Office Etiquette: Fall In Line!

Office etiquette is not only about proper dressing and pleasing manners, it is also about striking that perfect balance between being familiar and formal with your colleagues,

We all know the importance of keeping our bearing and dignity at all times. Manners are something that we are expected to learn and follow through out our lives. As the old cliché goes "Men may doubt what you say but will believe what you do." This holds true more for how we behave in office than anywhere else.

One needs to be careful enough to avoid any situation that might be embarrassing and leave a negative impression on your career. Office life is as much governed by unwritten rules of conducts as society is. In fact, it is easier to know the rules of society; it is what your parents have been trying to teach you all through your life. But office is a different arena, where different people from different backgrounds come together, it is the art of striking the perfect balance between being familiar and formal with colleagues, seniors and subordinates. It holds the key to a smooth work life.

Every company has a certain code of conduct for its employees. Many companies even have a pre-joining programme or orientation session where the employees are briefed about its HR policies & basic decorum that the company expects from them.

Here are some cardinal points for keeping in mind while in office to avoid any awkward situation or conflict:

Confidentiality: Individuals generally dislike persons, who are unable to keep confidential information secret. Anything you hear or see within a company may be confidential, including business plans, customer/patient lists, product specifications and employee records. No information should be leaked whether intentionally or unintentionally. It is the first and foremost office etiquette and you should always be loyal and committed towards your company.

Professionalism: Showing a level of professionalism in one's job means you must show maturity, reliability, and conscientiousness. All of these factors considered together would be called your work ethic, and the ideal work ethic is one that speaks highly of you and shows good character.

One's work ethic and professionalism say lots about an individual, as well as employers, remember these characteristics long after your job has ended.

Punctuality Be on time! Make sure you have directions and allow for rush hour traffic. It is very important to be on time. " Yeah! one of very important factors is punctuality, if you have called a meeting then make sure that you reach the board room before the scheduled time, don't ever let people see an unreasonable boss in you, who himself comes late and is strict about their punctuality


Representing Yourself & the Organisation: Act maturely, discretely, responsibly, and be courteous to those you meet. Remember you are representing yourself and your company. Generate the spirit of team work in your employees, take time and let them know that each one of them is an asset to the company and it is their combined team effort that will yield the desired results.

Need of patience in all things: You need to be patient as things move at their own pace. All the more you are surrounded with people from different educational and cultural backgrounds, please keep in mind that there will be problems and goof ups and their will be rewards and recognition, as well. So keep your cool and that is where your self-control works. The essence of etiquette lies in self-control, the exercise of which has to be initiated early in life. It is difficult for any person to maintain his etiquette even in a homogeneous environment, if he lacks training in self-control.

Avoid personal conversation: Avoid personal conversation when a client is waiting. Personal conversations can either be conducted face-to-face or on the telephone. Talking with your friends while a client is waiting is very annoying and frustrating to the client. Wait until your break time, then you can have private conversations away from the public view. If another employee wants to talk when you are attending to a client, try responding with a nod, or tell the employee you are busy and will talk later. Attending to your duties on the job is priority, not socialising. Personal telephone calls should be brief and such conversations should be terminated when a visitor or client approaches.

Maintain Boundaries: Every office or organisation has its own norms of behavior - within the office it is important to observe the rules, set, whether consciously or unconsciously. But remember to keep one's personal life out of the office. Your family and personal life are your own business and nobody else's, By the same yardstick, you should not interest yourself in other people's lives.

Be tactful with rude people: You may have a bad day but you cannot show your feelings to the people you serve. On the other hand, if the public is rude to you, be patient and courteous. Count to ten silently and slowly, then respond politely and positively. When necessary, give instructions slowly and clearly--even if you are doing so for the tenth time that day. If you do not have the correct information, route the client to the appropriate person.


1. The "silent treatment"

There is nothing ruder than having lunch with a co-worker or client and then averting your eyes when you pass in the hall or acting as though you've never met when seated across the table for a business meeting. You should acknowledge the other person’s presence.

2. Gossiping

Gossip is the height of inactivity in the workplace and it is extremely bad manners to assume that everyone else is interested in the often spiteful and meaningless titbits you're passing on. Gossiping does not build trusting work relationships.

