Considering the volatile state of our world, now more than ever, we need to use tact and exhibit kindness when interacting with others in workplace settings, especially in-person office environments. Our verbal and non-verbal communication must align with extending the utmost respect to every human being we encounter.
Unfortunately, this does not come naturally for many people. After months of quarantine, remote working, and general social isolation, we must be reminded how to ‘play nice’ with other people outside of our insular, personal networks.
10 Business Office Etiquette Tips
1. Be assertive. Do not be afraid or reluctant to speak in a clear, direct tone, especially about matters that are uncomfortable or unfair. However, do not be loud, rude, or gruff when communicating a particular point of view or a personal opinion.
2. Be courteous. Remain as polite as possible, even when you disagree or when someone irritates you. Kind words promote good results, but negativity of any sort ruins the potential for growth and productivity.
3. Be tactful. Speak without offending, upsetting or angering others. Do not curse or use off-color jokes to convey displeasure. Try to adopt a pleasant, but emotionally neutral posture of team building, not strife.
4. Be specific. Be as descriptive as possible to avoid confusion or misunderstanding. When speaking to someone face-to-face, it is easy to make yourself clearly understood, because the other person can ask questions for clarification. However, in email or written communication, this kind of personal interaction is impossible. So, you must write complete sentences that effectively detail the message you are sending. Get into the habit of explaining without getting emotional or oversharing irrelevant bits of information.
5. Be relevant. Stick to the subject or task at hand. In meetings and other professional situations, keep your conversations related to business operations. Avoid discussing personal issues, unless they become problematic in the workplace.
6. Be sincere. A sincere message is honest, natural, and believable. A sincere person is authentic and trustworthy. Remember, being authentic does not mean feeling free to let your hair down and act as irreverently as you would at home or among friends. Believe it or not, the workplace is a formal environment and should be treated as such.
7. Be appropriate. Choose an appropriate level of language and behavior. Consider where you are and to whom you are speaking, and the circumstances under which the conversation is happening. Then, speak and act accordingly. For example, you would conduct yourself differently during an interview for a six-figure job versus telling a friend how to set up an email account. Basically, take your best self to the workplace.
8. Be aware. Monitor your body language. Is your face showing annoyance, boredom, or confusion? Can you feel yourself frowning? Are your hands folded across your body or shoved into your pockets? Along with facial expressions, other paralanguage features to be cognizant of include vocal inflection, volume, and rate of speech. Have you ever heard the cliché, “It’s now what you say, but how you say it”? A rise in the pitch of your voice can indicate eagerness or enthusiasm, while a fall in pitch might suggest impatience or condescension. At any rate, know that nonverbal cues can reveal the unfiltered truth about your thoughts, feelings and attitudes toward your co-workers and the work you perform.
9. Be thoughtful. Take a moment to register how others might be faring during this extreme time of crisis. Anxiety and depression take many forms, such as anger, sarcasm, inattentiveness or melancholy. Be mindful that behind very smile or grunt is a personal struggle to survive the financial, social, medical, educational and political upheaval that all of our lives have been tossed into. So, give compliments. Offer to help without being asked. Fill a candy dish with chocolates. Practicing small acts of kindness throughout the day will greatly improve your mood and the well-being of those around you.
10. Be adaptive. Change is inevitable. In the blink of an eye, your management job could be demoted to a staff position, or you could be downsized out of a job altogether. Similarly, your co-workers could experience the same fate. Regardless of the circumstances, your workplace can be abruptly disrupted. How will you deal with the stress of this extreme level of uncertainty? How do you think others around you are handling it? Instead of retreating into aloofness or bitterness, prepare yourself mentally, emotionally and spiritually to weather tangible and intangible, known and perceived alterations to your employment setting.
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Ashan R. Hampton is a long-time English instructor turned entrepreneur. She is also a proud graduate of the Donaghey Scholars Program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock under the direction of Dr. C. Earl Ramsey, Emeritus. Through her company, Onyx Online Education & Training, she offers online writing courses and print books for academic and professional development to individuals and corporations. She is also a prolific published author of several books on a variety of topics. To find out more about Ashan's work, visit www.arhampton.com.
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