Workplace Social Etiquette

by Clayton Browne
Good workplace etiquette includes not creating strong odors in a communal kitchen.

Good workplace etiquette includes not creating strong odors in a communal kitchen.

Workplace etiquette evolves from time to time, but there are a few general considerations -- such as courtesy and respect for starters -- that always are relevant. Technology has changed a great deal about how people work and interact, however, and some workplace etiquette rules have evolved significantly to reflect 21st century realities.

Respecting Personal Space

Not respecting a coworker's personal space is a major no-no. Whether it is constantly popping your head over the cubicle wall or walking into a colleague's office without knocking even if the door is open, not respecting the personal space of others creates resentments and is a classic example of poor workplace etiquette.

Kitchen Etiquette

Cleaning up after yourself and not taking food that isn't yours are obvious kitchen etiquette rules, but it can be more difficult to enforce rules about food odors. Everyone has the right to eat what they want, but you do not have the right to create strong food odors -- think cooking cabbage or fish -- in communal areas. It really just boils down to exercising good judgment in what you reheat in the microwave and where you eat your meals.

Bathroom Etiquette

Bathroom etiquette is a big deal, especially if it is a unisex bathroom. Cleaning up after yourself is rule No. 1. Wiping up, throwing away paper towels, and putting down the toilet seat are basic courtesies that should be practiced by all. Hand washing is also extremely important, especially during cold and flu season. Some states require hand washing reminders to be posted in workplace or public bathrooms.

Casual, Not Sloppy

The 21st century has seen a trend toward more casual dress in the workplace. Workplaces where clients are rarely if ever seen are becoming more common, and workplace dress codes are generally more lax in such environments. Every workplace sets its own standards, but there are limits in terms of potential distractions. Ripped or torn clothes, clothes with offensive slogans and bare feet cross the line from casual to sloppy in most work environments. Wearing too much perfume or cologne or not wearing sufficient deodorant are other common workplace etiquette violations.

Volume Control

Many modern workplaces are cramped with workers lined up in cubicles at close quarters. Noise can be a major problem in crowded environments, and one loud-talking person can interrupt the concentration of half a dozen or more coworkers. Shut your office door before phone calls or conversations, if possible, or consider a microphone and headset if you are in a cubicle where noise is likely to be an issue.

About the Author

Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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