Young woman feeling unwell and sick in office

Young woman feeling unwell and sick in office

The world has changed in the last few years, and business etiquette today is not what it was when your father was donning a suit and tie to go into the office every day from 9 to 5.  Today, with businesses like Amazon, Google, and Facebook re-defining the workplace and placing an emphasis on comfort and fun, the average American workplace is not as formal as it used to be.  However, there are still some fundamental and industry standard rules everyone should know and observe regardless of where you work, and the office rules set therein—a lot of these you may identify as simple common sense.  Unfortunately, what was once identified as simple common, are no longer so common.

1.Start with your Mother:

Do you remember your mother saying to you “Always treat others the way you want to be treated.”?  This turns out to be very sage advice that is pretty sound under almost any circumstance, including your time at the office at which you spend eight or more hours of your day.  A simple little phrase that encompasses so much wisdom!  Okay, you can rename this common sense, but it is a good tool to utilize if you ever have cause to question whether your behavior is office appropriate—simply ask “WWMS, or what would Mom say?”

2. Don’t be afraid to be sick:

You may think you will earn points for giving it the ol’ “college try” and going to work when you are sick.  Not only would you be incorrect in this assessment, you may actually lose points for doing so and risk infecting the entire office with whatever it is that is knocking you down.  One thing your supervisors will appreciate however, is to make sure that during those rare circumstances where you are ill, you have the sick time accrued to simply stay home, rest, and get well as soon as possible.  This simply means you haven’t used up all your sick time on those days where you simply didn’t feel like going in, or even those days where you decided you needed a “me” day.

3.Dress to impress, and err on the side of caution:   

What you are wearing the first time your co-workers and supervisors come in contact with you gives off a first impression that will stick, so make it count to your advantage.  It doesn’t matter if you have friends who are employed at the company and have told you the dress code is super casual.  Go ahead and dress to impress the first time you are going to walk through those doors.  Then, during your first day, observe the dress code of everyone else—but remember, even if everyone else is casual, you don’t have to be.  Don’t dress for the position you have, dress for the position you want.  And a time tested and fundamental rule of the office dress code—if you question whether or not something is work appropriate, chances are that someone else will too.  So always err on the side of caution, and good sense.

4. Guard your words and actions:

Often referred to by the acronym “GWA,” guarding your words and actions is a fundamental aspect of office etiquette.  If you’re one of those individuals that have a booming voice that carries, it’s crucial that you learn to utilize your “inside voice.”  With individual offices going the way of the dodo, and being replaced with cubicles or even open workplaces, it is crucial for your continued corporate survival to remember that what you are saying to your workplace pal is probably being heard by someone else.  It’s a great rule of thumb to go into the office with the fundamental belief that someone is always listening, because typically someone always is.  Keep conversations better suited for the gym or the bowling alley at the gym or bowling alley.  Or at least outside the office.  Additionally, remember that with today’s increasingly diverse workplaces, chances are that a joke that you think is funny and are telling your buddy during a cell phone conversation, may be offensive to someone else, and you do want to keep your visits to HR to a minimum.  Turning your cell phone off when entering the office should be standard unless your job requires you to keep it on.  However, any personal calls should be taken outside on your own time.

5. Everything has its place and there’s a place for everything:

The phrase “getting ready for work” implies that when you arrive at work you are ready to work.  Shaving and brushing your teeth should be done at home in your own bathroom, and not in the office restroom.  It’s okay to apply some hand lotion at your desk, but trimming and painting your nails should be done at the salon, and work should be done at your desk.

6. Everybody has to eat:

The need to refuel your body is a universal truth, but it’s important to recognize that you are not at home when you’re at the office.  Eating at your desk is often distracting to other employees, and can be a speed bump to productivity.  If your office has a break room, utilize it at meal time.  And it should go without saying to remember to clean up after yourself—this includes the inside of the microwave.  Your co-workers will appreciate it.

Being cognizant of these basic rules of office etiquette will be appreciated by your co-workers, and will help you in continuing to demonstrate your level of professionalism, and keeping you in high demand.

David Klein is a leading Executive IT Recruiter & Headhunter with over 15 years industry experience.  As Manager of Recruitment Strategy for KDS Staffing, Inc., he has achieved industry-leading success. David has successfully led, trained and introduced many in the art of Executive Recruitment and Headhunting. If you or your organization would like to discuss hiring needs, contact David at 646-650-2833 or

One executive with a perfect tie, another with a loosened tie