Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Office Etiquette & Survival

I work in an office as an Office Manager (for a mechanical contracting firm - plumbing, heating, cooling) and it goes without saying that my environment is relaxed...very very relaxed.  The boss occasionally has rage fits and things go flying, there's often someone cussing about someone we're working with on a job (example: an architect has drawn our pipes going through ductwork), and there is a wide range of attire worn.  I've worked here before, but I was out in the shop as a Helper (with the pipefitters union).  At that point the code was: wear something durable, wear something warm, deal with the job because it will suck ass at some point (example: sorting a cold trailer of cast iron fittings at -40F), and try not to get injured (I have taken an angle grinder to the arm before).  It goes without saying that office attire is very different than the attire of the foremen and union guys.

What I want to touch on today is general office etiquette and I'm going to tag this as #vintageattitude.  I'd like to see others blog about etiquette as well.  Feel free to do so.

I'm going to pull information from 'Mad Men', etiquette books, and from other resources.

Obvious Generalities

  • Make eye contact to show that you are listening.
  • Be sure to make introductions, and if you forget someone's name just apologize and ask for it.
  • Speak clearly and intelligently.
  • A smile can go a long way.
  • Try to keep a clean work space.
  • Feel free to ask questions, but don't ask how to do your job unless it's your direct supervisor.
  • Make sure you are clean and smell fresh.
  • Your hair should be taken care of and styled in a way so it does not affect your work.
  • Your clothes should reflect your professional behavior.  You should wear a day dress or clean trousers and blouse.  For vintage gals, dresses are ideal even on cold days.
  • Wear sensible shoes.  In the office, women should wear low, round-toe pumps or something akin to this.  If you must deal with rain or snow, have a pair of heels to change into when you reach the office.
  • Keep your accessories classy and to a minimum.  Leave the bold and flashy accessories for the evening.
  • Make-up should not be overdone.
  • Stay in good health.  This can be done through exercise, eating right, taking vitamins, having proper medicine when needed, and living in a clean environment.  It absolutely affects your appearance.

NOTE: I live above the office I work at.  I could literally come to work in sweatpants and a flannel shirt and no one would care.  Do I do this?  No.  I did show up in clean new sweatpants for 2-3 days after I had surgery - but that wasn't normal.  When people show up in the office, I'm the first one they see, so I need to be presentable.

Arriving to The Office
  • Show up at least 5 minutes early.  10 minutes is recommended.  You will have time to put your things away, grab coffee, hit the restroom, and turn on your computer by the time you should clock in.  Being late will only get you fired.
  • Regardless how your morning has been so far, be sure to greet people with a smile.
  • Some employers want you have coffee or food ready for them.  Make sure you have what they need taken care of.  It helps to be a little early.
NOTE: I am usually right on time for my job.  If I worked somewhere else (not downstairs), then I would be consistently 10 min early for work.  I've always been that way.  Lateness is a HUGE pet peeve of mine.

While at Work
  • Don't take too many coffee, water, or smoking breaks.
  • If you become angry, remain cool-headed.  Blowing up in someone's face will not get you anywhere.  Instead, check your facts, talk to them in a sensible manner, and politely tell them to go to Hell.  This is very much a "What Would Joan Do?" situation.
  • Master your domain.  If you take care of scheduling, then get on top of it.  If you deal with copiers and office supplies, get on top of it.  Don't let those other fools do your job for you otherwise you become obsolete.
  • Use time during a slow day to clean your space.
  • Your technology does not take precedence over work time.  You can have your cellphone at work, but refrain from answering calls or sending texts unless it is super important.  If it is important, you should be getting your call at work through your work phone.
  • Social media should be limited.  Most offices don't mind if you check out facebook briefly, but don't spend your whole time on facebook.  If you need something to do to fill up your time, read the news.  I suggest: CNN, The Huffington Post, BBC, New York Times, and Reuters.  This can bring around conversation at the water cooler and will make you appear smarter.
  • Try your hardest to speak clearly and intelligently.  Say "yes" instead of "yeah", "no" instead of "nah", "gosh darn it" or "darn" instead of "damn", etc.  This is actually a tough hurdle to get around.  Try to avoid cussing.  Try is the key term.
  • Get your work done and be efficient.  Time management is easy for some, hard for others.  Try to do it right the first time, even if you feel like it slows you down.
  • Learn to read your boss.  You might end up in a "mind reading" position where they just expect you to know things, have things done, etc.
  • Don't allow your desk to become a menagerie of your crap.  It isn't supposed to be a shrine to yourself.  A few photos and other items are okay, but keep it minimal.  Have a fun mug or two, use fun pens/pencils, but contain yourself.
  • Over-sharing and obnoxious behavior.  Don't do it.  No one wants to hear about your daily BM or all your troubles or listen to your shrill laugh.  Be aware of how you act and sound.  If you get caught up in a case of repetition, change it up.
Tricks of The Trade
  • Have candy or some kind of treat at your desk.  This isn't really for you, it's for other people.  If your a secretary and your boss is diabetic, provide something that they can grab without thinking twice.
  • Have a tin of mints available in your desk.  This is perfect for someone (or you) who has a meeting to go to.
  • Train the other people around you without announcing it.  Insist that people put papers/files in a certain place and they will start to do so.  If you don't lay down the law, then you will have a desk full of clutter.
  • Work on your handwriting.  You need to have it legible so others can read it.
  • Have a dictionary on hand.  Double check your work and if you have any questions, use the dictionary.
  • Have something to eat in your desk.  I suggest packets of instant soup, food bars, packs of nuts, or something along those lines.
  • Every so often, bring in something for the office to eat.  Cookies, doughnuts, fudge, etc.  People love it when this happens.
  • Holidays.  When the holidays come around people always get overly PC.  Just say whatever you're going to say whether it's "Happy Halloween" or "Merry Christmas" or whatever.  Don't worry about it.  If people get offended, I generally say "I'm sorry you're so easily offended over such a common holiday" before ignoring them on the subject.  You can decorate a little for the holiday but don't go overboard.  It's an office, not your own personal holiday window.
  • Sexual Harassment.  I haven't dealt too much with this.  I think the worst I got was a little sexist attitude from a new engineer when he made the comment that I dress this way for the attention.  I tend to just ignore it.  If it's more like a grabby or sleezy thing, I have no issues reporting it.  Don't make a habit of reporting people.  It will get you fired to being a nuisance.  I've seen that happen.  The worst part is that those people generally think that the world is against them and they don't find themselves at any kind of fault.
  • Angry People.  At some point you'll have to deal with angry people.  Make the buck stop with you.  If they want to talk to your supervisor because they don't like the answer you provided, then tell them that your supervisor is in a meeting for the next hour so they will have to deal with you.  Don't be afraid to tell people 'no'.  Check your facts and be polite.  Don't bend rules for people.  The rules are there for every person and no one is above them, except for the company owner (depending on the situation).  Try not to call anyone an idiot.
  • Mistakes.  If you make a mistake, just own up to it.  Just say sorry and try to fix it.  Be an adult.
I know that I'm missing stuff, but I hope this covers a lot of things.  Let me know if you agree or disagree with anything!

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