Tools for the Practitioner

Work etiquette

Work etiquette are those things that are expected from you as a professional or codes that you give off in your professional settings. How you treat people, how you approach situations and how you physically present yourself. Your work etiquette, speaks of the whole professional profile you give at work and how others see you. Discussed below find some work etiquettes:

Your first Impression

How you present yourself to others in the business world for the first time speaks volumes. People often form first impressions about others within seconds of meeting them. It is therefore crucial to ensure you are properly prepared to present yourself as a professional. How you dress, how you communicate, your smile, your treatment of others at first meeting is of paramount importance as it will set the tone for the next coming years you will spend with them at the office.

Treatment of other People

How you treat people at work, speaks volume about how you want to be treated and your own personality in turn. If you are kind and helpful and respectful towards your fellow colleagues, you will receive the same treatment in return.

Your Communication style

Your communication style is also very important. What and how you say something are not the same things. You may say something innocent but your tone can give it away as either being sarcastic or even demeaning. It is important to watch our tones when we speak to our colleagues lest we come across as offensive.

How you handle your Meetings

This can easily be the most intimidating part of starting a new job. The environment of a meeting requires some careful navigation to maintain your professional image, whether the meetings are one-on-one, with several colleagues or with external clients. When in meetings, one should think carefully and listen carefully to what is being said. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Speak what is relevant and get your point across as soon as possible. Avoid being too argumentative or confrontational. If you and a fellow colleague have two different points, do not take it personal, it is work after all.

How you take care of your Work Space

Your work space says a lot about you and your personality. You spend most of your time at work than you do at home, therefore, it is vital to keep this space nice and neat. If you are going to add some personal touches to your professional space, make sure to keep them appropriate because that space is considered a reflection of you.

Time management in the workplace

It goes without saying that time management is the first sign of self-management. One who fails to manage themselves will also fail in managing time and others. Time management is the process of organizing and planning how to divide your time between specific activities. Good time management enables you to work smarter - not harder - so that you get more done in less time, even when time is tight and pressures are high. Failing to manage your time damages your effectiveness and causes stress. Sometimes it seems like 24hours in a day is never enough to get everything done, but this is where managing time wisely comes in.

Mastering you time allows you to achieve:

  • Much productivity
  • Makes you a better professional and boosts your reputaion
  • You become less stressed, anxious and agitated.
  • You get more time to focus on other opportunities

Failing to manage your time leaves room for:

  • You never get anything done and miss your due dates
  • Your work is never done to the best of your ability
  • The quality of your work is highly compromised
  • You don't achieve a good professional outlook and may lose respect from your fellow colleagues
  • You are highly stressed and anxious

How to manage and utilise your time effectively:

Ask yourself what is important right now

It's easy to get caught up being "busy" with work that distracts you from more important projects. Always ask, "Is this the best possible use of my time at this exact minute?" If not, stop what you're doing and direct your efforts toward another activity that is going to give you a bigger reward.

Tame Your Technology

Sometimes, in order to be really productive and focused, you might need to send your calls to voice mail and turn off your social media notifications. Social media is a major distractor, because people are always busy and always want to update their lives, however, social media is a big time-waster also. This is when you need to turn off your notifications until your work is done. As a practitioner, it would be very rude to be on your phone while assisting your client. Quick tip: check your messages once in the morning, once after lunch, and once more before you leave the office. You'll be able to respond to important issues as they come up, and still have time to get some actual work done.

Clear the mess around you

Some people have a hard time staying focused because the piles of files, papers on their desks distract them from the task at hand. Clear the clutter off of your desk and other visible surfaces, then only have out what you are currently working on. This will help you stay focused and make you more efficient. You will be able to focus on one thing until you finish it.

Write down what you need to do

If your mind can't seem to settle down, and you keep thinking of the million other things other than what you should be focusing on right now, rather keep a notebook or diary on your desk and write down each of these to-do's as they occur to you. Emptying them out of your head will allow you to stay focused on the task at hand, without fear of forgetting something important. Then once you are done, you will be able to move on to your next task.

See how you schedule your work

Many people are good at drafting a to-do list, yet at times they find that they are failing in completing the tasks they said they would complete. If you face this sort of challenge, try actually scheduling each to-do on your calendar. Commit a lot of time on a specific day to each item on your list until you are done with everything.

