If you think etiquette is a superficial issue, consider it from a professional perspective, says Linda Allan, a Toronto-based certified management consultant who specializes in behaviours in business.

Etiquette is simply respectful behaviour that contributes to the productive running of an organization, Allan says. And there are some basic principles that professionals often forget when it comes to their office conduct and the way they interact with colleagues.

Often the smallest details cause the biggest conflicts, Allan says. “It’s all the teeny things that can grate on people’s nerves and erode productivity.”

Here are four small tips on maintaining a professional and respectful business environment that can prevent major conflicts:

1. Wait until you get to your desk
Some of Allan’s corporate clients complain about employees who have the bad habit of conducting business calls on their cellphones while they are walking through the office toward their desks.

You might think walking while talking makes you more productive. But your conversation is a distraction to team members whose desks you pass on the way to your destination. The irritation is made more intense by the tendency many people have to raise their voices when talking on mobile phones.

Take an extra minute and go to your office or cubicle before starting any work, Allan recommends.

2. Keep private meetings private
If team members are nearby when you greet a client who is visiting the office, by all means, introduce them.

But while you and the client are in common areas of the office, restrict conversations to pleasantries and small talk. Don’t mention any details about the client’s account or situation until you are in the private office or boardroom designated for your meeting.

3. Replenish supplies
Did you just print or photocopy a 100-page document? The copier is probably almost out of paper — and proper etiquette dictates that you take the responsibility of seeing that it is refilled for the next person.

When you see materials running low, make a note to either replace them yourself or contact the person responsible for ordering supplies.

4. Keep the staff kitchen clean
It sounds obvious, but kitchen habits can be the source of bitter workplace conflicts. Kitchen etiquette is not only a matter of consideration to other team members, Allan says; it can also affect your bottom line.

Ask yourself what a visitor to the office, such as a client, would think if he or she were to step into the kitchen. How would a sink full of dishes and a grimy microwave represent your brand?