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5 minute read

Office Etiquette: Here’s What Not to Do in the Workplace

Your words and actions matter, especially in the workplace. We look at office etiquette and what should never be said or done at the office.

Most of us spend the majority of our day at work so it’s no wonder we sometimes let our guard slip and do or say inappropriate things.

However, our words and actions at the workplace do matter. Jimmy Pang, Regional Talent Development Director, Michael Page, shares his tips on office etiquette.

1. “It’s not in my job scope” or “That’s not my job”

Many people can relate to being asked to do something that is simply irrelevant to what you actually do at work (for example, planning the next office Christmas party).

However, if the first thing you say when asked to do something different is that “it’s not part of your job”, then be prepared to not be viewed as a team player. Instead of harping on the fact that it’s not what you usually do, change the intent by looking at the bigger picture. 

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For example, take it as an opportunity to show your versatility and willingness to cooperate with and help out your colleagues.

Jimmy notes that people are creatures of habit and tend to become more risk-averse as we mature. “When we face a challenge, we tend to consider whether it’s something we are comfortable with.

If we think it’s not, that’s when it becomes easy to make excuses,” he says.

Accepting challenges shows that we have a growth mindset and are willing to continue learning and looking at challenges as new opportunities. Ask your boss or colleagues for directions or pointers — you will be surprised how people are willing to help others when asked. 

What it implies: a lack of flexibility and being stuck in one’s comfort zone.

Try this instead: be open to learning on the job, even if it’s something you have never done before. Ask your colleagues for some guidance or attend courses to brush up on these skills.  

2. “We have always done it this way”

While this may be true, it does not mean the current way of doing things is the best and most creative way of getting things done. Having such a mindset stops people from developing in their job and moving forward in their careers.

What it implies: insisting that something should always be done in the same way shows you are resistant to change.

Try this instead: say you are happy to try a new suggestion but would like to discuss its benefits beforehand. This way, any doubts can be aired and cleared, and you have shown you are open to trying something new.

3. “I don’t have time”

You’re currently swamped with projects but your boss wants to give you something else to do. “I don’t have the time” is not a good answer even in such a scenario.

Remember nobody likes excuses and this smells like one. If you really have a lot on your plate, speak with your boss on how your projects can be managed so you can meet the timelines. 

What it implies: lacking a positive, can-do attitude.

Try this instead: suggest sitting with your boss so you can both prioritise your tasks on-hand together. This way it will be clear which tasks need doing first. 

4. “I’m miserable in my job”

It’s important to remember that being unhappy at work is something many people go through at some point in their careers.

There are many reasons this happens: the role is not the right fit or uninspiring to you, there is not much chance of promotion or you have a difficult boss.

But do you voice this? If the company is very formal and hierarchical, then it’s something you probably will be unable to bring up directly with your boss. In such a scenario, consider speaking with another superior or the head of HR. 

What it implies: your boss may get the impression you are looking for another job and start treating you like you are moving on to something else. Plan your approach and choose your words carefully so you don’t put yourself in a negative light or look like you are attacking your boss or the company.

Try this instead: ask for a meeting where you can bring up the main challenges you are facing in a calm and professional manner.

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5. “My boss thinks the longer I work, the happier I will be #HorribleBosses”

Posting rants about long hours spent at the office or negative remarks about your boss is a line that should not be crossed — at all.

Remember, more businesses today are savvy about social media and many use it to check out potential candidates. Worse yet, as some people put it, “the internet is forever” — some things can just never be forgotten or erased. 

What it implies: an unprofessional attitude and possible anger management issues.

Try this instead: count to 20 before doing anything rash online especially if you are feeling emotional. This gives you time to cool down so you don’t say or do anything you will regret later.

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