A group of coworkers is chatting at the water cooler at work.

10 Tips for Everyday Business Etiquette

You might own your own business, or you might work with hundreds of other employees. You might work in a high-rise downtown, or you might work at a school in a quaint neighborhood. No matter where you work, there's a particular set of "rules" that every employee should follow while on the clock — and even when you're representing your company outside of its location.

This set of everyday business etiquette tips is perhaps unsaid at your place of work, but employers expect all employees to be professional at all times. Even if these tips seem obvious, it's always helpful to remind yourself of how to act, what to wear, and what to be aware of while at work.

Here are 10 ways to be professional at work

Keep side conversations at a minimum

Finding people you get along with at work can be something to be truly thankful for. But having close connections means that you'll probably also have a lot to talk about with each other. Keep in mind that you can have friends and fun at work, but try to tighten up your conversations. Go for a 15-minute walk together to catch up, or take a lunch break with them. But limit the amount of time you're having personal conversations, or your boss might call you out for it.

Dress the part

Whether you wear a suit and tie, apron, colorful scrubs, or jeans and a blouse to work, looking the part is another way to be professional. If your dress code is business casual, make sure you aren't wearing anything that looks too casual. If you have to dress up every day, iron your clothing. And if you don't have a dress code and can wear pretty much whatever you want, don't take advantage of it. Make sure your clothing is always clean, professional, and unoffensive.

Be mindful of your breaks

One thing that employers hate is not being able to locate employees at work. They might have an important question, or they might just be curious about where you're spending your time. Whether you're stepping out for lunch, a 15-minute break or you're visiting a coworker, keep in mind your break usage. Most companies give you a lunch break and a 15-minute break. But just be cognizant of how much time you're spending away from your desk.

Show up to meetings on time

Another thing that managers and meeting organizers hate is when someone shows up late to a meeting. It's disrespectful, and it can keep the meeting from starting on time. To ensure you aren't called out for being late, always plan to arrive five-to-ten minutes before the meeting starts. This will give you a little wiggle room to run to the restroom, have a side conversation on the way, or battle traffic (if you're going to a different location). Beyond your control, sometimes a previous meeting will run late...but give the meeting organizer a head's up if so.

Be as detail-oriented as possible

If you're unorganized at work, it's going to show. This can include not knowing when a meeting starts, missing a deadline, or forgetting an important aspect of a project. To ensure you're paying attention to the details, take notes, set reminders, and double-check deadlines. Your boss will respect and admire you for it.

Limit personal phone use

In this day and age, our cell phones are practically connected to us at all times. We take our phones into meetings, the restroom, and even down the hall to get something from the printer. But even though you have a phone, don't overuse it. Keep texting at a minimum by telling your friends and family that you can't text at work. Don't answer your phone every time it rings. And don't play games on your phone unless you're on a break. Finally, never be on your phone during a meeting. It's distracting for others, and it shows a lack of respect for whoever is leading the meeting.

Put in your time daily...and then some

You probably know the required amount of time you're supposed to be at work every day. Whether you have to physically clock in or not, make sure you're putting in all those hours, plus a few minutes every day. This will show that you're serious about doing your job. If you were a few minutes late to work, make up that time. You might not have to stamp a time card, but your employer is still paying attention.

Be aware of elevator etiquette

One business etiquette tip starts before you even sit down at your desk. If you have to ride an elevator to get to your office, be mindful of elevator etiquette, something a lot of people don't consider. Hold the elevator for people coming in behind you. Stand a few feet back before getting on to ensure people have room to get off. If you're next to the elevator button, ask everyone which floor they're going to. It might not sound like a big deal, but elevator etiquette is a big frustration for a lot of people.

Treat coworkers with respect

Whether you get along with your coworkers or not, you have to show an adequate amount of respect to them, or you probably won't get any in return. Workplace bullying is a huge problem in the workplace today, and it can quickly get out of hand. No matter what, don't start drama with your coworkers. Don't talk badly about them behind their backs. And stay away from involving yourself in conversations others are having about their coworkers.

Leave personal problems at home

Most people are at work for over 40 hours a week. Because of that, a lot of the baggage we have in our personal lives tends to unload at work. But this is something everyone has to be careful of. You might have a lot going on at home, but don't let it distract you from doing your job. If you're having a really bad day or need to deal with something personal, try to take a day off to take care of it, or at least deal with it on your lunch break.

Want to learn about ethics in the workplace? Learn about CCU's online Certificate in Ethics program.

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