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Office etiquette tips can help you get through the holidays
I've found that having a co-worker I could trust has been an important factor in my job satisfaction over the years. I'm guessing many of you would say the same. All the better to be that trustworthy person yourself. - photo by

If you spend enough time with any group of co-workers, you may start to see them as your "family away from home."

That can be wonderful when it results in feelings of mutual support, cooperation in working toward common goals and joy in celebrating each other's accomplishments.

But let's be honest for a minute here. Even in the best families, every day isn't filled with sunshine and roses.

In the Kratz home, we get along pretty well and have a lot of fun together. But it's not uncommon for my son to get in a heated argument with my youngest daughter about one particular Lego. Or for my wife and I to have a disagreement about a purchase. Or for any of our three younger children to drag their feet just a bit too long when they're asked to do a chore, drawing some stern words of warning from their mother or me.

At such times, I have found that a little common courtesy goes a long way toward resolving the situation. And what works for my family at home is equally important for my "family" at the office.

That brings me to an email I received recently from Diane Gottsman, a speaker, author and owner of The Protocol School of Texas, who shared some office etiquette tips.

I found her counsel to be especially timely, since the stress of the holidays is just as present in Cubeville during November and December as it is at home. Here, then, are seven tips Gottsman suggests that you remember at work "to keep your reputation intact and to avoid any turmoil with your peers."

— "You don't always need to be 'right.'" In the press release, Gottsman said we all make mistakes, and how we handle them says much about who we are as professionals. "Don't try and shift the blame or go radio silent, hoping no one will notice. Own your error, come up with a solution and apologize for the inconvenience it may have caused. This shows maturity and tells your boss you can be trusted to handle a difficult situation under pressure."

I completely agree with this. I've seen what happens when someone tries to cover up a mistake at work, and it's never pretty. Honesty really is the best policy.

— "It's not necessary to one-up your co-worker." While friendly competition is healthy, Gottsman said in the press release, undermining a co-worker in front of others is never a good move. "Make every effort to congratulate a peer on a job well done and keep the conversation focused on their success. Steer away from bringing the conversation back to you and your own achievements."

It's fine to make sure your accomplishments are recognized, but I agree that there's a time and place for such things. Most parents can probably remember complimenting one of their children, only to have another interrupt to talk about something good she did. Even though we appreciate their efforts, when the timing is wrong, the message gets lost.

— "You learn more by listening." Gottsman said you don't want to miss an important business lesson because you are too busy talking. "If someone is taking the time to offer you constructive criticism, mentor you or give you a piece of sound business advice, take advantage of the opportunity to listen and learn. Jot down notes to review later."

I wholeheartedly concur. No one likes to be interrupted. Be polite, and pay attention. Chances are you'll gain at least one useful tidbit of information, and your reputation as a listener will only help you around the office.

— "Don't overcommit." Many co-workers will ask you to help with worthy causes, especially at this time of year, Gottsman said. Remember that you can't do everything. "Pick and choose carefully what and who you will support. Say to the others, 'I’m sorry, I’ve already committed to another project, but it sounds like a wonderful outreach.' Be polite but firm."

This is hard for many people I know, but I believe it's wise counsel. It's better to commit to a few things and follow through successfully than to offer help with too many activities and fall short in all of them.

— "Know-it-alls are annoying." If you do your job well, Gottsman said, you don't need to brag. Your reputation will speak for itself.
Enough said.

— "No one respects a gossip." It's important to remember that people who are trash talking with you about someone else are probably trash talking about you when you're not around, the press release said. "Avoid water cooler chit-chat and aspire to be the person who can be counted on to keep their mouth shut. At the end of the day your associates will view you as a trustworthy friend and co-worker."

I've found that having a co-worker I could trust has been an important factor in my job satisfaction over the years. I'm guessing many of you would say the same. All the better to be that trustworthy person yourself.

— "Keep your language clean." Gottsman said that cursing at work is "a habit worth breaking," even if your boss uses profanity. She advises that "you can't go wrong by keeping a civil tongue."

Again, I love this advice. I know it will be hard to follow, especially for some people, and many will slip up now and then. But if you're able to control your language, you'll probably also be able to control your emotions. That will certainly help burnish your reputation as a reliable co-worker who can be trusted to keep it together when the pressure rises.

I appreciate all of these wise words from Gottsman, and I plan to follow her counsel in the months to come, both at the office and at home.
Meanwhile, I'm interested in your reactions. Do you disagree with any of Gottsman's ideas? What's the best office manners tip you've ever received? And what's the biggest breach of etiquette you've witnessed in Cubeville?

Send me an email with your responses, and I'll use some of them when I revisit this topic in a future column.

Email your comments to Follow me on Twitter at gkratzbalancing or on Facebook on my journalist page.