5 Coworker Etiquette Rules

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Posted October 3, 2012 by Marcy Farrey in On the Ladder

This is officially my second week working out of the Career Girl Network office. The space we are in, 1871, is shared with other startup companies. These first few weeks, I’ve been a little hazy on what the rules are in a shared space. Can I take a conference call in the main room? Is it okay to be chowing down on my lunch while I work? I often had the same questions when I worked in an open office with rows of cubicles: Everyone can hear and see what you’re doing, so shouldn’t you be a little courteous?

One would think so, but then I saw people at my past jobs doing whatever they wanted at their cubicle, regardless of the rest of us. In turn, I started doing whatever I wanted. But because I love the space I work in now, I don’t want to sink to the level of mutual impoliteness. So, what are the office etiquette rules these days?

The Daily Muse tackled the issue in “Work Nice with Others: Etiquette Rules for Co-working.” Though this article is directed at people who work in shared spaces like 1871, it easily applies to the cubicle life. Whether you’re all working independently or for the same company, the same rules apply. Here’s the list I’ve come up with, with the help of The Daily Muse.

  1. Check the Noise Level. Everyone has to make phone calls and have meetings, so the office will never be as quiet as a library. Everyone should be able to complete all the tasks they need to comfortably. Liz Presson at The Daily Muse says: “It’s important to know the noise policy, for your own benefit and for others, so check with the host before you settle in.” If you’re in an office, check with someone who has been there a few years — they’ll know what is generally acceptable.
  2. If you need to eat at your desk, eat at your desk. Whenever I¬†was concerned about eating food at my desk, I simply asked others if they minded. Most people have to eat at their desk sometime, so everyone more or less understands. Try to make it food that doesn’t have a strong smell.
  3. Got a personal call? Take it outside. I think it’s always better to walk outside or to an empty conference room to make a personal call. Sometimes we have to make them during work, but at least spare everyone from hearing the details.
  4. Be Friendly. Even if you are stressed and have a lot to do, don’t immediately bite the head off of someone who walks by and asks how you are. I’ve been guilty of this before. I usually feel bad afterward, but others don’t. Regardless of how you feel about it, treat people with respect. Your coworkers can’t read your mind and know that you are busy. Politely tell them that you will catch up with them later.
  5. Chatting on IM? Gossiping with coworkers? Don’t be so obvious. While Google Talk and instant messaging is a less invasive way of having a personal conversation at work, it gets quite annoying when you are constantly bursting into laughter and giggling to yourself every five minutes (Yes, I have had this happen in one office). Same with the gossip and stories you share with your best office friend. We don’t all need to hear about the guy you met this weekend or the fight you got into with your boyfriend. Save it for lunch, or talk away from everyone else’s desks.

If you’re guilty of breaking the etiquette rules at some point, it’s okay. We all do. The key now is to keep it to a minimum and recognize that you are in a professional environment. If you know you’re creating a disturbance, apologize. In return, forgive others if they make a few mistakes here and there. If it gets to be excessive, address the issue with that person directly before complaining to others — you would want that person to do the same for you. And if that does not work, take it to a manager.

Check out more etiquette rules on The Daily Muse.


About the Author

Marcy Farrey

Marcy Farrey is a videographer, writer, and editor. In her previous life, she worked as a broadcast news reporter and producer in Lincoln, Nebraska and as a writer and producer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has a Master of Arts in Writing and Publishing from DePaul University and a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University. Learn more about Marcy on her website www.marcyfarrey.com.

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