Whether you are starting a new job or working one you have been at for years, it is never a bad idea to give yourself a good old-fashioned performance review. While it is important to assess your skills, and how well you apply yourself to your specific job duties, it is equally important, if not more important, to ask yourself this question: Am I consistently conducting myself in a professional manner?
Workplace etiquette is not something to be neglected if you plan on keeping your job for long. Far too often, people who are quite skilled in their work find themselves out of work due to recurring patterns of unprofessional behavior. Many times, this comes as a surprise. It is not always obvious to you that you are repeating behavior that comes off as unprofessional or irritating to your employer.
Follow these seven simple rules of etiquette and you will be on the right path toward job longevity and positive relationships at work:
1. Prioritize good communication
This is perhaps the most important rule, because it touches every area of the work you will do. When you communicate well with your employer, you are far more likely to sustain a good working relationship, and reduce conflict across the board. Conversely, failing to communicate clearly is a sure way to introduce frustration, confusion and other headaches into your work.
Good communication starts with listening. Ask questions, and listen carefully to instructions. Then show, in clear and simple terms, that you understood. If you do not understand, ask clarifying questions. Do not leave your employer wondering if their message is getting through. This is true in both face to face conversation and messaging via text or email. Always respond promptly and in language that is clear and unambiguous.
Communicating well also means always being honest, kind, and patient. It does not entail you have to sound smart or sophisticated. In fact, trying too hard in that regard only makes things worse. Simply be detailed, yet concise, and you cannot go wrong.
2. Be punctual
Right up there with communicating, another highly important work trait is punctuality. When you are late to a job once, it is usually easy to forgive with a reasonable explanation. But make a habit or pattern of tardiness and your employer will surely doubt that you’re a good fit for the job.
Also—and I cannot stress this enough—if you are going to be late, say something. Your employer needs to know so they can adjust expectations. To avoid making it even worse, spare the excessive details and excuses. Just be honest, apologize, and make a better effort next time.
3. Take notes & use a calendar
I have a calendar app in my smartphone which syncs to my email, and sometimes I also carry a small pad of paper and pen in my pocket. Because I tend to forget little details, I lean on note-taking pretty heavily. Before I started doing this, I was constantly disappointing myself and others by losing track of tasks and dates.
As a general rule of thumb, when you are given a set of instructions, pause to make a note of them. It not only helps you remember them, it also gives your employer more assurance that you will. This helps build trust.
4. Be positive
It is impossible to never bring in negative feelings with you into work because, well, life happens. But it is important to make your best effort to keep a positive attitude. On a particularly tough morning, leave some time before your shift for some self-talk to get your mind ready. Some quiet meditation, a prayer, or quick series of deep breaths before walking in can prevent you from carrying a cloudy mood across the threshold.
Practically speaking, make a point to smile, use a polite tone of voice, make eye contact, and be mindful of posture and body language.
5. Clean up after yourself
This is especially important when you are a babysitter, nanny, or doing any other kind of work which takes place in someone’s home. While you may be told to “make yourself at home,” you want to avoid getting too comfortable. When your job is done, always make sure to leave the place just like you found it, or even better.
6. Establish a set of daily rules & follow them consistently
Every job is different, and it can take some time getting used to a daily rhythm. But it is important to limit “I’m not sure what I should be doing right now” time to a minimum. Be a pro by establishing a set of daily tasks, rules, and needs, and refer to them frequently so that you can stay consistent and not fall behind.
7. Be respectful
One of the best ways to appear unprofessional is to be disrespectful. Regardless of your thoughts or opinions of your employer, always be kind and courteous. Take pride in your work, and show that you care.
Lastly, be respectful for yourself. Even on your toughest days, don’t sulk. Remind yourself of the little things you love about your job, and of all the reasons you are great at it. When you keep your head held high and respect yourself, you are commanding the respect of those you work with and for.
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