It may not be written in your employee handbook, but you know better than to clip your toenails at work or adjust your undergarments during an office meeting.
Anny Chih, Special to QMI Agency
Is it acceptable though to file a nail in the lunchroom or apply body lotion at your desk?
Each office has its own unique set of unspoken rules designed to fit the company culture and it can be difficult to keep track of them all. Generally, a good rule to follow in the workplace is that if an activity involves a strong smell or any form of bodily discharge it should be reserved for a private setting.
Overpowering perfumes can cause allergic reactions or headaches for co-workers, and some may consider sloughing sun burnt skin or cleaning a bloody cut in public as off-putting as taking a leak outside the toilet. If you are unsure about office policies, err on the side of caution by giving yourself plenty of privacy and breathing space.
While your cubicle may seem like a private place to fix the nail polish that didn't dry properly or change the bandages from your sports injury, it's not. The smell of nail polish or the idea that you neglected to wash your hands after handling a bloody bandage can be repulsive to your co-workers and make them think twice about letting you borrow their stapler. If an activity requires a garbage can, use the one in the restroom.
And if you think you're free from judgment in the privacy of the public restroom, think again. Gossip may be rumoured to spread by the water cooler, but its subject matter is often produced in the washroom. To prevent getting your hands dirty, wash them after coming out of a stall even if you were only there to blow your nose.
Office etiquette is all about showing courtesy to your co-workers by minimizing their possible discomfort. This may mean leaving an extra stall between you and the next person in the washroom, resisting the temptation to show off your new breast tattoo, or leaving the pungent leftovers at home. Every workplace has different rules but until you find out what they are, keep it to yourself.
Anny Chih is a student at University of British Columbia, former BCIT student and graduate of Simon Fraser University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org