Some workplace rules are stupid. That’s a fact. Who cares about tattoos or beards at the office if they don’t affect your work ethic? But other rules were created for a reason. Unfortunately, the rise of casual work environments and lackadaisical workplace norms has caused these time-tested rules to be neglected and forgotten. Even worse, most of these rules ingrained in company culture remain unwritten and unspoken, making it tough to determine what’s appropriate.
The workforce is riddled with bad manners and improper etiquette. So it’s best to fall back on traditional workplace norms to point you in the right direction. We’ve rounded up 15 of the most important, yet forgotten workplace rules that bosses and employees should remember.
1. The appropriate amount to charge on an expense account
When you travel as part of your job, charging things to your company can be tricky. There’s a gray area in knowing what to expense and what to fund on your own. And asking your boss usually produces a response, such as “Use your best judgment.”
Understand that when companies toss responsibility back to you, they’re testing your decision-making skills without supervision. If you take advantage, you could find yourself in hot water — like the man and his escort who racked up $5.8 million in unauthorized credit card business expenses in just over a year and a half. They’re now under criminal investigation by the FBI.
The workplace rule of thumb is don’t expense things you wouldn’t normally buy with your own money. For example, one glass of wine at dinner is fine, but ordering the bottle for the table or indulging in a third rounds of liquor drinks won’t go over well with the brass back home. Other examples of things that shouldn’t be expensed include upgraded hotel rooms, movie rentals, or snacks from the hotel mini bar.
Next: Is your overtime pay about to be revoked?
2. Overtime pay
The controversy around overtime has been heightened recently as the Trump administration made moves to revise the “final rule” overtime bill that President Barack Obama initiated while in office. Under the rule, the annual salary threshold for exempt positions eligible for mandatory overtime would more than double from $23,660 to $47,476, causing employers to worry about affording all that annual overtime pay.
Along with enforcing a standard 40 hours per week expectation, bosses and companies should bring back overtime pay to reward their employees who go the extra mile, regardless of the political scuffle. Some low-wage workers are even fighting back. Employees at food chain Chipotle and grocery chain Wawa have sued their employers for neglecting to pay overtime. And the luxury apparel store Burberry was ordered to pay workers $2.54 million in overtime pay.
Next: The rule about popping by unannounced
3. Making appointments
All employees and bosses should reinstate the importance of scheduling appointments for others’ time. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s not uncommon for co-workers to simply appear at your desk demanding answers or action. Not only is this rude, but it hurts productivity. Instead, professionals should recall a time when it was respectful to create a meeting to discuss project changes in detail or schedule a telephone call with a client before dialing and catching someone off guard.
Next: The unspoken rules of virtual meetings
4. Conference call etiquette
Conference calls have always been a vital form of communication in the office, but as companies continue to develop entirely remote workforces, the conference call — and video call — is an event everyone should master.
A lack of visual cues could make it difficult to communicate like you would in person. Employees should remember to take extra steps to communicate effectively, such as announcing your name before you speak, introducing yourself to a team you never met, and addressing any potential background noise that might affect the call from your end. If you’re in traffic or in a noisy environment, warn the group that your microphone is muted to cut back on distractions.
Next: The email chain cutoff time
5. Emailing at night
There’s neverending controversy around email etiquette and whether suggesting employees avoid sending work emails after hours is an outdated workplace standard. If your boss fires off a detailed project email at night, should you respond? Will you be out of the loop come morning if you do not?
A study by Yesware found email reply rates were highest on the weekend when inbox competition is scarce. However, the Harvard Business Review suggests a boss who sends a late-night email is indirectly implying that only the most dedicated and hard-working employees will respond immediately, which does nothing for team morale.
Bosses and employees can send emails at night if that’s when they are most productive.But they should also make it clear they’re not expecting a response from others until morning. Even Superman needed some downtime every now and then.
Next: The deal with performance reviews
6. Performance reviews
It’s no secret that annual performance reviews are quickly becoming a thing of the past. And that’s a good thing, as research shows they do little to influence work ethic, performance, or loyalty. But employees must remember that some form of reviews is a standard work place rule for a reason. Employees need feedback and direction to feel valued at work, so finding ways to better measure performance and potential raises are non-negotiable.
