Updated: Jun 29, 2020
I have been in the workforce now for 15 years, with me working my first job as a freshman in college. I've also had the opportunity to work in Human Resources for a few years and I've directed and managed a few teams, both large and small. When I tell you I have seen some things...I HAVE SEEN SOME THINGS! At the beginning of my career, I thought that workplace etiquette was common knowledge. After a number of years working, I discovered that was lies and deception and everything I thought I know about work was wrong.
Now years in, I've learned that most people's habits, patterns, traditions, and quirks carry over from their personal lives into their professional lives. This means that workplace etiquette means something different for each person. So what some people think is appropriate in the workplace may be deemed highly inappropriate for other people.
Let me give you an example from my own experience of when office etiquette goes wrong. Here's little background first, I grew up in a household where my mom didn't want us in the kitchen playing around the food while she was preparing it and cooking it. There was no looking in the pot to see what the food looked like and don't even try to think about sneaking a taste. Once the food was done, we had to wash our hands-in the bathroom-and then we were allowed to go in the kitchen and serve ourselves and eat. So you're probably wondering how this relates to work. Here you go...
I have had plenty of jobs that would host potluck meals for holidays or maybe just a fun office function. If you're unfamiliar with potlucks, it's a tradition where everyone brings a dish to a party to contribute to the meal. At this one particular job I had years ago, it was Cinco de Mayo so everyone brought a Tex-Mex dish to the party. When it was time to eat, some of the dishes required warming. I distinctively remember one person touching the food they had brought (quesadillas), bare hand-open palm, to see if the food needed to be reheated. Y'all, I was doneeeeee! Not only did I see that as unsanitary, but it all etiquette was out of the window. Ever since that experience, I had avoided office potlucks at all costs. While this may seem like a minor example, this is just one example of the many things that you should not do at work.
Here are five more things you should not do at work!
Everything ain't meant for work. PERIOD! I know a lot of workplaces have different dress code standards. In some workplaces, employees can only wear uniforms. In others, it's a lot more casual. There are those that fall in between. If you're new to your job and it does not require a uniform, I would advise you to not only read the employee handbook to understand the rules regarding dress code, but also overdress until you have a better understanding of what's acceptable in your workplace. If you're stumped about what's considered work-appropriate, Pinterest is a great site to use for inspiration. I usually use type in "curvy work outfits women professional" (because I'm curvy). My go-to is usually a nice, flowy blouse and trousers. An outfit like this can easily be dressed up or dressed down. Ultimately, don't put yourself in a situation to miss out on your money by being sent home or written up because of your outfit.
Not Being Prepared for Meetings
Why?...because it looks bad! This can look like a number of things. For one, walking into a meeting without a pen and notebook is a bad look all the way around. It says, "I’m coming into this meeting but I don't plan to pay attention to anything y’all are saying". Don't do that. Even if you don't have anything to write, at least open your notepad and have your pen in hand just in case. Also, if you’re a part of a team that sends out an agenda or email in advance and you don’t read it. That also looks bad, especially you are assigned tasks or speaking points on the agenda. Always take about 15-30 minutes to prep yourself before meetings, that way you are ready and prepared.
Oversharing Personal Information at Work
I know a lot of time people say don’t make friends at work or be too friendly with your co-workers and in some cases, that’s true in some cases, but it’s always nice to have someone at work who you can relate to, trust, talk to about work things, and someone who can vouch for you and advocate for you. But, some things just shouldn’t be discussed at work. let me give an example. Lets say you’re in a relationship and you always talk every little detail of your relationship. and then you and break up with that person, but everyone at works keeps asking how he or she is doing. That’s annoying as hell right. Be mindful of what you share and how much of it you share.
Assuming That You Know Everything
This used to be me. When I first start working, I had a hard time receiving criticism or feedback. It was a mix of pride and lack of self-awareness. As I progressed in my career and stepped into roles where I managed and supervised employees, I learned that it was annoying to try to provide guidance to someone who thought they knew everything about everything. No one knows everything, even the top in leadership at your job. My advice is to be open to feedback. Ask for feedback, and then learn how to apply it to your life. Feedback is not saying you’re terrible at your job. Feedback is honestly just a way of seeing something from a different perspective than yours.
Not Advocating for Yourself
One major issue I see in young professionals is them just not advocating for themselves and their needs. Self-advocacy is so important not only in work but in life in general. If you don’t stand up for yourself, you really can’t expect anyone else to do it. So you’re probably, ok, what does that even mean. Let’s say you're a young professional and your work full-time, 9-5. On a consistent basis, after work and the weekends you have hobbies that you enjoy in addition to hanging out with friends and family. Your manager has a habit of contacting you outside of work hours to ask questions about work. That's is annoying, right?! Self-advocacy would be you having a conversation and letting your manager know that you would prefer to not talk about work after work hours. Y’all, we have right as employees. don’t let walk all over you because guarantee they will. Now, this whole other topic within its self and I plan to dissect other topics such as boundaries at work and work/life balance.