7 social expectations at work (that nobody warns you about!) –
What we're covering..
Social expectations at work are different to the ones we have in school or our personal lives.
It’s common to have the same social expectations across different jobs, yet somehow nobody really warns you about them when you get a job!
It’s important to know what the social expectations at work are, so that you can keep them in mind when interacting with your colleagues!
Learning about the social expectations of others at work can help you build better working relationships and to become a great coworker.
1. Holidays/time off 🏖️
Requesting time off 🙏
Wouldn’t it be great to take a day off whenever you feel like it?
We wish ☹️
Unfortunately, nowadays there is a social expectation to check with your manager first when you need to take a day off.
Regardless of the reason, it is important to ask for time off in a way that is respectful and appropriate.
This will help to keep your employer and colleagues happy.
If you’re uncomfortable with asking for time off, consider these tips:
- Be as specific as possible about when you need the time off.
- Whilst you usually shouldn’t have to explain why you’re taking a holiday – if you’re requesting it last minute you should really have a good reason for your request e.g. sickness, mental health issues, family emergencies and personal emergencies.
- Consider if anyone will need to cover your work whilst you’re off. Your manager will love it if you’re really organised and can arrange all of this beforehand.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to ask for time off – ideally give as much notice as possible.
- Make sure to put your holiday requests through the company’s online HR portal if you need too! Your holiday request might be rejected if you don’t.
- Check with your colleagues to see if they want you to log your holiday dates in their calendars to remind them that you’ll be away.
Out of offices 📨
If you’re going to be away from work or difficult to contact, you can set an “out of office” message, that will remind people that you’ll be away.
When someone emails you, an out of office (“OOO”) will auto reply to tell people that you’re away.
It is important to set an out of office notification if you are taking a break from work.
This will let your colleagues know that you are not available and will prevent any misunderstanding.
Handing over your work 🤝
If you’ve got work that need to be covered when you’re away, it’s always helpful to put together some “hand over” notes for whoever will be picking up your work.
That way they can use the notes when you’re gone, and they’ll feel confident about what they need to do!
2. Lunch 🍽️
Smelly food 👃🥦
If you’re working with colleagues in-person, smelly food can be a big source of arguments.
When you’re using a shared space to work or cook food, it’s worth considering whether your food smells could distract or upset your colleagues.
Eating in meetings 🍔
Not all workplaces like it when you eat in meetings.
Some people might even see it as rude and get offended if you bring food with you to a meeting.
It’s worth checking with your colleagues what the expectations are for eating in meetings beforehand.
If you have a health requirement to eat regularly (potentially in meetings) it’s worth making sure that your employer knows about it straight away so that they can accommodate you.
3. Getting on with people 🤝
Avoiding arguments 💣
People expect you to be nice, friendly, and polite when you are working with them.
You might be really comfortable arguing at home with family or friends, but at work, there is a huge expectation for you to avoid having difficult arguments with your colleagues.
In particular, a lot workplaces really won’t like it if you:
- shout at a colleague
- make fun of someone
- physically fight with someone
- argue repeatedly with colleagues
- swear at colleagues
- make it difficult for colleagues to feel comfortable around you
If you’re having issues with your colleagues it’s worth speaking to your line manager or the HR department (Human Resources) for your workplace.
Disagreements with coworkers are okay – but you need to be calm, polite, and professional when you address them.
Even if you feel very strongly about something, you might not get your way.
Asking how people are 🤗
Asking how people are is a great way to make a good impression at work.
Whilst it is a work environment, and can sometimes be more formal, it’s nice to show that you are interested about the people you work with.
It’s worth keeping in mind that some people may not want to share their personal problems with co-workers so they might not tell you a lot when you ask.
Chatting before meetings/small talk 💬
If you’re hanging around waiting for a meeting, or in the kitchen making a coffee, it might be tempting to check your phone or ignore the people around you.
Resisting this temptation can really pay off if you make the effort to chat with colleagues instead.
Chatting with colleagues can help you to build better relationships with them, and also makes it less likely that you could be seen as rude for ignoring colleagues.
Turning your phone off 📵
For some workplaces, people will get really offended if you’re using your phone, or taking personal calls, particularly in meetings.
It’s generally polite to turn your phone off for meetings, so that you can give people your full attention.
Of course, this is not always possible and if you’re expecting an urgent call or a personal call, it might be worth letting people know in advance.
Being nice to people you don’t like 🙄
Being nice to people you don’t like is a social expectation at work.
It’s not just about being polite, it’s about being considerate and coming across as someone who cares about the person.
They might be the most annoying person in the world, (maybe your coworkers hate them too!)…
BUT – people who are rude to their co-workers will often be seen as unprofessional, which can have a negative impact on their career.
4. Goals at work 🏅
A lot of workplaces expect you to have regular “121” meetings with your manager, to discuss your work with them. These can be opportunities to talk about things like:
- Your achievements
- Things you can improve upon
- Your targets
- Your wellbeing at work
- Upcoming holidays/time off
- Your career goals
- Passing your probation (if you’re a new employee, you might be on a test period for your first 1-6 months on the job called a “probation period”). Once you pass you usually become a permanent employee!
Even if you hate talking to your manager or don’t enjoy 121 meetings, there is a social expectation to treat 121s like they are important meetings.
This means that it could be a good idea to:
- attend 121s on time
- prepare notes beforehand – things you want to talk to your manager about, any questions etc.
