Getting to Know You

When you accept a job and arrive at work for the first day, you very well may not know anyone at your workplace. As you get to know your coworkers, there will be some people with whom you get along well and others not so well. Some may become friends outside of work, but others you wouldn’t choose to associate with in your personal life. Yet there they are, every day, sitting in the cubicle next to you or at the desk nearby.

The workplace forces you to deal with people you may not like personally. Even so, you need to get along with them at least professionally. The way you choose to interact will go a long way to making the atmosphere at work pleasant and manageable.

To that end, it’s important to recognize not only behaviors that frustrate you, but also what you might do that could frustrate others. Curbing your own annoying behaviors and being reasonably tolerant of others’ can help you build better relationships with all your colleagues.

The Emily Post Institute has identified three problem areas that can cause irritation in the workplace: sounds, smells, and words.


  • A loud voice is grating and difficult to ignore. The number one complaint among office workers concerns colleagues who talk too loud on the phone. Use a normal, conversational voice level, especially on the phone. Your colleagues will appreciate it.
  • Avoid using the speakerphone capability on your phone if you have it, especially to dial a call hands-free. The dial tone, that beep-beep-beep noise as you dial, and the ringing of the phone are disturbing to those around you
  • If allowed, use earbuds or headphones to listen to music. And remember to take the earbuds out or remove the headphones when someone engages you in conversation. It shows you are focused on them and not on the music.
  • If chewing gum is allowed, refrain from loud smacking noises and popping bubbles.


  • Limit or entirely avoid using perfumes and colognes at work. Others may be sensitive or allergic to them.
  • Body odor and bad breath can be a real turn-off to others and colleagues may have difficulty bringing it to your attention. Take care with your personal hygiene.
  • Avoid smelly lunch foods whose odors may permeate the office.


  • Be careful using slang. Words that have no negative connotation to you may be offensive to others. “Sucks” is one of those words.
  • Foul language can be annoying and offensive to others. Workplaces are instituting “No Foul Language” rules. A survey cited foul language as the number one etiquette offense that could get an employee fired.

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