Don’t Bring Fish for Lunch and Other No-Nos in the Workplace

by Gabi Bourn

Gabi Bourn
Production Manager at Wunderman

When you start at a new workplace, you will undoubtedly face many new challenges. Some office rules are clearly stated, but there might be a few others that might be a little less obvious but equally important. Understanding and adapting to these rules prove crucial in building good working relationships. Here’s a few common unwritten rules that you might need to consider for your workplace:

Follow the Dress Code

Read, understand, and print out the dress code if you need to. Some offices may allow for casual Fridays with jeans and t-shirts. This does not mean you should wear ripped jeans and an old t-shirt. Please follow the dress code and use common sense for areas of ambiguity.

Bonus tip: It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. If you have to ask if it’s appropriate, don’t wear it! Remember to dress for the job you want, not the one you have.


Just don’t go there.

Personal Phone Calls at Work

We’ve all had to take a personal call at work, but do try to keep it to a minimum. Two or more phone calls a day would classify as too much. If you do need to make a call, please go to a private place. Keep your personal life private.

Stay Awake

This should go without saying, but whether you are at your desk, in a meeting or anywhere else at work, just stay awake. If you are extra tired, try chewing gum to help yourself stay awake and alert.

Watch What You Say

Whether you are in your own office, a cubicle, or an open-concept design watch what you say. Definitely don’t participate in office gossiping. Sometimes just being present while others are talking can give the appearance of participating. Remove yourself from any situation that might prove inappropriate.

Don’t Go To a Meeting Empty Handed

Arriving to a meeting with no pen and paper or laptop is a big no-no. People that do that are silently saying that they plan on learning nothing noteworthy in that meeting. When you are in a new job, you should not go anywhere without pen and paper. Even if you don’t think you need it, having a notepad and pen tells the other people in the room that you are respectful and ready to participate in the meeting.

Don’t Schedule Meetings at Lunch or at the End of the Day

Try to be aware of the time when scheduling meetings. Here are a few examples of bad timing: early on a Monday morning, late on a Friday, and anytime around lunchtime. Certainly, sometimes these meetings are unavoidable due to schedule conflict, but at least try a few different alternatives before scheduling a 4:00pm meeting on a Friday. If you do need to schedule at an inopportune time or over an existing meeting, acknowledge and apologize up front. Small gestures can go a long way.

Put the Cell Phone Down

In some offices, it is okay to occasionally look at your cell phone during the workday, but do not assume that. For the first week or so, don’t even pull your phone out of your bag. Take some time to observe your co-workers and determine what the norm is in your office.

Keep Social Media Accounts Closed (This Includes YouTube)

Unless you are working as a social media manager, do not look at social media while at work. Don’t take a quick Snapchat. Don’t post a tweet. Don’t have YouTube on in the background of your computer. If this is just too risky for you, remember the earlier tip of not even picking up your cell phone while at work.

And, Don’t Bring Fish for Lunch

Trust us, it will smell and no one will want you or your food in the office. If you simply must have fish for lunch, please be aware and try to minimize the smell. For example, do heat up you lunch and stay in the breakroom, but do not heat up your lunch and walk all through the office to go back to your desk for lunch. Try to be respectful of others.

All of these rules are important, but some rules are meant to be broken. Follow the rules for a time to see which ones can and cannot be broken in your work environment. While some rules are meant to be broken, do not break every rule.

Bonus tip: If possible, let someone else break the rule first.


Originally published on LinkedIn, republished with permission.

By Hire Bauer
Hire Bauer Front Desk - RCC