Office Etiquette

How you handle yourself once you are on the job will have a very big impact on where you go from there. Thanks to for this article about navigating entry-level office life.

1.  Consider your surroundings.  As much as you have to demonstrate your abilities and tenacity, you also have to — in one way or another — fit in to the established ecosystem. Otherwise, you’re going to be frustrated, and your colleagues will be, too.Office Etiquette

That doesn’t mean, though, that you just go along to get along. Or even that you can’t express yourself. You just need to pay attention. A simple example: Most of you wouldn’t wear shorts to your office job because you know that’d be frowned upon, but sometimes it can be just as disconcerting to your coworkers if you’re rocking a three-piece suit.

You may think you’re dressing for the job you want, but if even the CEO is wearing a polo and khakis, they’re going to be wondering what exactly that gig is. This is just the sort of misstep that, while it won’t ruin your career, will make you seem and feel like an outsider, making it that much harder for you to connect with your colleagues and, potentially, advance at your organization.

2. Think tact.  In the delicate dance that is office politics, a little choreography goes a long way. So even if you’re certain that you’re the awesomest person in your office, acting like you know it all the time could slightly diminish how awesome people think you actually are.

So consider a subtler approach when it comes to sending memos, speaking up in meetings, and pitching projects. Watch what your most effective colleagues do, and follow their lead. And distinguish yourself, first and foremost, by doing stellar work.

3. Get managed. Everyone needs a few advocates in the office. But corporate culture can be incredibly closed, especially when you’re the new kid, and it can be particularly difficult to get a manager’s attention in today’s tough times. As a friend in a steady media job told me not long ago, “I can’t think of one time I’ve been ‘managed’ this whole year.”

Avoid that fate by focusing some energy on cultivating relationships with experienced staffers whose work you admire, or who naturally click with you. Take an interest in what they’re doing, rather than always or only plying them with your problems, and catch up regularly and in-person.

And most important, share with them what’s going well and what you might like to do next, so that they can both bring the benefit of their experience, and put in a good word for you at the conversations that count (which, of course, often happen above our paygrade).

4. Aim for friendly, not familiar. Steeped as we are in our Facebooking, Gchatting, and tweeting ways, we Yers don’t always have the best sense of communication boundaries. But just because we have an excuse doesn’t make it acceptable for us to send, say, e-mails that are all but unintelligible to most of normal society.

You know the sort I mean: Not only are they rife with abbreviations and typos, they often don’t even contain a salutation, let alone a signature. And let’s just say logic is not a priority. It may sound like I’m quibbling, but trust me, messages like this come across as just plain disrespectful — as though the person you’re writing to isn’t even worth the trouble of forming a complete sentence. This may be fine on Facebook, or with your friends, but it just won’t cut it at work — at least not if you want to succeed.

It does, however, offer a guideline for all your work relationships — even if you are Facebook friends with your colleagues, don’t interact with them the way you would with one of your actual friends on Facebook. Treat them, instead, like you would a cool aunt or uncle: Be nice, don’t overshare, and use punctuation.

5. Listen. Seriously. If there’s one Gen Y trait that irks people the most, at least based on the venting I’ve had to endure on our collective behalf, it’s that we just don’t listen. We are so used to being great at everything, that even when we’re getting a critique, we’re bent on explaining why what we did was right or best — finishing our bosses’ sentences for them, or formulating our responses while they’re still asking their questions. And often the only reason we even find ourselves in these situations at all is because we didn’t really listen to their instructions in the first place.

So let your boss do the talking sometimes, look her in the eye so she knows you’re hearing her, and maybe — and I know I’m going out on a limb here — take some notes. Whatever happens from there, whether you have questions or decide to do things a little differently, it won’t be because you were clueless.

Listening, after all, is the very first step in learning. And just as important, it’s how others know that we want to learn from them. A good listener isn’t just a good employee, he’s a good human being, and a good leader.


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