Is Office Etiquette and Courtesy Outdated?

Sorry to bother you, but this will only take a moment. Your friends here at SkillPath would like to remind you that September is National Courtesy Month—a time to be more courteous to others. So, how about you making a fresh pot of coffee for your co-workers when you take the last cup, instead of leaving a ¼-inch of java in the bottom of the pot? Or hey … how about NOT sending me an email before I get to work and then walking over to my desk five minutes after I get here to ask me if I’ve read it yet. No, I haven’t because there’s no freaking coffee!!!courtesy

But, I digress … this article is about etiquette and courtesy at the office and if it has become outdated. Even though there are days you might think it’s gone the way of the dinosaur, that’s merely a symptom of working with a couple of jerks and Phoebe in accounting who is always on your back about expense reports.

With new technology and multiple generations in the workplace, the rules for workplace etiquette and courtesy are changing, but don’t get me wrong … they’re still there. However, there are new rules to consider, and many of the old ones have a new twist. Your manners in the workplace have a direct impact on how others perceive you and your level of professionalism. You can’t control how others behave, but practicing good office etiquette gets you noticed in a great way.

Below are some courtesy DOs and DON’Ts that will strengthen your image as a true professional and class act:


  • argument, negotiate, negotiator, remembering namesDO introduce yourself when meeting new people. DON’T wait for another person to remember your name if they’re introducing you. DO offer your name, make direct eye contact, and use a firm handshake.


  • DON’T assume nicknames. Just because you have new co-workers named Susan and Joseph does not mean they want to be called Suzy and Joey. DO ask, “What would you like me to call you?”


  • DON’T ask for a business card so you can remember a name. DO say, “I want to spell your name correctly, can you spell it for me?” and be prepared to write. That gives the person a chance to hand you his or her card, but saves embarrassment if he or she doesn’t have one.


  • DO say “Hi” to coworkers when you see them, and use their first names if possible. Exceptions would be for managers or executives above you, and then use “Mr. Smith” or “Mrs. Johnson” as a sign of respect, unless they have previously given you permission to call them something else. Many of them will say, “Please, call me Ethan” or “Don’t be so formal. Call me Katie.”


  • DON’T linger in common areas for more than three or four minutes chatting with other co-workers. The noise created can distract others. If the conversation is going to take longer, DO invite the other person to go to your desk to continue.


  • DON’T start a conversation with dumb jokes or filler sentences. DO start with an opener that means something. Instead of, “I wanted to touch base with you” (which is stupid and overused), try “We have an opportunity to save $30,000 on this project. Would you like to discuss that now or later?” Guess what? People will be much more interested in what you have to say.



  • If you are maligned in an e-mail, DON’T reply to all with a retort. DO call the person who made the remark and say, “I believe I was copied on something you didn’t have a chance to edit.”


  • DON’T end your e-mails with a quote, no matter how brilliant and insightful. It annoys those who read on mobile devices. DO allow the message “sent from a mobile device,” since that may excuse any fat-fingered typing errors.


  • DON’T continually hit “REPLY ALL” on group emails unless everyone needs to read it. DO delete addresses of the ten people who don’t need to read your response to Bob in Marketing.



  • DON’T pump up the volume on your music. If you see someone nearby mouthing the words of the song to which you are listening, DO turn it down and apologize. Better yet, invest in some ear-covering headphones that can cancel out noise and you can still enjoy your music at a lower volume. Your eardrums will thank you too … trust me.


  • DON’T apply perfumes or colognes at work. Many people are scent-sensitive, and the aroma may be overwhelming to someone else. DO put on your perfume or cologne at home or in your car. Fellas … just one spritz or two of cologne is more than enough. The ladies DON’T want to be able to smell you coming down the hallway.


  • DON’T complete your personal grooming at your desk. DO your grooming at home, or duck into a restroom to make any minor adjustments.



  • DON’T dial calls on a speakerphone. You are implying you think you are too important to pick up the phone and conduct business in private. DO ask for a headset at work if you need your hands free.


  • DON’T allow your cell phone to ring audibly in the office. It’s obnoxious and distracting to others. DO use the vibrate function.


  • DON’T use your cell phone during business or social events. It implies that you believe the call to be more important than the event you are at or the people with you. Exception: If a family member has a medical emergency or condition that you need to be alert for (i.e. spouse/partner is pregnant and due any moment) most people will understand. Then, if you must take or make a call, apologize, tell them you must make/take this call and DO quietly remove yourself and speak in private.


  • DON’T take calls while you’re using the toilet. It’s not only rude, but it’s gross. Your co-workers DON’T need to be hearing your business while taking care of their business.



  • DON’T microwave or eat something that smells so strong the people down the hall know what you’re having for lunch. DO consider that your coworkers may not want to smell what you’re having. Everyone knows you love to eat fish, but save it for home, not the office.


  • DO clean up after yourself in the company breakroom. DON’T leave it for someone else to do it for you. The overnight maintenance people have better things to do than chisel your leftover lasagna explosion out of the microwave.


  • DO take your things in the breakroom refrigerator home nightly or at least every weekend. Your co-workers DON’T want to look at that plastic container of tuna salad become an animate object a month down the road.


If you show respect and act professionally, model good workplace manners, and treat others with courtesy, you’ll be admired and seen as a professional. That means more admiration and recognition from your peers and higher-ups.



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