Conflict in the workplace

Anytime different personalities from different walks of life come together under one roof, conflict is bound to arise. Though it does not necessarily mean the conflicts have to be bitter, maturity in the workplace is still a vital tool that must always be applied and assist in leaving room for emotional intelligence to overcome the urge to hold grudges. It is very important for an individual to understand that the workplace is not a personal space, though many times we find ourselves entangled in a lot of persona issues with one another because we spend more time with each other each day than with anyone else. Individuals must understand that conflict will happen, but how one handles it will determine their environment set-up going forward. It is also vital for one to understand that, you cannot please everyone, whether it's at work or church or even in your own family, it is unlikely that you will make everyone like you. Still, a need to handle this maturely is of paramount importance. In a country such as South Afruca, where we speak 11 official languages and the society is comprised of various ethnic groups, conflict in the workplace is also bound to happen. Some typical causes of conflicts in a typical South African workplace for example are:

Difference in culture and ethnicity

South Africa is a multicultural and multi-ethnic country. With that comes stereotypes of each tribe which may come across as offensive. Often times stereotypes associated with certain ethnic groups or cultural groups are often heard discussed either in passing, in a joking or even serious manner when in the workplace, such carelessness can have the potential to create a volatile working environment. Some people may fail to address an individual as they are or as a professional instead they may address them based in the stereotype they hold of them. Tribalism and racism still affect many people in the workplace almost daily. And these differences and conflicts have caused people not to trust each other and to separate themselves from one another. In a working environment, you end up with an "Us vs. Them" situation.


The African culture teaches children to respect and revere every adult as their parent. An African child knows and grows up understanding that every adult is my parent hence we use terms such as Sisi (Big Sister), Mama or Baba as a sign of respect. Adults are also taught to see every child as their own or anyone who is younger than them as their young sister/brother or

In an ever changing world, where young people are now beginning to climb the corporate and professional ladder faster, things have taken a different turn. A 28 year old managing a 46 year old and delegating tasks sometimes causes conflicts. In the workplace, elders may sometimes feel offended when a youngster refers to them in their first name. Some elders feel offended taking instructions from a youngster as they still expect the timid and respectful attitude from the young person regardless whether they are in the workplace or not.

Difference in gender

Sometimes, due to the environment we are raised in (Africa) where gender roles are still expected, working in an environment where people are expected to be professional regardless of their culture can be a challenge. There are still men that find it difficult to be managed or take instructions from a woman because of how they were raised. African traditions may come across as demanding more from the woman to take up a submissive role even in the working context and whenever this demand is not honoured, conflicts between the genders may arise in the workplace. Derogatory terms describing strong professional women who are focused on doing their job right are often heard thrown around in the workplace and therefore even seen as acceptable.

Personality clashes in the workplace

Learning to manage different personalities in the workplace makes one understand how different the behaviours can be and how they can be in direct conflict to one's own personality. A wise thing for one to do will be to know and understand their pressure points when they are in the workplace. Know what makes you angry or sets you off and start to watch it closely to ensure it does not cause negative reactions that will be interpreted in a different way. According to Psychology theorists, there are Five (5) big personality traits namely:

Entertaining Gossip and Rumours

When people have made it their mandate to come to work in order to spread rumours or learn the very latest about other people and their lives, they immediately make a working environment unpleasant for others. A rumour starter and a gossip infested colleague is a toxic people who should be avoided at all times. Office gossip this takes too much of one's valuable time and attention away from all the other that is important things.

Personal Problems

Although it has been repeated many times without number that you should not bring your personal problems to work, sometimes this is unavoidable. Even if we don't make an obvious demonstration of our emotions, it will still affect our levels of motivation and therefore performance. It also means that a sudden conflict situation may arise without warning and seemingly without cause. Find ways to deal well with your personal problems, tell your manager (if they are trustworthy) so that you can make them understand what is currently happening in your life and why you are acting the way you are. They will keep you in check and be a little lenient towards you until you have dealt with the issue.

Work ethic (Position over function)

Our behaviours and motivations are usually driven by our values and beliefs. When we come across colleagues or managers who ask us to go against these values and beliefs, it will often cause an internal conflict. A frustrating factor in the workplace which often causes most conflicts is the difference in work ethic. Many people interpret the idea of having work to do differently. In the workplace (just like back at school), we have procrastinators, those who work well in advance and those who move with the work tide as it comes. But you also have those who are not necessarily procrastinators but simply "non-doers." There are people who show lazy signs when at work, who prefer to come to work, speak to everyone who is willing to listen about anything but work, who spend time on the internet, instead of doing what they are supposed to do. When deadlines arrive, they are stuck. Such individual also turn out to be a dread to work with in teams because they make everyone else do all the work. In the work place, there are people who enjoy positions over its functions. Preferring to be called a manger, yet overlooking or hating the work that comes with it. Position should be accompanied by function and in the workplace, work should be done in a way that it lifts the load over others who are also doing their part.