Become a Model Employee With This 10-Point Work Etiquette Checklist

Every job is different. But one commonality is that every company, large or small, requires a certain type of etiquette. The finer points may vary vastly from business to business, but if you make yourself aware of the broader strokes, you will quickly go from being a good employee to the staff member everyone looks up to. Here are the 10 checkpoints that will make you a model employee.

1. Read the handbook

Most businesses have some kind of employee handbook or manual. It is something given to new employees to communicate key aspects about the company. Most handbooks will include:

  • An introduction to the company.

  • Company policies regarding dress code, benefits, expenses, education and training, confidentiality agreements, and outside employment.

  • Employment classification, including full-time, part time, and contract.

  • Attendance policies and holiday schedules.

  • Performance expectations.

  • Health and safety procedures.

  • Termination policies.

So, why is it important to know this information in as much detail as possible? Well for a start, it will stop you from asking questions that are already answered fully in the handbook. It will also give you plenty of information on how to conduct yourself at work and what the company expects of you as an employee. Become knowledgeable of the handbook, and let your boss know it. He or she will appreciate the effort, especially if it means you become a go-to person for the rest of the staff.

2. Stay away from water cooler gossip

Who doesn’t love a juicy bit of salacious information, especially when it’s whispered between friends about people you don’t like? Well, what you do after hours is up to you, but at work, you should steer clear of any and all types of gossip and rumors.

Most of the time the information you’re getting is not even close to being accurate. It’s like a game of telephone, only this game can seriously hurt innocent people, and even lead to them being terminated for no good reason.

An old proverb sums up perfectly why you should stay out of this kind of talk: “What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t witness with your mouth.” If you’re thinking, “Ah, but I saw this happen and know that it’s true,” then remember that by spreading it, the information will get distorted and harmful, and will lead straight back to you. Just stay out of it. And if anyone says, “Hey, listen to what I just heard about the boss,” politely decline and walk away.

3. Don’t use the computer for online shopping and surfing

If a computer or digital device is part of your daily routine, don’t make the mistake of using it for personal reasons for hours on end. Remember, from the minute you step through the door to the second you leave for the day, you’re on company property. You’re also on company time. You are being paid to do a job, and unless that specifically includes online shopping, web surfing, and chatting over instant messenger, you should avoid the temptation to indulge.

Now, every employer knows that if you have 9-to-5 access to a computer, you are going to use the internet now and then. Maybe it’s to book concert tickets when they go on sale that day, or you need to make a doctor’s appointment. Small, discreet, and quick personal computer use is perfectly acceptable. But if you abuse that privilege, and spend hours browsing sites, shopping online, and watching Netflix, you are just asking for trouble.

4. Keep personal calls, texts, and emails to a minimum

Following on from inappropriate computer use is the abuse of your phone and email. These days, both of them are nicely packaged on a smartphone, and they’re about as addictive as any drug out there.

It’s perfectly appropriate to take important calls at work, and most employers would expect you to do so. It’s also fine to send an urgent text or email, especially if it’s a family emergency or medical problem. But chit-chatting with your partner, texting your buddies, and firing off email after email is just not fair to the company you’re working for.

So, be mindful and imagine your cellphone as an old-fashioned pay phone. How badly would you have needed to make a call if it meant running outside and throwing quarters into a public phone? Unless it’s urgent, leave it until your break or lunch hour.

5. Become a better team player

It’s a cliché phrase to say the least — “Be a team player.” We’ve all heard it, from the corporate board rooms to the warehouse floors. But what does it actually mean?

For starters, it means improving your communication skills. Make it a point to listen, take notes, and let your team members know that you heard them. Give constructive criticism, and ask for it in return. Offer your assistance when you see people struggling or overloaded. Ask to lead projects. And above all, make it a point to be inclusive on projects. That means getting equal help from everyone involved in the project, not just those with the loudest voices or pushy personalities. Some people are naturally more submissive and can hide in the background. By including them, you can get some valuable insights from smart people who may otherwise be overlooked.

6. Work on your EQ

We hear about the importance of a high IQ all the time, but what about your EQ? This is your emotional intelligence, and it is just as valuable at work.

Perhaps the biggest part of your EQ is your ability to empathize with people you work with on a daily basis. It’s easy to dismiss some people as instantly unlikable, but do you know what’s going on with them? They may have problems at home, medical issues, and stresses you could never understand. If you know a little more about them, you can empathize more and ease tensions in the office. (See also: This One Skill Can Make You a Better Boss)

7. Leave your personal life at the door

You may have heard the expression, “Hang your troubles on the trouble tree before you go home,” or some variation of it. Basically, don’t bring all those work problems home to your family. Well, it goes both ways.

You may have a lot of things stressing you out at home, but you should do your best to keep them separate from your work life. You’re being asked to do a job, and it’s highly unlikely that your job will be improved by bringing personal issues into the office. If you really need to talk things over with someone, find a good therapist. (See also: How to Keep a Personal Problem From Hurting Your Career)

8. Manage your time well

Good time management is highly prized in every company, since time is a precious resource. Brush up on these skills and use them to your advantage.

Don’t go to every single meeting you’re invited to. Instead, ask what the meeting is about and if your presence is required. If not, spend the time working on something else. Utilize tools to plan your day, like calendar software and apps. Learn how long a project should take and stick to it; don’t rush some projects because you spent too long on others. Your time is money, and should be handled with the same kind of care.

9. Don’t expose problems without providing solutions

Another cliché that you’ve heard in movies and TV shows — “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions!” The thing is, it’s spot on. If you spot major issues or faults with anything at work, it’s obviously correct to bring it up. However, by simply saying something like, “These status meetings we have are unproductive,” you’re coming across as a complainer. Instead, you could say, “I’ve noticed these status meetings are not very productive so I have these ideas on how to make them more useful.” You’re still pointing out an issue, but the delivery is so much more positive.

10. Learn what other staff members do

You will become a much better employee if you learn to utilize the talents of other people in your department and the company. The first step is to figure out what everyone does, what their titles mean, and what they excel at. It’s just like being on a sports team: If you know what each player’s strength is, you take advantage of it.

If you’re in marketing and you know John is excellent at pulling together data and extrapolating useful information, bring him into the project. If you work in an auto repair shop and know that Jane is excellent at working on old muscle car engines, put her on the Ford Shelby. The more you know, the better of an employee you become.