workers in a modern office

Mind Your Office Manners: Old-Fashioned Tips for the New Office

At times, we've become overly reliant on technology to communicate or problem-solve around the workplace. Take Michael Scott, the infamous boss from TV's "The Office." One memorable episode has him literally driving into a lake because the GPS tells him to "make a right turn." Unwavering, Michael drives his car into the water because "the machine knows where it's going."

How often have we let technology drive us "into a lake" in our own offices? You don't always have to rely on technology when there are some tried-and-true office manners that will truly help you stand out in the workplace. Let's examine some "old-fashioned" workplace rules and office do's and don'ts that will help you make a lasting impression in today’s technology age.


Make Eye Contact

We have become trained to keep our eyes constantly on our screens to give off the impression that we are very important and very busy. What you've failed to see is what was right in front of you: a real live person who was looking for your input and advice.

Look in the person's eyes, and receive the message being sent your way. Not only will you be demonstrating good workplace manners, but you will also become more attuned to your co-worker's and client's body language and vocal intonations, which often convey even more than the words they are speaking.


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Go Out to Lunch

Eating at your desk, much like not making eye contact, gives off the very important and very busy vibe as well. However, you're missing prime opportunities to make connections with clients, co-workers, and bosses that extend beyond your cubicle.

This is not the time to indulge in your "Mad Men"-era fantasy and have a Don Draper-worthy two-martini lunch (which likely goes against workplace rules, anyway). Instead, follow successful author Keith Ferrazzi's advice to "never eat alone," reach out to clients and co-workers, and ultimately master the art of networking, one sandwich at a time.


two employees collaborating in modern office


Shake Hands

Perhaps you're a gold medalist at the fist bump and even like to throw in the occasional explosion at the end for dramatic effect. But to make yourself stand out with your bosses and clients, follow traditional office etiquette and go for the classic handshake. A firm handshake conveys both strength and honesty.

Not sure you have a good one? Practice on a friend to make sure you're not a cold fish or a UFC fighter. Combine the handshake with solid eye contact for a combo that is way more effective than the fist bump routine. The final impression you'll leave with a coworker, boss, or client is that you're courteous, capable, and confident.


Answer the Phone

How many times have you seen your phone ring, but let it head right to voicemail? Unless you have a secret fear that it's the Grim Reaper on line one, pick up the phone and answer it. When a call heads to voicemail, clients, and coworkers feel like they're being intentionally ignored – because they are.

Even if you're swamped, take a moment to answer the phone and ask the client if you can phone them back at a later time. An apology and request to reschedule will make the client feel like their call matters, even if you can't answer their query right at that moment.


group of coworkers talking in modern office


Write Thank You Notes

Your grandmother would be very proud to know that you're continuing the thank you note tradition she began with you after your fifth birthday. A handwritten thank you note shows that you genuinely wanted to put forth some extra effort to recognize the recipient.

Clients and bosses remember these personal touches when they're looking for someone to spearhead their newest project, and this will make you stand out over a coworker who thought the "thank you email" was the way to go.


While technology is a useful and vital tool in every office, so are office etiquette rules that are timeless in nature. By utilizing some old-fashioned office manners, you're sure to stand out, and get ahead, in the modern workplace.

By Alexis R., Guest Author | May 29, 2017
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