In our overly friendly and casual era, filled with too much personal information, when did simply being polite make you strange?
Yesterday, I tried to give up my chair at a table to someone who had a plate full of food (I was finished eating) and my fellow diners thought this was strange. I thought it was polite. I know how difficult it is to eat standing up, especially knife and fork required conference food. I knew if it was me, I would end up wearing more than half of what was on my plate if I had not eaten at the table.
This encounter got me thinking, I say please and thank you and may I, regularly. Only recently did I notice that these civilities make some people look at me strangely. Someone even commented that I would grow tired of using these civilities. I doubt that will happen. After 27 years, I still wave at everyone I pass, ask, “how are you,” and truly wait for the answer. If this makes me strange, I intend to keep being strange.
A tweet this morning from the wonderful Laura Scholz made me laugh and shudder. She said, “People, please use your indoor voices! #coworkingetiquette”
While we all learned about inside voices from our parents and teachers, I’m surprised how easy it is to forget. I am excitable and can have problems with volume control when I’m particularly amped up. It has become less of a problem as I’ve gotten older, but I admit, I can still forget.
Whether you work in a cubicle farm or are lucky enough to have separate offices, yelling or loudly talking to others can be very disrupting to those around you. Some of your co-workers might be sound sensitive or have a headache. At the very least other people yelling and talking loudly is distracting.
Some people show appreciation with food at work. Birthdays, promotions, new hires and any other mile stone can easily be celebrated with a cake.
But not everyone can enjoy the food part of the festivities. A co-worker might be diabetic or allergic to an ingredient. Another might be trying hard to lose weight and the temptation is too much to even be in the same room as a cake.
This is where politely learning to refuse the offered food comes in handy. You don’t want to offend the person who thoughtfully brought in the cake or other item, but you don’t want to be wasteful either.
The easiest solution is to bring a dish to share that you know you can and want to eat. If the party is a surprise or you just don’t feel comfortable not partaking in the cake, get a small piece and carry it around with you. Feel free to stick your fork in and mash it up a little.
There is nothing wrong with saying you are full or have had enough. Find a solution that works for you and stick with it. Your co-worker will understand in the long run.
In an office environment and general business, you are bound to meet new people in various situations. You may have people walk into your office while you’re sitting at your desk, you may be the one walking into someone’s office while they are sitting. No matter the scenario, it is always best to stand, introduce yourself and shake their hand.
As a new employee, it is easy to remember this form of politeness, as you’re likely the one to be walking around meeting people. However, you should remember to stand when you meet any new person, especially in a business situation.
Some etiquette experts believe women don’t have to stand when they meet someone or when someone new walks into the room. I disagree. Standing, even if you are short, keeps everyone on the same in the same plane and at eye level. Not to mention, standing keeps you from subconsciously acting like a member of the royal family with servants to kiss your hand.
Ask just about anyone you know and they will tell you the first day at a new job is like the first day of school. In addition to learning where you’ll work, where the bathrooms are and where the cafeteria is, you’ll meet people and you should be the person you want to be. I disagree with the metaphor.
If you’ve done your homework and kept in touch with your future supervisor during the transition, you know exactly what is expected of you on the first day. You know what the dress code is, what time to show up and if you are lucky if you need to bring a lunch or not.
As for meeting people, of course first impressions are important, but the people you meet will also want to give the best first impression. I suggest being relaxed and polite and yourself. Don’t try to be someone you aren’t, that approach never works out in the long run.
A successful first day at a new job takes a little planning. Set the alarm a few minutes early, or even a full half hour. Over dress a little. If everyone else in the office is dressed up for your first day, you do not want to be under dressed. Take a few extra moments before you walk out the door to remember that they hired you. You belong there. I don’t suggest being cocky, but simply confidant. When you arrive, be friendly. Make eye contact. Say hello and try to remember everyone’s names. You might be more successful than you thought!
Don’t be afraid to be lost or not know an answer. Ask for directions and ask for help. Everyone in the office has some knowledge that you need, even if it is only where the bathrooms are located.
Relax and above all else, be friendly. Soon you will know the ins and outs of the office. Until then enjoy the opportunities as they arise and use this as a chance to get to know everyone without any preconceived notions.