Office Etiquette - What Not to do in the Workplace

Office Etiquette - What Not to do in the Workplace

Office culture across the country tends to be very similar from company to company. For people whose lives revolve around office life, we know that an unhappy office can be very destructive and demotivating environment to work in.

While we all have our individual quirks and things that make our blood-boil, there are triggers that universally create a hostile atmosphere within any workplace.

Co-workers may not always realise what they are doing is actually disrupting the office environment and unfortunately sometimes telling someone can fall of deaf ears.

The best thing we can do ourselves is take a look at our own behaviour and adjust accordingly. A lot of the time we will be on auto-pilot in the office and may not realise we might be causing a stir.

Here are 10 things you should avoid to help improve your own office etiquette.

1. Working while you are sick

For a lot of us, coming into close proximity with people on a daily basis can wreak havoc on our immune systems. Commuting into work on the train or bus and then arriving home to your children who pass around germs like they were sweets is one way to feel under the weather.

The worst thing you can do is sit at your desk coughing and spluttering. Do yourself a favour (and your co-workers), take a day or two to rest up and get better. No one likes a colleague sneezing every 5 minutes.

2. Consistently showing up late for meetings

While not all of us enjoy a meeting, meetings still provide a level of structure and stability that help us get us through our days. Turning up late to meetings severally hinders your ability to engage with the topic on hand and can often leave your co-workers annoyed.

Give yourself enough time to get yourself to each meeting, whether this be by using a calendar or a reminder on your mobile phone. Whatever way works, just keep on top of your meetings.

3. Eating smelly food at your desk

While you should always have the freedom of eating anything you would like at work, eating something that is so pungent can be very distracting to your nearby co-workers. Even worse if clients have come into the office and you’re there munching some microwaved fish.

If you do really want to eat up that left over food from the night before, use your designated lunch area instead. Your co-workers, clients and boss will be thankful for it. If you end up really stuck for lunch ideas, here are 10 healthy recipes for any day of the week. 

4. Not cleaning up after yourself in the kitchen

Some foods can be terribly messy. Especially when you use the microwave to heat up your soup and end up cooking it for too long where it explodes. Simply take the time to clean up after yourself. Leaving a filthy microwave, unclean plates and cutlery in the sink will never win you any friends.

5. Not attending work outings

We all have busy lives outside work, some more so than others but it’s important to take the time to attend work outings. The best work environments are when everyone feels comfortable with one another, and a work outing can certainly go a long way to help achieve this.

6. Being the office chatterbox

There’s a time and a place to have a good old chin-wag. It helps maintain friendly office relationships and keeps us from feeling burnout from work. But knowing when you’ve been chatting too much is important. Best thing to do is just be self-aware of how much you chat during the day. Deadlines need to be met and chatting about what you had for dinner last night won’t help.

7. Leaving passive-aggressive notes

Passive-aggressive notes can be funny, witty and even enjoyable to read, but not when they are directed at you. They can build up a dangerous level of animosity between co-workers, where in truth, simply telling the person instead of hiding behind a note can work wonders.

8. Being generally loud

Whether you’re on the phone, having lunch or chatting to a co-worker about last night’s football game, try to be conscious of how loud your being. It can be very distracting for co-workers while you laugh uncontrollably on the table next to them.

9. Sending unnecessary emails

When it comes to internal emails people can be very lazy. Sometimes it’s much easier just to get out of your chair and go speak to the person for a minute or two rather than exchanging four or five emails over the course of half an hour.
Also, hitting that big “Reply All” button when only one person in the conversation needs to read what you have to say is a big no no.

10. Taking food which isn’t yours

Arguably, this is the most frustrating pet peeve for most office workers. While it may not happen all that often, when it does it can be infuriating.

Just because food isn’t labelled, it doesn’t mean it’s communal. If you are unsure if the food is free for the taking, just ask.


I think we can all agree that working in a friendlier and productive environment is better than a hostile one. In order to maintain this kind of office atmosphere, we more first look at ourselves and how we behave.

It’s easier to change our own behaviour rather than someone else’s. If someone does annoy you within the office, don’t retaliate with petty actions, communicate and resolve the issue amicably.

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