5 Office Etiquette Rules You Need to Know

Last Updated Apr 14, 2011 6:50 PM EDT

In its mildest form, bad office etiquette makes a workplace an uncomfortable and unproductive place. At its worst, it's a grown-up version of bullying and can leave a company at risk for lawsuits. On the other hand, minding your manners makes good business sense, according to experts.

"Good business behavior will set you apart from the competition. When you are mindful of your behavior and the feelings of others, you will be more likable and promotable," says Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, Inc. and author of the upcoming book, Poised For Success. Here are five rules for exemplary office etiquette:

Follow The Golden Rule In the office and in the schoolyard, nobody likes -- or truly respects -- a bully. "You should never use your position of power as a platform for bullying your team. Not only will you lose the loyalty of your staff, but you will find yourself in a real bind someday when one of your employees becomes your boss. And it will happen," says New York-based manners expert Thomas P. Farley, editor of Modern Manners: The Thinking Person's Guide to Social Graces.

Dress With Respect You've heard that you should dress for the job you want. But if you're not sure what to wear to a new job or an event, dress up, not down. "Being overdressed is better than being under-dressed any day because you can always eliminate certain clothes like a jacket or a tie," says Whitmore.

Don't Forget Special Occasions Even if your day is packed, take a second to savor a slice of celebratory cake in the conference room. "You'd be surprised at how much a little 'happy birthday' can mean to the people you see day in and day out. It proves that you see them as a colleague rather than a fellow drone," says Farley.

Tame Your Technology Silent, vibrate, or something simple and soft -- these are your three options for your phone ring setting. "Stay away from cute and quirky ring tones that may get on others' nerves," says Whitmore. And, of course, never let your phone interrupt a person or meeting.

Practice Email Etiquette Nowhere are bad manners more rampant than in the world of email -- and a slip of the button can be much more damaging, and permanent, than a slip of the tongue. Here are four rules that Whitmore suggests following: Use spell check. Don't send large attachments. Always change the subject line to fit a new email. And finally, respond to messages (by email or phone) within 24 hours.

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