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Unspoken Work Ethics That Will Help You Be More Respected at Your Workplace

by Fajar Davis. |


Entering into the working world can be a frightening transition for those of us who have never interacted with others beyond a close circle of friends and classmates. Even if you have held a part-time job waiting tables or working a counter, you are probably not quite prepared for the experience of the first job of your career. It’s like diving into the deep end of a world with real consequences for the seemingly millions of microaggressions or missteps that you could accidentally fall into. Every workplace has its own culture that you will need to be mindful of in order to thrive.


Regardless of a company’s unique environment, there are still a few common yet unspoken behaviours that you can take on to become a well-respected employee.


1. Be Polite, Clear and Concise in your Text Messages

We often forget that the recipients of our messages cannot easily discern our tone and emotions from a WhatsApp message. An abrupt request that sounded casual in our head can sound demanding and aggressive through text. A message pointing out the problems in someone’s work can sound angry even if typed with the intention of fixing the problem. That is why it’s so important not to forget your niceties. “Good morning”, “Hello”, “Hope this isn’t a bad time’, etc, can set the tone for whatever follows as being kind and intentional.


When making a request, pointing out an issue or even praising someone for their work, it’s important to use clear language and to hit all the details without writing an entire essay for that person to get through. Using bullet points for each point you want to hit can help you order your thoughts and instructions, making them more comprehensible to the other person. Clarify any important details to ensure there are no misunderstandings. And of course, don’t forget ‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘you’re welcome’.



2. Be Punctual

Being punctual doesn’t just mean showing up to work a few minutes early. It also means starting and finishing your tasks on time, making requests as soon as needed in order to avoid leaving someone else in a bind, coming back as soon as your lunch break ends and just being timely in general. As Malaysians, we tend to have a laid back attitude when it comes to punctuality as we almost consider it our ‘culture’ to be late. However, just because everyone’s doing it doesn’t make it forgivable! Bosses and coworkers are more likely to enjoy working with someone who does not make them wait.



3. Own Your Mistakes

We all make mistakes, whether it be oversleeping, misunderstanding or feeling overwhelmed. In the workplace, these mistakes more strongly affect others. A late student is not the same as a late teacher. Before entering the workplace, it’s quite possible to skate along in life without ever having to own up to and make amends for our mistakes. This may have come at the cost of losing friends and opportunities, but the consequences at work for this kind of behaviour are much more severe.


That is why you must learn to swallow your pride, let go of any defensiveness and give a heartfelt apology to whoever you have inconvenienced with your mistake, and be prepared to work extra hard to make up for it. My lecturer once bought every student in the classroom an ice cream cone because she overslept and ended up coming in an hour late. She did not come into class with a defensive attitude but instead apologised with a gift. It’s not easy to let go of our excuses and address the effects of our mistakes, but it is essential if you want to keep the respect of your workmates when you inevitably do something wrong.



4. Keep Your Problems At Home (or at least in the washroom)

We are not robots. We are human beings with complex emotions and messy lives. Anyone with a heart, even at work, will recognise that. However, that is not an invitation for you to bring your baggage from whatever is happening in your life outside of work, into the office. Devastating events will happen in your life: break-ups, death, injury, accidents and so on. However, you must do your best to come into work ready to work. There is a time and place for seeking support from your co-workers, and that is after office hours.


If you bring your problems into work, not only will the quality of your work suffer, but also your relationships with your coworkers. As saddening as it is to admit, people don’t like to hang around misery. A co-worker who publicly allows their troubles to affect them with crying, ranting and constant sighing is going to eventually be avoided. If you are still too affected then it’s best to request to work from home, take an MC or at the very least take breaks to cry it out in the washroom instead.



5. Don’t Spread Gossip

Last but not least, don’t be the ‘onion aunty’ at your work (regardless of gender). Your co-workers’ affairs, spats, family problems, bad haircut or rude kids are none of your business. In or out of work, spreading juicy bits of news about them will not help you at all in the long run. It does not matter if you perceive it to be harmless, or if everyone else is doing it. You must respect your co-workers in order for them to respect you.



Many of these rules are common courtesy but in real life, we find it much harder to hold ourselves to a high standard. At the end of the day, the best indicator for acceptable behaviour is to consider how you would feel if a co-worker treated you the same way you treated them.

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