Etiquette at Work

Use the new year to take stock of yourself

It’s the first weekend of the New Year, a time for resolutions and self-assessment. Businesses often do annual reviews. Perhaps this would be a good time to do a quick annual review on yourself.

You can break your review into three components: actions, appearance, and words. This week we’ll take a look at how our actions affect how others see us. In the next two weeks, we’ll continue the self-review focusing on appearance and the words we use.

Think about the big things you do that affect people around you. Recently, I heard from a reader who was so frustrated because a couple of his colleagues were blatantly surfing the Internet for personal purposes. Not only was productivity hurt, but so, too, the image of their department.


Subtle actions can be harmful, too. Do you find yourself interrupting others or discounting a colleague’s idea in front of others? These actions can be deal breakers — actions that aren’t easily forgotten.

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Are you in control of your smartphone, or is it in control of you? You know you shouldn’t answer it, text on it, or review an e-mail while meeting with someone, but do you find yourself doing exactly that? Once in a blue moon, it may be OK, but if it’s a habit, this would be a good time to resolve to change.

How’s your e-mail etiquette? Are you following the who, what, when, where, and how rule, or do you devolve into the why and opinion in your e-mails? Do you find yourself sending an e-mail instead of getting out of your chair and visiting a colleague? Do you automatically hit “reply all” or when it’s appropriate, reply just to the sender?

Where’s your focus? I know I sometimes play with my phone in a meeting or maybe deconstruct a paper clip. I know I’m listening and engaged, but what kind of an image do these actions create for others ?

Do you do your share? When the photocopier runs out of paper, do you take a moment to fill it? If you find someone else’s papers in the photocopier, do you take a moment to deliver them or do you leave them there? Same rules apply in the kitchen: Do you take care of your own dishes as well as the random glass you find left in the sink?


Your actions affect other people’s opinion of you. As you do your self-review, identify actions you could improve, even just incrementally. That’s the first step to building better, stronger, more positive relationships in 2013.

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