Etiquettes in the workplace

Etiquettes in the workplace

Learning & Development



273 week ago — 8 min read

Background: Our behaviour leaves a lasting impression on people’s mind and can affect the way we are thought of at our place of work or outside. How you present yourself in the business world can make or break your career. Setting a professional tone is crucial to building strong work relationships and ensuring you have a successful and enriching experience in the workplace. In her previous article, Shalini Sridhar shared simple ways to love yourself and your work. In this article, she explains how following some basic etiquette at the workplace can be rewarding for professionals.


From the French for ‘label, ticket’ or prescribed behavior, the Cambridge English dictionary defines etiquette as a set of rules, conducts or customs that are acceptable in particular social groups or business situations.

Etiquette also dictates you don’t violate someone else’s privacy by encroaching into their space. For example, many offices provide cubicles, personal desks or spaces. Be aware and mindful of their privacy.

It is interesting to note that in the 1750s the French developed a system of cards that described instructions on proper behaviors. These ‘tickets’ were used as directives to guide appropriate behaviors to courts and social functions.

One can see the variations of etiquette and social norms today in different cultures, religions and regions.  The same can be said for businesses and the workplace.

Here are some etiquette rules that must be considered at the workplace:

Business/work etiquette

Every company has a set of rules and regulations that are expected to be followed by employees. However, there are certain standard rules that go across the board. It includes a whole range of socially acceptable behaviors including:

  • Dress

Depending on which part of the world you live in and the aesthetic regulations placed by businesses and companies, dress codes can vary except on days of casual dressing -- Fridays for instance.

Generally it is the rule of thumb for men and women to wear formal clothing. Typically, business casuals are the standards in many workplaces. Denims, t-shirts and flip flops are considered inappropriate. Some offices and workplaces take into consideration the religious aspects of employees with exceptions to head coverings or jewelry.


  • Communication and relationships

A good communication and a healthy relationship with colleagues is important to maintain a healthy work environment. This includes:

  • Empathy
  • Respect
  • Maintaining eye contact during discussion or communication
  • Refraining from foul language
  • Refraining from physical or heated arguments
  • Avoiding negative communication or gossip

Team etiquette
As an employee, you will find yourself working with teams of people. Certain etiquette rules dictate how you should conduct yourself in these situations. This includes:

  • Effective communication - When you don’t communicate your needs and wants clearly, especially within a team, work gets affected. Communication is the key to understanding how processes work and helps each member of a team to contribute effectively to a project or task.

  • Sharing office spaces and resources - Unless you are a one-person business owner or working as a freelancer, as an employee in a company, you will be in the midst of a shared environment.  This means shared common rooms, shared resources such as printers and fax machines, meeting rooms etc. 

At the other end, etiquette also dictates you don’t violate someone else’s privacy by encroaching into their space. For example, many offices provide cubicles, personal desks or spaces. Be aware and mindful of their privacy.

Email etiquette­
With the invention of emails and advances in communication technologies, the world has become a much smaller place to conduct businesses successfully.

One simple rule of email communication is to spell out every word clearly. Depending on whom you are writing to, always follow the proper protocol while writing an email and most importantly the email subject line. You might intend to say one thing but the person reading it can also misconstrue it.  So, always proofread your messages before dashing them off.

Some dos and don’ts include:

Mobile phone etiquette

Proper rules in telephonic communication are just as important as face to face communication. It is not easy to part millennials with their mobile devices today. Checking statuses, posting updates, watching recipe videos or replying to WhatsApp texts is the ‘in’ thing to do.

Mobile devices have become such an integral part of life that you often see people with head bowed down lost in the pixels of the internet world. In the workplace this can often be a huge distraction to productivity.

To maintain mobile phone etiquette or mobiquette at the workplace, limiting these can bring about a more productive work day. Here are some ground rules:

  • If you do have to use your phone for a personal call, speak in a lower voice or leave the area to avoid disrupting others.
  • It is easy to speak louder on the phone then face to face. Be mindful of yourself and your surroundings while taking a call.
  • Sometimes it is best to let voicemails take over in certain non-urgent situations.
  • Courtesy on the phone goes a long way. Best to practice it.
  • Be aware of good international calling behavior since rules can vary from place to place. So think twice about calling someone who is in another time zone.

Meetings and conference call etiquette

It’s a no brainer that maintaining proper etiquette during meetings and conference calls is a must. Some guidelines include:

1. Arriving on time.

2. If you are the presenter:

      • Make sure rooms and resources are set up and working.
      • Introduce or be introduced by someone.
      • Start at the allotted time. Perhaps allow a few minutes for those yet to join.
      • Be clear and precise in your communication.
      • Use language that is understandable to everyone.

3. If you are an attendee, make sure there are no distractions. Mobile phones should be on silent mode.

4. When conference calls are set on an international scale, be aware of time zones and languages.

5. Respect and acknowledge customs followed by international counter parts. Remember to wish your Chinese clients a Happy Chinese New Year or your Muslim partners a Happy Eid.

6. Once calls are done, follow up with emails and reports where necessary.

Whether it is personal or at the workplace, maintaining the proper etiquette and standards leads to a fulfilling and successful life and career. 

"Life is not so short but that there is always time for courtesy." - 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, official policy or position of GlobalLinker.


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