10 Office Etiquette Tips

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In this article, I will show you how we need not take our workplaces for granted. Every workplace has a general feel and expected etiquette. It sometimes does not necessarily need to be documented for your to behave in a certain way. The ambiance communicates the expectations to you. However in some organizations, expectations are clearly laid out in company code of conduct documentation from Human Resources Department. I have documented common guidelines. I have been a victim of most of the issues mentioned hence these are life and business lessons well learned in my time as an employee and as an employer. There are things I used to take for granted when I was employed which tick me off totally when an employee of mine does them. I realize the concept of sowing and reaping. I am simply walking the same road as my employer who put up with my not so pleasant habits back then. I am now wearing the same shoes Anglo American and CompuServe wore many years ago. Get me right, I was not an outright rebel but there are small things which I would do as an employee while taking for granted the employer’s expectations. I would compensate my personal missions with high pressurized performance. I achieved the results in the end. One such incident was when I was started my business while still full time at a mining operation 60 miles away from my business. Most of what you see below was violated in that period especially on time and use of company vehicles etc.

Here are a few common etiquette considerations

1. Understand that time is important to organizations - let it not be a habit to be late for work. Rather not be the one who gives excuses daily. It is interesting that there is not a day when you missed your plane because you woke up late. Your habitual lateness for work tends to communicate your value system and how you see your contribution to the organization. Realize that your employer pays for the time your are late. Be fair and earn every cent on your pay cheque. 30 minutes lost daily is about 11 hours a month lost which is about a full day and a half. Complete tasks ahead of time. Attack each day with intentionality, have a written time plan.

2. Email etiquette – Respond to emails as they come – avoid piling emails because daily you will receive more. Even an acknowledgment of receipt is good enough. Do not click Reply All but simply reply so that it goes just to the one who sent not everyone who was copied. Also use BCC (Blind Carbon Copy), if you are sending many people and you don’t want their emails to show. This helps reduce spam.

3. Phone manners - Answer your phone after 3 rings max. Any call, business or social should be able to achieve the objective within 3 minutes. If you can not close the sale in 3 minutes you need to sharpen your skills further. Over and above 3 minutes it can be tantamount to phone abuse. Return people’s calls when you get messages that people called in your absence. Keep a phone directory. Keep personal calls to a minimum. Phone bills are such a cost in many organizations compared to email communication. Partner with your employer in reducing costs and overheads. Use appropriate communications methods. Use your personal mobile phone for personal communication.

4. Private visitors - All visitors should come after working hours, or during lunch time. It is unfair to the employer for you to engage in social talk during working hours. If it has to happen let it be by appointment and in states of emergency, life threatening situations. Your relatives, friends and church colleagues must know you to respect your work time. Social meetings should be 5 minutes max but not encouraged. Your role is to communicate how you value your work time to all your contacts. They will respect you for being up front with them. It is not for the employer to always remind you.

5. Internet usage - this tool can easily be abused. Research and Development can be done on this ever increasing pool of knowledge. However addictions to socials chats can be attributed to targets missed and profits lost. Make your internet usage very discreet. Internet abuse has led to many people to lose their own jobs. In some countries, they check your activity online by Googling you and checking your profiles to see what kind of person you are. Next time you lose an opportunity to be employed, check if your Facebook profile is not letting you down.

6. Dress Issues - Your job will tell you what kind of clothes to wear. Your can not be the CEO of an Advertising agency and always come to work dressed in overalls. The caliber of people you will meet dictates how presentable you should be. On specific days, most companies do allow casual wear, golf days or Fridays. Do not just start your own uniform where a specific request for a type of uniform is in place.

7. Work with a plan – It is shocking how many people dive into the day with confidence yet with no plan of how the time will be spent. Lack of plan causes them to be very tired at the end of the day but they can not answer this question with enthusiasm “Is the stuff you did today in line with your job expectations and targets?”, “What did you do anyway?”. Plan your tasks. Schedule appointments. Know when to do personal stuff. As a rule of thumb, you can not sacrifice your work expectations no matter how urgent your own things seem to be. Your work objectives first then once complete you look at other things. A plan will ensure you do the right things at the right time. Link this to point 1. above.

8. Financial Integrity in the workplace - You may not be the financial accountant or cashier but from time to time you have a chance to handle cash that belongs to your employer. Always be above board when it comes to accounting for corporate finances. Most people get tempted to “solve” personal pressing matters with company finances with the hope to “cover” the debt “soon”. That temptation can cause your name to be branded badly in no time. what is not yours is not yours. Stop having ideas over other people’s money. You can be creative with your earnings. Just because it is a company vehicle filled with company fuel does not warrant unplanned and personal trips to see friends and family. Company spends money to try and increase profit and productivity. Keep personal mission to a minimum. I know a of a gentleman who would use a company vehicle every weekend to drive 300km to his rural home without knowledge of superiors until he had an accident out of town. Consider finances the company will lose on wear and tear, regular servicing etc. Have integrity, seek permission. Allow the boss to say No.

9. Relationships – Business is built by relationships. In any business, employees must have a good working relationship. For avoidance of compromise of work ethics, you need to desist from connecting at intimate level with your boss or subordinate. It is a rule of thumb. Believe me, when you work with someone, you tend to know them better with each day, they may solve a few of your problems but they are not your wife to be or husband to be. It is not “for fun” after all. It actually looks and sounds funny. Be professional enough to say No without feeling guilty. Message to bosses – it is easy to use your financial muscle to abuse the power you have over your subordinates. Your social and intimate relations should be outside the organization. Subordinates – do not be wooed by promises of promotion and salary raises. It is not worth it. Earn your money and promotion the authentic way. It brings job satisfaction more than the fact that you entertain the boss once in a while.

10. Be in a sober state of mind in the workplace – Avoid clogging your mind with personal agendas. Your mind should be focused on what has to be done. Avoid intoxicating substances during working hours. Away with the thought that “I reason and think better when I get one or two beers”. That is a lie to justify bad work habits. You have the evening to do what you want, as long as it will not affect your 8-5 performance. You also have weekends to rest, relax your mind and connect socially in your community. When you have a sober mind you are able to respect and honor and prefer others in the workplace.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Rabison Shumba is a writer, businessman and philanthropist. Writer of the book The Greatness Manual which you can preview on http://greatnessmanual.wordpress.com. Founder and CEO of Infotech Solutions and Greatness Factory Trust. Rabison speaks about success, leadership, motivation and inspiration. His trust works with disadvantaged school children supporting them with school fees and general livelihood. He also helps to network artists (musicians of all genres) to facilitate information sharing and building of future celebrities. Rabison is well traveled having been to Asia, America, United Kingdom and all over Africa. He is married to Jacqueline Edwards and they have two children. They reside in Harare, Zimbabwe, Southern Africa.

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