Etiquette 101

If you’ve been in the contracting game for a while you’ll be familiar with the varying approaches business have to contractor engagement. On a good gig, the organisation will have sound onboarding practices that leaves you feeling just as much a part of the team as your permanent employee counterparts. But even so, the expectations are almost always slightly different and the way you conduct yourself in a client environment is imperative.

Good workplace etiquette is underpinned by common courtesy as a matter of course. Everyone knows - at least they should - the basics so we won’t rehash those. Instead, let’s look at some situations contractors in particular are likely to encounter, and how best to behave.

  • Don’t get involved in office politics or gossip.
    By all means, enjoy the general banter and chit chat but avoid being seen to have an opinion about anything controversial or getting involved in any conflict (unless it’s specifically required as part of your task).

  • Be prepared to be part of the team - or not.
    As we’ve mentioned, some companies embrace contractors and treat them the same as permanent employees. Others won’t engage or interact beyond what’s necessary to achieve the task at hand. Be prepared for either scenario and don’t be surprised if you turn up Monday morning to hear everyone excitedly chatting about Friday’s team bowling night that you didn’t even know about, let alone been invited to. Or maybe you’re asked to cover during a company meeting, for permanent employees only. If you are included as ‘one of the team’, great, but don’t expect it - and don’t be offended if you’re not.

  • Be prepared to pay your way.
    A continuation on the above point, if you are invited to be part of any team building or social activities be prepared to pay your way. The same goes for any courses or events that you are invited to, but are not working at (if you’re working there representing the company, it’s fair to expect they’ll pay your expenses). Conversely, given it’s your money and your time you shouldn’t feel obligated to attend such events. Go if you want to go and can afford it, but if you’ve got other priorities the expectations aren’t the same as a contractor.

  • Maintain professionalism at all times
    All engagement you have with your client and the people who work there should be on a professional level. If you do attend a social event always retain an appropriate level of professionalism. Remember, it’s a privilege to be invited and no one likes that person at the party, so make sure you’re not them.

  • Be discrete
    Like any contract you enter into, the terms of your agreement are confidential and should not be discussed openly with your colleagues and/or other contractors within the organisation. This is especially important when it comes to rates.

  • Balancing multiple clients respectfully
    When an organisation engages a contractor there is always a level of expectation that they will, at some stage, also work for other businesses, unless you’ve contractually agreed otherwise. But they don’t want to see it, and they definitely don’t want it impacting your performance for them. As a general rule you should dedicate your focus to one client at a time; take phone calls discreetly (outside or in meeting rooms) and don’t routinely carry out work for one client while you’re onsite at another.

Ultimately, you just need to remember you are a special resource joining a team for a finite period of time, to fulfil a specific requirement. Organisations want an easy and productive engagement, with someone who is easy to have around and just gets the job done. Reputation is everything in the world of contracting and displaying the right etiquette is sure to stand you in good stead for continued success. We wish you well.

Do you agree with our advice? Let us know your thoughts and share any other tips for good etiquette.