Unprofessional behavior could lose your business.
As times change, so do social norms for personal and professional behavior, but that doesn’t mean basic etiquette doesn’t matter. Performance and quality are important, too, of course, but not exclusively. We sometimes forget that business is about people.
Allan Berger, principal with Berger Business Advisors, a business development consultancy, said “There is no shortage of competent and reliable people in the business world and manners can make the difference. Wouldn’t you rather collaborate with, work for or buy from someone who has high standards of professional behavior?”
The word “etiquette” gets a bad rap. For one thing, it sounds stodgy and pretentious. And rules that are socially or morally prescribed seem intrusive to our sense of individuality and freedom.
Office etiquette can be tricky in these days of in-house exercising, informal digital communication and open-plan workspaces. For help on figuring out how to behave properly, a new book by Vicky Oliver, a career consultant, offers tips on everything from cubicle conduct to e-mail etiquette. 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions also covers 21st-century table manners (they’re not that different from in the olden days) and what to do when seated between two bores at a business dinner (divide your time between them).
1. Send a Thank You Note
I work at a paper company that manufactures stationery and I’m shocked at how infrequently people send thank you notes after interviewing with me. If you’re not sending a follow-up thank you note to Crane, you’re not sending it anywhere.
2. Know the Names
It’s just as important to know your peers or employees as it is to develop relationships with clients, vendors or management. Reach out to people in your company, regardless of their roles, and acknowledge what they do.
3. Observe the ‘Elevator Rule’
When meeting with clients or potential business partners off-site, don’t discuss your impressions of the meeting with your colleagues until the elevator has reached the bottom floor and you’re walking out of the building. That’s true even if you’re the only ones in the elevator.
4. Focus on the Face, Not the Screen
It’s hard not to be distracted these days. We have a plethora of devices to keep us occupied; emails and phone calls come through at all hours; and we all think we have to multitask to feel efficient and productive.
5. Don’t Judge
We all have our vices—and we all have room for improvement. One of the most important parts of modern-day etiquette is not to criticize others.
6. Call or e-mail before you arrive.
Instead of making a beeline for your colleague’s cubicle, get in touch in advance, and ask what would be a convenient time for you to drop by.
7. Don’t leave voicemail messages when you know the person is out.
Midnight is not a good time to leave a voicemail or send a note. If you get a brainstorm in the middle of the night, write an e-mail and put it in your draft folder. Hit “Send” at 9 the next morning.
8. If you’re the boss, don’t send demanding e-mails on the weekend.
Unless your team is on a shotgun deadline, compose your instructions over the weekend, but don’t send them until Monday morning.
9. If you get a weekend e-mail from the boss, you may take a day to reply.
You can’t ignore a boss’s weekend request completely, but you can wait 24 hours before responding. It’s fine to set a boundary around your personal time.
10. Don’t wear headphones in the elevator or hallway.
“Wearing earplugs is like putting a Do Not Disturb sign on you,” Oliver says. It sends the message that you want to be left alone, an unfriendly gesture at best.
11. Don’t check e-mail in the lobby or elevator.
“That’s acting like you’re in an isolation tank,” Oliver points out. Elevators and hallways are great places to connect socially with colleagues. Use the opportunity.
12. Don’t touch your colleagues’ food in the office fridge.
Boundaries are important in today’s intense office environment. That includes respecting the fact that you didn’t buy that container of yogurt, no matter how hungry you are.
13. Dress one notch up from office casual.
Mark Zuckerberg may sport T-shirts, but you should wear a shirt with a collar.
14. Use humor to recover from a faux pas.
Did you say or do something that violates etiquette rules? Poke fun at yourself. Send an e-mail after the fact that’s part apology, part self-deprecating joke.
There could be many more tips like:
1. When in doubt, introduce others.
2. A handshake is still the professional standard.
3. Always say “Please” and “Thank you.”
4. Don’t interrupt.
5. Watch your language.
6. Double check before you hit send.
7. Don’t walk into someone’s office unannounced.
8. Don’t gossip.
9. Don’t eavesdrop.
10. Acknowledge others.
11. Avoid the “Big Two.”
12. Be on time.
13. No phone during meetings.
14. Don’t be a business card pusher.
15. Show genuine interest.
15 Business Etiquette Rules Every Professional Needs To Know
Skills – Workplace Etiquette – Columbia University
14 Tips on Business Etiquette: Setting a professional tone with co-workers, clients and customers
Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ (www.gteamradio.com). Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?