Office Etiquette for New Graduates
A. "Newbie" Etiquette
- Resist the temptation to be a know-it-all. Certainly speak up at meetings and offer to pitch in on projects, but resist the urge to "show off" or "show up" some of the other staffers. Remember, a lot was accomplished before you came on board. Acting otherwise might appear disrespectful.
- Be friendly and courteous with everyone, not just the bosses.
- Get to know your co-workers on a professional level. Ask them to join you for lunch or a break. But be smart about what you discuss (see part B below).
- Be sensitive with your language...avoid slang, vulgarities, questionable jokes, etc.
B. Conversation Topics to Avoid in General Office Conversations
- Your health issues as well as gossip about the health of your co-workers
- How much things cost, how many bills you have to pay, how much you make, etc.
- Gossip that is harmful to others
- Last night's wild party!
C. General Communication Tips
- Follow up on important issues. Just because you asked someone to do something doesn't mean that they will take care of it for you! A quick phone call to ensure completion of key details can save you tons of trouble later on. This is especially important if you are a "young" new manager. Examples: The boss's secretary said she'd make an airline reservation for you? Politely confirm the reservation, and express your thanks. Or--a subordinate promised to call an upset client? Follow up! Or--your boss said that he or she would review your proposal for working on your MBA? Check in with your boss after a few days...don't assume what is a priority to you is also a priority to everyone else.
- Keep emails short & to the point. Don't expect people to read LONG messages. If your message requires the reader to "scroll down" to read the entire message, perhaps it would be better to call them instead.
- Since it is so rarely used anymore, "snail mail" really makes an impact. Use it for thank you notes to show your appreciation. Try to send a note to those who take the time to mentor you.
- If you need to speak with someone who works in a cubicle, remember to respect their space. Pretend that the walls are really there...don't just barge in!
D. Dining Etiquette for Business Meals
- If you are the first to arrive, wait to order your meal until everyone else arrives. It's ok to drink water while you wait. Be sure to stand and greet people as they arrive.
- Remember, the point of a business lunch is the BUSINESS, not the lunch. So, order quickly, choose something easy to eat (no spaghetti or lobster!), and don't feel like you have to "clean your plate! The "daily special" might be a good choice for a quick, simple meal.
- It's unprofessional to fight over the tab at a business meal. Generally speaking, the person who does the inviting pays for the meal and the tip. Of course, if you are inviting a co-worker to a casual lunch, both should just pay their own tab. But if you are invited to a business lunch meeting, the person who invited you should be responsible for the payment. Try not to order the most expensive thing on the menu.
Final note: Switching from college dining halls to business meetings certainly requires a change in your mindset. But by being aware of simple courtesies, you will be able to handle all of the new situations that you encounter with confidence and ease. Good luck, and congratulations on landing your first professional job! If you have specific professional etiquette questions that you would like to discuss, please direct them to our Post College Forum. Thank you!
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