Don’t be that guy

Kathryn Crawford Saxer Career Management

I was heating up my lunch when my husband stormed into the kitchen. “Don’t be that guy!” he exclaimed.

I looked at the leftover salmon steaming in the microwave.

“You’re right, I’m that guy,” I laughed. “Sorry!”

We were referring to “that guy” who doesn’t realize that he is filling the shared office space with fishy odors.

It made me wonder about other unwritten rules in the workplace, so I surveyed several of my coaching clients — senior-level professionals who have been sharing workspaces with other people for a long time — for their favorite unwritten rules. Here’s a Top 10 list, in no particular order:

• Don’t boil eggs in the lunchroom. Please.

• Don’t interrupt someone wearing headphones, unless it is actually necessary. Headphones are a signal that someone is trying to focus.

• Please spend 10 minutes trying to figure out how to do something before asking for help.

• Dirty dishes go in the dishwasher, not the sink. The dish fairy does not visit the workplace kitchen. You would think this goes without saying.

• Don’t pound on your keyboard. You’ll injure yourself while annoying your neighbors.

• Don’t get drunk in front of your boss. Really.

• In an open office, speak at library volume during normal working hours.

• If you empty the coffee pot, make a new one. Or at least don’t get caught pouring the last cup and walking away.

• Don’t take personal calls in your cube — and shut the door if you have an office. It’s very distracting and tempts your co-workers to snoop on your discussion with your significant other, kids or lawyer.

• When you’re away from your desk, take your cell phone with you or make sure it is in silent mode if you leave it behind. It’s very annoying when someone keeps calling your phone — or it’s getting constant message notifications — while you are in a meeting or in the bathroom.

A little Googling of “unwritten rules in the workplace” came up with 538,000 results. This was my favorite:

“Don’t use the phone in the bathroom,” suggests Monster. “Your voice is 20 percent louder in a bathroom compared to outdoors due to the acoustics and … you never know who may be in the next cubicle.”

First published in The Seattle Times. Read my archive of Seattle Times Explore columns.