Maybe working from home for the last year has wiped your memory clean of a time when you had to put on pants to do your job. Or maybe you’ve been working in a specialized industry your whole life and you have a sneaking feeling that professional protocol for being a pigeon chaser might be a bit different than what is expected in a more traditional office job. Perhaps you’ve always felt like you didn’t quite know the rules. It’s certainly true that there is a lot of variance in workplace cultures, but most people who tend to huff about workplace culture are people who need a refresher in basic courtesy and common sense. Here’s a refresher on the basics.
Limit Physical Contact
The last year has been a real game changer for physical greetings, but even as social distancing restrictions relax, don’t rush back into uncomfortable hugs. Regardless of gender, limit physical contact to a handshake rather than a lingering handclasp. Make eye contact to make sure everybody’s on board, deliver that appropriately firm shake and go about your business. Noise-cancelling headphones might make it harder to get a coworker’s attention, but a shoulder caress is not the way to avoid startling them. Unless you are a physical therapist, there’s really never a reason to get involved with someone else’s shoulders at work.
Monitor Personal Hygiene
If you’ve been away from people (or among the pigeons) for a while, make sure your physical return isn’t a matter of physical discomfort for them. Brush your teeth. It’s probably best if your face isn’t dripping onto the contract they are about to sign. Consider investing in some Kleenex or snapping up a gel moisturizer for oily skin before heading back into the world. You don’t have to learn how to fold your napkin into a swan or anything, but bring your table manners with you at work dinners.
Show Universal Respect
Recognize the hierarchy without treating anybody with disrespect. Address higher level employees first, regardless of gender. But just because you address your boss and your assistant in different ways, doesn’t mean that you have to grovel to one and be a jerk to the other.
Be Helpful without Being Pointed
Open doors for everybody, especially if they have their hands full. Don’t necessarily pull chairs out for people in a business conference. Take steps to avoid mansplaining like the plague that it is.
Know When to Leave the Phone Alone
Recognize the difference between a call that is on speakerphone and one that isn’t. Make sure the other end of a speakerphone call knows who is listening to the conversation. Verify that you aren’t inflicting a speakerphone conversation on someone who doesn’t want to be a part of it. Don’t eavesdrop on a conversation that you aren’t supposed to be included in. Turn your phone off in a meeting, and don’t add to the number of attendees with an inadvertent pocket dial. If you are reading this advice while someone is trying to talk to you, put your phone down! We won’t be offended, but the same likely can’t be said about your conversation partner!
Don’t Treat Public Spaces Like Private Spaces
Keep tabs of what you say in public, especially if it relates to your employer, because your employer is often keeping tabs as well. And be aware of what counts as a public space before you post something on Facebook. Even if you aren’t in an open office plan, don’t treat your cubicle like a changing room or a catering prep station.
Show Up on Time
Be ready to work when you show up. If you had to roll out of bed to make it, don’t look like it. Slap on some under-eye gel and keep your head off the table. Reply to emails right away. If it’s going to take you some time to get back to someone, at least let them know that you received their message instead of letting them spend two weeks wondering if you know how to check your spam filter.
Stay Professional on Business Trips
Just because you aren’t making the commute from home doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to abandon personal grooming. The whole reason you got that dopp kit for men was to make sure you have everything you need. Traveling to a different time zone with your coworkers doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to be around them in the office afterwards.
Good business etiquette isn’t a matter of just putting up a front of artificial politeness. It’s about taking the time to learn how to treat other people with respect. Men who observe professional courtesy don’t turn into robots. They just establish a framework to make sure the warmth of human kindness doesn’t accidentally start any fires that burn the whole building down.