7 Social Norms in the Workplace

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    There are certain social norms in the workplace. Yet, these are considered to be unwritten rules (or expectations) set forth by your employer, the employees, or even the industry that your field of expertise happens to fall into. These norms comprise of things such as arriving on time, dressing appropriately, and using appropriate language.

    Diverse industries and work environments likely have their own exclusive social norms. These norms can also vary based on factors like company culture, job role, and geographical location. By accepting and obeying workplace social norms, you help to establish positive relationships with colleagues, institute integrity and trust with your leadership team, and contribute to a harmonious work environment.

    Workplace social norms are an essential facet of organizational society. They help to craft a shared understanding of what is considered to be acceptable behavior and expectations for all employees who exist in your work environment. In turn, this can lead to a more positive work environment and healthier communication among colleagues. 

    Seven Social Norms

    Commonly, there are seven workplace social norms. These are recognized universally across all industries and workplaces, but each allow their own form of social acceptance. Your organization may have more, depending upon what they considered to be acceptable and expected. Nonetheless, the most commonly recognized ones are:

    • Punctuality
    • Professionalism
    • Communication
    • Collaboration
    • Respect for Diversity
    • Confidentiality
    • Policies and Procedures

    By understanding and adhering to workplace social norms, employees can enable themselves to build positive relationships within their work environment. To gather a better understanding of each, let’s break each of social norm down.


    Punctuality is a significant workplace social norm as it enables you to show respect for your colleagues’ time as well as your employer. This can help you to be more efficient and productive. By arriving on time for work, virtual and in-person meetings, and other appointments, you build integrity and reputation. Consistent lateness can leave a negative impression and long-lasting impact on your reputation.

    How to meet and exceed your employer’s expectations for punctuality:

    • Plan ahead by scheduling in advance. Be sure to take into account any potential obstacles or delays that may arise. Delays may include traffic delays or unexpected emergencies.Be prepared and bring everything you need for the workday. This can include things such as your work materials, (office) keys, paperwork, and any necessary employee badges. This will help you avoid last-minute delays or creating excuses for tardiness.
    • Set an (earlier) alarm before your workday. Waking up earlier than is necessary will give you ample opportunity and time to prepare for your workday and travel safely without a rush.
    • Leave early. Leaving on time is always beneficial, but it is actually better if you can leave early. This gives you a buffer in case of delays. Additionally, an earlier arrival will allow you time to prepare for meetings or catch up on daily tasks that must be completed.
    • Keep an open line of communication with your employer. In the off chance you could arrive late to work or for a meeting, make sure to communicate this to your employer. This exhibits responsible and respectful behavior of other people’s time.

    Consistently demonstrating punctuality will enable you to show your employer that are a reliable, responsible, and committed team member. 


    Professionalism is an elemental workplace social norm that encompasses displaying appropriate behavior and conduct while present in the workplace. It includes factors such as dressing appropriately (for your position and title), using proficient language, and maintaining a level of superior respect towards colleagues and superiors. By demonstrating professionalism in the workplace, you can help establish your credibility, build trust, and foster a positive work environment.

    How to meet and exceed your employer’s expectations for professionalism:

    • Dressing appropriately for your position and title is an essential part of professionalism. Depending on your workplace, this could mean anything from business attire to casual wear. Whatever it is, make sure to adhere to the dress code and present yourself in a neat, professional manner.
    • Using proficient language is another important characteristic of professionalism in the workplace. Slang or offensive language should be avoided at all costs. Ensure that you communicate clearly and concisely.
    • Exhibiting respect for your (fellow) team members and superiors is critical component. This comprises of being polite, avoiding gossip, and steering clear of any confrontational or aggressive behavior.
    • Arriving on time for work and meetings shows respect for other people’s time.
    • Be organized and prepared for meetings, projects, assignments, and daily tasks. This is an integral part of professionalism. This means to have all the necessary materials and information beforehand and be ready to contribute your part.
    • Following company policies and procedures is essential in establishing professionalism and maintaining it through the course of your career. Adhering to safety protocols and following attendance policies falls into this category.

    By demonstrating professionalism in the workplace, you are showing your employer that you take your job seriously, are committed to your work, and are capable of representing the company in a positive light.

    Effective Communication

    Effective communication is a critical workplace social norm that can make or break your career over the course of time. It enables employees to work together efficiently and achieve common goals. Communication comprises of transporting information, sharing ideas with team members and your superiors, and expressing your thoughts, ideas, and feelings.

    How to meet and exceed your employer’s expectations for effective communication:

    • When communicating with others in your work environment, be clear and concise with your message. Elude any jargon or technical terms that others may not easily understand. This can be confusing.
    • Good communication is a two-way street, so, it’s important to actively listen to what others are communicating. Active listening consists of paying attention to their words, tone, and body language.
    • Continuously be respectful in your communication with people who are both internally and externally communicating in your work environment. Avoid the use offensive language, interrupting others, or being dismissive of their ideas.
    • Different communication mediums are appropriate for different situations. Select the right medium subject to the purpose of the communication, the urgency, and the target audience.
    • Following up on conversations and actions is vital in ensuring that communication has been efficient and that all those involved have arrived on the same page.
    • In order to improve your communication skills, be sure to seek feedback from team members and your leadership team. This will help you identify areas for improvement and refine your communication style.

