Anyone who works in an office knows that those close quarters can spell trouble. You spend a lot of time with your coworkers, and, even if you have your own office, you interact in meetings, breakrooms, bathrooms, hallways, and other common areas. You work together on teams and on projects. You sit in meetings and brainstorming sessions together. You have to work together, be together, and get along. How hard can it be?
Very hard, it turns out. Being polite and professional at work can be difficult, especially now with everyone texting, tweeting, and talking all the time. New technologies mean new rules of etiquette.
Why is etiquette important at work? Because etiquette is very important to career success. Generally speaking, successful people get along well with others and are well liked. And one of the best ways to do that is to be courteous and respectful to others. So think of these new etiquette rules as keys to success:
Put your phone away. There’s a time and place for your phone to be out, but it’s not during a meeting, a conference, a networking event, or lunch with colleagues or associates. Take your phone off the table—literally—and save the texting, tweeting, and updates for after work or on your break.
If your phone is on the table you send the signal that you are ready and willing to be interrupted. If you are looking at your screen, tapping away, or, worse, talking during a meeting or luncheon you send the message that you aren’t listening and that what is happening around you is not as important as what’s on your screen or who you are talking to. It’s disrespectful.
Turn it off. It’s not enough to take your phone off the table and put it away; you need to turn off the ringer, too. During the day, turn your ringer off and set your phone to vibrate. Do you really want your co-workers to hear your honking ring tone?
Don’t overshare. Unless you have become close friends with colleagues, keep your weekend fun and family pics to yourself. No one wants to scroll through your weekend photos from Six Flags. In the age of the Internet, we are all over-sharers. Resist the urge.
Beware your Twitter feed. Remember, everything you post or tweet or e-mail can potentially be seen by others, so be very careful what you put out there. What’s posted on Facebook rarely stays on Facebook. Blogging about your drunken weekend or annoying coworker? Not a good idea. Imagine that your boss or coworkers will see everything you post or send; this will help you be more selective. Play it safe—never, ever post or send anything that you don’t want the world to see or that could hurt your career.
Be careful using social media with colleagues. This is a super tricky one. Social media sites like Facebook can become a minefield where, as PsychologyToday put it, “The etiquette of little, inconsequential acts become mammoth.” Hurt feelings and repercussions may ensure if you friend one colleague and not another, or endorse one colleague’s skills on LinkedIn and not another’s. Some experts say that it’s best to have a blanket policy of not accepting friend requests from anyone you work with, but what if you become good friends and you want to friend them?
The answer is to be cautious and judicious. You should be able to connect with people you genuinely like and not have to connect with those you don’t. Easier said than done, I know, but just use social media with caution and be aware of potential conflicts and repercussions. It may be harmless to accept a friend request from a colleague whom you don’t particularly care for, especially if the hurt feelings might hurt the work environment. After all, you can always adjust your settings so you don’t get their feed. But I would be careful about endorsing someone’s skills on a site like LinkedIn unless you really mean it.
Like technology itself, workplace etiquette is evolving. But one thing stays the same: successful people tend to be well liked, and well-liked people tend to be polite, so be polite and play nice at the office.