3. Inappropriate attire

Too short, too tight, too revealing clothes should be avoided in office. It is disrespectful to others and yourself when productivity and the quality of work is demeaned by distractions resulting from someone's attire. A good rule of thumb is to follow the dress code exhibited by your immediate supervisor.

4. Smoking

Don't smoke in public places, especially work, except in designated areas. If possible, don't smoke at all when with clients.

5. Poor Phone Manners

Do not put a caller on hold so you can answer your "call waiting". Do not keep people on hold for any reason for an extended period and do return telephone calls with in 4 hours if possible. If you're leaving a message, make sure you leave your name and number and a brief message. Nothing is more frustrating that a voice mail message where someone forgets to leave his or her name or number. If a message has been left, pass it without "meaningful" comments, especially if the caller is of the opposite sex.

6. Indecent Behaviour

Do not address your supervisor or co-workers by their first name or a nickname when introducing a client. Always introduce the less accomplished person to the more accomplished person. In fact the proper introduction protocol is to use the most important person's name first. In any case, any introduction is better than no introduction.

7. Disregard of others time

Do not be late and do not keep others waiting. Nothing says, "my time is worth more than yours" than being late. Too early is not always appropriate either. Don't drop by just to chat. Interruptions are not always welcome. If the door is shut, knock first. Do not sit down in someone's office until you are invited to do so and if at all possible, call ahead to make an appointment. Be prepared and stick to the point of the meeting.

8. Inconsiderate of Common Space

Leaving your mess out in a common space, leaving dirty coffee mugs in conference rooms, and leaving stapler or copier empty after using the last of the staples or paper. Do not brush your hair, change your socks, apply make-up or use a toothpick anywhere except the bathroom.

9. Not Paying Your Fair Share

At a restaurant with peers and not paying enough to cover your entire meal -- drink, meal and tax. Do return borrowed objects and do not "borrow" anything without permission. This applies to office supplies, reports, ideas and even clients.

10. Snooping

Reading others faxes, email, computer screen, or mail. The secretary or any authorised person in the department should open letters that are addressed to the position - Marketing Manager or Personnel Manager.

Not only freshers, even senior and middle level employees need to keep a check on their office etiquette. "You are leading a team, a team which comprises of people with different work experience, different education, different qualifications, different strengths and different weaknesses,"

" There are acute disparities and misunderstandings, but if you have to lead a team then you have to digest all your anger and let your wit work for it",.

"Different strokes with different folks is a solution for tackling people who lack office etiquette. You have to get down to the level of an individual to make him/ her understand where he/she is goofing up,''.

Chandra Shekhar, Associate Vice President - Recruitment of a leading MNC says " Office etiquette is not a single term and it has a wide range. It includes generalities like the dress code, language, hand shake to finer aspects like avoiding office politics, snooping etc." "Our organisation, provides each employee with a code of conduct handbook and certain other measures such as privacy policy, salary confidentiality, health and hygiene policy etc,'' he adds. "The biggest problem one faces while handling a team is carrying all the people together though they may have different ideologies. The best thing to do is to have better communication with each of the team member and ensure they are all aligned to the organisation's goals."

With out a code of ethics, life at work would mean free for all. Minding one's manners in the social world makes life more pleasant for all - minding them in the office makes life more efficient as well.

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From India, Pune
Excellent! Most of employees know thes etiquette, but in reality don’t bother to follow. Well every one should follow thes ettiquettes in office. Pushpendra...
From India, Mumbai

From Nigeria, Ibadan
This is very good and it is very important for all the employees to understad the office Etiquette. This can be included in the Induction PROCESS
From India, Warangal
Dear Vhandrashekhar Sir, Very nice posting and under the roof of etiquette you have almost covered all the points. Thanks for such a nice post. Regards, Mona
From India, Mumbai

Chandra Shekhar, this is such a wonderful article, infact the way it was presented is too good, iam very inspired, iam going to prepare fo formal speech on this, i am sure my employees wud understand that..

From India, Hyderabad
very useful artical, we should keep in mind of organisation rules of regulation and maintain decorum. employees should co-operate
with hr and understand them. they are doing best for organisation culture and for health environment.

From India, New Delhi

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