Next: How to bring back fashion guidelines at work
7. Appropriate office attire
Even the House of Representatives can’t decide what constitutes appropriate workplace attire today as it recently made news for turning away female reporters donning open-toed shoes and sleeveless shirts. With dress code standards getting increasingly lax, it begs the question: What is appropriate office attire today?
America surely had some input in response to the House controversy. The overall consensus was appropriate outfits should look put together, be clean, and blend with a style that matched the rest of the office workers. It’s important to remember no matter how casual your workplace claims to be, flip flops, shorts, and showing excess skin will always be deemed inappropriate.
Next: Rules regarding quitting time
8. When the workday actually ends
So many employees are worried how it looks when they leave the office before their boss does. But if your boss consistently works past 8 p.m., are you still required to be present rather than home with your family? Not in the least.
Employees should try to remember that not everyone is married to their work. Some are actually married to other human beings instead. If your office is struggling to define the parameters of the workday, it’s best to inquire about expectations. If you’re expected to stay until all work is done, ask whether working remotely after 5 p.m. would be acceptable.
Next: Anyone remember what work-life balance is?
9. An actual work-life balance
The lines that used to define a committed employee are now blurred. Employees are drowning in the notion that only those who live and breathe their work have an actual work ethic. For instance, Gary Vaynerchuk, internet personality and entrepreneur, advises an approach to life that “cuts out leisure” in order to maximize focus. As reported by Mic, “I push work ethic because it’s a variable, and I believe it’s far more controllable. Hard work really matters.”
More than half of America is afraid to take vacation for fear of appearing incapable to management. But it’s well documented that all work and no play leads to a positively dreadful work experience. Even the best employees must learn not to be afraid of time away from the office.
Next: Amazon redefines work hours in a way that affects us all.
10. Defining work ethic
Expanding on the need for balance, companies should do all they can to promote healthy work environments. Amazon recently came under fire for its “particularly grueling” workplace culture. The New York Times described it as this: “At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are ‘unreasonably high.’”
Amazon never bothered to deny its long work hours. But Stanford computer science professor Eric Roberts noted that productivity decreases as work hours increase. When employees must work longer than 40 to 50 hours per week, stress and fatigue set in, meaning their total output over an extended period of time will drop below the level it had been during normal weeks. Therefore, if you want a vacation don’t be afraid to take it, even when peers are not. Your work ethic will speak for itself upon your return.
Next: An open-door policy that’s not all that open
11. The open-door policy
Many CEOs still stand by the open-door policy. But is it really an invitation to barge in unannounced? As it turns out, managers aren’t in love with the notion of you marching into the C-suite and projecting your brilliance. Instead, it’s best to schedule time on their calendars before inviting yourself in to shoot the breeze with the captain.
Next: Unspoken rules about time off that must be addressed
12. Time-off requests
Attitudes are changing about proper vacation and sick day requests. Giving at least a two-week notice is standard workplace law, but responsible employees should also follow certain rules that remain unwritten in the employee handbook when it comes to time-off requests. It’s best to remember that vacation time is a perk and not a right. So taking vacation as a new employee before mastering your position could tarnish your reputation. If you’re one of those employees who continually request leave during busy seasons, it won’t be long until co-workers catch on and think less of you.
Next: Where the boundaries are
13. Professional boundaries
Even if you’re friendly with your colleagues, beware of overstepping or crossing the line. Some boundaries just shouldn’t be crossed. Oversharing details of your personal life is still as unprofessional in 2017 as it was in 1974, no matter how close you are with your team or how casual your work environment is.
Next: Some things should remain private.
14. No badmouthing the boss
Facebook and other social media platforms encourage people to post their private thoughts to the world. So it’s never been easier to put your foot in your mouth when you’re having a bad day at work. When you need to vent, conduct your work rampage offline and in private like employees did before the internet. Or else words can come back to haunt you online when you least expect it.
Next: There’s a time to voice your opinions.
15. There’s a time and place for opinions
Employers love to tout a consensus-driven culture, but it would bode well for employees to remember that voicing your unwarranted opinions doesn’t always mean anyone at the top will listen. Open communicated is likely encouraged, but there’s a time and place for everything. Pay close attention to the communication chain before speaking up and sharing ideas. The person who respects the chain of command and avoids going over another employee’s head will usually find more success than those who don’t.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.