What is Office Etiquette and Why is it Important?

Perhaps office etiquette is something that differs from office to office and place to place. Even if this is true, comprehending basic etiquette in the workplace helps things run a bit smoother. Even if we know what social etiquette is, in an office setting, it is a little different when it comes to expectations.

What is office etiquette and why is it important? Office etiquette is simply defined as basic manners in the world of business. It is important because it cuts down on stress and conflict between coworkers, which ultimately affects the company’s success.

Even though office etiquette is considered basic manners, some people need to be informed on what he is she should or should not do in the workplace. The benefits of learning etiquette in the office are many. It is likely that encouraging better workplace manners will create a better culture.

Basic Etiquette and Importance

Many workplace etiquette rules align with basic human decency, i.e., be kind, don’t steal, and avoid raising your voice. While these are some of the glaringly obvious etiquette standards, there are a variety of other tips that will make the office environment better for everyone.

Meetings are common events in any industry. If attending a meeting be sure to pay complete attention to whoever is speaking. This means that you should not be speaking to your neighbor, texting, emailing, or playing a game on your phone. Also, be sure that your phone or tablet has been muted to minimize distractions. Avoid doodling and spacing out. Ensuring that the meeting moves along smoothly will boost productivity.

Proper office etiquette online comes into play when trading work emails. By responding to emails as quickly as possible, an employee can not only ensure that the necessary information is provided to complete projects on time, but also proves that the project is important. It’s also courteous to reply as soon as possible. Leaving the sender hanging does nothing but raise more questions and waste time.

Be sure that common areas or conference rooms are not being utilized to take personal calls or turn into your office space. Allow common areas to remain in common areas. Keep conversations at an appropriate volume and recognize if you might do something to distract another employee from his or her workOpens in a new tab..

Consider the idea that others in the office may be sensitive to smells. This means avoid spraying (or wearing) perfumes or colognes, think about the smell your lunch might bring, and be sure to practice good hygiene. When people are working long days in one space, lingering smells are not generally pleasant.

Clean up after yourself. While it should not be your mother’s job to pick up after you, it is most definitely not the purpose of your coworkers. Not only should you clean up any messes made in the common areas like the kitchen or lunchroom, but your office space should be tidy as well. If coworkers have to spend any amount of time in your space, or if they simply have to look at it, it should be well-kept.

Although working while sick can display your dedication to the job, it can also get others sick. It is not a form of good office etiquette to come to work coughing or sneezing. The transfer of illness between coworkers is a way to diminish staff for the life of the illness. If you absolutely must work while sick, ensure that hand sanitizer and disinfectant is used regularly, tissues are thrown in the trash, and your mouth is well-covered when sneezing or coughing. The spreading of germs is not good for any office, so measures of prevention should be taken seriously.

Respecting the privacy of others is also an important aspect of basic office etiquette rules. This often starts with the company defining appropriate boundaries when it comes to conversation and touching. Considering the feelings of coworkers is a big part of respecting the privacy of others. Think about how he or she might feel about the questions you ask before asking, or how they might respond to stepping into his or her personal space.

Just because you would be comfortable with a coworker sitting on your desk does not mean that someone else might. Be tolerant of others’ views and ideas on what he or she is comfortable with. Consideration of other cultures and personalities is key to having an effective and cohesive team. Work as a team by treating coworkers like teammates.

With the inclusion of work etiquette, companies can see a variety of benefits. One of the most obvious of these benefits is the improvement in coworker relationships. With fewer complications between differing personalities, a business will find that the team works together more flawlessly and efficiently. That efficiency translates into productivity.

Utilizing proper business etiquette often allows for more growth within the company. Skills will not be overshadowed by a lack of manners. Communication will be enhanced by common etiquette practices, which in turn displays the ability to handle a number of professional and social situations. Employees that are better at communication are often those that are good at their jobs.

Having a sense of proper etiquette also inspires open minds that are inclusive to diversity. Because of the better relationships established from simple manners, workers are more likely to have great relations with people that are different from themselves. Etiquette provides an avenue for people of different races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and more to listen to different ideas and thoughts — that benefit alone branches out into a number of other benefits from a diverse team.

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of office etiquette is how are moves beyond the workplace. Sometimes you might find yourself shocked at the lack of manners that others display in public. However, if companies were to make etiquette a priority, it can be difficult to turn off at the end of the day. Well-mannered employees would just become well-mannered people. That benefits everyone, not just the company.

The understanding that office etiquette is simply common manners and should be made a priority in a work setting is key to developing a strong team and brand image. While these kinds of manners may seem common sense to most, there has been a disconnect in some situations that call for the expectations of employee manners to be specifically defined. The next question that arises is, how do companies define the expectations of employee manners? Learning how to approach this is often vital to the success of a business.

