Last week we discussed (hopefully over a delicious cup of tea) ways you could bring a touch of personal taste and refinement to your office life in Dressing Dapper for the Workplace. Today, we’ll be exploring how you can follow-up that perfect visual first impression with conduct to match.
To behave “dapper” in the workplace, I believe is nothing more than calling upon the seemingly forgotten art of good manners, and there are so many opportunities throughout the work day to communicate thoughtfulness, consideration, and kindness that will earn us a reputation beyond a perfect presentation.
Perhaps before anyone notices the clothes you wear, they will notice how you carry yourself. Good posture can communicate positively how you feel about yourself and the environment you’re in. It makes you appear alert and confident. I would only caution against strutting– no one likes a strutter.
Whether neutral or contorted from our latest contemplations, our facial expressions speak on our behalf to everyone within our vicinity. Unfriendly expressions (intended or not) can taint how others feel about and behave towards us. But if we make it a point to acknowledge the existence of those around us by looking them in the eye and passing along a smile and a nod, we escape the accidentally damaging effects of a grumpy face and leave a positive impression.
If appropriate, I would encourage everyone to follow-up the nod and a smile with a greeting! A simple hello or good morning would suffice. It is prudent to be respectful of people’s time. You do not want your trip to the break room for a morning cup of coffee to become viewed as a dreaded interruption by those you’re trying to establish good relations with. You should strive for a balance between friendly (saying hello) and respectful (not stopping for a 30-minute chat).
Depending on the size and layout of your office, you can also utilize the “alternate paths.” I have exactly two paths in my office I can take to get to my workspace. I like to alternate between them. I do my best to say hello to all of my coworkers and not just make it a habit to only speak to those in my department or the closest group of desks. It’s quite a good idea to establish relationships across the business. Opportunities to cultivate relationships outside of your immediate coworkers can also be found in lunch– you can sit at a different table in the break room or invite someone from another group to grab a bite.
Once you’re in direct communication territory, you have another hurdle: What do discuss? There is absolutely nothing less dapper than pulling inappropriate topics into your professional relationships. It should be a known rule of polite company, but I have witnessed it too many times to not list them here: Politics, Religion, and Sex will never be acceptable in the workplace or at a workplace function.
Now that we have that covered, let’s turn to what we can talk about to support our blossoming professional relationships. The lightest of workplace relations can be supported with talk of the business (What’s happening with their latest project? Do they have any insight to the latest projections?) or adjacent news. For instance, if you work in an art museum, you can discuss the latest installation you’ve read about (that is perhaps not occurring at your museum but somewhere else in town). Once your polite banter is solidified, you can take it to a slightly more personal level by inquiring about recent activities (See any good movies last weekend? Read any good books lately?).
You might notice all the examples above are all questions and that is because questions relay an interest in someone and what they think far better than an unsolicited lecture ever will. In the end, your coworkers are people and people can tell when you take a genuine interest in them.
They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
When you ask questions and listen to the answers, you’re showing people you believe them to be important and worth listening to. It is polite, considerate and will leave a lasting impression; plus, you could learn something you never anticipated!
The last type of communication that is essential to business is the written word. I believe just about everyone will need to know how to write an effective email message. It happens to be incredibly easy if you keep these three things in mind: Short, to the point, and never hit reply all unless it’s necessary for all people on the chain to read what you have to say. It’s also incredibly wasteful and rude to pass along spam messages.
In some offices, you might find instant messengers and group chat clients to be sneaking into the workplace. Perhaps more delicate than the spoken word, these are most likely recorded for all eternity so it’s best to keep it professional. In my current office, there are chat channels (with topics) for different teams and specific ones for the off-topic chatter regarding the latest Game of Thrones episode. Pay attention to where you’re posting your latest gif and warn before sharing spoilers!
Lastly, a piece of written communication that is never regretted is one that expresses gratitude. It’s incredibly dapper to send along a thank you email whether it’s to your manager or co-worker for help with a recent project or even before you have the job: A note to your interviewers and a personal one to the manager is a great first impression.
Whether it’s silent, written or spoken, how we interact with the people we work with is at the heart of being dapper in the workplace. Remaining kind and considerate is of the utmost importance and never forget that no matter how much your co-workers might feel like a family and your office as a second home you should strive to keep the environment friendly and professional.