Ask The Experts

Good office etiquette is everyone’s responsibility

Question: Six months ago, after graduating, I landed on my first job in this medium-sized law firm.

I had a shock recently when a senior law partner told me off for not offering a drink to a waiting client. I never thought that this was part of my job responsibilities.

Isn’t this the job of the pantry maid or the secretary of the lawyer whom this client was waiting for?

I feel that this situation is highly petty and unfair, and I am thinking of bringing this issue up with the management as I am very unhappy about what happened.

Do I have a case in this situation?


Answer: Your firm is not wrong in asking you to do this. This is about good office etiquette.

It is the same if someone comes to visit your parent’s house. It is expected that as a son or daughter, you will automatically offer them a drink, even though it is not you they are visiting.

You do this because you want to project a good home environment to others. Similarly, your firm wants you to do the same for the organisation as part of its image-building efforts. Wanting to resign because of this is rash and unjustified.

Take this as a start of your journey towards understanding professionalism by way of office etiquette.

While you’re at it, learn the other lessons that come along with clients or guests who come to your office; such as: how you should introduce yourself, how you can make them feel comfortable as well as how to create a good impression of yourself, the organisation and the professionalism it stands for.

All these skills will do well in developing yourself to be successful in your career.

Powerful questions you can ask yourself:

How would you like to be treated if you are in someone’s office?

What will impress you when they are doing the right things to make you feel welcome?

What have you learnt in the course of what to do, and not to do?

How will you benefit when you are well polished in office etiquette?

Article by Dr Michael Heah, an ICF Master Certified Coach with