Sunday 23 October 2016

Katie Byrne: occupational hazards

What kind of etiquette should be observed in an office?

Published 22/05/2016 | 02:30

Features writer Katie Byrne
Features writer Katie Byrne

Sometimes it's hard to keep up with all the brown envelope collections and birthday cards that are passed around the office.

  • Go To

When your schedule is overwhelming and deadlines are mounting, it's all too easy to scribble a tired platitude or a hasty valediction.

If in doubt, just wish somebody 'Good luck in the future' and hope that you'll never see them again...

However, sometimes greeting card boilerplate just doesn't cut it. A woman, known only as Mercy, learned this one the hard way when a condolences card that she contributed to went viral.

Mercy failed to notice that her colleagues were commiserating with their fellow co-worker with messages like "You and your family are in my prayers" and "Sending you positive and comforting thoughts during this time".

She also failed to notice that she wasn't contributing to a birthday card. "Happy B Day" read Mercy's message. Apparently she was even too busy to write 'birthday'.

In every office there are model employees who observe the unspoken rules of etiquette. And then there are the renegades and the rogues. This is how they roll...

Treat all brown collection envelopes with the disdain of an upstanding socialist politician. Alternatively, reach into the envelope and take out €2.70 for your Luas fare home.

If you notice that the printer has run out of toner, take a couple of cursory glances to the left and right, mutter something unintelligible and discreetly vacate the scene before sitting back down at your desk.

Make sure everyone is cc'd in an email: Your boss, your colleagues, the entire HR department, the new guy in the post room, the Transition Year student on work experience, the beautician who does your eyebrows, the Dutch pen pal you had when you were 11 and the woman who lives across the road. Everyone.

When working outside contracted hours, make sure to timestamp the fact that you have gone above and beyond the call of duty by emailing your colleagues to let them know that you are in the office.

Assume that your colleagues don't understand nuance, emphasis or basic English and instead use CAPITAL LETTERS and underline to get your point across in all email correspondence.

Help a new colleague settle in by putting on your headphones and completely ignoring them before getting outrageously drunk in the pub on Friday and asking them how much they're getting paid.

Food should be eaten at your desk, especially egg mayonnaise and tuna sandwiches. When consuming beverages, be mindful of those with misophonia and slurp like it's the year 2080 and in your mug are the last few drops of H2O on planet Earth. Employees on diets should chip at the bottom of their yoghurt pots like archaeologists excavating Tutankhamen's tomb.

Empty milk bottles should be taken out of the fridge, shook limply and then placed back on the same shelf in the fridge on which they were found. Empty water coolers should be ignored at all costs.

Be careful to only ask people how their weekend was if they look like a deer caught in the headlamps and/or they spent the last three days at a music festival. Likewise, it is courteous to acknowledge that "someone had a good weekend!" only when they seem to be having difficulty re-engaging their fine motor skills.

Contagious illnesses like influenza are best incubated in an open-plan office where colleagues are in close contact and ventilation isn't adequate. Don't just think of the colleague sitting next to you. Try your best to annihilate the entire office by sneezing with wild abandon.

If you cycle to work, make sure your gear is skin-tight and the outline of at least one testicle is clearly visible through your Lycra leggings.

The colleague that you have worked with for the last eight years and whose name you still don't know? It is considered best practice, going forward, simply to pretend that he doesn't exist. Dave? Donal? Daniel? Just think of him as a poltergeist in a three-piece suit. It's better that way.

Avoid confrontation by penning passive-aggressive Post-it notes and sending clippy emails to the person who is sitting right beside you. All attempts to deal with the issue face-to face should be circumvented. Get their people to talk to your people.

Deal with stress by furiously pounding the keyboard, walloping electrical equipment and eliciting the occasional Primal Scream.

The 10-second rule should be observed regarding all perishables left in your fridge. After 10 seconds, food items may be claimed by anyone, so long as they dispose of all evidence. This rule applies to all foodstuffs, including, but not limited to, dairy-free yoghurts, Marks & Spencer ready meals and leftover stir-fry.

Never make the tea. We repeat, never make the tea. Who's making the tea? Not me!

Weekend Magazine

Read More

Promoted articles

Don't Miss

Editor's Choice