Workplace Etiquette

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Stephanie Naznitsky details six ways to navigate a changing culture

New research from our company reveals what’s acceptable – and not – in the modern workplace, and the results may surprise you.

Ninety-one percent of senior managers surveyed say organizations have loosened up over the past decade. The research revealed some issues that have historically been frowned upon like visible tattoos, casual attire and non-traditional hair color are now more accepted. But certain behaviors, including using foul language, bringing pets to the office and displaying political decor are still workplace no-nos. Here are some key takeaways from what this new data means:

1. Many workplace behaviors are (still) not OK

According to the senior managers surveyed, 54 percent say using foul language is unacceptable. Communicating clearly and effectively is a prized soft skill, especially for administrative professionals, who interact with many stakeholders in a company.

Fifty-one percent say it’s not okay to bring in a pet. While we hear about relaxed workplaces who welcome furry friends, they can be disruptive at times and some employees might be allergic. It’s best to gauge your office environment to determine whether bringing a pet is appropriate.

Displaying political décor is not acceptable according to 48 percent of the senior managers surveyed. It’s best to leave political preferences and conversations out of the workplace.

2. Some workplace behaviors are (now, sometimes) OK

Tattoos have become more acceptable in today’s workplace: 35 percent of senior managers surveyed say visible tattoos are now okay, when it’s traditionally been a workplace faux pas. While many offices still stand by casual Fridays, 34 percent of senior managers surveyed say casual attire is okay, though each office is unique and you should use your best judgement on dressing casually at work. Administrative professionals are often the first interaction customers and job candidates have with a business, so it’s important to come across professionally, even with a casual dress code.

3. Go beyond the employee handbook

According to the data, most employers surveyed identified loosening societal standards as the top reason the workplace has become more relaxed. But this doesn’t mean you should simply follow the newly updated employee handbook word-for-word. It’s important to pay attention to unwritten, and unspoken, rules as well. Even while walking through an office for a job interview, take note of what traditional etiquette rules employees are maintaining. When applying or starting a new job, it’s best to play it safe.  Poor office etiquette can make colleagues, and managers, question your professionalism.

4. What would Emily Post say?

There are some general manners all employees should follow, just as society expects “please” and “thank you.”

  • Show your individuality, within reason.
  • Avoid foul language.
  • Be considerate.
  • No politics, no religion.
  • Don’t gossip. “He said/she said” always ends badly.

5. Does it really matter?

Yes. Breaking office etiquette may cause colleagues to doubt your judgment. For example, if you show up at a client meeting in jeans while everyone else is in suits, some may question if you’re taking the job seriously. In addition, managers may choose others over you to represent the company in the future; many factors are at play when promotions are handed out. Following your company’s written and unwritten etiquette rules gives you the upper hand, always. If you’re not sure, err conservative.

6. You can recover from an etiquette breach

Take ownership. Don’t rail against the company guidelines, calling them stuffy or old-fashioned. Instead, acknowledge your mistake and make amends if you’ve offended. Maintaining respect among colleagues for how you treat other people’s beliefs and values is vital for growth, personally and within a company. Review the company’s policies and corporate culture. Read the company handbook given to you during orientation and take cues from colleagues and managers. Learn from your mistake so it doesn’t happen again.

The rules of workplace etiquette are relaxing, but every organization is different. Reviewing a company’s website and social media, reading between the lines in the job description, asking your network and trying out different work environments through temporary work are all ways to find a workplace that best fits with your personality. It’s important to find a job that values you as a person just as you value the company.

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About Author

Stephanie Naznitsky

Stephanie Naznitsky is executive director of OfficeTeam, the USA’s leading staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of highly skilled administrative and office support professionals. OfficeTeam has more than 300 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at roberthalf.com/officeteam. Connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and our blog.

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