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9 Small But Helpful Office Etiquette Hints

May 17, 2016

Relationships with coworkers can be tough.

You are around each other all day, in likely stressful situations, making tough decisions together that you may not see eye to eye on.

It’s easy to get on each other’s nerves. Don’t let bad office etiquette make it even more difficult to work with each other. Here are some office etiquette tips that everyone can follow to make the workplace a little more enjoyable.

1. Don’t wear an excess of perfume or cologne.

I know what you’re thinking, that having good hygiene seems like good office etiquette. And while that’s (very) true, many people are sensitive to smells.

I once worked with a man who wore such strong cologne that you could smell it anywhere within a 50-foot radius of him. If you had a meeting scheduled in a room after he was using it, the room continued to smell like his cologne for up to an hour after.

I’m not exaggerating. 

While it seemed like it was a high-end brand of cologne, not everyone enjoyed how it smelled. It gave people headaches and was very distracting.

Obviously he is an extreme example, but do keep in mind that while you may think your perfume or cologne smells good, that doesn’t mean everyone does.

2. Don’t talk loudly on your cellphone in your work area.

It’s distracting when you are trying to focus on your work, and your office mate answers a call to make plans for the evening or to hear about the latest gossip in Tina and Josh’s breakup. 

If you have to take a personal call, or just need a 15 minute call with a friend to take a break and clear your mind, step outside or in an area where it is acceptable to talk on the phone.

While you may want to hear about Tina and Josh, your boss or manager may not be as interested and will likely find details of your personal life a bit distracting and unprofessional.

3. Don’t eat smelly food at your desk.

In today’s world, more and more people are eating at their desk. I always choose to step away for a lunch, as it helps me clear my mind and boost productivity, but other people would rather sit at their desk and work through lunch. As long as it’s not against office policy, either is fine.

However, if you do choose to eat at your desk, be mindful of what you are eating. Any fragrant food, even if it has a good smell, is a big no-no.

Just like perfume or cologne, some people are really sensitive to smells and it can be very distracting. Move this tip up to #1 if you also sit by a woman who is pregnant.

4. Only add necessary people to emails.

Don’t CC people on emails unless it’s absolutely necessary. Not only is it irritating to be included on emails you don’t have any need to be on, it fills up people’s inbox and makes them more likely to miss an actually important email from you.

5. Don’t use language in emails you'd use in text messages.

Although many companies have a laid back culture, you should still carry yourself in a professional manor when communicating. Stay away from using slang or texting language in emails. They most likely will ROTFL at you as well as have a hard time as seeing you in a professional manor.

This is especially important if you are on the younger side. Millennials already have a bad wrap for how they communicate, don’t give them another reason to label you as a millennial.

6. Don’t reply-all unless you absolutely have to. Or just don’t email something you don’t want someone to see in the first place.

You get an email from you boss that rubs you the wrong way. You mean to reply to the other person the email is addressed to so you can complain about how frustrating your boss is being. But instead you hit reply-all and it goes to your boss as well. Whoops!

The obvious tip would be to always double check who you are emailing. But an even better tip is to refrain from complaining your boss, or anyone for that matter, over email. 

Even though if feels good to vent to a fellow co-worker who can commiserate with you, you will look unprofessional and untrustworthy. While it may be hard not to show your frustration at times, the best road is to be self-controlled and not say anything at all.

7. Clean up your mess in the break room.

Long gone are the days where your mom cleans up for you after you eat a meal. While it may be second nature to leave an unwashed dish next to the sink, you need to put that habit in the past while at work.

If you make a mess in the microwave, get a wet paper towel and wipe it down before you eat your lunch. Forgot to eat your lunch and it’s starting to smell? Don’t let it sit in the fridge until it starts to smell up the entire office. Throw it out.

Even if you are the only one in the break room at the time and no one sees the mess you left, be the one to set the precedent to keep a clean kitchen. People will follow and everyone will be happier at the end of the day.

8. Stay at home when you’re sick.

You want to show all of your coworkers, mainly your boss, how dedicated you are by coming to work and powering through a bad cold. But all it really does is make people annoyed that you are potentially getting them sick.

In fact, more and more HR departments are putting actual policies in place for this, since sick employees do not make the best employee and can affect performance. Especially if you get 50% of the office sick.

This doesn’t mean stay at home at the hint of a sneeze. Use good judgment. Believe it or not, people do get a bad wrap for doing this. Nothing is grosser than someone blowing his or her nose on you in your weekly meeting or coughing all over the coffee machine.

Of course, there are jobs and situations where you can’t afford to take the day off or your boss wont let you. If this is the case, carry hand sanitizer around with you and make an extra effort to keep your germs to yourself.

9. Don’t take too many coffee breaks to chit-chat.

Guilty as charged with this. I tend to be a chatty person and love catching up with people while getting coffee. However, this not only looks bad, but can be really distracting to other people who aren’t trying to take a mental break.

Steve, from Caterpillar, says, “In any case, it is important to take a few breaks throughout the day to keep yourself refreshed and focused long term.  That being said, there are always some employees who abuse the freedom to take breaks.” He continues, “Multiple 30 minute breaks throughout the day is excessive, but shorter breaks, less frequent breaks are fine and should be encouraged.” Full Quote

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