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What really is workplace etiquette? Simply put, it’s a code of conduct every working professional is expected to follow. It sets the tone for how one is expected to behave around their coworkers, and respect the office environment, timings and processes.

Of course, every office has its own way of running the show, but some things remain constant. Even in places where the work culture is casual, these are the rules you need to remember to be a respected professional (and not be considered a social pariah):

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1. Respect Personal Boundaries

Every individual has certain boundaries, and how you deal with them can strengthen or weaken your relationship with that person. Take the case of personal space. While one person may love getting hugs, another might feel really uncomfortable about it.

Boundaries vary from person to person, and the list of do’s and don’ts can get unnervingly long. To keep it simple, observe the person in question to get an idea about their personal code, and respect it.

2. Keep Your Conversations Clean

Work can be a great place to make friends and have lively conversations, but some topics can only stir trouble.

Dirty or racist jokes, personal problems, opinions on issues like religion, politics, sexual orientation, even your boss—subjects like these are best left out of the office.

PS, this doesn’t make you a boring stiff. It only makes you a responsible professional. And if at times you do have to state your opinion, make sure you do it tastefully.

3. Flirt With Caution

Office romances are best avoided. However, since we spend so many hours at work, it isn’t uncommon for romance to brew between two colleagues.

Since flirting is how things get started, it’s important to understand that there is a fine line between flirting and sexual harassment. As a thumb rule, flirt only when you are positive it is welcome.

The safest option is to explicitly ask him or her whether they are fine with this. You might feel dorky, but isn’t that so much better than hitting on somebody who is not even remotely interested or worse, feels harassed by your advances?

4. Follow The Dress Code

 Okay, I know most offices today—particularly startups—do not really expect their employees to dress formally. But how casual is too casual? Self-expression is important, but wearing revealing or inappropriate clothes can cause serious damage to your professional image.

Even if no one upbraids you for your clothing choices, you are probably making a bad impression on the upper management and discomfiting your coworkers.

5. Use Your Phone Occasionally

Smartphones are addictive and it’s hard not to use them when you are bored or distracted. An easy way to limit usage is to turn off your mobile data, keep your phone on silent, and put it away in your drawer.

The urge to use it will be lesser once it’s out of sight. Bonus: keeping it on silent will not disturb your coworkers and will prevent them from cursing you. Also, make sure you don’t text while talking to someone – it has become a common occurrence, but that doesn’t mean it is not rude.

What’s the most annoying, unethical thing you’ve encountered at work? Let us know in the comments below.

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