So you’re new to the corporate environment and feeling out of place, or you’re experiencing some passive-aggressive behaviour in your office and don’t know what you’re doing wrong. A refresher on Office Etiquette may be the solution.

There is some generally accepted office etiquette that may or may not be similar to the etiquette you grew up with, and that’s ok. It’s not about changing your personal culture; it’s about creating a unified, harmonious company culture that enables everyone to focus on the work at hand. Below are some pointers on office etiquette that you may have been unaware of.

Cell Phones

Most companies have moved away from the strict “no personal calls” rule but you still need to be considerate: take that personal call but keep it short, reply to the text but don’t strike up a whole texting conversation and, especially in open plan offices, keep your phone on silent. And no, your phone never belongs in a meeting with you.


Be on time. However, we are all merely human and sometimes we run late. If you can’t be on time then the least you should do is let the person waiting for you know. If you have a meeting scheduled with someone then send them an email or call to let them know, and if you’re late for work extend the same courtesy to your boss.

Dress Code

Different companies have different expectations on how you should be presenting yourself. If you aren’t clear on what is expected from you take some time to notice how your colleagues are dressing or better yet, ask. There are basic professional dress code rules that you should stick to anyway: don’t dress revealingly, don’t look sloppy and avoid t-shirts, shorts, casual jeans and anything else you’d likely wear to the beach.


Use formal language and avoid slang – especially when you are emailing someone you don’t have a relationship with. Emails that come from you reflect on your own professionalism as well as your company’s so your emails should include a proper greeting, your message, a proper signoff, as well as your contact details.

Shared Kitchens

Your office may have a cleaner but that is not an excuse for you to avoid cleaning up after yourself. When sharing a kitchen with your colleagues make sure that you wipe the surfaces when you are done, clean or pack away your dishes, don’t take up all the space when busy in the kitchen and make sure to remove your old food from the fridge. And if you didn’t put something into the kitchen, best you don’t assume that you can take etiquette - kitchen

Basic Manners

No matter how casual your office is, basic manners always apply. Be respectful, be honest, offer someone next to you coffee, open the door for others, don’t be rude, don’t use offensive language, etc.


chew chewing gum when talking to others
be loud and disruptive
use your work line for personal calls
spend your time on social media


wear deodorant
use “please” and “thank you”
take a sick day rather than spreading germs
respect colleague’s deadlines
give credit where it’s due


Written by Maraine Basson

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