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Workplace etiquette - getting to first base

You may feel a bit nervous during the first few days of your practicum placement because everything is new. Starting a new job can be a bit like your first day at school.

However, there’s no need to get too anxious. Firstly, you can reasonably expect that your workplace colleagues and supervisor will tolerate minor mistakes in the first few days. Secondly, there’s plenty of advice on how to behave appropriately in a workplace environment.

Some common-sense advice from various sources includes:

  • Remember the names of people you are introduced to.
  • Being friendly but fairly formal in your dealings with others is a good start, as some may interpret initial informality as a lack of respect.
  • Watch your language - or, rather, watch the language used in the workplace, and model your own on that.
  • Take note of the way people relate to each other - do they discuss their personal lives or is conversation restricted to ‘professional’ matters? If the latter is the case, it’s probably wise to keep your latest domestic disaster story to yourself!
  • Beware of ironically humorous comments. Although ‘black humour’ may be common in your profession, if others do not know you well it is likely to be taken at face value.
  • Dress to suit workplace custom (i.e. don’t wear jeans unless everyone else does). You can be lucky, of course. Some firms encourage employees to wear casual dress.
  • Check your appearance before you leave the washroom.
  • More careers have been sunk in the tearoom than in the boardroom! Be sensitive to established use of tearoom space/chairs and cups. Check whether it’s OK to use the coffee in the cupboard - or do you have to pay to join the tea club first?
  • Bring a cake to morning tea, or shout a round at the local bar early on in the practicum. It may cost more than you want, but the social ‘brownie points’ earned could be worth it.
  • Be tactful and diplomatic in the way you deal with problems - don’t go public with any criticisms of the host organisation or University staff (who probably know your workplace supervisor well).

For more ideas on how to behave in a workplace setting, read WHAT YOU CAN DO IN THE INDOOR LOO? You might also like to check out this list of additional resources.

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