When someone at work interrupts you while you're talking, shows up late for a meeting or swipes your lunch from the break-room fridge, you probably wonder how a person could be so rude. All these things are breaches of etiquette, an unofficial code of conduct that dictates how coworkers treat each other on the job. Etiquette's importance extends into all areas of your life, including the way you dress, eat and work with others.
When you first meet someone, you've got mere seconds to impress them with your manners and likability, according to the Columbia University Center for Career Education. After just a few seconds, the other person has formed an opinion of you, and bad first impressions are very difficult to change. Good first impressions, on the other hand, can earn you job offers, partnerships and advancement opportunities. To make a good first impression, show up a few minutes early or on time to meetings. Dress appropriately in business-like attire. Smile, shake the person's hand and maintain eye contact to give her the impression that you care about what she has to say.
Good etiquette is vital to building and maintaining a team of workers that trusts, likes and respects one another. Failing to turn in your part of a project or taking a personal phone call during a team brainstorming session is not good etiquette. When one person doesn't do her share of the work, the other team members are forced to pick up the slack. If the team doesn't maintain some standard of manners, its members may resent each other. This can cost the company lost time and money.
All of your coworkers deserve respect, even if they're not always polite to you. It's very important, for instance, to respect the religious beliefs, political opinions and sexual orientation of others. You don't have to agree with them, but it's good etiquette to maintain respect. For example, even if you dislike someone's beliefs, don't mock her or let her beliefs change the way you work together. Respecting the property and personal space of others is also important. Don't enter your coworker's office if the door is closed, for example. Avoid cursing and screaming at or around coworkers; it makes you look unprofessional and it's offensive to many people. Remember to respect others, and they'll give you the respect you deserve.
If you regularly do business with people from other countries, it's important to know the customs and etiquette of their homelands. What seems like good etiquette here might be seen as offensive to someone from another country. For example, Americans don't stand very close to one another when conversing, but Mexicans stand close and often touch each other while talking. Backing away from a Mexican during conversation is interpreted as rudeness. Offending foreign clients can result in lost sales and severed partnerships. Review international etiquette rules online or check out a guidebook from your local library.
Melissa King began writing in 2001. She spent three years writing for her local newspaper, "The Colt," writing editorials, news stories, product reviews and entertainment pieces. She is also the owner and operator of Howbert Freelance Writing. King holds an Associate of Arts in communications from Tarrant County College.