The complete workplace etiquette guide for first-time employees

workplace etiquette guide

While there are many tips and tricks for landing a top job or internship, you might be wondering how should you act once you land one. Whether you’re about to start work in the finance industry or Corporate America, professional etiquette is incredibly important.

As a new employee, your attitude, performance and behavior will create the foundation for your professional reputation. Before your first day, internalize this basic etiquette guide to ensure you’ll be respected in the workplace.

For the office

Stay Professional

As mentioned in previous articles, general professionalism at work is of the utmost importance. This includes (but is not limited to) punctuality, proper attire and a positive attitude while you’re in the office. Not only are these key to building your professional reputation, but they’re applicable for every job you may have down the road.

Take Notes

You may not be in school anymore but taking notes will still help you stay organized, retain information longer and improve productivity while at the office. It might not be necessary to take notes on everything, but make sure you’re jotting anything down that’s unfamiliar or any ideas you have during a meeting.

Keeping a notebook on hand for meetings will not only help you keep on top of things, it will show you’re serious about what’s being discussed.


While there is a time and a place for everything, socializing with your coworkers is important to establishing yourself as a friendly face in the office. Strike up a conversation with someone new in the elevator or ask somebody about their weekend plans if you have some extra time before a meeting.

Not only will it help you build professional relationships, it will also make you happier when you have people to talk to in the workplace. Chances are you’ll be spending 40+ hours a week with your fellow employees, so you might as well get to know them!

For emails

Include a Subject Line

Every email you send should have a clear subject line outlining the purpose of the email. Without one, your emails might not get opened and both you and your coworkers’ inboxes can quickly become cluttered.

Use Appropriate Language

Writing emails during your first few weeks at a job holds more weight than you might realize. The tone and language you use will personify yourself to your coworkers, so be mindful of how your emails might sound to somebody who doesn’t know you well.

Stay professional by avoiding slang words and abbreviations until you understand the office environment better. Every team has their own way of communicating, some more informal than others, but err on the side of being more formal when you start out (better safe than sorry!).

Reply in a Timely Fashion

Not every email needs a response, but for those that do make sure you reply within a reasonable period of time. Use your discretion to determine which emails need a response as soon as possible and which emails need a more thorough reply. Even if it takes you awhile to fully respond, a general acknowledgement that you received their note is good practice.

Have a Signature

On your first day, create an email signature that includes your name, title and contact information. Most of the time, businesses have a pre-formatted one already in place, but if not make sure you’re using a professional font and color.

For phone calls/conference calls

Choose a Quiet Location

Before any call, choose a suitable location. The majority of the time, a conference room will be your best bet as it will eliminate any background noise and provide you with a private place to speak.

If your office is small or an open space, be courteous to your coworkers and take a scheduled call in a conference room. Not only will the quiet space help you focus, but it will prevent any unwanted interruptions.

Stay Focused

There are several good practices to employ during phone calls, including staying focused. You may not be able to see the person on the other end, but opening your phone and scrolling through emails will only make you lose track of the conversation. Although tempting, try to stay focused on the actual conversation instead of any electronic ones.

For in-person meetings


Take the time to prepare for every meeting, whether it’s an internal team meeting or a client meeting. While you can occasionally look at your notes (no one expects you to memorize everything you want to say), it’ll be obvious if you’re ill-prepared and blatantly reading from a sheet of paper. Jot down any notes you have beforehand and think about any topics you’d like to cover to make things easier for yourself.

Silence Your Phone

Always turn off your phone before walking into a meeting, or at the very least silence it and put it away. Not only is it rude and disrespectful to constantly be on your phone in front of other people, but it gives the impression that you don’t care about the information being discussed.

Keep it Simple

Clearly articulate your ideas or the issues that come up in a meeting to ensure that everyone stays focused and alert. Long winded answers are a test on everyone’s concentration so keep your comments clear and concise. Take that extra minute to think about phrasing and not only will you keep their attention, you’ll sound more professional.

Though every office is different, it’s a good idea to keep in mind general workplace etiquette when starting a new positon. When in doubt, err on the side of caution, and if you see the rest of the office taking a more relaxed approach, feel free to loosen up once you feel more comfortable.