Things To Avoid Doing At Work: Office Etiquette Tips

Everyone has their own share of pet peeves at work including me.  I’m not talking about things about the job itself that bug me, I’m talking about things people do out of bad habits or carelessness, many without even realizing what they’re doing.  It’s always a bit of a challenge sharing an office with other people, especially in close quarters, but it doesn’t have to be!

We can all use a bit of reminding on things to avoid doing at work since it’s easy to forget office etiquette as we get caught up with stress and other distractions.   Remember that you’re sharing space with other people and make an effort to be a good office-mate!  Your coworkers will thank you.

Things to Avoid Doing At Work

  • Don’t repeatedly hit the elevator door close button when you see a coworker a few feet away coming towards the door.  Especially if you’ve already made eye contact, don’t be a jerk and watch the door close in their face!  They’ll appreciate you letting them in and you’ll also help save a bit of energy by riding in the same car.
  • On the same note don’t scream, “Wait!” when you’re 100 yards away from an elevator that’s already full.  That’s just annoying!  Even if the folks are nice enough to wait and let you on, the elevator is likely to express its annoyance at the over capacity weight limit by making one of those “RRRRRR” buzzer noises when you get on.   That’s not a good way to start everyone’s day.
  • Avoid being frequently late to work.  This is an obvious one, yet some people don’t realize how important it is.  Please do your career a favor and get to work on time!
  • Please don’t heat up leftover fish in the kitchen.  Even if it tastes amazing, fish just doesn’t smell very good when it’s reheated in the microwave.  Plus strong smells have a strong tendency to linger in office break rooms and kitchens so save those seafood leftovers for dinner at home.
  • Don’t overlook the separate compost, recycling, and landfill bins!  Is it really that hard to remember what goes in the green, blue, and black bins?  I certainly don’t think so, yet I see people put aluminum and plastic bags in the compost bin and food scraps in the recycling bin all the time.  If it’s too hard for you to remember which is which, it’s best to just use the black trash bin so you don’t ruin an entire batch of compost or recycling or make someone fix your mistake.
  • Don’t hover over people, especially at the sink, water cooler, and coffeepot.  A lot of offices only have one of each for everyone to share and things can get crowded in the mornings.  If you’re waiting your turn, don’t hover right next to someone, sigh loudly, or tap your foot impatiently.  Set your things down and come back after reading today’s headlines, get your milk out of the fridge, or casually strike up a friendly conversation with the person as you wait for them to finish.
  • Never leave your dirty dishes in the sink or piled up on your desk.  Do whatever you want at home, but it’s just plain rude to leave dirty dishes in the sink at work.  No one should have to clean up after you.  If you can’t handle this simple responsibility, use paper cups and plates instead.  Clean off your desk before you leave each day and avoid having dirty coffee cups sitting around and cluttering up your workspace.  You’ll come across as irresponsible if you have a dirty desk.
  • Don’t rush around corners or run in the hallways.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve almost been run over by someone rushing around a corner in the office.  Traffic goes both ways folks!  Slow down in the hallways and remember someone could be walking towards you with a hot coffee in their hands.  Plus rushing around the office makes you look like a frazzled mess.
  • Don’t ignore the receptionist or expect them to clean up after you.  Make sure to introduce yourself to the receptionist at your office if you haven’t already.  Say or wave hello in the morning because even a simple greeting goes a long way.  I’ve been friends with several women who worked as receptionists and believe me they know who you are and resent employees who totally ignore them or treat them with less respect than other coworkers.
  • Don’t groom yourself at your desk.  Trimming your fingernails, combing your hair, and putting on makeup should be taken care of at home or at least kept to the office bathroom.  I worked with a guy who loved to cut his nails at his desk and it always grossed me out.
  • Avoid blasting your headphones or having a radio on if you work in a cube.  Some companies let their employees listen to music at work, which is cool if it isn’t abused.  Keep in mind that you should be able to notice when the phone rings and be able to hear someone talking to you at all times.  If you work in a shared space, check that noise isn’t leaking out of your headphones too because that can be really distracting for the people around you.

Untemplaters, what are some of the bad habits people have where you work?  Does your company have an office etiquette policy?  Do you have any other tips for things to avoid doing at work?

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Hi there, I’m Sydney! After ten crazy years, I left a grueling six-figure job in 2015 for a better life. Now I spend my days writing, freelancing in various capacities, and finding new ways to stretch my brain. I’m crazy about photography, traveling the world, and stopping to smell the roses. Untemplater is where I share my insights and adventures with the world. I hope to never stop learning and being able to give back - every day is a gift! My love of helping people improve their lifestyles, careers, wealth and happiness constantly motivate me to write and evolve. Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you in the comments below!

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  1. says

    Personal grooming is a good one. I knew this fellow that insisted on flossing his teeth at this desk. While it didn’t particularly gross me out, it generated much negative commentary from other repulsed co-workers.

  2. says

    Along the same lines, don’t microwave popcorn in the kitchen! Like fish, the smell lingers on.

    And for those who are trying to stick to a diet, this can be extremely tempting and de-motivating at the same time!! ( Not me, I swear! ) :)

    • Sydney says

      YES! Totally forgot about popcorn – that is a major wafter. People used to do that at my office all the time and the smell was so hard to ignore. It’s hard not to want some when you smell it, especially if it’s kettle corn!

  3. says

    There’s something that annoys the crap out of me…. “Whistling!” it drives me nuts that someone would be whistling while working. It distracts me and others around, and it is a SURE FIRE way to put your name on top of the fire list.

    People fire annoying people. Don’t annoy!

