Office etiquette helps smoothen the wheels of daily interaction within the office space. Getting along with people is essential for good work outcomes and a happy co-existence, and it is office etiquette that ensures this, even when there is mutual dislike or disinterest.

Moreover, office etiquette ensures that you don't become office enemy No.1 because you have been irritating people with unhelpful habits or comments. Not that you deliberately aim to be an office challenge, but there are some actions that can unwittingly cause others discomfort or unease. Office etiquette is the key deciding factor on how your colleagues will respond to you when you need help.

1 Understand the point of office etiquette - While the term "office etiquette" may conjure images of stiffness and formality, it is in actual fact very simple. Office etiquette is about observing a simple set of rules for getting along with other people in an organisational context.

Just as living in a society requires us to follow a set of conventions (unwritten but well understood expectations) and rules, observing appropriate social behavior within the work context ensures congeniality, team respect, and an enjoyable day-to-day work experience.

While most etiquette remains unwritten, just because it isn't down in black and white, and pinned to the noticeboard doesn't excuse lack of observance.

2 Being punctual is very important, especially if you have an appointment - It shows that you respect your colleagues time and in turn this will compel them to respect yours too. The popular saying that would fit into this situation is `Time and tide wait for no one'. Lead by example, and everything will fall into place.

3 Dress appropriately - Most offices have a predefined dress code that has to be followed strictly. However, if you do have the privilege of working at a place which does not define a dress code, then it is up to you to dress appropriately. Remember that the office is not a party place and you have to dress in a way that commands respect both from your colleagues and clients. The dress code has a strong influence in establishing trust.

Dress professionally, or in the manner expected at your particular work site. A suit or other professional outfit should be used when interacting with clients, seeking important deals and other highly professional situations.

4 Stay away from gossip - Office gossip may not make or break your career but it can cause a lot of unnecessary stress which should be avoided at all costs. You do not want someone to gossip about you and neither will the next person. In some cases, if the source of some malicious gossip can be traced back to you, then your job will be in jeopardy. Limit your comments to positive ones only. Office grapevines can be faster than the speed of light; anything negative you say will get around and may reflect poorly on you, or possibly label you as the company gossip.

5 Ask before borrowing - If you are in good terms with your colleague, it may be alright to borrow a stapler or a marker from their desk without asking. Well, the fact of the matter is that it is not all right. It is imperative that you ask first, and then borrow. This attitude will ensure people also treat your things with the same respect, and they are not missing (read borrowed) when you get back to your seat after a meeting.

6 Be sensitive to others' need for privacy - Don't read someone else's faxes, emails, mails, or computer screens. Only share personal things at work that you wouldn't mind reading in next week's newspaper. And remember when you send emails, never write anything that will be a problem if forwarded; simply by virtue of the fact that anyone can forward an email, you need to be alert to this potential.

If you need to discuss anything sensitive or private with another colleague, find a room where you can shut the door and nobody else can overhear you. Personal issues and work performance reviews are not for the ears of anyone other than the recipient.


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