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Career Advice

Why Workplace Etiquette Matters

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

June 10, 2013

Our 24/7 instant-access virtual world has taken the “person” out of “personal,” especially in the workplace. Until we all turn into robots with hard drives, I suggest we take a breath and slow down long enough to remember that we are all living, breathing people with feelings who get passionate, tired, burned out, excited, worried, and overwhelmed.

That is why it matters when someone calls us on the phone – one-on-one – to say, “Carol, I was thinking about you. What’s going on?” It doesn’t get any more personal than hearing your own name by someone who genuinely cares.

Human beings have a driving need to feel important and special, and yet, despite all the public electronic chatter that purports to be personal, it is very easy to feel faceless and like a number. We yearn for connection. The danger is that the same devices that are seeking to connect us can also separate us.

Take a look around at any restaurant to see how many people are engaging with their devices and not the people at the table. Or how about when you are at a party and the person you are speaking with is looking over your shoulder to see who else is at the event? Or feel the difference between someone who periodically checks his phone during a meeting versus the same person who intentionally powers it down in order to give her undivided attention.


Keeping it personal and practicing good workplace etiquette is respectful and gets noticed. Here are 10 ways to make people a priority in the workplace, which translates into success, loyalty, and trust.

  1. Make an unexpected phone call.
  2. Leave a sincere message if you get the person’s voicemail.
  3. Send a hand-written thank you note.
  4. Choose a small but thoughtful gift based on a conversation. (Favorite flower, cookie, candy, music, etc.)
  5. Remember birthdays. Bonus touch: Homemade cupcakes.
  6. Intentionally power down your phone for a meeting (and watch the reaction).
  7. Have tech-free meals and offer undivided attention.
  8. Follow-up with someone who you know had a bad day yesterday.
  9. Remember names of people who are important to your employer, colleague, client, etc.
  10. Be an undistracted listener.

True story: Heather could have sent an email to her colleague but chose to pick up the phone instead. They chatted about weekend plans and then Heather clarified the business reason for her call, which had to do with scheduling a hard-to-book meeting between their executives. The call resulted in an easy exchange and lasted five minutes. Even though it would have been shorter to write and send an email, Heather knows that it was totally worth it to make the call. Why?

These kinds of calls, made selectively, build and strengthen relationships and “emotional capital.” Heather knows that she and her colleague need to depend on one another and it helps if they “like” each other. In our virtual world, email can be toneless and impersonal and in certain situations, not the most effective form of communication.

An hour after that phone conversation, Heather received an email from her colleague who thanked her for the call. Heather knows the power of the “personal touch.” The unspoken message is: You made time for me. I feel special. Special feels good, doesn’t it?

This is precisely why Starbucks is so popular. Your name gets written on a cup and spoken out loud at least twice. And your beverage is made to your exact specifications and if it is not up to your standards, the drink gets made again. That’s personal.

Making it personal with the people in your world will make you stand out and will help you to succeed.  The personal touch will be valued, appreciated, and rewarded.