Discover more from Making Men by Mick Lee
Making Men Newsletter #24
Throughout my working life, I’ve spent more than my fair share of time working in offices. Through the years I’ve seen many colleagues set the bar high for etiquette in the office, and seen just as many try to lower that bar like a limbo pole. I don’t want you to be one of the men on the lower end of the scale, so here in this post let me share with you some tips on office etiquette.
First and foremost, realize that there is a difference between social interactions and business interactions. While in an office, it may seem like it’s just another social setting but different rules and conventions do apply. In social settings, you and your friends are equals, but in the business world, there is a hierarchy. Whether you work at a conventional corporation or a casual upstart company, a hierarchy exists whether it’s spoken or not. In the business world, employees defer to employers, sellers defer to buyers, and lookers defer to those they are looking for. This is why your boss can call you by your first name, but you shouldn’t do the same of him/her unless they have asked that you drop the Mr./Mrs.
In both settings though, acting with integrity is key. Always show respect, and treat others as you’d like to be treated. That is just a good general rule for any interaction in life. But let’s get down to the details of how to handle yourself in an office setting.
Dress with respect. Strive to be clean and presentable every day. At a minimum, follow the dress code for where you work. Don’t be the man that toes the line. It’s fine to dress a little above the dress code, but just a little. You don’t want to come to work wearing a three-piece suit if the code calls for khakis and a collared shirt, but adding a sports jacket is fine.
Come to the office clean. Your co-workers are stuck with you in the office for eight or more hours a day. Don’t make them avoid you because you forgot to put on deodorant or have morning breath because you forgot to brush your teeth.
Keep things pleasant with your co-workers. Unlike when dealing with friends in a social situation, when things get awkward you can’t just stop seeing them. If you have an uncomfortable rift with a co-worker, you still have to see and interact with them on a daily basis, so keep your relations with them pleasant. This means not going into too much detail about your private life. Avoid discussions on things like religion and politics.
Work with your boss, not against them. Keep your boss informed. Let them know when you’ve made a mistake so they don’t paint themselves into a corner with bad information. If you have concerns about something, let them know in private instead of airing your grievances in an open meeting.
When you use the last of something, replace it. Whether it’s the last of the paper in the copier, the last K-cup at the coffee machine, or the last of the toilet paper in the restroom, don’t just walk away, replace it.
Respect the chain of command. Both up and down. Don’t step on anybody’s toes. Don’t go over your boss’s head without permission.
Bring in donuts or some other treat every once in a while. It’s not expected of you, but you’ll be a hero for that day.
Don’t pass the buck. Making excuses will always reflect more poorly on you than admitting your mistakes or shortcomings. If you blame an underline, you reveal yourself to be an incompetent leader for not making sure the task was done correctly. If you blame an equal, you look like a whiner. If you blame your boss, then you’re an idiot for blaming the person who holds your job in their hands.
Don’t be late for meetings. Late arrivals are disruptive if you have to be caught up on what has already been discussed.
Don’t linger around others’ desks. It's ok to stop for a quick hello at a friend’s desk, but when you just hover there, everyone knows you’re likely just wasting time. Most likely you’re wasting the time of the person whom you’re standing around talking to.
Don’t listen to music without headphones. Not everyone is a fan of Kenny G.
Don’t let your personal life get in the way of your business life. Always maintain a business-like attitude. Your personal life should rarely interfere with getting work done. It’s ok to leave early if your kid gets sick at school. It’s not ok to be late because you got drunk the night before.
In closing, just remember that how you conduct yourself at the office is not all that different than how you conduct yourself in social situations with your friends, but there are some slight changes you may need to make.
All of these things should be common sense, but after working in office environments for years, I know there are people who need to read this, and I don’t want you to be one of the men who lack these skills.