The 10 Commandments Of Workplace Etiquette

The 10 Commandments Of Workplace Etiquette


I’ve worn many hats over the years.

I’ve been a grocery store cashier, a restaurant server, a receptionist at a home sales center, a mortgage loan officer at a bank, a summer clerk at a small law firm and an associate attorney at a large law firm.

While I am not an etiquette expert and often prefer the company of people who do things their own way, there are a few observations I’ve had in the work environment over the past decade that are worth mentioning. These are the 10 things guaranteed to annoy your colleagues:

1. Thou Shalt Control the Sound of Your Bodily Functions

There’s no reason someone sitting on the opposite side of the office should be able to hear you sneezing, coughing, chewing food or clearing your throat. One of my daughters would jump in utero at the sound of a colleague’s sneezes.

It is entirely possible to control the decibel level of your bodily functions. If you wouldn’t make the loud and distracting noise in a church, at a funeral or in a library, then you should have equal consideration in the workplace.

2. Thou Shalt Help Keep the Restroom Tidy

When you work in a large office building where everyone on the floor shares a bathroom, it’s embarrassing to direct a multimillion-dollar client’s representative into a restroom where there might be toilet paper stuck to the floor, water splashed all over the sink or, worst of all, a toilet that wasn’t completely flushed.

Clean up after yourself.

3. Thou Shalt Not Reheat Smelly Food

I once attended a crowded deposition in a small room where the air conditioner wasn’t working. Despite being packed in the room like sardines (pun intended), one of my colleagues took a container of stinky cheese out of her mini cooler and proceeded to spread it all over crackers before eating it. The sound of her smacking jaw and the repugnant odor of the cheese in the hot, tiny room was nauseating.




Burned popcorn.

Keep these smelly culprits out of the office.

4. Thou Shalt Not Take Food That’s Not Yours

People shouldn’t have to label or initial food items that are placed in the communal refrigerator. If you didn’t bring it to work, then don’t eat it without permission.

Easy peasy.

5. Thou Shalt Replenish the Coffee

This is one of the simplest ways to make your co-workers despise you. It takes ten seconds to brew a fresh pot of coffee. If you don’t know how to use the coffee maker, then someone will be happy to show you.

Ignorance doesn’t justify inconsideration.

6. Thou Shalt Not Be a Mooch

Don’t be “that person” who routinely attends potluck work events without contributing. If you didn’t have time to bring something from home, then call Domino’s and have something delivered to the office.

Everybody loves pizza.

7. Thou Shalt Keep Personal Internet Use to a Minimum

Nowadays, Big Brother is constantly monitoring how you spend time on the Internet at work. This also true if you’re logged in to your employer’s Wi-Fi on your smart phone. I’ve heard of several instances of employers auditing their employees’ computer use to ensure they’re not burning work time on the Internet.

If you are completing your assigned tasks or are on your lunch break, there’s nothing wrong with an occasional Internet diversion. However, if you are getting paid to perform a job but, instead, are spending your time shopping online or catching up with your Facebook friends, you are arguably stealing from your employer.

8. Thou Shalt Turn Off the Music

I’ve never been the person who can perform thoughtful activities while listening to music. It’s hard to concentrate with it in the background, and I find myself focusing on the words and rhythm of the song, as opposed to the task at hand.

If you work in an open office environment, turn your music off completely. If you listen to music on headphones, make sure it isn’t so loud that other people can hear it. If you listen to music in a private office, keep the door closed.

9. Thou Shalt Dress Appropriately

I once worked at a law firm where one of the older assistants routinely wore a letterman-style Skittles jacket to work.

Skittles. As in, taste the rainbow.

Wear clothing that is suitable for your age, body type and the nature of your career. If you are 25 years old and employed at the Victoria’s Secret headquarters, then it is likely appropriate (and encouraged) to wear short skirts to work. In 99 percent of other situations, no. And law firms are probably not the best place to show off your favorite Skittles jacket.

10. Thou Shalt Show Gratitude

Your employer doesn’t owe you a holiday party, paid maternity leave (in the United States) and, in many cases, a year-end bonus or raise. While you likely worked hard to achieve these things, showing a bit of gratitude by acknowledging the benefit and thanking your supervisors will go a long way. It only takes a millisecond to say, “Thank you.”