Office Etiquette, part 1 of 3
Dealing with Peers
Smooth business etiquette showcases style and maturity. A lack of etiquette exposes shortfalls in maturity, manners, and education. All of us with career aspirations should respect the importance of situational behavioral management.
This 3-part series shares ideas on what to do — and not do — when interfacing with others at work.
Part 1: Dealing with Peers. Today we will focus on interacting with associates. Future columns will offer suggestions for managing up and down.
Part 2: Interacting with your boss.
Part 3: Proper behavior when you are boss.
Dealing with associates involves the navigation of a blizzard of behavioral decisions. We can make a good impression — which increases our likeability and enhances our perception among the work group — or we can negatively impact others and alienate ourselves from social acceptability. Want to get ahead? Do what you should and not what you shouldn’t.
Here is a list of twelve “do’s” and a dozen “don’ts.”
- Use common sense to blend in with your office environment. Every office has an unwritten code of normalcy. This code deals with things like the formality of greetings, expected grooming and dress, lunchtime rules of engagement, plus seeking and granting privacy.
- Be polite. Shake hands with every person you meet for the first time. Use a firm, professional handshake. Accompany that shake with a smile. Repeating someone’s first name aloud is always smart to do, too. He or she will appreciate it and it will help you remember it.
- Follow protocol. In most offices it’s fine to use first names when interacting with associates and subordinates. If for any reason titles are preferred, use title.
- When introducing two people, address the highest ranking person first. Use the senior’s name and title during the introduction. Introduce the junior with his or her name and title as well.
- Always remain fair and polite. Happy and supportive helps, too.
- Balance work relationships outside the office carefully. Too much socializing with a specific clique can typecast you, as can sharing too much personal information.
- Freely give deserved credit. I have never understood why some people find this so hard to do. All of us like to be recognized for good work. Formal recognition is always nice. Informal recognition is just as valuable. Compliments are free; for Pete’s sake use them!
- Be supportive. Offer considerate, confidential help to those who may need it.
- Be open and honest. Honest does not mean “direct.” Open honesty has two components: what you think and why. Tact and diplomacy are fine delivery vehicles.
- Be courteous to guests. Stand when they arrive in your office and escort them out as far as appropriate when it is time for them to leave.
- Office music, if you must listen to it, should be soft and appropriate for business. Do not listen to talk radio.
- Commit random acts of kindness. Little things can mean a whole lot when someone is dealing with a stressful situation. When kindness is your brand, you are awful hard not to like.
- Try not to judge nor talk negatively about others. Walls have ears. Great ones.
- Avoid gossip, implied or expressed threats, arrogance, and sarcasm. A friend of mine runs a company yet insists on using backhanded compliments. “Not as bad as I expected” does not sound as motivating as “Good work. Thank you.”
- Don’t be taken advantage of. I worked with a guy years ago who was a master at getting me to do some of his work. He used flattery, which I fell for. When his performance rose and mine fell, guess who got rewarded and who was chastised?
- Don’t talk too much. Talkers get a bad reputation as time-wasters.
- Don’t listen to talkers too much. Push back on time wasters. Politely say, “I’m sorry but I’ve got a lot that needs to get done,” and get back to work. It won’t take more than a couple times before the talker goes and bugs someone else. Talkers need an audience. It you aren’t it, they will seek others to play the role.
- Don’t be snarky to those you don’t get along with. Do not avoid people you should interact with just because you may not share a friendship. Avoid temptation; do not grovel in negativity. When you interact, be formally polite.
- When dealing with complaints or interactive friction, do not air it out in the open. Insist on privacy. If you can’t get that privacy in the office, go to a neutral site like a coffee shop.
- Do not open a closed door without permission to enter. Be respectful. Knock and wait for permission. Behavior label the reason for your arrival: “Can I ask you a question?” or “Got five minutes to critique my presentation?”
- If you go into someone’s office, do not sit down until asked to do so.
- Don’t bring pets or kids to the office for extended periods unless you must. If this occurs, make sure to properly control them at all times. We all love our pets and kids, but the office is a place of business. Be extra sensitive to the needs of others.
- Don’t eat or snack in front of others. It’s rude. If you must do it, make sure your guests are snacking too.
- Don’t flirt in the office. Ever! Nothing plummets your stock faster than sloppy romance. The walls not only have ears, they have eyes. And a great big mouth that’s dying to spread gossip. Your reputation is easy to tarnish and hard to restore. Do not risk it.
These tips should help when interacting with associates.
Coming up in Part 2: Proper Etiquette Between You and Your Boss.
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