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By Melodie Veldhuizen

Friday, 24 September 2020 is Bring your manners to work day. This day was introduced by the Washington Protocol School to remind people to treat their colleagues courteously and with respect in the workplace. Good manners are essential every day to promote good relationships and to open doors to new opportunities for you. Although many of these things may be obvious, it will be good just to refresh one’s memory.

  • Be friendly and courteous at all times. This does not mean walking around with a smile all day, but be generous with “please” and “thank you”. Always be friendly and always ask after your colleagues’ wellfare.
  • Offer to make coffee or tea for the colleagues who share your office or to bring along something from the cafeteria.
  • Say “pardon me” when somebody is in your way, if you bump into somebody by accident, or when it is essential for you to interrupt a conversation.
  • Apologise if you were abrupt, ill-mannered or impatient towards somebody consciously or uconsciously or have offended somebody in some way or other.
  • Hold open the door or lift door if you walk in first and a colleague is already getting in or out. When you’re in the way when somebody wants to get into or out of the lift, stand aside politely.
  • Knock before entering somebody’s office.
  • Telephone etiquette: If you share an office with colleagues, talk softly when speaking on the landline or your cell phone, or ask if you can call back later when you are alone. If a colleague is talking on the phone, talk softer so that the person can hear the person on the other side. Put your cell phone on silent during office hours or meetings and do not check your phone all the time for messages (unless you are expecting an important message).
  • When talking to one colleague in the office, keep it muted especially if not everybody is interested in what is being said.
  • Do not complain about insignificant things.
  • Do not give uncalled-for advice. If somebody needs your advice, he or she will ask you.
  • Avoid listening to gossip or spreading stories about others.
  • Refrain from making personal remarks about a colleague’s appearance or way of dressing.
  • Tidy up all communal areas after use – the photostat room, kitchen, recreation area and cloakrooms.
  • Confine personal care to the privacy of your house or the cloakrooms. Applying make-up, filing nails and combing hair in the office is taboo.
  • It is frustrating to be interrupted when you are busy with an urgent job, but if a colleague has to discuss something urgent with ou, listen politely and finalise the situation as quickly as possible. Or ask whether you can discuss the matter at a time convenient for both of you. Try not to bother a colleague unnecessarily, especially if the matter can be discussed by email or in person later.
  • Punctuality: Always be in time for work, meetings and other appointments. If something unforeseen arises, let them know that you will be late. If you are in charge, do not allow meetings to carry on for longer than the scheduled time. Finalise your projects in time.
  • Do not reprimand or criticise a colleague (a senior or team member) in the presence of other colleagues, and always be tactful. Also deal with conflict in private. Stay calm and do not become emotional or angry.
  • Compliment a colleague who deserves it.
  • Guard against (overt) jealousy if a colleague is promoted or is complimented for good work.
  • Communication: Poor communication can cause misunderstandings. If communication is verbal, make sure that everybody understands exactly what you mean. Follow up with an email, but avoid long-winded emails that contain unnecessary information and wastes time. Make sure that the tone of all written communication (email) is friendly and the meaning clear.
  • If you are not going to be at work for a long time, leave an out of office message on your email and phone.
  • Personal matters: Do not blurt out personal matters (such as your and your husband’s fight before work, or your child’s problems with mathematics). Even if you are friends with some of your colleagues, do not cross the line. It is unprofessional to share details of your personal life with colleagues.
  • Do not bombard colleagues with requests for sponsorships, donations or ticket sales for your child’s school activities. Many people have their own children who they have to support and you embarrass them if they cannot or do not want to contribute.
  • Teatimes and lunchtimes: Whether you take your tea and lunches in a communal space or in the office, take the people around you into consideration. Avoid food with strong aromas and eat without making irritating noises.
  • Stay at home when you are sick (especially during the present times).
  • Do not use perfume or deodorant with an overwhelming or intoxicating smell at work.
  • Dress professionally according to the company’s dress code.
  • Guard against remarks about your colleagues on Facebook or Twitter. Even if the institutions are private, it could just reach their ears.
  • Respect your colleagues’ and company’s property.
  • Be respectful and professional towards colleagues and clients, even those you don’t like.
  • Do not repay other peoples negative behaviour by imitating them.



Days of the Year. https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/bring-your-manners-to-work-day/?timezone_offset=nan

Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2014/04/07/office-etiquette-tips-to-overcome-bad-manners-at-work/#34681ee74a37

The Spruce. https://www.thespruce.com/office-etiquette-tips-1216803

Town and Country. https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/a10276858/office-etiquette/

Workopolis.  https://careers.workopolis.com/advice/15-rules-of-good-workplace-manners/

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