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15 Work Etiquette Rules That Will Make You Look More Professional

15 Work Etiquette Rules That Will Make You Look More Professional

Work etiquette is key to maintaining a pleasant and effective office. All workplaces are different, but basic work etiquette is pretty universal within a country. (Of course, once you start doing business with people from other countries, you might want to brush up on their etiquette rules. For example, in China it’s considered rude if you don’t take a business card with both hands.)

So for those of you doing business in the US, here are 15 basic work etiquette tips for making your professional life enjoyable.

1. Don’t fidget in meetings

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    Tapping your foot, jiggling your leg, drumming your fingers: this is all stuff you should avoid doing. If you’re fidgeting, it makes you seem nervous or bored. Don’t send the message that you’d rather not be there.

    2. Put your phone on silent

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      Cell phones going off in the middle of a meeting? Never good. Put your phone on silent. If you find you’re still tempted to look at it, consider leaving your cell at your desk before the meeting.

      3. Eat your own food

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        This is a problem in many communal settings, from college dorms to corporate office buildings. If you didn’t bring it, or if it doesn’t have a sign that’s telling you to help yourself, leave it alone.

        4. Know what you’re going to say

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          “Um” and “Uh” have no place in the office. Whether you’re talking to a colleague or speaking to a potential client, try to keep the stammering to a minimum. Saying “um” a lot implies that you don’t really know what you’re talking about and are stalling for time.

          5. Pay at restaurants

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            If you’ve set up a lunch meeting with someone, pay for his or her meal. As the host, it’s your job to be accommodating and polite.

            6. Respect others’ space

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              Cubicles don’t make for much of a sound or smell barrier, so be mindful of those around you. Don’t eat at your desk if you can help it, and try to speak in a lower voice when on the phone.

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              7. Give a good handshake.

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                The first impression that most people get of others in work settings is through a handshake. Make sure to keep it firm and brief. This makes you seem confident without overdoing it.

                8. Offer to take out-of-towners around

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                  When people come in from another city or state for a meeting, offer to show them around town. Maybe that just means a short driving tour, or perhaps a trip to a restaurant. This makes you and your company seem more likable and friendly.

                  9. Show up on time

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                    Sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed and get going—we’ve all been there. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a valid excuse for being late to work. It won’t be the end of the world if you don’t make it on time, but don’t make it a habit. Being late makes you seem unprofessional.

                    10. Introduce yourself using your first and last names

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                      In some settings, it’s fine to just introduce yourself by your first name. But in business settings, you should always introduce yourself by your first and last names. After all, you want people to know who you are.

                      11. Don’t stray off topic

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                        When speaking to people in a work setting, try to limit yourself to work topics. This is not the time to start talking about your latest vacation, your new dog, or your family. Keep all conversations about work only. If you’re friends with your coworkers, use your lunch break to talk about non work-related topics.

                        12. Know others’ titles

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                          If you don’t know what title someone holds (i.e., Doctor), do some research and find out. It’s unprofessional to send someone an email using “Ms.” when it should be “Dr.” LinkedIn is a good place to look for this information.

                          13. Remain professional outside of work

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                            And yes, this includes the company holiday party. Even if you’re not at work, your personal life reflects on your company. Think twice before doing anything that could make you look bad at work.

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                            14. Dress appropriately

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                              If your work is business casual, that’s what you should be wearing. If something requires you to wear a three piece suit, make sure you show up wearing one. Appropriate clothing is key to maintaining professionalism.

                              15. Respect workplace boundaries

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                                It’s great if you’re friends with your boss, but don’t take it too far. Being friendly is a lot different than expecting preferential treatment. Keep it professional and try to separate your work relationships from your personal ones (even if they’re with the same person).

                                Featured photo credit: Jacob Barss-Bailey via flickr.com

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                                Maggie Heath

                                Maggie is a passionate writer who blogs about communication and lifestyle on Lifehack.

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                                Last Updated on March 29, 2021

                                5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

                                5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

                                When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

                                What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

                                The Dream Type Of Manager

                                My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

                                I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

                                My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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                                “Okay…”

                                That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

                                I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

                                The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

                                The Bully

                                My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

                                However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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                                The Invisible Boss

                                This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

                                It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

                                The Micro Manager

                                The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

                                Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

                                The Over Promoted Boss

                                The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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                                You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

                                The Credit Stealer

                                The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

                                Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

                                3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

                                Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

                                1. Keep evidence

                                Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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                                Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

                                Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

                                2. Hold regular meetings

                                Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

                                3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

                                Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

                                However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

                                Good luck!

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