A Small Guideline To Workplace Etiquette

Proper workplace etiquette practices not only make the workplace a pleasant place to be in, but ensure that the work that needs to get done, gets done, and gets done well. We don't really need a long set of workplace etiquette rules to ensure that everyone walks the line. The fewer rules, the better. For that matter, guidelines are usually better than any set of "have to" or "must" instructions. Those are for the immature or insensitive, who probably wouldn't adhere to them anyway.

Times Have Changed - Workplace etiquette is slowly being modified, customized, and fine-tuned. This has been necessary in part due to advances in technology, particularly in communications.

Earlier generations didn't have to worry about cell phones, e-mail, or the possibility of misuse of the desktop computer. Workplace etiquette is no longer confined to just the physical office space, the factory floor, or the computer. If you're working from a remote location and keeping in touch via wireless communication, or participating in a video conference, there are certain rules and guidelines for workplace etiquette that didn't exist 20 years ago.

It's Really Very Simple - One of the greatest speeches of all time didn't run an hour and 45 minutes, nor was it read from a dozen sheets of paper. It was written on the back of an envelope and took under two minutes to deliver; it's called the Gettysburg Address. This is worth mentioning because when it comes to proper workplace etiquette, George Washington summed things up in a few short sentences, in a different time, of course.

If we follow President, then General, Washington's guidelines in the office, we will do the following:

Showing Respect - Of greatest importance, we will give our associates, those we report to, those who may report to us, and any visitors who happen by, our utmost showing of respect.

Not showing respect is divisive; it can't help but be. You may not like someone, the way someone does something, or the position that person holds, but most people still deserve your respect. There are of course exceptions. Immoral or unethical practices do not deserve respect, but you get the drift.

In the military, officers and soldiers are taught to salute the rank, not the person.

Washington said "Don't play the part of the physician if you be not knowing herein".  In workplace terminology, this means don't substitute opinion for facts, and don't promise to do assignments you know you are incapable of performing.

Washington also said, in words pertaining to his time, but applicable to our situation:

Don't sleep during staff meetings, or any meeting for that matter.

Don't interrupt others, or speak out of turn, or speak when you have nothing of value to offer. In the workplace, there are always those who make better talkers than listeners, but often have little worth saying. General Washington would call those individuals on the carpet.

Washington said to "Walk not on when others stop", in other words, pay attention, a sign of respect by the way.

No One Is Perfect - We are all guilty of violating the rules of workplace etiquette at times, though we don't usually mean to. A workplace can be a stressful environment at times, and most of us are not always at our best when stressed.

We talk loudly on the phone so everyone nearby gets to hear what we are saying, whether they want to or not.

We hover around someone's desk when they are on the phone, rather than coming back in a few minutes when they've finished with their conversation.

We sometimes assume a working associate is always available to listen to what we say, and don't hesitate to interrupt. After all, what we are doing is always more important isn't it?

Pushing The Envelope - Dress codes will vary. Proper workplace etiquette usually includes adhering to a dress code. It's there for a reason, and if you don't like something about it say so, but adhere to it until it's changed.

We all love the free spirit of course, the one who refuses to wear a necktie, or simply has extremely poor taste in apparel, and if we aren't one, we at times secretly wish we could be. A free spirit may push the envelope at times, but violating workplace etiquette is taboo.

No matter how many rules or guidelines one could list on workplace etiquette, it almost always boils down to one thing:


Do that and you shouldn't get into trouble, you'll be welcome in the workplace, and you'll probably even do higher quality work.