For Glamour, by Jillian Kramer.
Believe it or not, proper etiquette is still important in today’s workplace — even if we text, email, or Slack chat our bosses more than we talk to them in person.
As Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Texas, explains, “Our behavior leaves a lasting impression that can affect the way a colleague, client, boss, or vendor views us as a professional, and proper etiquette builds authentic relationships that are positive and lasting.”
On the flip side, “poor etiquette can damage your reputation, which can directly damage your career,” says Pamela Eyring, president of The Protocol School of Washington. “Coworkers can talk up a kind, respectful peer, or they can talk down one with bad manners, limiting your growth and opportunity,” she says.
So while no one’s telling you to become your office’s own Emily Post, it’s smart — and business savvy — to observe certain etiquette rules at work. Here are eight.
1. Respect your coworkers’ privacy. Peering over a coworker’s cubicle to grab his or her attention is a no-no, says Annette Harris, president and founder of Show Up! Always act as if your peers were guarded by doors, she instructs, and make a knock-knock motion before you enter his or her desk area. What’s more, steer clear of your peers’ possessions, too. “Whether it’s a text, email, snail mail, or paper on the printer or a desk, if your name isn’t on it, don’t read it, touch it, or share it,” says Gottsman.
2. Ask before you borrow anything. We’ve all borrowed a peer’s pen in a bind — only never to return it. But according to Eyring, nothing raises the ire of your coworkers quicker than borrowing — and losing — their property without their permission. So, “remember what your parents taught you as a child,” Eyring says. “Never borrow something without asking, and if you do, be sure to return it as soon as possible.”
3. Stand up to show respect. When your boss enters the conference room, don’t keep your nose buried in your phone, advises Jodi Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “You should stand to greet him or her,” she says, adding that the same idea applies when anyone enters your office. No matter where you are or whom you’re greeting, “standing is a sign of respect,” she says.
4. Don’t email time-sensitive information. You need a colleague to send you a copy of a report — stat. But instead of walking the five feet to her cubicle, you shoot her an email. “This tends to be a millennial move,” says Harris, “because they often try to avoid face-to-face encounters with coworkers like the plague. It may seem more practical to send a text [or email], but you risk being seen as lazy and lacking social or communication skills — which is not exactly a way to garner respect.”
5. Watch your mouth. Consider work a foul-language-free zone, says Eyring. “In an office setting, you are surrounded by people of all faiths, backgrounds, and moral codes of conduct,” Eyring points out. “Given this diversity, watch your language by editing out swear words, demeaning phrases, and other offensive remarks.” Keeping mum on curse words, she says, “will speak volumes about you.”
6. Give thanks. Handwritten notes of any kind may seem like a lost art, but it’s time to resurrect at least one in the office: the handwritten thank-you note. “A written thank-you note is a low-cost, high-impact way to show your professionalism,” says Smith. Send one to thank a potential employer for an interview, your coworker for a being a peerless partner, or your boss for finally giving you that raise.
“Handwritten notes of any kind may seem like a lost art, but it’s time to resurrect at least one in the office: the handwritten thank-you note.”
7. Keep your voice down. You could simply be discussing a project passionately. But raising your voice while you’re talking — or going hands-free by using the speaker feature on your phone — is a distraction to your peers, points out Harris. “You’re telling you coworkers that you have zero regard for their work, which is no way to make work friends,” she warns. “If you need to speak loud, make your way to a conference room or another area of the office.”
8. Keep it clean. Many an etiquette faux pas occurs in the office kitchen, Gottsman says. (Of course, some people commit them in their cubicles, too — for example, your coworker who peels open a stinky pouch of tuna at her desk.) Make a promise to clean up after yourself in shared spaces and avoid bringing smelly foods to work, says Gottsman. We think popcorn is OK, though — as long as you share.
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