Workplace Etiquette: 24 Dos and Don’ts of the Workplace

Industry Advice Career Advice & Advancement

This post was written as a guest post for The Works by alumna Michele Richinick, CAMD ’12, who is now a digital reporter for MSNBC.com in New York City.


Let’s face it: there are certain actions and behaviors you should and should not exhibit in the workplace. However, some people just don’t seem to know right from wrong.

I completed three co-ops at Northeastern and have been working in New York City for the duration of my post-grad life since Commencement in May 2012. But, I have been learning about the professional world since December 2008 when I began my first co-op.

I polled a few friends (most are fellow Huskies) and coworkers, and this is a compilation of our advice. This is not to say we’ve experienced all of the following events, but we did witness them in our respective workplaces throughout the country. Here are the top 24 dos and don’ts of workplace etiquette:

The Don’ts:

  1. Don’t “Reply All” to an email chain. Understand the differences—and repercussions—between “Reply” and “Reply All” to avoid humiliation.
  2. Don’t have a personal conversation at your desk. Find a conference room to discuss after-work issues that you must have with your best friend, sister, significant other, or landlord (or anyone who isn’t related to work, actually).
  3. Don’t bring your emotions into the office. Your desk neighbor doesn’t want to hear your sob story from the weekend, so leave that at the door.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, despite how silly you think they seem. This way, you will avoid erroneously completing an entire project only to realize you did it all wrong.
  5. Don’t gossip about your coworkers…or your boss. You’re not hurting anyone but yourself when you do. Better yet, don’t be so intolerable that people gossip about you.
  6. Do not insert emoticons or multiple exclamation points (if any) into work emails. Despite how relaxed your superiors might act, always be professional.
  7. Do not wear weekend attire to the office. Save the crop tops, flip-flops, and see-through shirts for the weekend. No one will take you seriously if you don’t.
  8. Don’t apply for a job you don’t want. It will be a waste of time for both parties if you meet the employer for an interview and initially know you will decline the position.
  9. Don’t talk back to your boss, even if there isn’t much of an age difference between you two. Hopefully, you will have the chance to climb the career ladder someday. You will want people to respect you then, right?
  10. Don’t forget that at work socials, you’re still at work. Be careful not to overdo it if alcohol is being served; everyone will know why you “called in sick” the next day.
  11. Don’t be nervous, but also don’t overstep your boundaries. You should express your opinions, but keep them G-rated.
  12. Don’t forget an umbrella. Sitting in wet clothes all day is not fun. Keeping a pair of shoes under your desk also proves helpful.

The Dos:

  1. Do arrive early. You will be remembered for answering your phone at 8:01 a.m. in a world where tardiness is common.
  2. Do network with people outside of your cubicle. A perk of having a job at a company you appreciate is meeting other people with similar interests who share advice from their past experiences.
  3. Do be willing to engage a coworker who asks for your help. Use the opportunity to stand out and share the knowledge you learned as a Husky. Don’t be annoyed by their questions.
  4. Do bring in goodies. Who doesn’t love to eat? If you have free time one night, bake cookies or brownies and bring them to work. Everyone will love you.
  5. Do create a proper personal email address. Depending on your profession, you will most likely have to correspond with your coworkers after work and on weekends. Replace “foxychick123” with a professional username, such as your first initial and last name.
  6. Do jump at the chance to complete a new task. Your coworkers likely gave it to you because they have confidence in your abilities, not because they have time to dish out busy work.
  7. Do be flexible. Sometimes a project calls for earlier or later hours; be OK with adjusting your schedule accordingly.
  8. Do work on holidays. This might not be an issue for every profession. But if it is, you will be rewarded in the long-run for missing the family barbecue on Memorial Day. (Did you really want to see Uncle Henry anyway?)
  9. Do keep an eye on your personal budget. Just because you have an income now doesn’t mean you should “make it rain” all in one place. Invest in your future.
  10. Do make sure your earbuds are plugged in securely to your computer. Your coworkers don’t want to hear lyrics streaming from your 2 Chainz Pandora station.
  11. Do be open-minded in both your work and in your communications.
  12. Do always wear a smile. Having a positive attitude about being at work will affect your job performance significantly.

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