Negotiating workplace culture and unspoken etiquette

September 18, 2017 by Liz Green

Negotiating workplace culture and unspoken etiquette

Do you love ‘first days’? Or do you hate them? When it comes to starting in a new workplace, most of us fall somewhere in-between. It’s normal to feel simultaneously excited about your role and the possibilities ahead, and nervous about the unknown!

Your first few days will involve learning about and embracing your new workplace culture with its own set of behaviours – some of which may be familiar, and some unique to your organisation.

Even if this is your first job, if you think about it, every school or club you’ve attended will have had its own culture and rules. So take comfort from the fact that you’ve been negotiating new environments ever since your first day at school – if not before!

Many employers run inductions to familiarise new starters with the organisation, the workplace culture, and the underlying framework of policies and procedures, not to mention practicalities like where to find the toilets!

Day-to-day workplace etiquette can be just as important, but it’s often left unsaid. Some things like dress code or acceptable noise levels can be observed – others are harder to guess.

If you’re unsure about something, find a friendly face and simply ask. Apart from giving you a chance to interact with your colleagues, it demonstrates your willingness to understand your new environment.

Here are a few questions you might want to ask as you settle into your new job:

  • Is it okay to hold lengthy conversations or phone calls at your desk if your workspace is open-plan? If not, where should you go?
  • Can you eat and drink while you work?
  • What can you put in the bin?
  • Is it okay to post workplace news or pictures on social media?
  • Can you personalise your workspace?
  • How “casual” are casual dress days?
  • Are birthdays or special occasions celebrated? What happens?
  • Is it rude to wear headphones while you work?

Head along to our Workplace Rights and Responsibilities workshop this week to learn how to navigate what are acceptable behaviours and actions in the modern workplace.

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