Some Office Etiquette Dos and Don’ts

At some point during the average person’s adult life, he or she will probably work in an office environment. Some offices are spacious and quiet, others are cramped and louder than an AC/DC concert with a drink special. Some are made up of smaller offices with great views and doors that can be shut when the need for privacy arises, others are broken down into cubicles with glimpses of nice views and walls that muffle your neighbor’s phone calls, and others are just a sea of desks with nary a window in sight and so little privacy that you can’t imagine that there is a detail about your neighbor’s personal or medical history with which you aren’t already painfully familiar.

Since 6 years in the workplace automatically bestows upon a person the title of “expert,” I thought I would share a few tips that might help a person transition seamlessly from “lifeguard/college student” to “model employee.” And if you are already in the workforce and you find yourself surprised by any of the tips below, try altering your habits a little and see if you start getting invited out to more apres-work activities. Not everyone is out there to make friends, but it’s nice to not be known as “that guy” in the office.

Tip #1: Do be careful with your food choices

Try to stay away from foods that are particularly pungent. This tip is especially important in office environments that feature cubicles or desks and a shared, open kitchen. Everyone has particular tastes and enjoys a variety of foods, but one must keep in mind that when it comes to a shared kitchen in an open office, whatever one person enjoys, everyone enjoys. Do you love fish and steamed brocoli? Shoot, who doesn’t?! Well, a lot of people, as it turns out. And since it’s nearly impossible to air out an office on the 25th floor of a high-rise, please don’t heat up your leftovers in the communal microwave, because that smell pretty much never leaves. Some examples aren’t as obvious; for instance, the smell of microwaved popcorn is incredibly appealing to some and leaves others with watering eyes and a splitting headache. Not everyone knows that, so no hard feelings. Others should come as no surprise.

There’s no fine listed for the durian because there isn’t a dollar amount big enough. [via]

During my first year at my first job out of college, a co-worker brought in cookies made from durian. If you aren’t familiar with a durian, it is a fruit that is described as so: “its odor is best described as pig-[poop], turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia.” (Read more about them here.) Did you catch that? They’re so offensive that they are banned in public. One might wonder what would possess a person to introduce that treat to co-workers, but it happened. The smell was so bad and unusual that folks in the office thought that there might be a gas leak and the proper authorities were alerted. I didn’t have the heart to announce that it was actually my neighbor’s lunch, so I just changed into my running shoes in case we got evacuated.

Tip #2: Do keep personal calls personal.

Again, this tip is especially important for people in an open-office environment. It’s not always easy to find the time to step away from your desk and take a personal call, but it’s ever so important to try. The more personal the call, the more important it is to carve away a few minutes to take said call outside.

None of your co-workers should know how surprised you are at the results from your most recent medical procedure, or just how bad your stomach feels after that questionable seafood dinner the night before, or the severity of your child’s most recent stomach bug. Even if you don’t really care if the people around you hear the deets, you must recognize that your neighbor might care and might be more comfortable not knowing so much about you. Keep it light. There was a man who sat near my team at work a few years back; no one knew who he was or why he was sitting there, but we did know that he was in a fierce custody battle, he had been having some pretty severe health issues and that he had recently found love and wanted to shout it from the rooftops.

Tip #3: Don’t clip your toenails at your desk

It’s horrific. That’s all. Just don’t do it.

Tip #4: Don’t come into work if you’re sick

We all know what a bummer it is to use sick days for an actual sick day instead of extending your beach vacation, but sometimes it has to be done. If you’re under the weather, don’t power through and come to work just to avoid using one of your hard-earned days off.

Your co-workers don’t want to sit there and listen to you hack up a lung and sneeze all over your computer screen and then rummage frantically for a tissue all day. It’s gross. And if your neighbor gets sick right after you show up to work barely able to open your eyes, rest assured that the blame will fall solely on you. If you’re sick, just stay home. Don’t be a hero because you can be sure no one else views you as one.

I hope that you find these tips useful. You are going to end up spending a lot of time with your co-workers, so you might as well try to stay on their good side. Good luck!

2 thoughts on “Some Office Etiquette Dos and Don’ts

  1. A woman in my office had hard boiled eggs at work today. I am considering printing out this post and handing it out at tomorrow’s staff meeting.

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