You did it–you graduated, secured your first job, and are heading into the next chapter of your life. As you embark into the working world, you probably feel nervous and excited about your first day at work. It’s normal to feel that way–but as you ease into your new routine, you might find that some of the things you did while a student, or at your part-time job or internship, aren’t exactly welcomed in your brand new, shiny office.
Is it okay to wear jeans to work? Is your “Work Mode” Spotify playlist appropriate for the office? Is chewing gum at work a cool or rude thing to do?
If you’re worried about how to behave at work as the new employee, we spoke with Business etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach Jacqueline Whitmore to determine the top five office rules every new graduate needs to know.
1. Music Is Okay, If It’s Not Distracting
Many people love to listen to music while they work. For some, it can make them more creative or help them focus; but for others, music can be distracting or deter them from productivity.
“If you’re in a main space where everyone works, I would say no. But if you’re in a private office, I would say yes,” explains Jacqueline. “If you can wear headphones without it making you less productive you can do so, but it also depends on your position and level of focus. If your job is to be aware of what’s going on around you, such as an office manager or assistant position, then you shouldn’t be listening to music at work.”
2. Avoid Personal, Political And Religious Conversations
Want to know what you shouldn’t talk about at work with your coworkers? Gossip about coworkers, sex, politics, and money are the four topics Jacqueline says you absolutely should avoid discussing at work.
“If you’re talking about the budget for your department, that’s different,” she says. “But if you’re asking questions about how much someone’s car cost or what they bought over the weekend, that’s not appropriate.”
3. If You’re Going To Snack, Do So Quietly
Chewing gum is not inappropriate at work–unless you’re doing it loudly, with your mouth open and are popping bubbles in your coworkers’ faces. If you’re quietly chewing a piece of gum after lunch or like a minty-fresh pick up in the afternoon, you’re not going to get fired for doing so. But, it’s the loud chewing (or sticking of gum under the desk at work) that’s going to get you called into the principal–er, boss’s–office.
“The break room is for eating, so it’s having snacks at your desk that is taboo,” notes Jacqueline. “Avoid anything that is too crunchy and noisy or has a potent smell to it. Any kind of messy eating at your desk is just not a good image. However, everyone does eat at their desk, so I would just make sure the food isn’t overly pungent and be quiet. And of course–don’t take calls with food in your mouth.”
4. Two Drinks Max At Work-Related Social Events
Every now and then, your office might throw a party or host a “happy hour” at the end of the day. While it can be fun to relax with your coworkers over a beer in the office, you want to make sure you avoid drinking too much, especially as a new member of the team.
While Jacqueline notes it can depend on your tolerance level, she says two drinks is the maximum you want to have at a work function to avoid getting intoxicated or impaired in front of your coworkers.
5. Be Respectful And Kind
What’s the number one rule for behaving at work? “Treat others the way you want to be treated,” says Jacqueline.
It’s something your parents might have told you over and over again as a kid, but it still holds true because it’s the best way to be a decent person, especially inside an office. If you wouldn’t want someone yelling at you in front of your coworkers, don’t do the same to them. If you wouldn’t want people to be gossiping about your divorce or weight gain, don’t talk that way about others.
At the end of the day, you have come back and face your coworkers again tomorrow–so treat them with respect, be kind, and before you make rude comments or jokes at the expense of a co-worker, think about how it would make you feel.