Mind Your Manners in the Workplace

Unspoken rules. You will come across them in almost every environment you find yourself in, and the workplace is no exception. Some of these unspoken rules are location specific, as in a particular organization having their own expectations for what is acceptable and not acceptable. In other cases, these “rules” should just be common sense (which isn’t really common, but that’s a whole other post).

As you enter the workplace, either as an intern or a newly minted professional, here are some unspoken rules to abide by no matter where you are working.

The Bathroom Is a No Phone Zone

Nothing creeps me out more than overhearing people talking on their cell phones in the bathroom. Can’t people wait five minutes to place their (always) unimportant calls? If you were my friend and you called me, and I heard flushing toilets in the background…You and I wouldn’t be friends anymore. I have come across this bad behavior more than once in my workplace, and unfortunately the perpetrators have been students. And I judge them, and those judgements aren’t positive. Think if these people were my co-workers. Not good. Don’t do it.

You Have a Home…

And your office is not it. I think one of unspoken rules that I’ve seen broken most often is treating the workplace exactly like home. Sometimes this manifests itself in inappropriately decorated workspaces. If you’re workspace or office looks more like your living room or bedroom, there’s a problem. Another trouble zone is the office kitchen area. I understand that everyone has their own ideas about cleanliness. If you tend to be messier than most, you have to step up your game in the office. How long does it take to wipe up a small splatter in the microwave? 10 seconds? Don’t make your messes other people’s problems.

You Are Not Alone

Even if you are fortunate enough to have your own office, you are still surrounded by co-workers, whether that’s one other person or hundreds of people. Ideally, your workplace is fun and social, but you still must remember that it is work. You might be most productive listening to music, but your neighbor might not be. Keep the volume down. You may love having all of your work friends congregate in your office to chat away the afternoon. Keep in mind, however, that others around you are trying to work and might not be able to concentrate with a party across the hall.

I realize that I sound a little harsh, but sometimes the only way to hammer home what should be common sense is to be blunt. The workplace is a community, much like your college residence hall is a community. Behaviors that might be no big deal in the comfort of your home or around your family and friends become major issues in the workplace. Being respectful of your workplace community goes a long way towards building a positive professional reputation.


Laura serves as Internship Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the office of Career & Leadership Development.  In this role, Laura advises students who are pursuing internships, assists employers with intern recruitment, and supports university faculty who oversee academic internships.  She also provides students with job search readiness assistance through presentations, individual counseling, and social media.  Laura earned her bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she majored in French and Political Science, and she received her masters degree in Counseling from UW-Whitewater.  To learn more about Laura, read her blog, follow her on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.

Related posts:

  1. Mind Your Manners
  2. Top 5 workplace annoyances
  3. Workplace Basics: The Art and Science of Being Organized

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