Catherine's Career Corner
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June 18th, 2009
Workplace Do’s and Don’ts

Workplaces can differ in every sense. From dress codes to the informalities of how people interact with each other, the protocol of the accepted etiquette will vary both from industry to industry and also between companies involved in the same industry themselves.

For example, a factory environment may adopt a far less formal approach than, say, a law firm but probably the most important aspect to remember is that just because you work within a particular industry, you shouldn’t assume that what was acceptable within one company you’ve worked for previously will be just the same if you move to a similar role within another similar type of company.

Therefore, when you move to a new workplace, always err on the side of caution and use those first few days to casually observe your fellow colleagues and to try to establish what’s considered ‘reasonable’ behaviour and what isn’t. If you’re unsure about certain things such as if it’s acceptable to have your mobile phone on, for example, or the specifics of the dress code, ask a colleague. However, there are a number of workplace ‘dos and don’ts’ that are commonly accepted by most companies.

Workplace Don’ts

Often, it’s a simple matter of using your common sense and behaving in a manner that shows courtesy and respect for others but there are numerous things that you should obviously not get involved with or encourage. Here’s a list of some of the most commonly cited examples of behaviour that is often frowned upon and even not tolerated by most companies, regardless of type. Disregarding these, it can often, at best, make you unpopular or, at worst, might even get you the sack. Things you shouldn’t do at work include:

  • Engage in idle gossip about other colleagues or your boss or ‘bad mouth’ them
  • Don’t get involved in any banter which might have sexual or racial overtones
  • Be modest and don’t harp on about any of your previous achievements or be an attention seeker
  • Don’t try to court favour with your boss or immediate supervisors. Just doing your job in the best way you can is the most productive way of impressing those higher up the ladder than you
  • Don’t assume something is acceptable practice in either conversations you might have or actions you might consider taking. A good example of this is assuming that it’s OK to leave your mobile phone on silent or vibrate, yet still respond to text messages, for example. Establish the position on that and other things you’re not sure about first such as eating at your desk or work station, which is another good example where people often do the wrong thing.

Workplace Dos

There are a number of things that you should do if you want to be seen as a valuable member of the team and to be considered a valued colleague. These can include:

  • Being respectful and courteous towards others – even if you don’t necessarily like a particular person
  • Keep your voice at an acceptable level. A loud voice which is noticeable in a particular work environment can not only be counterproductive for others who are trying to get on with their work but can be extremely annoying too
  • Offer to help others if there’s anything you might be able to do to assist them and make their job easier if you’ve time to do so
  • Dress appropriately and adopt a similar degree of formality/informality once you’ve established the acceptable ‘code of conduct’
  • Make sure you understand the rules surrounding e-mail etiquette and the use of your mobile phone
  • Remember you’re being paid to work so keep idle chit-chat and other things that may take your attention away from what you’ve been employed to do to a minimum.
  • Stay positive and upbeat and…smile!

These are just simple dos and don’ts which reflect general workplace etiquette in most workplaces and are often as much about using your own common sense as anything else. However, this entire website contains more specific articles which may be of more relevance to a particular situation you’re faced with at work in terms of what you should and shouldn’t be doing or saying.

For more articles like this, see WORK ETIQUETTE

Founder, Catherine's Career Corner. The career site empowering and inspiring ambitious candidates of all ages and professions to thrive and work smarter on their careers. Gladly helping all career-minded people worldwide to explore their career, manage change and understand how new technologies are changing and enhancing the future of work.

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