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Keeping it Clean: Professionalism at Work

How professional interaction with
employers and coworkers can go a long
way toward preserving excellent
business relationships.

The importance of courtesy in the workplace has become the topic of many conversations among members of the campus community. New technology has set fresh and innovative methods of communicating with one another. However, with our eagerness to use mobile phones, e-mailing, texting, instant messaging, and the like we tend to forget the importance of patience and cooperation when sharing space with others.
This special edition of the OEO newsletter is dedicated to providing readers with reminders of workplace etiquette to be considered in a variety of situations.

It is true that while you are working your cubicle is your private, personal space. Yet, it is vital to remember that this space and how you treat it may still affect others. Your desktop and surrounding areas should remain clean and clutter free. This is merely a professional courtesy, besides cleanliness and organization are great habits to pick up. Maintaining order will help your job performance also, so everyone wins.

Unnecessary or excessive noise can cause concentration problems within the workplace so keep your voice down. Loud talking is highly unprofessional and can distract others from their duties and strain
relationships, so refrain from using speakerphone, keep the ringer on your phone down, and set the ringer on your cell phone to low or preferably vibrate. Professional courtesy is vital to working relationships. What one person may perceive to be acceptable behavior may be very offensive to another, so be conscious of differing customs and cultural norms. See Search and Screen Protocols for further details on cultural norms. Try to understand the norms of your workplace and adapt to them. A few suggestions to keep in mind are as follows:
few suggestions to keep in mind are as follows:

• Be cordial.
• Think before you speak.
• Never overreact to a situation.
• Be a team player.
• Be on time.
• Watch your language.
• Avoid personal calls and e-mails.
• Avoid junk e-mail during work hours
• Knock before entering the space of others.
• Avoid conflict and gossip.
• Avoid using air freshener, perfume or other scented items— many people are allergic.
• Tend to personal hygiene at home or in the restroom.
• Keep your shoes on, at all times.
• Avoid playing games, texting, or taking calls
when someone is speaking to you.

Office Kitchen
Effective workplace etiquette extends further than your cubicle or workstation. The office kitchen is very much a part of your workplace and you should be mindful of your conduct there as well. Remember to be considerate. Often in office kitchens the custodians only clean once daily, so make a conscious effort to clean up after yourself. This will eliminate the threat of bugs and/or other rodents. Help keep the kitchen functional. Replace items you use such as napkins, spoons, etc. Remove your leftovers from the refrigerator. Leftovers take up excess space and eventually create foul odor. Clean the toaster and/or microwave when you make a mess, and if you empty the water cooler replace the water. If you empty the coffee pot make more or turn it off. However, please avoid putting decaf in the regular pot without notifying someone. Alert someone when you used the last of a staple and when the trash is full, or empty it yourself.

Never eat someone else’s food without their permission, and do not smash their food either. Everyone has the expectation and the right to enjoy their lunch in the same condition they prepared it. Speaking of enjoying your food, be attentive to your table manners. Chewing with your mouth open, speaking with food in your mouth, chatting loudly are all incredibly rude and unprofessional behaviors and you never know who may be watching.

The use of e-mail correspondence has become quite the norm when communicating and conducting business. It is very popular in personal use as well. Nonetheless it is crucial to keep in mind that e-mailing for business purposes is not as lax as e-mailing a friend. Thus it is a good idea to stress professionalism whenever sending out business e-mail.

Always remember that good writing is good writing everywhere and shorthand or emoticons will most likely come across as inappropriate and amateurish. Proofread and spell check your e-mail just as you would if you were sending a letter. Remain professional, polite and appropriate and always ask if the recipient prefers e-mail before sending.

Unfortunately, many attachments are plagued with viruses, so often people are leery of opening them. Ask if attachments are welcome before including any in your e-mail. If attachments are too large they may not be viewable to recipients, so send hard copies instead.

Most people understand how important PTO time can be to those who work hard. So if you do not wish to accept or respond to e-mails while vacationing use your “out of office” function. This will inform everyone that you are unavailable during your vacation. Include the date in which you plan to return and provide backup contact information.

We all make mistakes but avoid sending e-mail to the wrong recipient. This can cause a great deal of confusion and may drive others to view you as unreliable. A good suggestion is waiting to fill in the “to” address until after composing your e-mail and attaching files. However, if this happens contact those who are affected (i.e. the recipient, the person to which you intended to send and possibly your manager) and explain your error. As much as possible avoid sending confidential information electronically.

Cell Phones
The use of cell phones has caused a stir within the workplace and has violated countless codes of etiquette. The following are a few reminders to avoid unintentionally aggravating those around you:

• Speak quietly, your cell phone is equipped with a microphone so there is no need to yell.
• Avoid taking calls during meetings.
• Avoid holding unnecessary conversations in confined areas with others present.
• Avoid annoying ringtones, they can be very distracting.
• Avoid taking calls while being serviced, this can be perceived as rude.
• Leave your hands-free set in the car.
• Most importantly keep private calls private.

Numerous employees have faced the consequences of unauthorized use of the Internet. Some have even lost their jobs. It is extremely important to understand UITS Tech user agreements and your department’s policies on web surfing and downloading. If you mistakenly access a restricted site inform your manager and/or IT person right away.

Setting up a separate e-mail address for personal purposes, such as an iupui.edu account, and only using this address at work may be a good idea as well. Notify your friends and family of personal use restrictions to avoid opening junk mail or inappropriate content. Lastly, try to limit personal e-mail and Internet use to breaks, lunch hours or preferably home.

Social Media
Social networking is progressively becoming more and more widespread. It can be a very useful professional tool when used properly. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and many others have taken the world by storm and allow us to connect and share information in ways we never could in the past.

