Team in an office

15 rules of good workplace manners

Written by Elizabeth Bromstein
Posted on

Good manners make all the difference in our daily encounters in the workplace and can make a big difference to your career advancement opportunities. But not everyone seems to know what it means to have them.

Here is a list of rules of good manners that one should abide by in the workplace – and anywhere else, really. You might think these are all obvious and, if so, good for you. There are, however, many people who need this refresher.

Say please and thank you. If you’re asking for something, or asking someone to do something, say “please.” If someone does something for you, or gives you something, say “thank you.”

Say hello and good bye. Greet people when you encounter them. In the morning say “Good morning.” Similarly, when you leave, say “Goodbye” or “Goodnight.”

Don’t ignore people in the elevator. This is hands down the weirdest thing I’ve encountered in the corporate world. You get in the elevator with people you know work in your office (but you don’t work together) and they avoid making eye contact as though you’re not there. OK, maybe all these people hate me, but I don’t think so. I’m nice. Also, even if you do dislike someone you should greet them in the elevator.

Offer to get coffee. If you’re running down to Tim Horton’s (or whatever) ask the people around you if they would like a coffee or tea. Make a point of saying “coffee or tea” so they don’t order whole meals (without giving you money for it). If you can’t afford a couple of bucks for the extra coffees, maybe you should ask for a raise. But really, someone else will get them next time, so just do it.

Say “Excuse me.” If you want someone to get out of your way, if you bump into someone, if you walk between two people having a conversation, if you need to interrupt a conversation, say “excuse me.”

Don’t interrupt. Ideally, you shouldn’t interrupt people when they’re speaking. Let them finish. If you must interrupt, say “excuse me,” or if you catch yourself after the fact, say “Sorry for interrupting you.”

Say “I’m sorry.” Also say “I’m sorry” if you intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone, or if you are rude or short, or if you make a mistake that costs someone else in any way, be it time, money, or something else. Sometimes we are rude or snippy when we are not at our best, and then when we realize we have made a mistake, we are too embarrassed to say anything and we just continue on as though nothing has happened. Don’t do that. Take a moment to own up and make verbal amends. If the offense was very bad, buy a small gift like coffee, chocolate, flowers, or a car.

Hold the door. When you go through a door, always look behind you and see if anyone else is coming. If someone is, hold the door open for them for Pete’s sake. The same goes for when you are getting into the elevator and you see someone coming. HOLD THE ELEVATOR. It’s what separates us from the animals.

Turn your phone down or off when in the office. It’s OK if you forget once in a while, but don’t be that one person who leaves their phone at top volume and gets calls allllll day long.

Don’t check your phone in meetings or when someone is speaking to you. Most of us are at least a little guilty of this. Some just steal a peek from time to time, while others stare at the screen the whole time someone is talking. It’s best to put the phone away and pay full attention to the person in front of you.

Don’t complain. Just don’t. It poisons the atmosphere, makes you sound like a jerk, and might hurt someone’s feelings (like if you’re complaining about the food at a meeting and it gets back to the person who was in charge of it).

Don’t give unsolicited advice. We live in a world where people are always telling others how to live. They tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat and wear, how to be happy, how to exercise, and how to manager your relationships – all without being asked. This is rude. Wait for the other person to ask your advice. If they don’t ask they don’t want it.

Don’t make personal remarks about someone’s appearance or clothing. Making personal remarks used to be considered rude. Nowadays it’s normal. But guess what? It’s still rude. It’s OK to say “I like your sweater.” It is not OK to comment on someone’s weight or appearance (unless you are good friends). Even “You look great today!” can be taken to mean “You look terrible every other day!” Be careful.

Clean up after yourself. So, this one time I went into a private interview room in the Workopolis office and someone had left what, from a distance, looked a pile of toenails on the floor. Guess what it turned out to be when I looked closer? It was a pile of toenails. You probably don’t leave your toenails around the office. But put your dishes in the dishwasher, and just pick up after yourself. It’s not anyone else’s job to clean up your mess.

Leave the personal grooming for home. Including clipping your toenails (weirdo) (whoever you are).

Yes, you should still display good manners even if no one is looking. It’s not just about whether you get caught. It’s about the effect you have on the world around you. Be mindful of it, and your coworkers will appreciate it.

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