces meetings. And meetings handled well reduces emails,” Allen says. Taking the time to reply now can save you twice the time in the future. Similarly, one-line responses – unless in a pre-approve capacity with the colleague – do not bring value to a conversation and can waste time, according to career-expert Peggy Duncan; “feel free to put “No Reply Necessary” at the top of the e-mail when you don’t anticipate a response.”
3. BE A TEAM PLAYER
Positioning yourself as a team player isn’t necessarily to prove your worth in your work, but to invest in the relationships you have with your colleagues. Rock-solid relationships are developed on a foundation of trust; the belief that you are investing in just as much time and effort as your peers, be it face-time at your office desk or through how much work you delivery and in turn, support your colleagues with theirs. Amanda Haddaway argues how communication is essential here; Part of office etiquette is working well with others and communicating effectively…you may not always agree, but it’s likely you can learn something new by being open to other perspectives and respectful of other people’s opinions.
4. BE A SPONGE
Being willing to continuously learn is what makes an employee irreplaceable as well as likeable. “Sometimes people feel like they don’t have to pay their dues…like they don’t have to learn from those who came before them,” says office etiquette expert Vicky Oliver, “don’t hold back your good ideas. But have respect for what people already have done at the company, even if you would have done it differently.” Time isn’t always on our side at work so the thought of actively investing more brain power into learning something new puts us off. But the reality is learning is part of the working process, as without it, improvement is impossible. In adapting and being opening to learn new skills, experiences and aspects of your industry, relationships are strengthened between senior and junior roles as well as those with your peers. Value what others can teach you and what you can pass on to others.
5. ENGAGE IN MEETINGS
Nothing kills productivity, nor company moral, more than a wasted meeting – especially if you are the anchor that dragged everyone down. Contributing to the use of a meeting is a collective effort so lead by example in order to inspire and motivate others. Mentally engage by reiterating instructions, making notes and contributing regularly as well as recording minutes of the meeting as a point of reference; it’s more physical work, but efficiency will get the job done and ensure the office will run smoothly. In the same fashion, ensure your contributions are regular, with one point that suggestions an original idea and one point that clarifies what has been discussed to kindle the same pro-active attitude in others. On a side note, be the one to monitor the meeting, steering it back onto topic when deviant topics pop-up. There is a reason that every TEDTalk runs for a maximum of 18 minutes; attention span, so use this as your navigator.
6. KEEP IT TIDY
If a tidy desk is a tidy mind, then a well-maintained workspace is a sign of respect. Considering that a survey of over 1,000 workers by staffing firm Adecco showed that 57% of American’s admit they judge colleagues by how clean or dirty they keep their workspace, it comes as no surprise that colleagues think less and are less inclined to want to work with those who don’t maintain their workspace. Although there is a lot to be said about a messy desk kindling creativity, what a recent study published by Psychological Science Journals discussed was how such an environment had a detrimental effect on your colleague’s health, creating stress and distraction in the office. “If your primary goal is to eat well or to go to the gym, pick up around your office first. By doing this, the naturally messy can acquire some of the discipline of the conscientious” said behavioural scientist, Dr Kathleen D. Vohs, “Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition…which can produce fresh insights” but in turn, would bring the habits and work-ethic of those around you, down.
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