Office communication etiquette

29th August, 2017

It is easy to hide behind a desk or a computer in an office and only make appearances for meetings or birthday cake, or reserve your friendliest behaviour for only a selected few at certain times. But looking and acting in an unapproachable way is not good for morale. It can be awkward and off-putting for your colleagues or manager if they pass you with a warm smile and you completely ignore them or just mumble hello while looking at your feet, lunch, printer etc. Even if you are not the extroverted chatty type, you need to make a continual effort. It is the simple common courtesies, such as ‘good morning’, ‘how is your day going?’, ‘good night’, that can make all the difference.

Shyness or busyness are easy to misinterpret. Without you realising it, sitting at your desk all day and avoiding eye contact with others may leave your colleagues and manager with the wrong impression. They may think you are arrogant, rude or disinterested and therefore may prefer to avoid you. If your communication with others is clipped or terse, or you do not bother to look at them when talking face to face, eventually this will impact your ability to work effectively in a team and it may also set a negative tone around the entire office.

It can also be difficult and unproductive for a manager to be constantly guessing about your mood, attitude and willingness to be part of a team, or in fact, part of a company. A manager wants to hear from you regularly; the dialogue should be similar to the polite exchanges that you may have with your family. A person who constantly displays common courtesies and an open style of communication is far easier to work with and this can make a big difference to success.

Here are suggestions of things to say to your manager

  • good morning, I’m going to be working on this today…….”
  • I managed to do this today…….is there anything else I can do before I say good-bye?”
  • Hi, I’m having trouble with this – can you help me please?”
  • Hi, I’m excited – I’ve just achieved this……”

Positive and open communication is very important with your manager. Interpersonal skills can be a real differentiator. Remember that this is a relationship which you are continually seeking to nurture and improve. If you are regularly providing your manager with feedback and updates, this will help to build trust and instil confidence. When you make an effort to chat spontaneously and share information with your manager, whether this happens at the coffee machine, printer or elsewhere, it goes a long way to building rapport and creating a strong working team.

If you cannot think of anything, try small talk – the weather or sport is always an interesting topic in Melbourne! If that seems too trivial, ask your manager about their weekend or perhaps you can comment on your weekend. Even a simple smile and a pleasant greeting can suffice when you or others are busy.

People who communicate with a friendly tone and warm smile always have the edge and they add more enjoyment to our working day. The little things do matter! To summarise, please make a concerted effort to

  • engage in regular informal chats with your manager
  • provide your manager with regular and unprompted feedback
  • use common courtesies all the time
  • look at people when communicating
  • always act in an open and friendly manner
  • smile more!

I encourage you all to put a greater emphasis on growing and developing in this area. Your efforts will enhance your relationships, build your self-esteem and create a warmer and friendlier work environment.