    Effective communication is fundamental for success in the workplace. By being mindful of your employer’s expectations, you can ensure that your communication is clear, concise, and productive.


    Collaboration involves working with others to share ideas, knowledge, and skills to achieve a common objective. This helps to ensure that you are not just a part of your workplace, but also an active team member, as well.

    How to meet and exceed your employer’s expectations for collaboration:

    • Understand your role in the team and how you can contribute to the team’s objective. Be clear about your responsibilities and communicate with your team members to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
    • Open communication channels are the key to a successful collaboration. Remain transparent and communicate your ideas clearly and respectfully. Listen actively to your team members and be open to feedback or constructive criticism.
    • Be adaptable and willing to revise ever-changing circumstances. It is ideal to be open to hearing new ideas and be willing to compromise whenever necessary.
    • Trust is an essential form for seamless, effective collaboration. Be reliable, honest, and accountable for your work. Build relationships with your team members and willing to understand their viewpoints.
    • Encourage participation from any and all team members. Ensure that everyone has the opportunity to contribute the current objective. This will show that you are inclusive
    • Celebrate achievements and be willing to acknowledge the inputs of team members. Not only will this build morale, it will also serve to motivate others to contribute their collaborations well into the future.

    Being an effective team player can help you meet and exceed your employer’s expectations for collaboration.

    Respect for Diversity

    Respect for diversity is an important avenue of workplace social norms as it serves to promote inclusivity, equality, and fairness. It means valuing differences, including differentiations in race, ethnicity, gender, preferred pronouns, age, religion, sexual orientation, and abilities. This will create a work environment where everyone feels respected, valued, and included.

    How to meet and exceed your employer’s expectations for respect for diversity:

    • Educate yourself about different cultures, beliefs, and values, especially those that encompass your team members. This can service to help you understand and appreciate the diversity that surrounds you.
    • Avoid making assumptions or judgments based on stereotypes. Treat everyone as your equal and respect their unique perspective and experience.
    • Use language that is inclusive. This will ensure you show respect for the diversity in your workplace. Avoid using terms that could easily offend someone.
    • Be unbiased and enthusiastic to learn from others. Listen to their perceptions and be open to their ideas and suggestions.
    • Embrace difference. Celebrate them. Encourage diverse thought and collaboration among your team members, especially those with different backgrounds and experiences.
    • Speak up if you are the witness of possible discrimination or harassment. Take time to report it to the appropriate person or authority, such as human resources (HR). This will help create a safe and respectful work environment.

    Respect for diversity is critical to a positive, inclusive, and unbiased work environment. Being aware of the diversity that surrounds you will help you to be mindful of your own biases (whether conscious or unconscious).


    Confidentiality involves keeping sensitive information private and secure in the workplace. This can include confidential business information, employee (professional) information, and even personal information. By maintaining confidentiality, you can protect the privacy and security of your fellow team members and that of other organizations that you conduct business with.

    How to meet and exceed your employer’s expectations for confidentially: 

    • Be aware of what information is considered confidential. This can include, but is not limited to trade secrets, financial information, and personal (and professional) employee information.
    • Follow your company’s policies and procedures for protecting confidential information. Understand the protocols for storing, sharing, and disposing of confidential information.
    • Use secure communication methods, such as password-protected documents. This is beneficial when sharing confidential information.
    • Do not share confidential information with anyone who does not have a need to know. Keep confidential information secure. In addition, do not discuss it publicly or with unauthorized individuals.
    • Report any breaches of confidentiality to the appropriate person or authority. This can include accidental disclosures or unauthorized access to confidential information.
    • Maintain a professional demeanor in all communications and interactions related to the confidential information. Avoid gossiping or sharing confidential information with others, even if they are colleagues.

    Maintaining confidentiality is crucial for protecting the privacy and security of individuals and businesses.

    Policies and Procedures

    Following policies and procedures is a critical aspect of maintaining a safe and productive workplace. The policies and procedures are established by employers to ensure that employees behave in a manner that is consistent with the company’s values, goals, mission, and legal requirements.

    How to meet and exceed your employer’s expectations for following policies and procedures:

    • Take the time to read and understand the policies and procedures that your employer has established. Ask questions if you are unsure about anything.
    • Policies and procedures are only effective if they are consistently followed. Make sure that you follow them consistently to help establish them as a social norm in the workplace.
    • If you observe violations of the current policies and procedures, report them to your leadership team or human resource (HR) department. This will help ensure that the policies and procedures are enforced and that employees are held accountable for their actions.
    • If you think that a policy or procedure is not working as intended, provide feedback to your leadership team or HR department. This will help them to identify areas for improvement and make adjustments as necessary.
    • As an employee, you can help establish policies and procedures as a social norm in the workplace by leading by example. If you consistently follow policies and procedures, others are more likely to do so as well.

    Closing Thoughts

    In closing, the social norms of the workplace are unwritten rules set forth by your organization, your employer, and your team members. They are considered what is appropriate for your industry or field of expertise. By familiarizing yourself with each of these seven norms, you can help establish yourself in your career while building on your professional career.

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