    • Sydney says

      Oh yikes. A whistler would drive me crazy as well. That’s an unusual one. Coworkers can do the craziest things. I agree that annoying habits definitely get noticed in a bad way. Ignoring office etiquette doesn’t lead to good things!

  4. Rachel says

    When I started at my current job, I was told point blank to never, ever pop popcorn in the company microwaves. I was told in no uncertain terms that it would be cause for termination lol. Our entire breakroom was once shut down for a week when the ventillation system wasn’t working properly and the owner smelled someone’s reheated Italian food in the lobby (smelled delicious btw). My boss actually forbids whistling. So I agree with Sam. It is really annoying and could probably get you fired. I keep a nail file at my desk for times when I break a nail, but other than that personaly hygiene is personal as in do it in private. Best advice though is to remember that anything you do at work other than your job is a privledge. It should be treated as such and not abused, including the dress code and the ability to eat at your desk.

    • Sydney says

      Oh wow they take office etiquette and popcorn quite seriously! Rules can be a pain sometimes but they’re in everyone’s best interest and it’s good your boss doesn’t allow whistling. That would be so distracting. I’m glad I’m able to eat at my desk because I like having little snacks during the day like almonds and fruit.

  5. says

    I certainly agree with the popcorn – I’m not on a diet so it’s not forbidden, but every time that I smell popcorn at work it makes me want some.

    • Sydney says

      Me too. Same with McD’s french fries! Whenever someone brings them in the elevator or into the office I find myself craving them and they’re way worse on our health than popcorn.

  6. says

    I’m totally guilty of a few of these, but I at least try to minimize the annoyance for others when doing them!

    I hate that EVERY meeting in our office starts late. Some people in my office are late for everything because they don’t respect time and don’t manage it well, and that drives me nuts. I feel like there’s nothing more rude than keeping other people waiting and wasting their time.

    • Sydney says

      It drives me nuts too when meetings start late especially when it throws off the rest of my schedule. I always arrive a few minutes early especially if I’m leading a meeting because I know how annoying it is waiting for people. I try to avoid doing business with people who are always late too or cancel last minute because its such a waste of time.

  7. Hunter - Financially Consumed says

    On a slightly more serious note: Don’t Date People In Your Own Office. I understand that office relationships are innevitable, but they disrupt the dynamics of the work environment for others.

    At my first job out of college, I quickly learned that in our finance company office of 55 people, the state manager was secretly dating the customer service manager, the credit manager was dating the office manager, and the accounts manager was dating the receptionist. The whole office was locked-down. The relationships stopped others from speaking their mind about work issues because the tribes and loyaties of sex was in dominating. Very dysfunctional, and very high turnover.

    • Sydney says

      There’s been interoffice dating at every place I’ve worked even when there were rules against it. Some of them later got married and still stayed at the same company but there was definitely some scandalous dating among others. It definitely changes the dynamic and level of trust among employees and can make things rather awkward.

    • Sydney says

      People who are always late and usually at the top of the list when layoff time comes around. Not being able to get to work on time reflects so poorly on their performance and shows they are irresponsible.

  8. says

    Here’s another one: don’t use speakerphone from your office while keeping the door open. Nobody wants to hear business calls that someone else makes, nor do people want to be disturbed. Help everyone’s productivity, and either avoid speakerphone with the door open, or shut the door and keep the volume low.

    • Sydney says

      Yeah or from a cube when you’re the only one taking the call; I’ve always found that weird. Taking client calls from a conference room is always a good idea because it doesn’t distract other people and you don’t have to worry about the client hearing noise in the background.

  9. says

    This is great! I think I have experienced every one of these things at one of my jobs. They aren’t big things but they can really annoy you and make you think differently about your co-workers. For me another one that bothers me is when a coworker comes to my desk and begins a conversation that is not work related when I am clearly doing work. I don’t mind socializing at work but when I have work to do please don’t come and distract me because you don’t have work to do or you think you don’t have work to do. It its even worse when they don’t get the hint that I don’t want to talk.

  10. Super Frugalette says

    I agree about the fish in the microwave but it could be extended to Chinese food or Indian food or any other type of food that has a distinctive an lingering smell

    • Sydney says

      Yeah although I’ve never found those to bother me much as fish funkiness. :) I wonder if there’s a fire code against having closed doors on kitchens in offices ‘cuz I think that’d be a good way to at least contain most of the food smells. Every office I’ve been to hasn’t had closed doors going in/out of the kitchen so if it’s not for fire code reasons maybe it’s just for convenience that they’re always open doorways because of the amount of foot traffic coming and going.

  11. says

    We had a guy at my office who didn’t wear a tee shirt under his dress shirt. And his shirts were thin so you could see through it. And he had lots of chest hair. Yeah. It wasn’t pretty.

  12. Jared says

    If only everyone in the office observe these tips, the office would be a much better place and employers would be really happy.

  13. J says

    I work with a young Girl that is constantly talking about rubbish (clothes, parties, how drunk she got in the weekend etc.) And she whistles out of tune a lot, it’s really annoying and I still hear her through my headphones, I’ve asked her to stop the whistling and she said sorry that it was a habit but she still does it, I see other co-workers rolling their eyes but I’m not sure why they don’t say anything to her?

    • says

      That sounds really annoying. I worked with someone who hummed. She didn’t even realize she was doing it. A couple of us pointed it out to her a few times and she learned to kick the habit. Whistling sounds much more annoying though because of the high pitch. I wonder how she would react if you recorded her and played it back for her to hear how much she does it! If you’re comfortable enough to say something to her directly again, in a nice way of course, I’d suggest trying that again. If that still doesn’t work, then you may want to mention it to your manager and get him/her to speak with her. If she is distracting you and others around you from your work, she needs to kick that habit pronto and stop. Hang in there!

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