Office etiquette: 5 behavioural traits to watch out for in the workplace

By Robert Half on 13 October 2014

Has your inbox been flooded with emails from a colleague who routinely abuses the “reply to all” option? Have your nostrils ever been assaulted by someone’s leftover lunch at their desk? Do you avoid the pantry because you don’t want to be accosted by the office busybody?

Such annoyances, and many others, occur all too often in the workplace. What constitutes office etiquette – and simple manners – may be obvious to some people, but for others, it may be an elusive concept.

The fact is, at various times in your professional life, you’ve probably been on the receiving end of a colleague’s bothersome behaviour. You may however, be blissfully ignorant of how your own lack of propriety could be affecting others.

The following are five examples of behavioural traits that could be working against you in the workplace:

Failing to use your indoor voice

Broadcasting your conversations to the entire office is disruptive to people when they’re trying to concentrate. So is broadcasting music from your speakers or even thinking out loud.

Be considerate to those around you. Lower your volume when speaking on a hand phone or in person and save your singing for the shower.

Maintaining an untidy workspace

Office cubicles are a little too close for comfort, particularly when it comes to odours. Eating pungent food at your desk or wearing heavy perfumes can be unpleasant for those who have workspaces near you.

Give everyone’s nose a break and leave the strong smelling food and other strong scents at home.

Over-killing managers with kindness

You’re never more transparent than when you blatantly stroke the egos of the management and treat subordinates condescendingly.

A genuine person who treats everyone respectfully makes a better impression on leadership than a fawning employee.

Being the office snitch

No breach of etiquette is quite as contemptible as telling on someone. Informing the management about colleagues who leave a few minutes early or those who take a longer lunch hour will likely make you the least trusted and most disliked person in the office.

Unless there’s a violation of ethics or illegal activity involved, tattling on colleagues should never be considered an option.

Raining on everyone’s parade

Habitually complaining about everyone and everything in the office can send colleagues scurrying when they see you approaching. If you don’t have anything positive to say, sometimes it’s best to keep your observations to yourself.

Working closely with other people requires a certain amount of decorum. Be respectful of your colleagues and make a conscious effort to avoid behaviours that could be construed as annoying or offensive. When it comes to courtesy in the workplace, a common sense approach is best to ensure you're adhering to office etiquette.

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