For many, the transition from full-time student to full-time employee will be not without its difficulties. While colleges and universities do a good job of educating students on the content of their major course of study, they can really drop the ball when it comes to teaching them about the office etiquette realities of the modern workplace. Far too many eager and capable new grads fail miserably when it comes to understanding office etiquette. Most of us learn these social conventions via a baptism by fire, but fortunately for you, you do not have to endure the flames!
Here are 10 office etiquette tips that can help you adjust to your new workplace.
1. Set a window of time for your arrival.
Traffic, particularly in major metropolitan areas, can be hugely unpredictable. A 10-mile commute in the suburbs of New York City can easily take more than an hour. Mass transit all too often operates with unforeseen delays and problems. Fortunately, unlike during the Mad Men era, most of today’s employers realize the challenge of getting to work and are not so much focused on when exactly you arrive. Although these managers are more focused on results than time spent in the office, it is still a good idea to arrive at relatively the same time. Know what the average length of your commute is, and give yourself a 30-minute window in which to arrive. Commit to that, and be consistent.
2. Present yourself appropriately.
Look around the office and notice what coworkers are wearing. Is it business casual, or suits and ties? Your attire should be neat and professional, but at the same time comfortable and non-restrictive. Also, be sure that your hair is groomed, your clothes are neat and wrinkle-free, and that your shoes are in good condition. Present yourself as the well put together professional you are. This is a key office etiquette tip!
3. Make solid introductions.
First impressions set the tone for a relationship, and an introduction is the perfect chance to make a good one. You never know when you’ll meet someone new, so it’s a good skill to keep in practice. Practice your 30-second introduction either in a mirror, or record yourself to watch your body language. Remember to make eye contact, and use a firm handshake. When you introduce yourself to a new colleague, you are not merely doing so to be polite. You are also learning about them and what they do, and how they may be able to help you (and vice versa). This is another key office etiquette tip.
4. Remember names.
People are usually impressed when you take the time to learn their names, so be sure to make it an office etiquette priority. Remember, it’s okay to ask someone to repeat their name in an introduction—in fact, it’s much better than having to ask for their name again a month down the road. Be sure to repeat the name when first introduced. It’s not only courteous, but it will help you remember it for the future.
Another point on names—make sure that you pronounce and spell them correctly. If you’re unsure, just ask. Consistently mispronouncing or misspelling someone’s name is not only rude, it’s lazy.
5. Organize your work space.
Some offices encourage “fun” work spaces that are full of pictures, magazines, and personal flair. Others companies expect more straight-laced and plain desks. But whatever the office etiquette is for your work space, remember to keep your desk clean and organized. If your desk looks like a sloppy mess, people will think the same about you. Invest in some antibacterial wipes, and periodically wipe down your keyboard, telephone, and desk.
6. Email as if it were going to be used in a deposition!
Remember that anything you send in a company email becomes the property of your employer. Very often, employee emails that are leaked to the media cause embarrassment to management. Employee emails are also fair game if the company is in litigation. Be careful what you put down in writing, and always ensure that the tone of your writing is respectful.
7. Share the credit.
Nobody likes a glory hog. Share the credit for group work and you’ll look like a team player. Also, this will generate goodwill amongst co-workers that can be reciprocated. Also—it’s the right thing to do.
8. Build relationships.
Build cohesion between yourself and coworkers by sharing your interests and passions. This will connect you on a personal level, building trust with those you work with—this will come in handy down the road when you have to work on a team project. Sharing your interests and passions also articulates who you are as a person, and what’s important to you.
9. Use your PTO.
No one gets a gold star for ending the year with 10 PTO days. Your paid time off is a company-provided benefit and should be used to rest, relax, and recharge. Go on vacation. Take that mental health day. And if you are sick, stay home. Your coworkers will thank you.
10. Be accountable for managing your own time.
The days of working 9-5 are gone. Now, savvy managers value results over clock-watching and are generally flexible with when and where the work is happening. However, with this flexibility comes personal responsibility. That means that rather than reading your favorite book in the evening, you might have to be on an international conference call, or working on a deadline. It is incumbent upon you to manage your work and time. Gone are the days of depending on your boss to hand you a schedule.
Remember that office etiquette is an important part of your work environment. Neglect it and you could damage your career and standing. Follow it and you can earn renown and a good reputation that could lead to bigger and better things within the company.