Six Common Office Courtesies That Should Be More Common

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In a small, tightly enclosed cubicle environment, there should be set rules: “Givens,” if you will. These courtesies should be common. However, common courtesy, like common sense, is not quite as “common” as the name would have you believe. Here are just a few of the civilities office workers should practice in order to keep coworkers from plotting their demise, or at least their dismissal from the company.

office decorum

Six Common Office Courtesies That Should Be More Common

1) Do NOT microwave FISH in the common kitchen.

If you choose to eat smelly things, i.e., fish, heavy curry, chicken cooked in rancid grease, human flesh, or burnt popcorn, please do it at home. This isn’t just for the sake of the pregnant women with sensitive noses, either. Some of us would also like to use the microwave or walk through the office area without vomit rising in our throats because you have violated one of the most sacred understood rules of the office. You may enjoy feasting on a meal reeking of something my dog would roll his neck on… and that’s quite alright. If you do it at work, though, you’re likely going find your coworkers vomiting in their waste baskets and you risk smelling that for the rest of the day. So, think it through.

Don’t be this guy.

2) WASH YOUR HANDS after using the restroom.

I think it’s great that you have hand sanitizer at your desk. However, we have all seen you burst victoriously from the bathroom stall and right out that door. GROSS. I don’t care if you use the hand sanitizer at your desk. You just touched the door (so grateful most of us use a paper towel to exit that door—due to people like you) and probably an array of things in the office supply closet and maybe an office door or two (including your own) before you reached that hand sanitizer. Thanks for spreading your butt cooties around. So, wash your hands in the bathroom and follow up with hand sanitizer at your desk. And, don’t you dare ask why no one touched your casserole at the potluck. Please seek some home training.

3) AVOID “going on tour.”

I don’t need work friends. You don’t need to visit me at my desk or come visit my neighbor at her desk. There are government mandated breaks and lunches for that nonsense. If the person you’re visiting wants to have a personal conversation with you, they will do it off the clock. You’re disrupting everyone around you and eating up company time. Plus, we all know the secret reason you do it: The people you visit don’t want anything to do with you off the clock, so you’re holding us hostage while you tell us about your weekend, the adorable thing your cats or kids did last night, or your political opinions. Just add me on Facebook and I’ll unfollow you. I’m joking. If you’re not already added to my social media, it’s not going to happen. No “tours” at work, though. It’s awkward for both of us, even if you don’t realize it.

It’s only friendship if it’s two-ways…

4) Keep personal calls personal.

This is an important one. I’ve heard men yelling at their wives, girlfriends yelling at their cheating boyfriends (complete with sobbing), and even the results of some very personal medical testing. It’s completely distracting, rude, and it makes me respect you less (especially if the content of your calls requires automatic harsh judgement on top of your poor manners). Sometimes, it’s necessary to take a personal call at work. If that’s the case, try to go somewhere private (for both of our sakes). If that’s not possible, please keep the calls quick and to a minimum. Don’t assume the rest of us can’t hear you.

5) Keep your cell phone quiet.

Again, you may need to take a call on your cell phone. In fact, your job may require it. Please silence your cell phone if you are not expecting an important call or if you’re not using it for work purposes. Even if you need the ringer on, chances are, you don’t need it turned up to full-blast. You also don’t require the most irritating ringer in the world. I had a coworker whose wife called him at least three times a day. His ringer was turned up to the highest setting and his ringtone was, “Bad to the Bone.” He repeatedly left his phone at his desk, where it went off over and over. Don’t leave your coworkers to suffer with your ringing cell phone. It’s dangerous to leave your phone unattended, anyway. Someone could steal it and throw it into the busy street outside the office one day. It’s safest to keep it with you at all times if the ringer is turned on.


6) Keep your desk habits to a minimal level of coworker irritation.

If you absolutely must eat at your desk, do it quietly. (Also, see #1.) Stop with the candy wrappers, the crispy chips, and the crunchy apple. Acute misophonia (a strong dislike of certain sounds) may be rare, but many people suffer from minor annoyance related to certain (especially repeated) sounds. When one is already in a stressful work environment, it certainly doesn’t help to hear someone snapping their gum, drumming on their desk, or crunching loudly.

Eight hours (or more) is a long time to spend with people each day. Please remember the manners you were taught as a child—these were life lessons. We don’t have to be best friends at work, but we do all have to get along to some degree. Please use common courtesy and respect while you’re at the office, so we can all make it home safely and spend time with people we actually like.

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  1. I totally agree 100%! The thing I hate the most is fish in the microwave. I actually think it should be banned in writing via company policy & if the policy is broken, it warrants disciplinary action. Lol

    However, I am guilty of eating crunchy things at work. I love flavored chips & spicy nuts, but try to eat them away from my desk. But, my favorite thing to crunch on is ice.

    I remember one day I was having an especially stressful day at work & without thinking, I was going to town on this cup of ice. I could hear the girl on the other side of my cube wall sighing heavenly. I didn’t even realize that her sighs coincided with the tilting of my glass & the sound of the ice sliding down the side of the cup & slamming into my teeth. Finally, she stood up peering at me over the cube wall & said, “That must be the best tasting ice on the face of the planet!” She stormed off to the restroom.

    I’ve never been so embarrassed in all my life. I was clueless that not only my chomping of the ice was so annoying, but also all the other sounds associated with it. I also learned it was bothering other people nearby. Lessened lesrned…the hard way. Needless to say, I am very conscious about this today.

    Btw, my coworker apologized for losing her cool & I apologized for being so obnoxious. She, my other coworkers & I have very good working relationship today. It’s very important, when working in a group or otherwise, to be considerate especially when our actions affect others.

    Grrrreat article!! Thanks for the reminder (in my case) and for educating others.

    1. That’s a great example! I’ve been guilty of some of these very things myself (never microwaving fish, though, because… GROSS) and learned that I have plenty of annoying habits of my own. (I think everyone does–even if we’re not aware. It’s easy to forget your surroundings when you’re covered in deadlines.) I now try to be more self-aware and respectful of everyone’s space. The important thing is to be mindful and flexible. I’m glad you and your co-worker worked it out.