However, similar to random Internet use, it is important to understand and adhere to your department’s policies and procedures regarding social media. Provided social networking is permitted at your workplace, it is highly recommended that you get connected. This is a great way to network with others in your profession or field of study, but avoid using it at work unless it is work-related. Through
social networking you are gaining knowledge and making a proactive effort in guiding your career, but like e-mailing there are rules to this. When connecting with people on a professional level it is a good idea to understand their social media presence (i.e. their feed, profile, activity, etc.) before accepting or sending a request. Take time out to look over each individual’s page and inspect their content. You may find that simply because they are a photographer does not mean that they tweet about photography.

So try to avoid friending or following people who do not share information relevant to you. Personalizing friend and connection requests by sending a brief message is recommended.

Your social media presence is your own; you are in control. You do not have to accept the connection request of anyone whose content you find offensive, useless or undesirable. No explanations are required, they may even offend, so simply click the ignore button. Additionally, you are not obligated to follow people on Twitter merely because they follow you. Be mindful of potential and
current employers observing your activity. The goal is to put your best foot forward and keep it completely professional, so avoid inappropriate content and conduct. Follow these principles and you will maintain a glowing social media presence spotlighting your abilities, interests and professionalism.

Ultimately, remembering to put courtesy first whether in your cubicle, office kitchen, e-mail message or while on your cell phone or on-line will take you far. So let’s continue to keep our surroundings, behavior, language and social media presence clean to continue to present a polished campus environment and reflect that IUPUI employees are professional.

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Disability Etiquette

People with disabilities make up the largest minority group in the U.S. It has become increasingly vital to gain knowledge on appropriate behavior while interacting with this ever-expanding portion of the population. Many of us may need guidance in adapting to the needs of people with disabilities and adopting a new outlook when socializing. It is important to show individuals with disabilities the same consideration and courtesy that you expect for yourself.

As always when thinking of proper etiquette practices it is best to think before you speak. Not only can words hurt, but they may also cause you to appear insensitive even if nothing personal was meant by those words. As described in our sexual harassment newsletter, your intentions are not always taken into account only the impact your behavior has on others. So choose your words carefully, see our tutorial for more info on cultural norms.

When speaking to a person with a disability you should speak directly to that person. It is not necessary to speak to his/her aid or companions. When a person is addressing you, you would not want him/her to overlook you and direct his/her conversation to the people surrounding you. This rule is universal.

At times people may need a little extra assistance, but don’t make assumptions. Wait to be asked for help and then respond tactfully. Asking if a person needs assistance may sometimes be in order as well, but wait for a response and directions before jumping to action. This is especially important for people with mobility and/or visual impairments.

Always respect the personal space of others and be thoughtful about physical contact. Touching people’s chairs without permission, leaning on or across their chairs, asking them to hold things for you, and patting them on the head or shoulder are all unseemly behaviors. While you may be making an attempt at assisting them, you may hurt them or cause them to fall. Be mindful of reach limitations and when asked offer assistance. Make an effort to keep a mobility-friendly facility and staff.

There are a variety of circumstances that may cause visual impairments, low vision, legal blindness and severe low vision. Relating with people who have specific visual needs can be somewhat different for those without them.

People with visual impairments may need help with reading, navigating your facilities, and directions. So when asked offer to read things aloud to them or offer material in large print when suitable. It may be applicable to give them a tour of the facility and notify them when changes are made. Always keep walkways and doorways clear. When giving directions use specific nonvisual communication. Always identify yourself, the people who are with you and your position before making physical contact. Notify the person if you are leaving and give him/her the locations of the nearest exits.

When communicating with a person who is deaf or hard-of-hearing you must always keep his or her disability in mind, as it is much different than speaking with someone with perfect hearing. It is important to put your active listening skills to use and maintain eye contact. Also use a sign language interpreter when needed. Everyone is not great at reading lips. Follow his or her cues to notice whether he/she prefers gesturing, writing, speaking or sign language.

When using a sign language interpreter look directly at the person to which you are speaking,

not the interpreter. Don’t make decisions for them. People want to be involved in decision-making processes that concern them. Always speak with clarity and never shout. Lastly, TTY services have become very popular so don’t hang up if you receive a relay call from a TTY relay service.

When interacting with people with speech impairments give them your undivided attention. Don’t just nod when they are speaking to you; if you don’t understand ask them to repeat. Then, repeat it back to them for verification if you are still unsure. If you still cannot understand ask them to write it down.

Learning Disabilities
It is reported that one in every five people in America has a learning disability. Much like many other disabilities they are growing in numbers, so we must learn how to respectfully connect with them. Ask how to best relay information. Most often the best communication method is to be direct. They may need information written down or demonstrated. Give verbal instructions and explanations and allow extra time for reading, particularly for those who have dyslexia and other reading disabilities.

Keep noise and distractions, such as music, erratic movements, bright lights and loud patterned curtains or wallpaper, at a minimum. Always remain patient and allow him/her to take his/her time. Allow an adjustment period when routines are broken or changed.

Psychiatric disabilities and disorders may hamper a person’s educational and/or occupational progress tremendously. From problems concentrating to negative interaction with others, psychiatric disabilities can play

huge role in a person’s failure to succeed. Thus we should make our best effort to reduce the amount of pressure and stress on him/her and remain calm and supportive.
Treat the person as an individual and find out how you can help and what makes them most strengthened and comfortable. During an emergency find out if there is a support person to be contacted. Then respect those needs. Everyone needs help with something or another periodically, so be understanding. By adapting to these guidelines and possibly adopting your own, on a case by case basis, you will find that you will become a much more effective communicator. You will also allow for growth in your school, workplace and life

by taking an inclusive stance and encouraging diversity.

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