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Seven tips for brushing up your professional etiquette

March 21, 2011

Alex Braun

Alex Braun

Being well-spoken, courteous and respectful is crucial during job interview. But too many interns fail to realize that the interview doesn’t end when you’re hired. Generally, employers will be evaluating your potential during the whole course of your internship, and it’s very important that you do the little things right on a consistent basis.

The good news is that none of these steps are very hard to accomplish if you commit to them. Here are seven simple tips for polishing your image at work:

1.       Don’t play with your phone during a meeting. Even if you legitimately use your smartphone to take notes, you’d be better served finding another way. Some of your coworkers will probably interpret your relentless phone-tapping as blatant disregard for what’s being discussed.

2.       Don’t work with headphones on – even if a supervisor said it’s OK. At my last job as a magazine designer, I violated this one all the time with permission. But I realized later that any time there’s a risk that people will need to talk to you, having headphones on can be a major annoyance to your coworkers. It can make it difficult for them to get your attention, and it makes you look disengaged from what’s occurring around you. Believe me, consistent minor issues like this can seed serious ill will over time.

Headphones, earbuds

If you need to communicate with other coworkers during the work day, you shouldn't wear headphones.

3.       Have a consistent, professional phone greeting memorized. Every time you get an incoming call from an unrecognized number, your greeting could be the first personal experience the caller has with your employer. First impressions are hard to reverse, and a casual “What’s up?” isn’t going to make a good one.

4.       Don’t eat stuff in the fridge that isn’t yours. Coworkers always find out. Always.

5.       Turn down the volume. This applies to computers, cell phones and any other electronics you might have around the workplace. Most people know to switch their phones to vibrate when they’re at work, but so many forget that the constant pings of a workplace messaging program can be even more distracting.

6.       Avoid blaming work problems on other coworkers. This can be a tricky situation to avoid if you’re thrown into a group project and some people clearly aren’t pulling their weight. If that’s the case, the only person who needs to know about it is your supervisor.

7.       Thank people for the work they do. You might think you’re too busy to send that one-line “thank-you” e-mail, or that the recipient doesn’t need his or her inbox cluttered with those kinds of pleasantries. But the amount of positive reinforcement you give has a lot to do with how you’re perceived at work.

Do you have any other tips for staying on your employer’s good side? Share them by leaving a comment.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Margaret Page March 22, 2011 at 3:39 am

Alex, great advice here! It’s so easy to get into a comfortable place–at work–and forget that you’re not “hanging out with your family.” People — important people — are watching and good etiquette can make or break your progress in the company.

As a business etiquette coach, I can tell you that the little pleasantries go a long way. And you’re right “..the job interview doesn’t end when you get the job.” Love this.

I shared some job interview tips that you might find interesting — you can read them at

Great post!


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