Mention the words “office etiquette” to someone random. You’ll most likely receive either a raised eyebrow or the rolling back of eyeballs. Yet consider that it’s about politeness, manners and tolerance. Thus, it isn’t hard to see why it’s both easy and desirable.

Office etiquette is simple

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. “Learn to turn the other cheek”. “If you can’t say something positive, rather say nothing”.

If any of these sound familiar, you have a head start already. Despite the way it rolls off the tongue, etiquette isn’t magic behaviour relegated to high society of the 1800s. If you’re courteous and attentive, you’re already halfway there. Plus, if you aren’t, learning to be isn’t difficult.

Many advantages

The positive aspects of good office etiquette are too numerous to list. We’ve condensed them, so bear in mind this list is by no means exhaustive.

Better communication

We’ve posted before that communication drives a business. It’s far easier to communicate effectively if you keep office etiquette in mind. Think about it: would you rather chat to someone you get along with, or someone who makes you uncomfortable? Now think about the person you’re communicating with. Do they feel as if you’re treating them with respect and politeness? Or are they likely to miss your message because they’re too busy thinking about the last time you ignored them?

Furthermore, a good office etiquette fosters healthier work relationships. You’re far more likely to be brutally honest and forthcoming with a colleague whom you mutually respect. The honesty and easy share of information translate into better business decisions. You can use this to create better processes and hopefully better products or services. Ultimately, you should leverage this to set your company apart from others.

Appreciation of effort

If you’re honest enough to admit you’re only starting on the etiquette path, then this good news is for you. Once you’ve decided to make the effort, you’ll see the effort that others on the same path make. While it’s not be difficult, it is still an effort requiring an active thought process before it becomes second nature. Plus, seeing someone else put that effort in hopefully inspires you to do the same.


We keep hearing that earning it is the only way you’ll have it. Earn your respect though office etiquette. Not only do you have a chance to do so daily, you’ll also make days that follow more pleasant.

Apply elsewhere

There’s no reason for you to limit this to the office. Any achievements you make in your etiquette can just as easily blossom in other spheres of life. Sportsmanlike behaviour is a boon in  competitive activities. Minding your manners socially will give you a public demeanour that is pleasant and increasingly scarce. Finally, use it on your clients – more on this below.

Tips for office etiquette achievement

Don’t wait to start

Get going today, even if you’re the only one. With a little luck, you’ll end up leading by example. And being considered a leader can only be good for you.

Speaking of leading by example, make sure it’s an example you want to set. One of the easiest ways to do this is simply to ask beforehand. “How can I be nicer/more polite to you?”


Basically, don’t give up. Changes in etiquette take long to see. The effect they have can take even longer. So stick to it and wait out the period during which you don’t notice anything different.

Get others on board

Challenge your colleagues to develop these skills. Make it a task for each day to come up with one way to improve office etiquette. In a medium-size office, you’ll see at least 4 or 5 people attempting to improve the same aspect. The combined effect will be more than the individual efforts.

Read all about it

If you’re stuck and don’t know how to progress, look it up. There are hundreds of resources online, revealed by a simple search. Pick one and make it your pet project for the week to try and use everything it recommends. Five minutes a day is more than enough.

Explain what you’re doing

Talking about etiquette openly and simply is a good way to convince not just others, but yourself as well. Many organisations lack the resources or availability to ask for outside assistance. The easy way to overcome this is for colleagues to help one another. Not only will they reinforce the ideas, they will also come to a collective understanding of the hows and whys.

Figure it out

Not sure what the right office etiquette is for your workplace? Don’t worry, this happens a lot.

There are two straightforward ways to overcome this. Firstly, ask. Chat to your colleagues, find out what they prefer in terms of behaviour received. Many people are quite happy to be quizzed about what they consider appropriate and cordial. Some workplaces even go as far as having semi-official policies on workplace etiquette. It’s always a good idea to check in with the HR department. If they don’t have any ideas on the matter, you could offer to contribute a set.

The second thing you can do is pay attention. See how other individuals treat their colleagues and make a note. They would probably be happy with being treated the same way.

Don’t forget about your customers

If you already subscribe to the principles of treating customers fairly (TCF), you can go a step further and include office etiquette. Developing your manners and understanding for use when applying TCF is bound to make a tremendously positive impression. It really shows that you’ve upped your game and are putting cordial behaviour in there with what matters most to your business.

You can improve office etiquette formally or informally. The choice is for each organisation to make, based on needs and the status quo.