Advice from the Other Side: Navigating Office Culture

The lessons you learn in the classroom prepare you for a successful career, no doubt about it. However, the classroom environment doesn’t always mirror the office environment. Navigating office culture and politics can be a bit intimidating when you’re first starting out in the professional world. I, for example, worked in food service and interned in research labs throughout my undergraduate years; I had no idea what to expect when I began working in an office! Here’s a few dos and don’ts that I’ve picked up in my time working at the CCD.

DO observe your colleagues. Every office’s culture and environment is different. Some offices employ a casual dress code, others require their staff to wear suits every day. Some offices have an open door policy, others prefer to communicate mostly through email. Take time in the first few weeks (or months) of your new career to really observe your colleagues and learn how they interact with each other.

While you don’t want to change yourself to conform to others, it’s often a good idea to adapt to the office’s culture and politics.

DON’T gossip. Just don’t do it. Socializing is great, and necessary to feeling comfortable in your office. However, there’s a right and a wrong way to socialize in the office. This may seem like common sense, but it can be easy to get sucked into the office drama. Do your best to remain professional and avoid gossip and rumors that could get you into trouble.

DO develop proper email etiquette. Yep, email etiquette is a thing, and it’s important. The way you write your emails at work sends a message (no pun intended) about how you conduct yourself professionally. Be sure to use professional language (no slang, emoticons, etc.) and proper grammar and spelling. You should also be sure to read emails thoroughly, and respond to them in a reasonable amount of time.

DON’T be disrespectful. Of course you know not to be rude to your colleagues, but it’s also important to remember to respect the time and space of the people you work with. Do you work in an open office space? Maybe stay away from strong-smelling perfumes or foods, and try not to be too loud when others are trying to concentrate on their work. Are you required to attend weekly meetings? Respect your colleagues by always being on time and keeping your phone silenced. These are small things that make a big difference in an office environment.

Navigating office culture for the first time can be a little tricky when you don’t know what to expect. Remember to be observant, professional, and respectful of the people you work with, and you’ll start feeling comfortable in your new career before you know it.


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