Office Etiquette

The present-day office is much different than where Baby Boomers initially worked. The big desks in the smoke-filled offices depicted in the recent television show Mad Men are history. Cubicles have replaced desks and offices and smoking is banned inside buildings. Not only has the office environment changed; those who actually go to an office is different. Many companies have employees who work from home.

The new “office,” made up of some space inside the employee’s home, has been made possible by advances in technology. Staff are able to participate in daily office business including meetings, trainings and providing presentations. This new office look has made its mark on the business world and is here to stay. However, the office pleasantries, including manners on conference calls, has not survived the metamorphosis.

Here are some very basic rules of etiquette to help the office environment run smoothly.

a. Work space. This includes respecting the actual personal space of the worker by your physical presence, smells from reheated seafood leftovers from The Hurricane Restaurant, and noise from other work or non-work conversations.

b. Cleanliness. Keeping work space neat affects all those who may see the area. While you may be able to maintain your productivity in a cubicle overflowing with paper, cups, and snacks, others may be distracted to the point of dysfunction.

c. Sick. You may think coming to work sick shows everyone the extreme depth of your commitment but it also shares germs. Do not come to work sick.

d. Tolerance. Everyone has a life outside of work and no one knows exactly what a person may be going through. Tolerance of unexplained behaviors, quirky personality traits, and annoying habits makes an office function as a team.

When office work requires conference call communication, the following guidelines will maintain the professional rhythm of the interaction.

a. Call in on time. Not only is this respectful, being on time prevents the “ding” from interrupting the flow of the conversation.

b. Good connection in a quiet environment. Having a clean, clear phone or conference line will eliminate disruption feedback as well as excessive background noise. A good connection assures everyone can hear all who contribute. Additionally, muting the phone (unless you are speaking) keeps the call focused on content, rather than the abstract noise of radios, television, barking
dogs, crying babies or computer typing.

c. Keep eating and drinking to a minimum. Many conference calls cross several time zones and attention should be given to keeping the crunch of Frito Corn Chips with onion dip or sips of Coke slurpees to a dim roar.

d. Attention. Paying attention to the conversation including taking notes along with having questions/comments ready will maximize the time allowed for the conversation.

e. Pleasantness. Just because others cannot see your body language, eye movements and smile, doesn’t mean they can’t hear them. Maintain fully professional mannerisms during the conversation to ensure you are sending the intended message.

f. Share the mic. Do not monopolize the conversation for your own agenda, and if a sidebar between participants develops, take it off line. Spare others from having to listen to topics not necessarily in their sandbox.

g. Do not interrupt or talk over others. Respect the person speaking as you would expect respect for your words too.

By Cathy Massaro, MSW, CCM

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