Share on Facebook

13 Office Etiquette Rules No One Follows Anymore

Say good riddance to these outdated workplace practices.

man sick bed laptopSG SHOT/Shutterstock

Coming in sick

It’s never “Bring Your Germs to Work Day,” according to etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore. Once upon a time, employees were praised for toughing it out and going into the office while battling fevers, coughs and overall grossness. While it was questionable back then, these days thanks to the ease of working from home, you’re more likely to have people running for cover rather than cheering when you walk in the door. New office etiquette dictates stay home and read these tips from people who swear they never get sick.

man open office doorDean Drobot/Shutterstock

The cold drop-in

“Showing up to meet someone without an appointment is not a good method to use in business or your job search. While quite popular 20, 30, 40 years ago, showing up to someone’s office unexpected can brand you as unaware and aggressive. I’ve had clients in their job search get frustrated that they aren’t hearing back from the HR rep about their application and have asked me if they should show up to the building and try to meet them. To me, doing that would guarantee you wouldn’t get a callback for an interview. Instead, job searchers should try different methods to get an ‘in’ at the company—through alumni contacts, tracing connections through LinkedIn, attending networking events or career fairs and interacting with the local chambers, etc.”—Jill Gugino Pante, M.Ed., Director, Lerner Career Services Center University of Delaware

thank you note cardStudio KIWI/Shutterstock

Handwritten thank you notes

Washington Post advice columnist Karla L. Miller is a big believer that emailed thank yous trump handwritten ones for office etiquette these days. She cites several reasons email is superior, including speed: “By the time a paper letter passes through an employer’s mailroom, the hiring decision may already be made. If you’re interested in the position, make sure the hiring manager hears from you 24 to 48 hours after the interview.”

men handshake introduction officeMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Calling co-workers Mr. or Ms. or Mrs.

“This is particularly applicable to Gen Z, perhaps in situations where they’re working with an older colleague and still relatively new to the workforce. They may be accustomed to addressing adults as Mr. or Mrs., not by their first name. This shouldn’t be done as it can sound childish. Instead, call colleagues by their first name! One caveat to this, however, is when you are speaking with and/or meeting someone of prominence. By addressing them by their first name, it may be deemed informal and disrespectful, so use your judgment and trust your gut.”Monster Career Expert Vicki Salemi

type laptopAlexandrMusuc/Shutterstock

Quotes in your email signature

“Unless it’s the mission of the organization, having quotes from famous people in your email signature should be avoided. While that particular quote may resonate with you, it could trigger negative emotion in the reader. If that’s the case, then the messages you’re sending could be skewed or misunderstood depending on how that person interprets the quote and attaches that to your brand.”—Jill Gugino Pante, M. Ed., Director, Lerner Career Services Center University of Delaware

business cardsaijiro/Shutterstock

Handing out business cards

“This business custom is surely headed for the graveyard. Most are forgotten, lost, or used as impromptu bookmarks. If a connection is actually worth contacting, send them a quick text message right away and save their information so you can open up communication. Also, with most smartphones, you can send complete contact information.”—Sarah Khogyani in Nimble.com

woman laptop workIntarapong/Shutterstock

Long, thoughtful emails

In a post titled “Outdated Practices to Avoid in Modern Business,” Evobr.com advises, “If there is anything that Twitter’s 140-character count has proven, it’s that people like simple, straightforward content. No one wants to fish through wordy text trying to find what they are looking for. It’s important to cover necessary information, but it should be done tastefully and as condensed as possible.” Get right to the point in all of your communications—everyone is busy. Unless, of course, you have something hilarious to say. Check out these super-funny out of office messages.

man phone call officeMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Leaving detailed voicemails

Likewise, if you are going to leave a voicemail, you’ll want to keep it snappy. Good office etiquette is just leaving a name, number, and a headline of what the call is about. No need to ramble on when you’re likely just going to repeat it all when the person calls back.

woman paperworknelen/Shutterstock

Lots of brochures and handouts

“It’s one thing to have a handout that summarizes your organization, services, and brand. However, having countless marketing materials to hand out to people is a waste. Most likely, those materials are going to be recycled or thrown away. Computers and mobile devices are heavily used to find out about organizations, so the marketing concentration should be there. In my organization, we used to have a handful of magazine racks to display materials and handouts. Now we have one and it’s only half full.”—Jill Gugino Pante, M.Ed., Director, Lerner Career Services Center University of Delaware

coworkers talking interview resumeFreedomz/Shutterstock

Candidates writing “Dear Sir” in their cover letter

“This assumes that the recipient is a man, and you only have a 50 percent shot at being correct. This can automatically sour the recipient when you should be making a positive impression based on the content of the cover letter, not to whom it’s incorrectly addressed. Job seekers can simply address the cover letter as, ‘Dear hiring manager’ or ‘To Whom It May Concern,’ to get their point across, remove any possible gender bias and direct the recipient right to the content of the cover letter.”Monster Career Expert Vicki Salemi

woman using tablet screenAePatt Journey/Shutterstock

Sending Microsoft Word docs as attachments

“Since the introduction of Google Docs, I haven’t seen very many .docx attachments in my emails. And that’s a good thing, because who really needs all of that extra data taking up room? Aside from extra formatting freedom, Google Docs can almost entirely replace Microsoft Office as your go-to document creator, file cabinet, and spreadsheet host. The best part is that it can be accessed online and from anywhere. And if your computer crashes, you don’t lose your precious work!”—Sarah Khogyani in Nimble.com. This falls into the category of office mistakes that will make your co-workers think less of you.

coworkers handshakeOlena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock

Handshaking rituals

“This applies more to Baby Boomers than younger generations: In the past, a man always stood when being introduced to a woman, but women remained seated. In addition, men were supposed to wait for a woman to extend her hand before he shook her hand. Both are outdated—it’s respectful to always stand up when you’re being introduced to someone regardless of their gender. It shows respect, genuine interest in the other person, and equality. Regarding shaking hands, it should be automatic when meeting someone to extend your hand. Don’t wait to see what the other person does, simply hold out your hand with confidence and a smile!”Monster Career Expert Vicki Salemi

women talking officementatdgt/Shutterstock

Being overly humble

“Bragging used to be considered rude if it was about your work accomplishments and life. Now, however, it’s more customary to humblebrag. This is one of the aspects job seekers tend to feel anxious and slightly awkward about—how do I talk about myself without sounding like I’m bragging? Pro tip: a job interview is your time to shine. Humblebrag away! But give credit where credit is due and feel free to shine a spotlight on a colleagues’ accomplishments, as well!”Monster Career Expert Vicki Salemi. And if you really want to impress, here’s how to make your resume stand out.

Joe McKinley
Joe McKinley is a regular contributor to Reader's Digest, covering cars, careers, tech and more.