The 10 Commandments of Workplace Etiquette

The Champagne Supernova- 10 Commandments of Workplace Etiquette

I’ve worn many hats over the years.

I’ve been a grocery store cashier, a restaurant server, a receptionist at a home sales center, a mortgage loan officer at a bank, a summer clerk at a small law firm, and an associate attorney at a large law firm.

While I am not an etiquette expert, and often prefer the company of people who do things their way, there are a few observations I’ve had in the work environment over the past decade that are worth mentioning. These are the 10 things guaranteed to annoy your colleagues:

Thou Shalt Control the Sound of Your Bodily Functions. There’s no reason someone sitting on the opposite side of the office should be able to hear you sneezing, coughing, chewing food, or clearing your throat. One of my daughters would jump in utero at the sound of a colleague’s sneezes.

It is entirely possible to control the decibel of your bodily functions. If you wouldn’t make the loud and distracting noise in a church, at a funeral, or in a library, then you should have equal consideration in the workplace.

Thou Shalt Help Keep the Restroom Tidy. When you work in a large office building where everyone on the floor shares a bathroom, it’s embarrassing to direct multimillion dollar client representatives into a restroom where there might be toilet paper stuck to the floor, water splashed all over the sink, or, worst of all, a toilet that wasn’t completely flushed. While companies hire the NECS Commercial Cleaning Services to keep the office hygienic, they can’t be there 24/7 to clear up after your bathroom spillages.

Clean up after yourself.

Thou Shalt Not Reheat Smelly Food. I once attended a crowded deposition in a small room where the air conditioner wasn’t working. Despite being packed in the room like sardines (pun intended), one of my colleagues took a container of stinky cheese out of her mini cooler, and proceeded to spread it all over crackers before eating it. The sound of her smacking jaw and the repugnant odor of the cheese in the hot, tiny room was nauseating.




Burned popcorn.

Keep these smelly culprits out of the office. Please. Otherwise you’ll have to consider hiring Commercial Office Services to decontaminate the place and get rid of those nasty smells.

Thou Shalt Not Take Food That’s Not Yours. People shouldn’t have to label or initial food items that are placed in the community refrigerator. If you didn’t bring it to work, then don’t eat it without permission.

Easy peasy.

Thou Shalt Replenish the Coffee. This is one of the simplest ways to make your co-workers despise you. It takes ten seconds to brew a fresh pot of coffee. If you don’t know how to use the coffee maker, then someone will be happy to show you. On the bright side, I know a few people who have fallen in love with the office coffee maker, and even wanted to learn more about where to get one for their homes.

Ignorance doesn’t justify inconsideration.

Thou Shalt Not Be a Mooch. Don’t be “that person” who routinely attends potluck work events without contributing. If you didn’t have time to bring something from home, then call Domino’s and have something delivered to the office.

Everybody loves pizza.

Thou Shalt Keep Personal Internet Use at a Minimum. Nowadays, Big Brother is constantly monitoring how you spend time on the internet at work. This also true if you’re logged into your employer’s wi-fi on your smart phone. I’ve heard of several instances where employers audit their employees’ computer use to ensure they’re not burning work time on the internet.

If you are completing your assigned tasks or are on your lunch break, there’s nothing wrong with an occasional internet diversion. However, if you are getting paid to perform a job but, instead, are spending your time shopping online or catching up with your Facebook friends, you are arguably stealing from your employer.

Thou Shalt Turn off the Music. I’ve never been the person who can perform thoughtful activities while listening to music. It’s hard to concentrate with it in the background, and I find myself focusing on the words and rhythm of the song, as opposed to the task at hand.

If you work in an open office environment, turn your music off completely. If you listen to music on headphones, make sure it isn’t so loud that other people can hear it. If you listen to music in a private office, keep the door closed.

Thou Shalt Dress Appropriately. I once worked at a law firm where one of the older assistants routinely wore a letterman-style Skittles jacket to work.

Skittles. As in, taste the rainbow.

Nobody over the age of 12 should wear a Skittles jacket in public, let alone to a professional environment.

Wear clothing that is suitable for your age, body type, and the nature of your career. If you are 25 years old and employed at the Victoria’s Secret headquarters, then it is likely appropriate (and encouraged) to wear short skirts to work.

In 99% of other situations, nobody wants to see your bra strap or the outline of your underwear through your tight pants. (See also: nobody wants to see the tattoo of the Disney character on your breast- cover up the cleavage.) Further, don’t wear items that are ripped, stained, or make you look like you are one of the People of Wal-Mart. Depending on the work environment, open-toed dress shoes are acceptable, as long as the person has their corns, callouses, and cracked heels under control.

Thou Shalt Show Gratitude. Your employer doesn’t owe you a holiday party, paid maternity leave (in the United States), and, in many cases, a year-end bonus or raise. While you likely worked hard to achieve these things, showing a bit of gratitude by acknowledging the benefit and thanking your supervisors will go a long way. It takes two seconds to say “thank you.”



