Office Etiquette: How To Behave At Work
September 5, 2012
By: Lauranne Heres
While most jobs are fairly informal, especially if you have a part-time one outside of Uni, others can demand a more subdued version of yourself. Offices insist on certain rules to be applied at all times, some of which may seem obvious, others a bit peculiar. To be sure not to mess up that internship, work experience or temp job because you said or did something wrong, here are a few guidelines.
1) Don’t SHOUT.
Yes, it does happen that people shout at each other in the work environment, and not always out of anger. Sometimes you’re just trying to ask Carl in 6b if he’s got the stapler. But as a rule, shouting, giggling and laughing out loud should be avoided or kept to a strict minimum (after hours or at parties). Don’t become a quiet mouse though, know when to assert yourself, but remember: a strong voice is better than a loud one.
2) Beware of inter-office banter
Some companies have specific dating policies, allowing or forbidding it to their staff, but a certain level of flirtatiousness always remains and many people date in secret. As an intern though, you should make sure that you’re not finding yourself in compromising situations. If your supervisor flirts with you, make sure to send out the right message. A quick exchange needn’t harm anyone, but pushing out your chest and wiggling your bum when you walk to the printer is NOT appropriate. If you’re getting flirty with another intern, or maybe someone your age, just beware of the company’s policy and don’t let it influence your work. Mooning over Jake in the IT department isn’t going to get you a job. If any banter feels uncomfortable, try to act cooler and more distanced. If you feel in any way molested, talk to Human Resources or someone you trust.
3) Your outfit matters
Make sure you dress appropriately. No revealing of anything unless tastefully done (a V-neck or a skirt with dark tights). If you look cheap, people will assume that you are, and if you look too casual, no one will be able to take you seriously. Even if you notice people dressing casually at your work place, YOU should always look presentable enough. Maybe don’t pull out the full suit if everyone is in jeans, but smart trousers or a buttoned shirt with dark jeans can go a long way.
4) Be friendly and helpful
I’m not saying you should become the maid and make tea for everyone or offer to do their food shopping, but there are a few things you can do nonetheless. If you’re making tea or coffee for yourself, always ask if anyone wants some. If you’re going for lunch, make sure to inquire if someone wants to come with you (who knows, you might end up with connections) or if you can bring back anything. If you happened to bake cookies or a cake, bring some to the office and hand them round. Popping up to reception to check the mail? Ask if anyone needs any letters brought up to be sent. Leaving? Ask if anyone is taking the same bus, tube or train. People will end up remembering you as this friendly person who was always helpful as opposed to this quiet, grumpy intern.
5) DO NOT engage in harmful gossip
While a “oh no I didn’t know they were dating, that’s cool” or a “Really? She said that?” can’t hurt, engaging in more harmful gossip can cost you a lot. If someone were to engage you in gossip about a person at the office, putting words into your mouth or working you up about what they possibly said or did, your responses could backfire ans seriously harm your career. Your employer will always trust their long-term staff more than you and question your commitment if you were to be found badmouthing their secretary or your supervisor.
6) Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
Remember the Daft Punk song? As an intern, you’re probably unpaid and generally there to do the same job as everyone else without getting paid, or to help out with things that they can’t do and can’t afford to hire anyone to do. So to be remembered and maybe get an extension on your work experience or a great recommendation, be the best you could ever be. Need to finish this report by five? Work extra hard to get it done by three. Everyone else takes an hour for lunch? Bring a sandwich, eat it in the kitchen or at your desk and be back at work before everyone else. If you’re done with your assignment, ask if there’s anything else you can help with. This will make you look eager and helpful. Everyone always leaves at 5.45? Stay until six or 6.15 because you’re “in the middle of something”. And instead of wasting time on cigarette or coffee breaks, keep them at a five minute limit.
Now don’t be scared to make friends at the office, participate in discussions and let yourself be invited to office parties. For the best movies on what the worst job can be like, I recommend The Devil Wears Prada, Beauty And The Briefcase and Post Grad.