Email Etiquette (and Other Other Unspoken Rules of the Workplace)

A wise person once said, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” While this might not seem like groundbreaking wisdom, the concept has always stuck with me. It’s encouraged me to ask questions and not to make assumptions about what others may know (or not know). In the spirit of that advice, I compiled a list of email and professional etiquette from my time in the workplace and the crowdsourced advice from others with decades of experience. While some of this may seem simple or obvious, I hope you can take away some tidbits that maybe you didn’t know, you didn’t know.   

Learn the art of “reply all.” This may seem to be common sense, but it’s actually a super important skill that a lot of people miss! As a standard rule, if you are receiving a general email that is meant as an announcement or for situational awareness, there is rarely a need to reply all. You’ll likely end up annoying your colleagues and clogging up their inboxes, which is definitely an office faux pas. On the other hand, if you are included in an email with a few other team members or relevant stakeholders (where typically a smaller group is cc’d), you should absolutely reply all with any pertinent updates. And if you’re in charge of sending a mass communication email? BCC (blind copying) is always your friend!  


Proofread all of your emails, and then do it again. Again, this sounds like it should be a standard practice, but I can’t count how many times I’ve received emails addressed to “Alex” or “Alexa,” or full of glaring typos. Names are important, and it’s a sign of respect to address people appropriately. If you’re including links, be sure to double check those as well. No one is perfect, but typos and errors should be kept to an absolute minimum. Also, depending on your audience, the occasional emoji may be fine, but plz keep the text shorthand at home. 😊 (See what I did there?)  


Set up a professional email signature. Your office may have a standard format that they would like you to use, but that typically includes your full name, title, contact information (email and/or phone number), as well as links to your company website or social media pages.   


If you are leading a meeting or requesting a meeting, send an agenda in the calendar invite. Everyone complains about meetings, right? As a fully remote employee, I personally love meeting with my team, but I also want to respect everyone’s time. Agendas are incredibly important for keeping us on track and organized. Sending them in an email ahead of time, or including in the calendar invite, makes it easy to access and follow along during the call.  


It’s okay to pick up the phone. People may have varying opinions on this, especially across different generations, but sometimes a quick phone call can eliminate a lot of back-and-forth over email. I’ve saved a lot of time and confusion with my team members by picking up the phone to discuss context quickly or to clarify something that might have been misinterpreted via email. Don’t be scared of the phone!  


Be cognizant of time zones, especially if working across the country or globe. With the shift to more remote work, it always helps to confirm where someone is located, especially when scheduling meetings. Always provide options with the appropriate time zone listed (ET, CT, etc) so that the exact timing is precise.   


Bonus tip: Working in an office? Be very careful about what you microwave in the shared kitchen. I wasn’t going to include this, but it was one of the most frequently shared office tips I received when I crowdsourced this question, and it is definitely an unspoken workplace rule! Steer clear of fish, broccoli, and any other “fragrant” foods that might be offensive to co-workers. Craving some popcorn for a snack? Proceed with caution, because you won’t be making any new friends if you burn it.   

This blog post was written by Alexis Flowers, NeW Vice President of Programs.



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