Incorporating Office Etiquette

office etiquette

Despite the previous assumption that etiquette is common sense, developing specific rules and expectations surrounding the topic is the best way in which a company can ensure that employees understand how they are to act in an office setting. By having written expectations, confusion can be avoided between cultures. It is also ideal to incorporate some office etiquette training so that employees are more prepared for proper work behavior.

By defining the most common etiquette rules in the employee handbook, workers will understand the basics of what is expected of them. While it is most likely impossible to include every single rule regarding behavior in the workplace, it is a starting point. Company leaders can do a variety of things to encourage better manners at work.

Management should start by leading by example. If the higher-ups have the ability to get through a meeting without checking his or her phone, it should be possible for those further down the corporate ladder. On the flip side, a manager that is constantly looking at his or her phone or taking personal phone calls is one that encourages employees under him or her to do the same.

Even if a working group is incredibly close, be sure to use professional language – cursing in the work environment can slip into swearing in inappropriate work situations. By communicating efficiently and without added, unnecessary slang or lingo, a manager and his or her employees can be ready for business conversation when the need arises.

In addition to proper language and actions, training should be offered to all members of the organization.  Unfortunately, most companies only put their senior most employees through business etiquette training. However, the benefits that a company would discover when all employees are trained can inspire the inclusion of all employees.

Training in etiquette can be as simple as going over specifics in a company-wide meeting or as expensive as hiring an outside company to do the process for you. Typically, outside companies are qualified in engaging personnel in ways like role play, group discussion, and written learning or tests. Deciding how to go about training is typically dependent upon the time you have to out into the training and the funds you might have available.

Office etiquette, while something many people simply expect others to have, is often a quality that should be taught. With the differences in culture, generations, and people in general, having employees that understand how they should act can save employees from a number of headaches.

Effects of NO Etiquette

Bad manners in the work environment can lead to a variety of struggles and problems. Although these issues might be small or pass in time, it is important to identify the effects of a coworker lacking etiquette. When we can identify the problem, we are better able to determine a solution.

One of the most obvious issues with a lack of manners in the workplace is anger or irritation. When a coworker is rude or ignores general rules of social etiquette, we might find ourselves with a sour attitude. If the behavior is affecting more than just your work, but also other coworkers, it may be apparent that the behavior needs to be addressed. While ignoring the problem and moving on with your day might be appropriate for issues that bother no one else, upsetting the entirety of the office is not a good work environment.

Taking action against coworkers that lack office manners is the only way to get the behavior to stop. The action taken should not be condescending or rude, as that will make the situation more uncomfortable. Rather, be kind and understanding toward the person committing the offense. Adults should have the capacity to discuss their differences in a professional manner.

Another side effect of bad manners in the workplace is stress. Stress causes a number of health concerns and can alter the course of a work day or performance. By combating stress in other ways, like letting in natural light, drinking enough water, and getting plenty of sleep, it may be easier to deal with the issue at hand. If these natural remedies make no improvements on your overall stress level, organize a short training session or meeting on office etiquette and its effect on stress.

Detrimental effects on the company as a whole can stem from just one employee with no etiquette. Strained relationships in an office setting can diminish productivity and develop a negative image. This is why addressing the matter at hand is imperative. When a talk with the person in question makes no change, nor does a company-wide informational meeting, it may be time to remind the person time and time again – while being realistic about the change. Remember, this person has likely made the issue a habit. Breaking that habit may take some time.

If an employee is unable (or unwilling) to make a change, it may be necessary to take disciplinary action. While the severity of the punishment depends on the specific behavior, it is important to make a change before the bad habit causes irreparable damage. It may seem extreme that a lack of polite behavior can cause such damages, but a toxic environment can cause hard feelings over time.

As previously discussed, office etiquette is, in its most basic terms, the basic understanding of workplace manners. It is an important part of the business office because of its impact on relationships within the company. Defining behavioral expectations is imperative in preventing issues before they start. If problems do arise and become bothersome to coworkers, discussing change is key to improving. Without behavioral change, a business can suffer in the long run.

Related Questions

How should an employee handle a confrontation with a coworker? First and foremost, always go into a confrontation assuming that your coworker had good intentions. Secondly, speak face to face rather than via email, even when uncomfortable. Lastly, think about if the confrontation is really necessary or if you can simply move onOpens in a new tab..

How can you move past anger or irritation at work? Physically move away from the issue. If something is starting to grind your gears, take a break. Go for a walk outside or put the stairwell to use. Do not approach the issue again until the emotional response has subsided.

Steve Todd

Steve Todd, founder of Open Sourced Workplace and is a recognized thought leader in workplace strategy and the future of work. With a passion for work from anywhere, Steve has successfully implemented transformative strategies that enhance productivity and employee satisfaction. Through Open Sourced Workplace, he fosters collaboration among HR, facilities management, technology, and real estate professionals, providing valuable insights and resources. As a speaker and contributor to various publications, Steve remains dedicated to staying at the forefront of workplace innovation, helping organizations thrive in today's dynamic work environment.

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