You worked hard to grow professionally and get where you are in your career. Maybe you put in late nights and took on bigger projects, going above and beyond your job description to make a positive impression on your employer. But what if I told you that the way you use your cell phone, reply to emails, or even park your car might be holding you back from your next promotion?
July is National Cell Phone Courtesy Month, and there’s no better time to reflect on modern office etiquette tips and how staying conscious of seemingly minor actions can help you progress your career.
Put the Cell Phone Away
As 96% of Americans own a cell phone, it’s likely you rely on yours heavily. We spend hours of every day looking at our phones, with studies concluding that we touch or tap them an average of 2,617 times. Unfortunately, this dependency to phones isn’t just unhealthy, it’s hurting careers. Office noise is distracting, and we all know someone whose cell phone seems to always be going off. We are so used to the sounds of notifications or even the act of quickly checking the screen that it’s subconscious; we don’t even think about the noise or our action. However, your coworkers do.
Start by keeping your cell phone on silent as a default. Any emergency that arises from your family can be relayed through an office line, which will also force loved ones to truly think about if they need to contact you during business hours. If your personal cell phone is also your business phone, then have a frank discussion with those close to you about when they should be contacting you, and consider turning off notifications for non-critical applications. These actions will help ease your mind and remove the biggest reason for needing to check your phone.
Unless your cell phone is essential to a task at hand, go further than just turning off the sound and physically put it out of sight in a drawer, purse, coat, or even your car. Having your cell phone on your desk while you work makes it tempting to pick up “just for a second” that turns into five minutes. Leaving your cell phone out in front of you, especially when coworkers are present, sends an unsavory message. Even if it is face down, you’re implying that the possibility of another individual contacting you through your phone is more important than those physically in front of you.
Think About Your Emails
Email is the king of communication in the corporate world. Even when we work one cubicle away from another, shooting a coworker a quick email or instant message has become second nature. The issue is that when something like this becomes ingrained in us, we often act without strategically planning the interaction. You may have grown accustomed to sending emails without reflecting on what it means for your professional brand, and that is not ideal modern office etiquette.
What does “k” mean in an email or instant message? When someone uses several exclamation points or types in ALL CAPS, are they angry? Avoid these questions by leaving no room for confusion in your emails. Stay professional at all times (emails are a written record, after all) and proofread every email you send. Catching simple misspellings or thinking about how the recipient might read your email can go a long way. Remembering to include attachments is easy when you double check before hitting the send button. For critically important emails, a quick peek at your “sent” folder can confirm that the email went through. Finally, it’s easy to let emails stack up, but they can get overwhelming quickly. Stay on top of your inbox and reply promptly, using an autoreply if you’re out of the office so people aren’t left thinking that you’re ignoring them.
Stay Focused in Meetings
Meetings may be the only opportunity you get to interact with individuals like your boss’s boss or other high-ranking company managers. Your career progression relies on making that time count and showing you’re an asset to the team. This is the moment to speak up, share your ideas, and contribute in real time, so set yourself up for success by following proper meeting etiquette.
Never be late to a meeting. It’s distracting to others and implies poor time management skills. When you do arrive, make sure you’re fully prepared. If an agenda was sent out, review it beforehand and be ready to ask pertinent questions. During the meeting, be sure not to interrupt or talk over others. Being primed with a great idea or key question can feel exciting, but it’s essential to wait your turn in order to appear as professional as possible.
Meetings in the business world often include food, snacks, or at least coffee. If possible, do most of your eating in those first few minutes before the meeting really kicks off. It’s disrupting to hear people chewing and crunching food during a vital conversation. With drinks, make sure you’re filled up on your coffee, tea, or water before the meeting so you don’t have to leave the room or walk around others to get to a water cooler. Following the above tips allows you to stay focused in a meeting. When you’re focused you can perform at your highest level and make a great impression on those with the power to promote you.
Consider Social Situations
Sometimes we are so focused on our professional office etiquette that we forget there are social parts of our jobs that deserve attention as well. Think of all the places you interact with coworkers outside of an office, cubicle, or meeting room. For example, is someone at your company known as the bad parker? If you’re tearing in or out of the parking lot, parking too close to others, or taking another’s assigned spot, it could sour other people’s feelings toward you.
Think about any communal break rooms or cafeterias. Are you cleaning up after yourself, or are you the person who forced maintenance to put a sign on the microwave asking people to cover their food when warming it up? A couch in a break room can be comfy, but it’s not your home. Don’t put your feet on the cushions. If there’s a TV, ask others before changing the channel. This applies to the thermostat as well; refrain from changing the temperature unless there’s a consensus throughout the office on how it should be set. Additionally, try not to wear strong fragrances or smoke a cigarette right before walking into the building as some people may be sensitive to those smells.
Finally, you’re likely seeing your coworkers outside of work, whether it’s at a happy hour, dinner, or fun event like a bowling or softball league game. The interactions you have at those locations, despite being outside of work, can and will have strong effects on how people perceive you in the office. Try not to debate politics, and maintain positive conversations. It’s important to be yourself, and you should feel comfortable being yourself inside and outside the office, but being conscious of others in any social situation is how your professional brand grows.
Leverage Modern Office Etiquette
Best practices exist for a reason: they work. All the effort you’ve put into your career will be meaningless unless you adhere to foundational office etiquette. It isn’t easy to put a cell phone away for extended periods and being extra careful when writing emails does take more time, but these are the actions that ensure others see you in the most professional light. As National Cell Phone Courtesy Month gives way to another holiday next month, don’t forget the lessons that we can learn during July.
Want more tips on how to build your professional brand? Looking for your next career move? Contact us today.