Office Ettiquette By Debrett’s

Office conduct

Conform to an office’s working model. For example, take 20-minute lunches, leave domestic and emotional dramas at home and keep social phone chat to a minimum.

Be acquainted with people from all rungs of the ladder, from the boss to the post room.

Respect employee hierarchy, the elders and those with more company years than you.

Remember good email etiquette and mobile phone manners.

Always be discreet. Never discuss salary with your colleagues.

Shouting down juniors is embarrassing for everybody. If necessary, calm criticism has far more impact.

Respect confidentiality. Keep things to yourself when necessary and resist the temptation to pass on any sensitive information (professional or personal).

Illicit material spreads like wildfire so talk with caution within the office walls.

Beware of gossip. Gossips are usually presumed to be untrustworthy.

Never ignore printer paper jams or low toners.

E-cigarettes should not be used in a work environment; vaping shows that you are not focused on your work and may be a distraction to others.

Struggling in when sick will sometimes win you some points, but never if you’re contagious.

Look keen and committed – the odd evening sacrificed to the office will score you bonus points.

Top Ten Tips

Keep up with the tea round and know when it’s your turn.

Ask before borrowing anything; make sure it stays borrowed and doesn’t drift into possession.

Keep your desk tidy and don’t spill over into someone else’s space.

Ask before opening the window, tuning down the air conditioning etc.

Who’s responsible for remembering birthdays? Often no one, so keep an eye on the calendar.

Acknowledge other big occasions in a colleague’s life: weddings, pregnancy etc.

Limit personal calls and mobile talk. Turn your phone onto silent.

Equally, limit your time on Facebook and Twitter.

Share sweets and treats from time to time.

Don’t eat stinky meals at your desk.


Failing to be punctual is the height of bad manners and will make you look unprofessional. Conversely, being punctual always scores bonus points. You will come across as someone who is efficient, organised and reliable.

By being late for a meeting, you are effectively forcing your colleagues or clients to waste their time; hanging around waiting for someone to show up is deeply frustrating.

Make sure you arrive for work punctually, or even better a few minutes early. This will ensure that you are ready to start the day on time. Workers who are consistently late are usually noticed for the wrong reasons.

Given the vagaries of transport systems, the tendencies of meetings to over-run, the unpredictable emergencies of modern life, you cannot expect to be invariably  punctual.

If you see that you’re going to be late, pre-empt the fall-out and call ahead.


Always be punctual and call ahead if you are running late.

Remember your mobile manners. Make sure that your phone is on silent. Smartphones should also be ignored unless a message is urgent or relevant to the meeting. Never send a text mesage or repeatedly check your phone during a meeting.

If you are the host, check that everyone is settled and comfortable before you begin. Introduce everyone to each other; a handshake is usual for the office. Social kissing should be saved for very close or longstanding clients and colleagues. Business cards should be exchanged at the beginning of the meeting.

Take some brief notes – it will cast a good impression. Participate and engage in the discussion but don’t monopolise the meeting.
Be interested in and responsive to presentations.

Never be argumentative, confrontational or rude. Avoid swearing or controversial topics of conversation. Never contradict or question a colleague in front of clients.

Never yawn and don’t hog all the biscuits…


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