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Workplace etiquette

Good workplace manners go hand-in-hand with professionalism. If you want to advance in your career, simply following through with your given responsibilities isn’t enough—the way you interact with your colleagues and handle sensitive situations can be just as important, as such can directly affect your reputation. Acting with integrity and respect in the office/job site is fundamental for your longevity in the workplace.

The following unwritten rules of office/job site etiquette will help keep you in good standing within your organization, as well as improve your business relationships. While this is not a comprehensive list, it’s definitely a great place to get started. You’ll realize that something as simple as being polite can really go a long way; not just in the workplace, but in life too.

Read the following information to complete the Workplace Etiquette Quiz.


Preparing for work


Show Up on Time

  • When you are late it gives others the impression that you don't respect their time

Care About Your Appearance

  • Whether your company enforces a dress code or not, make sure you’re presentable for work. Your appearance contributes greatly to your professional image, which in turn plays an important role in leaving good impressions. While one’s clothing and grooming choices do not entirely reflect one’s character, position, or abilities, they do give others some idea of who you are as a worker.

  • For example, if you showed up to work completely disheveled with messy hair and dirty clothes, it could send the wrong message. It doesn’t matter if you’re the nicest person in the office/job site or the most hardworking; if you don’t show up looking the part, people may start to question exactly how much you care about your work.

  • This includes smelling like cannabis.  It doesn’t matter if cannabis is legal.  Jack Daniels is legal too.  You wouldn’t show up to work smelling like liquor, do not show up to work smelling like cannabis.  It doesn’t matter if you were only around it and not smoking it.  An employer doesn’t know that.  California is an at-will work state, meaning an employer can fire you for any reason they deem fit, and they do not have to tell you why.  Do not give them a reason to.

  • Image also includes what you portray on social media.  Don't risk getting passed over for a position because your profile pic on Facebook is you posing with cannabis and turning up a 40. You never know whether an employer will consider a job candidate’s social media profile when deciding who to hire.

Workplace conversations

Watch Your Mouth

  • When is it appropriate to disparage or talk trash about a protected class at work?  NEVER.  But what exactly is a protected class?  The Ten Federally Protected Classes:  Race, Religion, National Origin, Age, Sex, Pregnancy, Familial Status (such as married/has kids), Disability (includes physical, mental, intellectual, and developmental), Veteran, Genetic Information.  That includes jokes based on someone’s sex.  

  • Swearing, cursing, or cussing—whatever you call it—has no place in most workplaces. Unless you know it is okay in yours, refrain from using foul language, particularly if those who you might offend are present.  It’s key that employees understand all types of professional audiences and modify their communication accordingly.

Don't Air Your Dirty Laundry

  • While confiding in a close friend at work is usually okay, sharing too much information with everyone at work is not. Be judicious about whom you talk to, particularly when it comes to discussing personal problems. If you do decide to share something personal with your co-workers, don't do it where customers and clients might overhear you. 

Don't Give Advice that Wasn't Asked for

  • It can come off as rude to give someone advice when they didn’t ask for it. Unsolicited suggestions can not only be intrusive but also highly indicative of your subjective opinion towards a colleague’s work. 

  • A good rule of thumb is if they don’t ask for your advice, don’t give it. Even if a colleague is really veering off-course and you feel like you should step in and help out, you should still refrain from doing so unless you ask for permission first. A simple “Do you need help?” can ensure you avoid overstepping your boundaries.

making mistakes

Be Accountable for Your Actions

  • Own your behavior, both the good and the bad. We’re all human and we make mistakes, so no one is expecting you to be perfect. What really matters is how you conduct yourself in the face of an error. It’s never good to make excuses, especially for poor behavior that has already developed into a pattern. Too much pretext can come off as ingenuine or even apathetic.

  • Taking accountability for your actions shows that you’re comfortable enough to admit when you’re wrong or when you might need help, and that speaks volumes about your character. So, if your boss calls you out for being chronically late to work every day, don’t give him the same spiel about the traffic being bad, even if it may be true. Instead, avoid the storytelling and just take the initiative to change for the better—maybe leave home earlier or try a different route to the office/job site. The effort you put into making improvements will be a lot more impressive than some excuse that was pulled out of a hat.

Getting the Work Done

Offer Assistance to Your Colleagues

  • A true professional is willing to help their co-workers when they are overburdened or facing a challenge at work. They aren't afraid to share knowledge, opinions, or simply an extra pair of hands. Do not watch your co-workers work while you stand around and talk.  Or play on your phone.

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