I once read that offices are populated by two types of people: work horses and show ponies.
Sure, it's possible that your workplace is cheerful and collaborative -- a bastion of professional civility where everyone interacts courteously and projects hum along to happy completion.
But more likely, you're probably dealing with power struggles, personality clashes, and mind-numbing minutia that you'd NEVER put up with if you happened to win the lottery.
At the office, manners matter more than ever. The same tricks that help you socially can absolutely boost your career. I've worked with everyone from team-oriented superstars to backstabbers who would step on their own grandmothers to get ahead. Here are a few boardroom tips that have helped me navigate the workplace with style and grace.
Employ Etiquette Basics
- Be as punctual as possible. This means arriving on time for meetings even if you're a VP and everyone else is an underling. Valuing other people's time is both the polite and the economical thing to do.
- Resist the urge to interrupt someone who's in the middle of a sentence. While it's true that time is money, cutting people off while they're talking is rude, arrogant and all too common.
- Be sincere. If you're fawning over a superior or sucking up to someone so they'll do you a favor, people will see through it immediately. Worse yet, you'll develop a reputation for being disingenuous.
Play Well With Others
- Try not to carry on about how stressed and busy you are. Chances are everyone around you is in the same boat. Go with gallows humor instead of woe-is-me monologues. You'll garner lots more support.
- Don't waste time posturing. I used to work with someone who said things like, "I don't know if you saw that email I sent at 11:30 p.m. last night..." It didn't win her any friends or accolades, it just came across as showy and annoying.
- Respect people's work/life balance. You may choose to work over the weekend, but don't expect everyone on your team to do the same. That's just a recipe for resentment.
- Pitch in when you see someone drowning in deadlines and deliverables. A simple, "What can I do to help?" goes a long way.
- Don't get bogged down by pettiness. Be diplomatic and rise above whatever squabbling is happening around you. You'll emerge as a leader and a colleague people can trust.
- Remember that land-grabs are lame. Don't squash others to amass more more power, just be great at what you do. Accolades and increased responsibility will follow.
Make Manners Your Trademark
- Whenever I lead a meeting, I use the same hostessing skills I'd deploy at a dinner party. That means welcoming people, making the necessary introductions, and thanking everyone for coming.
- Want to win over a crowd? Bring snacks. A dozen bagels can instantly make an 8 a.m. meeting more palatable and less painful.
- Always dress as though you're meeting clients or your boss's boss. Those stretchy yoga pants are never OK for work, even if you're pretty sure you won't encounter any VIPs. Fabulous accessories (like the Moschino cape and Givenchy bag pictured here) provide instant polish and set you apart from the boring black-pants brigade.
- Be unfailingly gracious in both victory and defeat. Whether you landed the promotion or you're congratulating the person who did, make sure your coworkers know you're still on the same team.
- Treat everyone you meet as though you might work together again. In most industries, the world is remarkably small. You just never know who you'll bump into as you're changing jobs or climbing the ranks.
- Keep personalized stationery at your desk. Handwritten thank-you notes are classy and sophisticated at work just as they are in social life.