    20 Comments on The 10 Commandments of Workplace Etiquette

    1. Sara
      September 22, 2015 at 1:18 pm (7 years ago)

      I immediately thought of your article just yesterday and felt I should drop by and say as much. I was sitting next to a colleague… correction – about 10 feet from a colleague… and could hear him slurping and smacking oatmeal. OATMEAL! How on Earth do you make noise eating oatmeal without applying a significant amount of effort? In any event, I’m adding commandment #11: “Thou shalt eat with your mouth closed and minimize the sound of consumption.” I hope all is well!

      • jenniferdaku
        September 22, 2015 at 7:59 pm (7 years ago)

        Sara! I love all your support for my blog and that when you see a colleague doing something shady, you think of me! Making noise eating Oatmeal is pretty unusual, I’d imagine it being a mushing, muddy type sounds. Did you call him out?

    2. Samantha Wassel
      July 21, 2015 at 10:24 am (7 years ago)

      Haha…oh man. I consider my home my workplace (I’m a SAHM/freelance writer), but I can still totally relate to these. Especially the coffee commandment (cough, cough, DADDY). I’d be lying if I said I didn’t break the one about reheating smelly food though. Curse my love of tuna and brussels sprouts!

      As far as the “Control the Sound of Your Bodily Functions” one goes, after living with three members of the male species for a few years now, might I add “AND SMELL”?

      • jenniferdaku
        July 21, 2015 at 10:09 pm (7 years ago)

        Thanks Samantha! Glad you’re with me. (And from what you say, it’s a good thing I work mostly with women). Cheers!

    3. Melissa Vera
      July 20, 2015 at 1:27 pm (7 years ago)

      I so agree with all of this. One of my coworkers always brings smelly food to eat for lunch. Thanks for linking up on the #HomeMattersParty this week. Hope you will come back and link up again next week.

    4. Hollie
      July 16, 2015 at 5:12 pm (7 years ago)

      I definitely with you on the coffee thing.

      • jenniferdaku
        July 19, 2015 at 9:51 pm (7 years ago)

        There’s a special place you-know-where for the people who use the last of the coffee without refilling it. Cheers!

    5. Barbara
      July 14, 2015 at 4:39 pm (7 years ago)

      So much yes! The reheating of smelly food was always my biggest pet peeve when I worked in an office. Gross!

      • jenniferdaku
        July 15, 2015 at 6:39 am (7 years ago)

        The worst. Some people have zero consideration. Zero.

    6. Ali A
      July 14, 2015 at 2:56 pm (7 years ago)

      Love this! I wrote a similar post last year because I experience so much of this on a daily basis at work, and a lot of our “commandments” are naturally the same ( The reheating of gross food (FISH? REALLY??) is the absolute WORST.

      • jenniferdaku
        July 15, 2015 at 6:41 am (7 years ago)

        Got a laugh out of your post, Alison! Especially the part about the crap talkers… I hate when people in authority gossip to subordinates… it’s unprofessional and causes employees to lose confidence and trust in the person of “authority.” If they want to talk crap, talk crap to someone in an equal position. Leaders should act like leaders.

    7. Kristy
      July 14, 2015 at 8:09 am (7 years ago)

      I loved this and will be passing it along 🙂

      • jenniferdaku
        July 15, 2015 at 6:46 am (7 years ago)

        Thanks so much, Kristy!

    8. Nikki Frank Hamilton
      July 14, 2015 at 1:56 am (7 years ago)

      Seriously, the bathrooms! People lose all sense in a publicly used bathroom. Their mommas would be ashamed!

    9. Liz
      July 13, 2015 at 10:55 pm (7 years ago)

      These are so true! When people don’t conform office etiquette it can make for an awful work experience for all. I just like to think of how I would want people to act in front of me and act accordingly!

    10. Michelle
      July 13, 2015 at 9:30 pm (7 years ago)

      Once again, you made me laugh in your truths. I also heard (I know the editor personally) you may be writing/contributing for Daily Mom – no surprise, I recommended you!! That editor, is my daughter. So I hope to see your funnies along side my grandparent posts, or at least next to them. Cheers back!!

      • jenniferdaku
        July 14, 2015 at 5:56 am (7 years ago)

        Thanks so much for thinking of me and passing my name along to your daughter, I appreciate that, Michelle! I’ve been brainstorming topic ideas! You are the best.

    11. Adrian
      July 13, 2015 at 9:08 pm (7 years ago)

      Amen! I’ve worked in an office for 35 years and I can attest to every single one of these and many I see on a daily basis. Additional tidbits – keep personal conversations personal! I have had to listened to hour-long arguments between husbands and wives – ugh! Mind your language in a public work space. The F-bomb never appropriate at work. Do not attend hours-long meetings via speakerphone unless you have a private office. Do not walk through the halls loudly joking and laughing with your friends. This isn’t Jr High and some people are on business calls. Most of it is just common courtesy but sadly that is lacking in many people these days.

      • jenniferdaku
        July 15, 2015 at 6:51 am (7 years ago)

        Good points, Adrian! I had a lady who worked directly outside my office (who had the loudest voice) and I have no clue how she ever got work done because it seemed she was on the phone making personal calls half the workday. So rude and distracting.