Let's face it: sometimes all you really want at work is your own way. Now, I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can be better at my job - we all do. However, sometimes it just comes down to that basic human desire to exert some control over our environment. For example, the other day I was so frustrated! I had brought a delicious ham salad sandwich to work made with the last of the weekend's picnic ham. I would like to point out it was clearly labeled and dated when I put it in the fridge. However, when I went to get my yummy lunch, I discovered that it - along with most of the rest of the contents of the fridge - were gone. Some well-meaning, fridge-cleaning jerk had pitched my sandwich! Needless to say I was hungry and really steamed. I don't mind if people clean the fridge, but we need a schedule. Is it really that hard? Well, I put my anger to work and drew up a calendar for fridge-cleaning in the future. I placed it on the fridge so that people could sign up on the highlighted days to clean the fridge and added a note saying that these were the only days on which the fridge should be cleaned. (Of course, I got my boss' approval first). Now we have a policy for cleaning and I am less likely to lose my next sandwich.

So do you think I'm just bragging or whining? Well, I'm not. I'm describing one of the best ways to get your way at work: take control. Most people in an office are not particularly interested in taking initiative. They will follow stated instructions. So if you want to get your way, become the source of those instructions. Be nice about it. Do not storm into offices yelling out directions and criticisms. If you can, you may not even want to notify anyone that the instructions they are getting are from you (my fridge post, for example, was unsigned and most people think that my boss implemented the rule). Be subtle and tread lightly for the best results.

Of course, you will not always be able to get your way with a simple, printed note or a post-it. Sometimes, you will need a bit more diplomacy. One way to make sure that this is effective is to moderate your responses. For example, do not blow up at every little thing. Save your irritation for the big things. Then, when you actually get angry, you will get a response other than eye-rolling. Just knowing you have the ability to make changes at the office can go a long way toward improving your work mindset. You will find that when you know change is within your power, you are willing to use that power judiciously and wisely.


Category: Etiquette

Lots of offices have "unspoken etiquette" rules that you will need to identify as quickly as possible in order to slip smoothly and effectively into a routine in a new job. Sometimes the rules may not be crystal clear and you may have to look hard in order to avoid offending someone with whom you work or creating an unintended conflict. Being able to identify "unspoken etiquette" is as much about being courteous and asking the right questions as reading the office rule book, so be prepared to be polite and be corrected along the way.

One of the biggest issues in office etiquette that may go unaddressed is, surprisingly, the dress code. Most offices do have some formal dress code, but generally you should err on the side of conservatism, particularly at first, rather than walking the fine line between appropriate and inappropriate. Add a few inches on skirts past the bare minimum and keep decolletage largely covered, particularly if you are well endowed, until you have seen how other people with similar body types to yours dress in the office and observed office mates' reactions and behaviors around them.

Next, be aware of simple things, like allergies. Most offices have no problem with air fresheners or even candles, though the majority do prohibit incense. However, if the guy in the office next door has asthma or allergies, it might be considerate to find out how those items will impact his ability to breath. And frankly, strong scents make many people nauseous. Even if no one is actually allergic, you might want to think twice before putting in something the aroma of which will not be entirely contained in your office.Finally (and this is the big one) fish and popcorn. You're probably thinking, "What?!" but these are huge office "no-no's." They both stink up the entire workplace with a pervasive and not universally pleasant smell that can take days to dissipate. So leave these two food items at home, or prepare them ahead of time, so that you do not stink up the kitchen for everyone. (Cabbage, while far less popular, is also pretty smelly when microwaved and should be avoided). Keeping your eye out and your ears alert can help you stay on top of things at your office and keep all your co-workers happy.