office etiquette (soft skills)

 

Overview

These soft skills are some hard-won lessons from my own experience from working in a corporate office cubicle environment, if you have something to add to this, PLEASE let me know through my contact me page.

I have since learned that cubicles have gone the way of the dinosaur and now it's just open spaces and such.

office etiquette (soft skills)

  • one of the things I learned about the office (and am still learning) is, when someone comes to your cube, drop what you are doing and pay attention to the person. this is one of the rules of office etiquette.
  • don't type loudly or make loud noises, sing, make mouth music, sound effects, etc. if you are satisfyingly banging on your keyboard, it distracts your fellow employees from concentrating on their work. my biggest problem? I have a very high music quotient and I like to do all the above. I also like the tactile feedback of buckling spring mechanical keyboards. once you have been one one, most don't want to go back. (they do have quiet versions)
  • bring high-quality desserts to the office. not the cheap stuff. as in butter cream frosting. not the plastic sickening-sweet stuff most grocery stores sell. something people will appreciate and all would be thankful for. it doesn't have to be every week. it can be every quarter or 6 months. the job isn't about eating and snacking.
  • avoid bringing foods that have any sort of name that could have a double meaning. unsaved people bristle at that sort of thing, however unintentioned.
  • have fun and some levity once in a while to break up the monotony.
  • Most office work is about teamwork.  Though it is not taught much in school, get into it every chance you can if you're still in school.
  • if your team is on production support of some kind and people are being requested to be 24-hour on-call on a pager/cell (for maintaining a server or whatever), even if you don't feel like it or you feel it doesn't fit your job description, you are part of that team, and it's your duty to be on the pager/cell also. it happens to improve your good-employee "score" with the boss. it might be good experience for something else - you never know, the experience you get could be a blessing in your life down the road at some point.
  • if you are a programmer and one of the IT/IS scripts that maintains your computer is broken and messing things up, DON'T try to fix it or diagnose it. find out from your boss first to see whether you even have an IT/IS department to go through. IT/IS calls are expensive (I just found this out). it could be a good idea to get permission from your boss, since he's paying for it. if he gives the OK, write down
    • the computer's OS build type
    • type of OS
    • whether it's 64-bit or 32-bit, how much RAM, and kind of processor. this information is in [windows-logo-flag-key]-[pause/break]
    • the IP address of the computer. this can be had by doing [windows-logo-flag-key]-R cmd /k ipconfig [Enter]
    • the name of the application that's breaking or not coming up properly, or the network drive letter that should be available but is not, and the time and date this started happening.
    , get the IT/IS phone number, figure out which phone menus are appropriate and mine your way through, and relay this info, your name and phone extension, building name/code/number and cube number, and if necessary, mail stop to them soi they can reach you.
  • learn microsoft project if you can afford it. you may end up teaching it to your boss or some other boss that needs it. it is a good skill to have. it costs something like $600-$900 I guess. ouch. you can have projects within projects, and you can assign resources (people) to tasks, and those resources can "consume" some sort of cost at an hourly rate or some fixed cost or whatever. you can list your tasks and arrange them and set milestones.
  • if people are giving you hints that you need to look for another job within the company, do it. if you are doing software, the funding for your project has probably run out. projects run on funding. if your project is not funded, YOU (as a resource) are not funded. it seems to be, that no project, no job. in fact, if you can help the company GET a project, that's all the better. that's usually relegated to the sales folk.
  • funding this is one of the reasons we have project management, to try to keep projects on schedule. so it's a good thing if you can learn microsoft project on your own and learn some project management (such as in college). you can set target dates for fixed funding, knowing the cost of your individual resources. for managers, you can have your team members provide you with their project timelines, and you can sequence them in your master project.
  • getting started on the job is a hard thing. cube needs to be installed and wired, computer needs to be built, phone programmed (there are sometimes some misconfigures), you have to setup voice mail, you have to setup your email account, logins of various kinds, etc.
  • ask BEFORE YOU ARE HIRED if
    • the software you make (or what specifically, like libraries, utilities that are necessary to the job but not part of the company's product) at the company is yours or now and you can sell and license and copyright
    • ask if the software you write at home on personal time while you are employed for the company is yours, or theirs.
    • ask if the software you have already written will be an issue with the company after you are gone from the company should this happen.
    • get it in writing, signed, and dated! file it!
  • never bring personal items to work. have the company buy what you need. there are business reasons for this. if it's at work, it's assumed to be business property. sometimes, you really need to bring in personal stuff. this stuff some companies tag with special labels. but they are few companies indeed. ask about this when you are hired if you think this will be an issue or you find out the equipment isn't up to par to do the job. If you absolutely need [technical] books, and a library is provided, make requests through the library. if this isn't doing the job, let your boss know this isn't working and ask about bringing books from home, or finding some alternative way to get the books you need.
  • don't take company stuff. it's on THEIR books. besides, that's stealing. sometimes you can borrow stuff so you can work at home, but there are usually sign-outs and procedures and door security for this.
  • if you have hard drive cleanup of junk directories to do, do it now. don't leave the clutter lying around. do periodic cleanings.
  • getting fired or let go or laid off also has etiquette. nowadays they send security after you. ask for the things you want and be kind. you may have some time. ask what is expected of you. gather your things together.
    • ask about closing/disabling your accounts. this should be your last step, because this will disable access to your hard drive. if your boss needs your data, let him/her have the data, OK? although it might be more secure to simply move the sources and binaries to a network drive. this would be something you can suggest to your boss, and would probably get you in less trouble with HR.
    • if you have personal items, ask to get them and ask for a box, or ask for permission to get them at another time if there is a large amount (avoid doing that!). make sure you have a car. try not to blur the distinction between business and personal items by having personal items at work if you can (except maybe pictures of family).
    • ask to get a copy of your software libraries and utilities you made while you were there, if you know you have permission.
    • avoid trying to clean off the old unusable junk you left on the hard drive. no time for that now. you are not on the clock anymore.
    • ask to burn a copy of your bookmarks, maybe, if you know you have permission. if it contains corporate sensitive info, forget it.
Business Etiquette Courseware
Corporate Training Materials' Business Etiquette Courseware, available from corporatetrainingmaterials.com $
soft skills