Office Etiquette: Do or Don’t?

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Most days at the office, basic practice and common knowledge help us to navigate situations and keep our days running smoothly. In certain situations, however, there can be a fine line between “do” and “don’t” for best protocol. What can help in these moments? Reflection, perspective, patience – and the tips below for added insight!

Have you found yourself in any these situations? What are your tips for best protocol?

Phone calls in open offices

For those working in open concept environments or cubicles, taking phone calls in earshot of several colleagues is a daily occurrence. What is the best practice when you know that someone will hear your conversation?

  • Do: Take normal calls with non-sensitive information at your desk. It is unreasonable to expect employees to find a private space every time they need to make a call.
  • Do: Keep your voice down to a normal or low tone, so it is not too distracting for others around you.
  • Don’t: Take any phone calls that will involve private information, such as salary rates or employee personnel. Find a quiet space, or book a private, closed-door office for the duration of the call.
  • Don’t: Use speakerphone. This includes music playing while your call is on hold, or a conference call you would prefer to take hands-free.

Managing issues

Whether you have an issue with a co-worker, are over your workload capacity or simply need advice, effectively managing workplace issues is key to being a great professional and having a functional work environment.

  • Don’t: Engage in workplace gossip. The friend or colleague you complain to won’t be able to provide guidance from an organizational perspective, and gossip always holds a high risk of backfiring. Not to mention, gossip breeds negativity.
  • Do: Elevate the issue to your supervisor or manager. Have an upfront, rational and professional conversation about the issue at hand.

Wardrobe mishap

One wardrobe mishap can be a source of great frustration: spilling coffee on a blouse or suit jacket, say, or accidentally dressing down for casual Friday when an important client meeting looms that same afternoon. What to do in these situations?

  • Don’t: Panic. If you’re down and out on the wardrobe front, a last resort could be to step out for an emergency dry clean or even a new shirt purchase, or to head home over lunch hour to change.
  • Do: Be prepared. This means keeping an extra suit jacket hanging on your office door or in the coat closet for unexpected spills or formal occasions.
  • Do: Keep tabs on your schedule with wardrobe concerns in mind. Make a mental note (or even a note on the appointment itself) when there is a critical meeting, presentation or formal event in the day’s activities, so you can remember to dress up a notch when need be.

Late to an important meeting

This is a situation to be avoided at all costs, but inevitably, tardiness happens. When it does:

  • Do: Send a quick email or text to the meeting organizer that you are going to be late, so that the group can proceed without you.
  • Do: Apologize profusely – to the meeting organizer and to the attendees, especially if others’ schedules will be impacted by your lateness.
  • Do: Email any contributions to the attendees following the meeting that you would have shared during the duration of the meeting itself.
  • Don’t: Make a habit out of being late! Punctuality is an essential characteristic in a successful professional.



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