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These Office Etiquette Rules Will Help You Crush It At Your First Job

You did the work, put in the hours, dominated your 29,348 internships, and made it to the gleaming light at the end of the tunnel that is college graduation. Now, after writing enough cover letters to make your head spin, you officially got your first Big Girl Job. You’re a badass. You’re finally going to be getting a wow-I-can-actually-kind-of-afford-my-rent paycheck!

Getting a new job is exciting (and so is that email signature featuring Y-O-U). To make sure you crush it from day one, we put together a few office etiquette rules to keep in mind. Because office culture in the digital age goes way beyond not microwaving fish for lunch (still…don’t do that).

10 etiquette rules to follow in the workplace
Beware of the ‘Reply All’ button

Nothing screams ‘Hello, I’m new here and have no idea what I’m doing’ like replying all to an email when you only meant to reply to the original sender. Trust me when I say that the whole marketing department does not care that you’d like steak instead of chicken at the summer party, and your entire company does not need to know that you’ll be driving separately to Saturday’s fundraising event. Obviously, you should word all of your work emails carefully, but take extra caution to hit the ‘reply’ button with one arrow, not two.

Don’t be the follow-up girl

We’ve all dealt with those people—the ones who send a ‘heyyy just following up on this!’ email after approximately five minutes. Nothing makes me not want to respond to an email more than someone constantly pestering me about it. To avoid this, Gmail has a great new feature that will “nudge” you after a couple days if you haven’t received a response, which is a great baseline for time between follow-ups. Personally, I like to set reminders in my calendar to follow up with someone after a day or two, assuming they won’t have responded by then.

Don’t be afraid to put ‘TIME SENSITIVE’ or ‘NEED RESPONSE BY EOD’ in the subject line of an email if something really is urgent. That said, use this sparingly, lest you become known as the girl who cries email wolf.

Pinpoint the Slackers in the office

No, I’m not talking about the people who slack off. Slack, an inner-office messaging system that just surpassed a whopping 8 million daily users, is basically AIM for businesses. I don’t recommend making an away message with Avril Lavigne lyrics here (though they do have that functionality), but it is great for checking in with your coworkers on things that don’t necessarily require an email.

The caveat: you’ll quickly find that some of your coworkers 1) never check their Slack messages or 2) just really dislike the platform. Hey, not everyone grew up in the golden age of MSN Messenger, right? Pay attention to who is quick to respond and who leaves you hanging for hours on end. What to do with the non-responders? Touching base via email or in-person might be a better option.

Use all of your meeting resources

Booking your first meeting at your new job can be scary, especially when you’ve only met half of the people on your invite list. Ask your boss or your HR contact how meetings work in the office to avoid getting 15 ‘Karen declined your invite to ~~New Team tOuChBaSe!!~~’ emails. A few tips to keep in mind:

— Google Calendar has a ‘speedy meetings’ functionality that changes 30-minute meetings to 25 minutes and hour-long meetings to 50 minutes. Some people are really serious about their extra minutes, so double check if this is a feature your office uses.

— Get the lay of the land of conference rooms before booking your first meeting so you know how big each one is. Nothing is more awkward than booking an extra-large meeting room for a gathering of three people.

— Don’t forget to include an agenda for your meetings. Some companies are more strict about this than others, but we’ve all made the mistake of forgetting to include an agenda on a meeting invite, only to get a decline response from someone because ‘I do not have time to attend a meeting that I don’t know the purpose of.’ You’re better safe than sorry.

— For the love of all that is good and holy, avoid booking lunch meetings at all costs unless you are providing lunch/snacks at said meeting. If you really must book something during the noon hour, email everyone beforehand telling them that you’re ‘so sorry’ but there were no other times available that worked for everyone, and consider encouraging them to bring their lunch with them to the meeting. And bring cookies.

— Don’t shy away from call-in meetings or video conferences. Just because someone isn’t in the office on a specific day doesn’t mean you need to push your entire schedule to accommodate them. Highfive, Zoom, join.me, and GoToMeeting are all programs that make virtual meetings easy and fairly efficient—just be sure to include the dial-in instructions in your meeting agenda beforehand.

Keep notifications in check during meetings and presentations

No one wants the embarrassment of receiving a personal iMessage notification during a presentation. Similarly, how many shades of red would you turn if someone was blowing up your Slack with messages while your boss was helping you with something on your laptop?

Thankfully, Slack has remedied this by providing ‘Do Not Disturb’ hours as well as an option to pause notifications for a specific period of time. To do this, simply click on the bell icon in the upper left-hand corner near your team’s name, and choose how long you’d like notifications to be turned off. Heading into a 30-minute brainstorming meeting? There’s a DND for that. You can also mute entire group channels so you’ll only receive an alert for messages that specifically mention you. Pro tip: Do Not Disturb is also great for getting in the zone when you need to finish a project and your office bestie won’t stop pestering you about grabbing coffee this afternoon. Lily, I love you, but I need this one hour to myself.

Unfortunately, iMessage doesn’t have a Do Not Disturb function (Yet. *Ahem* your move, Tim Cook), but you can disable notifications by going into System Preferences > Notifications > Messages and switching it to ‘None.’

Related: Tread lightly while sharing your screen during meetings

A good friend of mine recently went into a conference room in her office, only to find that someone from the meeting before had been sharing her screen with the room and forgot to turn it off when she left. So, the entire group witnessed her doing a bit of online shopping once she got back to her desk. This is pretty harmless (and yes, very funny) but it could have been much worse. Turn. Off. Your. Screen. Sharing.

Be social…but don’t be drunk

Arguably the hardest part about starting a new job is meeting people and making friends in the office. Some companies make this first day of school mentality easier by organizing office sports teams and hosting team happy hours, but don’t forget that you’re still with your coworkers when you’re attending these events. In college, the easiest way to make friends is drunk bonding in the bar bathroom with 13 of your closest sorority sisters. In the real world, being a social butterfly and telling your boss that you’ll be ‘pissed if you don’t get a raise at your six-month review’ are two very different things.

Don’t take a casual dress code too literally

Nowadays, unless you’re a lawyer or an accountant at a Fortune 500 company, many offices have fairly lax dress codes. Gone are the days of wearing pantsuits and patent pumps to work—phew, thankfully—only to be replaced by employers who actually want you to express yourself and be semi-comfortable while you’re working. This is great, but take it with a grain of salt. A casual dress code means you can wear jeans and maybe even a graphic tee now and then. A casual dress code does not mean you should show up in leggings and an oversized flannel still rocking your makeup from the night before.

Put your cell phone away

We know that your Instagram followers are wondering what you’ve been up to all day, Stacy, but your desk is not the place to conduct your next IG Live event. Keep personal calls to a minimum, and if you need to make one, go for a walk or step outside. Or, you know, scroll Twitter when you go to the bathroom like the rest of us.

If you’re sick, stay home

Many companies have been switching to having open vacation policies, which means you no longer need to convince you body that you’re only allowed to be sick three days each year. This also means that you don’t need to play the hero and come into work if you’re feeling under the weather. No one wants a desk neighbor that’s sneezing all over the place but insists that they’re ‘Totally fine! It’s just allergies!!!’ Work remotely or take a sick day. Your body—and all of your coworkers—will thank you.


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