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Rules of Office Professionalism

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The line between the personal and the professional is often blurred when employees work in close quarters. If workers don't adhere to certain guidelines regarding professional behavior, it can negatively affect the workplace environment. Whether individuals work for a small business or a Fortune 500 company, they should follow certain rules of office professionalism to ensure that all employees feel comfortable, valued and respected in their place of business.


Colleagues should be courteous to each other, regardless of personal difficulty, disagreements or office politics. Coworkers should greet each other with such pleasantries as "Hello" and "How are you?" and depart by saying "Goodbye," and "Enjoy your evening." Acts of courtesy apply to nonverbal communication as well. Employees should avoid eye rolling, arm folding, foot tapping or staring at others. If you are in doubt as to the proper conduct in certain situations, always refer to the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.


Open communication is an important aspect of office professionalism. Coworkers should keep each other updated on all events, polices and procedures concerning the workplace. All modes of communication, whether in person, on the telephone or via the computer, should be respectful and polite. Employees should never vent to their colleagues when it comes to an issue that involves another coworker. If coworkers can't resolve their own issues, they should take the problem to a manager or supervisor for mediation.

Active Listening

It's essential to listen to others when they are speaking to you during the workday. This means blocking out external, distracting thoughts and giving your complete attention to the person speaking, as well as allowing your colleague to finish his statement without interruption. Active listening also means showing interest in what people are saying with nonverbal cues such as nodding and leaning toward them, and repeating their statements in your own words, using phrases such as "So, what you're saying is...," or "Let me make sure I understand you correctly..." If used correctly, active listening can maximize the effectiveness of communication, resulting in increased employee morale and productivity.

Appropriate Conduct

Rules of office professionalism include proper conduct. Employees should remain professional by leaving their personal lives at home. This means minimizing personal phone calls and visits and not using the computer, printer, copier or other work-related resources for personal use. Employees should dress professionally and refrain from wearing clothing that is too tight or revealing. Proper hygiene protocol is also essential. Colleagues should also refrain from saying anything of a personal nature that may offend someone, including inappropriate jokes or sexually-charged statements, as well as statements regarding religion, weight, personal appearance, race, sexual orientation, handicap, illness or disability.


Individuals working in a professional environment should be accountable for their actions. This means being punctual, handling delegated responsibilities and honoring work-related commitments. In the event that you make an error, you should display honesty and integrity by owning up to your mistake.


Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.

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