Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at www.news-sentinel.com.
Q. Karen, I am starting a new job and am a little nervous about what all I should be doing to try to blend in and become part of the team. Do you have any advice for people changing jobs or starting into the workplace for the first time?
A. Learn the corporate culture in your workplace. Know what the expectations are and observe the style of the people you admire most. Study the employee manual and know the guidelines.
Be respectful of people at every level in the workplace. Position, money and power are not the hallmarks of a considerate person — it is how you treat others. Some other things to consider:
•Distinguish yourself by developing good personal skills in the workplace.
•It takes a team to make an organization work. The people at the top would not be there without those working under them. There are no small jobs.
•Give credit where credit is due.
•Do your share; refill the paper in the fax machine and copier, make coffee if you have the last cup, bring the treats occasionally, etc. Anticipate what may be needed.
•Avoid chronic complaining. People stop paying attention after awhile.
•Think positively. Pleasant people are infectious. Smile.
•If you need to voice a complaint, take it to the appropriate person.
•Follow the chain of command.
It would be the rare workplace that didn't have some conflict at some point in time, but how you deal with it can make all the difference in the world:
•When conflict arises, go to the source and try to work out the problem.
•Do not be accusatory; use “I” statements.
•Own your mistakes.
•“Kill 'em with kindness.” Do not return rudeness with rudeness. Remaining calm can diffuse an angry situation.
•Control your temper. Angry people are less effective; walk away and cool off.
•Do not swear and do not cry.
Be loyal to your company and those with whom you work. Keep work problems at work. Discussing work problems outside of work may be a violation of confidentiality and cause serious trouble for you and/or the company. It can also undermine the integrity of the organization, and it is unprofessional. If you have a complaint, go to the appropriate person and discuss the problem.
Also, leave your personal problems at the door. It can be a burden to others and distracting. However, if someone does share a personal issue with you, keep it in confidence. Don't be a gossip.
Karen Hickman is a certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy LLC. Do you have a question for her? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll forward it to her.