Etiquette for the workplace

Whether you are taking on your first job or your sixth, learning the dynamics of a new office can be difficult. In any case, taking precaution is the best way to avoid offensive, inappropriate or misconstrued behavior.

Every new employee wants to be accepted. Without being too forward, introduce yourself to those around you with a hand outstretched and a smile on your face.

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“I think a good handshake is very important because it shows confidence and it shows enthusiasm. A handshake actually reveals your traits, your motivations and your feelings towards another person,” said Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert.

Ask your employer about the office dress code so you won’t be scrambling the morning of your first day. Use your judgment, and err on the formal side as to show your respect for the job and your place of business.

“I always say dress for the job you want, not necessarily the job you have,” Whitmore said.

The office is not a place for disruptive behavior — grab positive attention with the quality of your work, not the length of your hemline.

“It’s important to dress for the corporate culture in which you work and for the particular client that you serve,” said Whitmore. “I think overdressed is better than being underdressed any day because you can always eliminate certain clothes like a jacket or a tie.”

Your best bet is to mirror the behavior of the people around you in the office, especially when it comes to swearing, telling inappropriate jokes or joining in office gossip.

Be aware that your boss and the employees around you are watching how you act and what kind of work you are producing. Don’t roll your eyes or scrunch your brow in frustration when you are given a task.

“I think it’s important to be mindful of your body language. Your body language can indicate self-confidence or lack of self-confidence. It can also indicate arrogance or insecurity,” Whitmore said.

For your own sanity, do not create office enemies. Playful competition is one thing; office sabotage is another. Avoid conflict but make sure your voice is heard. A clear indication of a good communicator is one who knows how to use body language and tone to their advantage.

Overreaction implies that you do not have control. Take a deep breath and keep calm even under the most strained situation. Reread your emails before sending them as to avoid any underlying tones or harsh criticism in a moment of frustration.

Whitmore uses the term “techno-etiquette” to recognize the desired behavior of those using cell phones, email and Facebook.

“You have to be very mindful of who you are with in a business environment, that cell phones don’t take precedence over a business meeting or a meeting with another person,” said Whitmore.

It is important to inquire what the policy on cell phones is at work — while some jobs may allow you to use your phone to check email all day, you don’t want to make any assumptions. This behavior could be frowned upon.

“The ring tones are what really bother people in business. When people don’t turn their cell phones on silent or vibrate, and they walk away to make a copy and leave the cell phone on their desk it rings and rings and rings,” said Whitmore.

When writing an email, keep in mind that you are in a professional environment and the rules of Internet use must be followed. Always assume your boss and company IT staff are watching.

Facebook and Twitter may be your favorite means of communication, but that doesn’t mean you should be using these social networks at your job. Make sure to double check with those around you or your boss for the social-networking expectations in your office.

“People have access to Facebook on their smart phones, so they can spend all day playing Farmville and checking Facebook and not their work. You definitely need to be mindful of when it’s appropriate,” Whitmore said.

Learning the basics of a job takes time — don’t stress. If you have questions, ask your colleagues.