Do’s and Don’ts within the Office: 5 areas to keep uncomfortable situations from arising

When two or more people work in proximity to one another, there just might be a possibility that uncomfortable situations will arise.  It’s theoretical of course; just a remote possibility. What appears to be okay for one individual might get under the skin of a co-worker. Here are five areas where a quick review of office etiquette guidelines might save some ruffling of feathers.

  1. Cubicle Décor – While it may be your workspace it still affects those around you. If your computer screensaver is made up of suggestive photos taken from your bachelor party, you might want to change it before you get a call from HR. Also, if you’ve got dozens of photos, posters or trinkets sitting around, try to cull your collection to a more tasteful display. The largest collection I’ve seen crammed into a cubicle was 250+ Happy Meal Toys.
  2. Break room or Kitchen – Do you have someone in your office that consistently eats your lunch or that belonging to others? Nothing is more frustrating than working up an appetite all morning only to discover someone else got to it before you and enjoyed what should have been yours. You might want to start using the Anti-Theft Lunch Bag. It’s designed to make your food look like it has mold growing on it.
  3. Music – Listening to music can make your day more enjoyable. But it can also make a neighboring co-worker’s day unbearable. When listening to music you’ve got two options: Listening via headphones or listening via speakers.  When using headphones or ear buds make sure your music isn’t so loud it prevents you from hearing your phone ringing or a co-worker trying to get your attention. If you choose to listen to music via speakers, set your music at the level you think is appropriate. Then get up and do a sound check. Sort of a “can you hear me now?” type of check. Have a conversation with your co-workers and let them know they are welcome to ask you to turn down your music any time it’s bothering them. This conversation will open the door for those individuals who might feel too intimidated to do otherwise.
  4. Prairie-dogging – For those working in cube farms, privacy is rare and coveted. Do you have the habit of popping up over someone’s wall, completely catching them off guard or interrupting them in a way that scares them half to death? Individuals who have a habit of popping up as “prairie dogs” are often seen as a nuisance. So the next time you want to grab someone’s attention, try using the entrance of their cube instead.
  5. Gastro intestinal issues – Having gas is part of being human. Everyone struggles with it at some point in time. So if you’ve had granola with raisins for breakfast and it’s beginning to work on you, don’t just sit in a meeting, relieving yourself, hoping to blame it on a co-worker. And whatever you do, don’t think that taking a walk down the hall (while working out some of those gas pains) is a better option.  Keep a product like Gas-X handy in your office drawer. Or go to the restroom to get some relief. Or go to Cleveland. Just don’t make your co-workers pay for your uncomfortable intestines.

Unless you’re self-employed, working with co-workers is part of your job.  In making sure you’re not about to offend or hurt someone’s feelings, ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say or do going to make those I work with feel comfortable?”  It’s a litmus test that works every time.

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