- listen to what your manager has to say
- respond politely
Having personal development goals 📝
Even if you’re just doing your job for the money – there is a social expectation at work that you do the job because it fits in with your career goals.
Companies will very often ask you about your career goals, and ask you to create a “personal development plan” to make sure that you’re getting training at work.
When asked about your career goals, you definitely shouldn’t say, “I’m just here to get paid”.
It’s okay to be unsure about your long-term career goals and to be open about that.
However, if you treat the job like a personal development opportunity, and something that fits your career goals – you might be offered training and career opportunities.
Who doesn’t want free training and career opportunities?
It’s always worth considering what training or development opportunities you can gain from working there.
5. Personal appearance 💃🕺
Follow the dress code 👔
These days a lot more workplaces are more relaxed about their dress code.
Some really cool workplaces even encourage you to bring your true self to work, including your personal sense of style.
It’s always good to check the workplace dress code however, to make sure your outfits won’t cause any issues for you at work.
Looking smart and clean 🧽
Whilst dress codes tend to change between workplaces, one thing that doesn’t change is that workplaces want you to appear smart and clean.
The way you look reflects on the workplace’s reputation, so employers will always want you to appear well-cared for.
6. How you speak 💬
Being polite 🎩
In the workplace, it is important to be polite and respectful of others.
Even if you work somewhere that is quite relaxed and informal – there is still a social expectation for you to be considerate and polite towards others.
You can be polite to others by:
- Being nice to everyone you meet
- Not gossiping about your colleagues or their personal lives
- Listening to others
- Helping other people
- Avoiding difficult arguments
If you are not polite, people will not want to be around you and they might even start to avoid you.
Avoiding swearing 🤬
At work it’s reeeeally important to know when it is okay or not okay to swear.
You might work in a very informal and relaxed environment – but that doesn’t mean that people won’t be offended by you swearing.
For example, most workplaces will not tolerate swearing:
- in front of customers
- at colleagues during an argument
- at your manager
- in front of senior leaders e.g. CEOs, directors
Swearing and using bad language can give a bad impression, and might make colleagues feel uncomfortable working with you.
Avoiding topics that cause arguments 💣
You spend a lot of time with your co-workers, which can result in talking to them about a lot of different things.
There are however, some topics that your employer would reeeally want you to be careful talking about – or perhaps just avoiding them altogether.
If you do talk about them, you have to be very considerate of others, sensitive and respectful about it.
This can include things like your opinions on:
- Intimate relationships
These are topics that people can be very emotionally connected to – and any disagreements or difficult conversations about them could create a rift between you and your coworkers.
If an argument kicks off about these topics, people might accuse you of being the problem because you’re having conversations that aren’t related to your work, and blame you for it.
Remember that you will work with a large variety of people at work – each with their own views and personal experiences.
Not everyone will share your views and opinions – and some people may be personally hurt by your views on these sensitive topics.
It’s really important to ensure that your coworkers feel comfortable working with you.
Being positive ☀️
Who wants to work with someone who is negative all the time?
Most people want to work with someone who is positive, and it has become a social expectation at work to try and be a positive person.
The good news is that being a positive person is not about being fake or acting like everything is perfect all the time.
It’s about choosing how you want to live your life and how you want other people to perceive you.
You can be a positive person at work by avoiding:
- criticising colleagues
- being too negative
- complaining all the time
- saying mean things
- discouraging people
Some positive things you can do at work include:
- helping others
- asking people how they are
- complimenting people’s work
- cheering your colleagues on
- listening to others
- encouraging new ideas
- being enthusiastic
7. Caring about company policies/rules 😇
Reading the rules when asked 👀
Workplaces usually have written down rules for everyone to follow.
These are often called “company policies”.
Workplaces will often ask you to read the workplace rules regularly, so you can keep up to date on what is expected from you.
Reading all these company policies might be really boring, but rules are there to protect you and others at the workplace.
There is a social expectation for you to treat these rules with care and attention.
It’s also really important for you to know the rules, so that you don’t break them and get into trouble!
Getting your training done as soon as possible 📚
Workplaces usually have mandatory training for you to do.
This can include things like learning about:
- How to treat others
- New laws and regulations that affect your work
- Health and safety
Workplaces will often ask you to complete training regularly, so you can keep up to date on what is expected from you.
Doing all this training might be really boring, but training is there to protect you and others at the workplace.
There is a social expectation for you to treat mandatory training with care and attention.
It’s also really important for you to get your training completed, so that you don’t make mistakes and get into trouble!
So that’s it!
Social expectations in work includes things like:
- Requesting time off 🙏
- Using out of offices 📨
- Handing over your work 🤝
- Avoid putting smelly food around co-workers 👃🥦
- Being polite about eating in meetings 🍔
- Avoiding arguments 💣
- Asking how people are 🤗
- Chatting before meetings/small talk 💬
- Turning your phone off 📵
- Being nice to people you don’t like 🙄
- Respecting 121s 📆
- Having personal development goals 📝
- Following the dress code 👔
- Looking smart and clean 🧽
- Being polite 🎩
- Avoiding swearing 🤬
- Avoiding topics that cause arguments 💣
- Being positive ☀️
- Reading the rules when asked 👀
- Getting your training done as soon as possible 📚
Hopefully you’re feeling more confident about social expectations at work.
If you know any friends or family members who might benefit from learning about social expectations at work, share this post with them!
Finally, don’t forget to check out our similar articles below!
Similar articles to “7 social expectations at work (that nobody warns you about!)” ⬇️
for free daily Grown-Up lessons 🙌🎉