Don't Be That Person: Your Guide to Printing Etiquette in the Office

04/08/2015 01:31 am ET | Updated Jun 07, 2015

This is part of the Increased Productivity series where experts in productivity, brain training, and business success share the techniques and tools they couldn't live without.

No workplace is ever going to be unanimously harmonious, and working in an office in such close quarters is a breeding ground for minor, though irritating habits. Loud talkers, serial eavesdroppers and colleagues who refuse to rinse a single dish are commonplace in any office environment. Yet there are a select number of people who simply haven't mastered, or choose to ignore basic printing courtesy. Individual quirky (annoying) habits in the office are mostly harmless, but there are unwritten rules when it comes to using shared office equipment.


Fill Paper Trays and Ink Cartridges
This is just a common courtesy, but so many people make it their mission to avoid this simple task. Worse than a person who uses the last of the ink or printing paper and doesn't replace it, is somebody who takes it upon themselves to inform everyone within a five mile radius of the fact that the ink or paper has run out. Don't expect somebody else to replace ink or paper, because they are probably expecting the same of you.

Let People with Fewer Documents Print First
This is quite a big printing blunder, and one that isn't even exclusive to the office. For those of you who have ever waited in line behind a person printing their ten thousand word thesis, you have my deepest sympathy. If you know your colleague is printing an urgent document a quarter of the size of yours, the polite thing to do is allow them to print before you. Don't be that person who hogs the printer and ignores the string of people waiting behind them while the sprinter spits out an entire novel.

Don't Remove Somebody Else's Documents
Removing somebody else's documents from the printer and placing them somewhere else the moment they print is the office equivalent to emptying a person's washing machine and dumping their clothes at a communal laundry. If the documents don't belong to you, don't move them, it's a sure way to guarantee papers get lost. That being said, if a colleague has left their documents at the printer for hours, they're fair game.

These habits are the hallmark of an annoying printer and I hope that you don't run into one at your next job. There are five printer personalities that inhabit any office, but if you know what traits to look for, there's no reason why you can't avoid them.

  • The Hoverer
  • Hoverers are the professional neck breathers who stand over your shoulder, transfixed by that spreadsheet you are printing. They stand too close and don't seem to understand that their disregard for your personal space won't make the printer run faster.

  • The Passive-Aggressive Note Leaver

  • This person will never refill a paper tray or change the toner but will always leave a pointed note informing their colleagues to replace them when they are empty.

  • The IT 'Expert

  • He/she has gone through most of their life believing there are more tech-literate than they actually are. This is the type of person who will swoop in when the printer craps itself and offer the genius suggestion to switch it off and then switch it back on.

  • The "Go Green" Guy/Girl

  • You know that twenty page, one-sided document you're currently printing? The "Go Green" guy/girl is quietly plotting your office demise at their desk. This person is attached to their iPad and believes that Email and Kindle are single-handedly saving all trees and digitizing all the data is the way to go. They definitely want you to ditch the paper and switch to cloud too! While they may not outwardly scold you, you can bet that they will lecture on the detrimental effect you are having on the environment by abusing the printer.

  • The Mad Chatter
  • Every office has one, and they can usually be avoided by putting your headphones in your ears, or you know, actually doing work at your desk. But at the printer, nobody is safe from the inane chatter of a co-worker who exploits this quiet, sacred printing time to try and bond with you.