7 Universal Rules of Respectful Co-worker Conduct

Co-worker Conduct

The following is a guest post By Vicky Oliver.  Her bio follows.

On average, American workers spend 30 percent of their lifetimes working at their jobs — often more than they spend with a spouse. And more than the work itself, the people they work with can directly impact the amount of workplace stress they shoulder.

Even in a productive office, co-workers often become like extended family, complete with all the off-color and dysfunctional characteristics represented among relatives.

Your best hope of minimizing job-related stress is to distance yourself from any workplace negativity — and to keep from creating any yourself.

Setting your professional bar high means refraining from inflicting your quirks on co-workers, or letting their annoyances drive you to distraction.

Follow these seven universal rules of workplace conduct to get along with your co-workers:


Practice principles of common decorum.

You may self-identify as a lone wolf, but this doesn’t mean you get to continually avoid co-workers or refrain from returning a greeting when one’s offered. If you regularly keep a veritable “do not disturb” sign on your sweater, or wear earbuds through the entire workday, it may be time to adjust your thinking. Every business is a people business, after all. People — you just can’t escape from them.


Be discreet about bodily functions.

Staff members cross the line when they let out a loud burp or won’t retreat to the drinking fountain to drown their hiccups. Even loud yawns are more than the rest of the office needs to hear. Behave as you would if you were meeting your boss for the first time.

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Don’t cross the line with probing questions.

Whether your colleague in the cubicle next to you comes dragging in with bloodshot eyes, or a team member appears to be developing a baby bump, stifle your curiosity. Questions about co-workers’ private lives, even if you’re friends, may put them in an awkward or defensive situation. Don’t ask. Instead, let your coworker tell. Give her room to broach the subject — or not.


Refrain from intra-office dating.

Besides the obvious risks of potentially having to work with an ex if the romance doesn’t pan out, you need to keep your private and working lives separate. It’s horrible to compete with a partner over a promotion or plum assignment. You don’t want your coworkers to think you will always take your love interest’s side either.

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Avoid body image comments.

Any comments on changes in a co-worker’s appearance — whether it’s regarding weight, wardrobe, hair or complexion — is a potential minefield. Even if you’re framing it as a compliment, a co-worker may find your comment laden with either judgment.  Or, if coming from someone of the opposite gender, chauvinism.


Squelch the rumor mills.

Spread gossip and you will become labeled as a gossip. Negative comments about one co-worker to another co-worker make you look almost as bad as the person you’re chatting about. Take the high road, and nevercontribute.


Do unto others.

Think about how your words and actions affect others. Don’t demean a fellow employee’s work; leave that to a supervisor. If you expect others to pick up your slack or do all the grunt work, resentments will fester. Be that person to whom others give high marks for “plays well with others.”


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Vicky Oliver

Vicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-best-selling author of five books, including 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks 2005), named in the top 10 list of “Best Books for HR Interview Prep,” Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots (Sourcebooks, 2008); and 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions (Skyhorse 2010). She is a sought-after speaker and seminar presenter and a popular media source.  She has made over 700 appearances in broadcast, print, and online outlets. For more information, visit vickyoliver.com.


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Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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