How should you signal that you don’t want to be disturbed?


Our workplaces are becoming less formal as the decor resembles what we have at home, companies relax dress codes, and technology makes it possible to work from anywhere.

But the old formality had some advantages, says Libby Sander from Bond University. For example, closed doors used to signal that you didn’t want to be disturbed, and suits are an easy way to look professional.

As Sander points out, new forms of office etiquette, such as not disturbing someone wearing headphones, are filling this void.

To know how to behave in this new relaxed environment, context matters, says Nicole Gillespie, an associate professor of management at the University of Queensland. This means reading the relationships you have with your co-workers and the wider culture in the office, and being aware of the effect you own actions are having.

Never is this more important than in cases of office profanity. It’s not uncommon to hear a bit of swearing in some workplaces, but it could get you fired in certain circumstances. As part of one Fair Work Commission ruling, the difference comes down to swearing in conversation, versus directly at someone.

“There’s a big difference between that coarse kind of conversation and aggression in someone’s tone of voice, so you’ve got to ask what the intention is,” says Simon Burgess, from the University of New England.

Burgess says it’s up to each of us to hone our communication skills and perhaps improve our office etiquette a bit.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Please refer to The Conversation’s republishing guidelines before republishing this article.

Before starting at The Conversation Jenni worked on the Mindframe national media initiative, helping journalists report on mental illness and suicide.

Josh joined The Conversation after stints in print, radio and online. His background in politics, philosophy and economics positions him to tackle issues from a variety of disciplines.

Nadia Isa is an editor within the Business & Economy section of The Conversation.


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