Office Etiquette: Rules Not Mentioned in the Employee Handbook

The high cost of real estate, traffic, and emerging technology have caused lots of jobs to be able to be completed from the comfort of one’s home. But while a large percentage of the workforce can literally work in their pajamas, this morning’s commute tells me that there are still lots of folks that must exit their respective domiciles to earn a paycheck.

If you are one of the unlucky ones, there are some things that can make work more bearable. I’m not talking about trendy office supplies (though, that helps!) or a work husband/wife. I’m talking about etiquette. The unspoken rules by which we should all function in order not to claw each other’s eyes out by happy hour.

Here are some things that I thought were pretty basic, but every office has their offenders. Basically, here’s how not to be THAT guy/gal in the office.

1. Can you hear me now? Ringtones are very 2009. So at most, you have that annoying old-timey ringing or maybe some duck sounds. Either way, not everyone in the office needs to hear every time you get a text from your buddies or you get a random call from Sallie Mae. Put the phone on vibrate. If you’re anything like most people, the phone is still close to you and you can still answer it.

2. Your personal jam session. It should be just that – personal. I get that music makes some of us more productive, but no one else in the office may care to hear Yanni At the Acropolis or the entire works of Weird Al Yankovic. Use headphones or earbuds. And then, even those can be so loud that others can hear them. Keep in mind that what gets you going can be a total production killer for someone else. Be respectful and keep it low.

3. Scent sense. We appreciate that you want to smell good. Because trust me, I’ve been in situations where someone obviously didn’t care about how they smelled. The opposite can be just as offensive though. I love smell-goods – perfumes, soaps, lotions, candles, etc. on my own personal time. An office is typically a small space and people can’t escape your smell if they find it unpleasant. Sometimes it’s a matter of quantity. A little dab’ll do ya, but basting oneself in whatever pop star’s latest and not-that-greatest bottled pet project is just bad form. Go easy on the scent at the office and save it for date night.

4. Your kid is not employed there. So why are you forcing their Girl Scout cookies/wrapping paper/overpriced candy on everyone? Look, I want your kid to win that grand prize of a pencil sharpener as much as I want world peace. Really. However, coming around to my desk or sending me an email to cough up money is just awkward. Leave the order form in a common area and walk away. Don’t guilt anyone into buying stuff from your kid.

5. Funky lunch. Again, the office is a small space, shared by many. Last night’s curry salmon might be delicious. But if I’m not the one eating it, it just smells vile and that smell lingers. I can’t tell you what to eat for lunch, but you could try for less smelly foods if you want to be invited to sit with the cool kids at lunch.

None of these infractions will necessarily get you sent to HR, but you can bet they make people think something of you. So while you won’t get fired, you likely won’t be the favorite come promotion time if you’re a bad office mate.