When it comes to business etiquette, it may seem like there are a lot of dos and don'ts to be aware of. And there are. But by following a select number of basic tips, you'll be sure to conduct yourself appropriately with a high level of professionalism when you're in the workplace.
Here are some business etiquette tips to follow and quotes to use to help you successfully navigate the terrain.
The Business Etiquette Handshake
"You can tell the character of a person by their handshake." —Kathy Magliato
The first handshake goes back to medieval times—5th century B.C. in Greece, actually. In those days, the gesture was a symbol of peace between two people, indicating that neither person was carrying a weapon. Since then, handshaking has evolved into a universal business greeting. It's the professional standard.
A firm handshake is considered the way to go, and be sure to make eye contact and smile. This shows that you're well-mannered, confident, and friendly.
Say Please and Thank You
"Good manners are cost effective. They not only increase the quality of life in the workplace, they contribute to employee morale, embellish the company image, and play a major role in generating profit." —Letitia Baldrige
It almost goes without mentioning that you should always say please and thank you, but it's importance can't be overstated. This basic form of courtesy is the very foundation of proper manners.
A simple thank you goes a long way in showing customers how much their business means to you, especially if it's handwritten. Of course, that depends on how many customers you have to thank.
If it's unreasonable to send a handwritten thank you to each customer, consider digitally handwritten thank-you cards. You can pick a style that fits your brand's image or mimic your own penmanship.
Handwritten notes stand out among all the texts and emails people receive on a regular basis. It also depends on what type of relationship you have with the customer. Are they a large account or have they been a customer for a long time? Do the right thing and go the extra mile.
How to Introduce Your Colleagues
"Respect is how to treat everyone, not just those you want to impress." —Richard Branson
If you begin a conversation with someone and you're with a colleague they haven't met yet, introduce that person by name and mention their title at your company. You could even talk about what they do, if their title doesn't spell it out. You don't necessarily need to go into great detail, but a brief introduction is the polite way to go.
Business Meeting Etiquette: Show Genuine Interest
"To make a pleasant and friendly impression is not only good manners, but equally good business." —Emily Post
When you're involved in a conversation with someone—whether it be in a group meeting or one-on-one—make eye contact and show that you are actively listening. You could also nod or smile. If you feel the need to interject or add to the conversation, don't interrupt. Wait for them to finish, then voice your opinion.
Be Punctual to Meetings
"Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late." —William Shakespeare
Showing up on time is a cornerstone of manners.
Former Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi expected his players and coaches to be 15 minutes early to meetings and practices. In his mind, 15 minutes early was on time. If they didn't arrive 15 minutes early, he considered them late.
Take this advice to heart. You don't necessarily have to be everywhere 15 minutes early like coach Lombardi's troops, but if you show up late, it's like telling the other person their time is not as valuable as yours. Be early. You'll save yourself a lot of stress.
How to Acknowledge Your Co-workers
“People will typically be more enthusiastic where they feel a sense of belonging and see themselves as part of a community than they will in a workplace in which each person is left to his own devices.” —Alfie Kohn
Greet the people you come into contact with. That doesn't mean you need to say hello to the same person every time you pass them a hallway ten times each day, but it's courteous to extend some kind of greeting to start the day.
Also, refrain from asking a person how they are if you don't have time for an answer. Or if they appear to be in a rush and won't have time to give you an answer. Maybe a simple "good morning" or "hello" is all that's required. If you don't know their name and you don't have time to stop and chat (or it's not really appropriate at the time), a simple nod or smile might suffice.
Knock Before Entering Colleague's Office
"Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners." —Laurence Sterne
Don't walk into someone's office unannounced. Knock on the door and ask if it's OK to enter or if it's a good time to talk. Even if they're in a cubicle, don't walk up behind them or enter their workspace without some kind of "excuse me" gesture like a knock or "hello."
If you need to have a long discussion with that person, it's better to call or email them to schedule a time.
Don't Eavesdrop on Co-workers
"A hard thing about business is minding your own." —Unknown
Your co-workers might be in close proximity to you, but they still need their privacy. Don't eavesdrop on phone conversations (personal or work-related) and don't look over their shoulder at their computer monitor unless they've invited you to examine something they're working on.
If you need to make a private call, spare your co-workers the details of your personal life. Some workplaces have a designated area where you can do this. If not, go outside or find a place where your conversation won't distract those around you.
Proper Language in the Workplace
Be mindful of the words you use, both written and verbally. Texting and email have made communication much less formal than in the past, but that's not a license to write or say whatever you want, however you want. Avoid slang when you're in a professional environment. And of course, there's no place for derogatory or offensive language in any setting.
Keeping Politics and Religion Out of Office
"The old adage that polite conversation should not include talk of politics or religion is understandable because both subjects are so heavily laden with emotion that discussion can quickly turn to shouting." —John Danforth
Because of their extremely sensitive nature, politics and religion are off-limit conversations in the workplace. Leave these rants to Facebook timeline posts.
Cell Phone Etiquette: How to Use Your Smartphone at Work
Cell phone usage can be tricky as it's oftentimes used as business equipment. You may even (probably do) conduct business on your cell phone. After all, today's workplace is technology driven. But there's also a time and place to put it away so it's not a distraction to you and your co-workers.
- Pay attention to the person in front of you. If you're having a conversation or meeting with a colleague (or anyone, for that matter), give that person your undivided attention without glancing at your phone. Also, don't hide the phone under the table where you can keep looking at it.
- Take your phone off the table. When you're at a business lunch with co-workers or clients, your cell phone has no place on the table as if it was part of the place setting. Silence it and put it in your pocket or purse so it won't be in the way.
- Silence your phone. Your cell phone is an inevitable part of your life—at home and work. But that doesn't mean it needs to be ringing all day and disturbing those around you. Silence it (and/or set it to vibrate only) during your workday, especially if you sit/stand in a cubicle where others are in close proximity.
- Conduct personal conversations in private. If you need to have a personal conversation on your cell phone, do so in a private place where nobody else can hear you.
- Text minimally. It may be a stretch to say don't text at all. You might need to text a co-worker or client. But keep any personal texting to a minimum and only do it during breaks from work.
Business Email Etiquette
"Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own." —Carol Burnett
Email etiquette has a category all its own in the business world. The jokes, chain letters, and forwards from your personal email life have no place here. This could be an article all its own, but here are a couple tips to attend to:
Edit Your Emails Before Sending
You probably communicate a lot via email, but don't let it become so commonplace that you forget to check your words before hitting the send button. Each message you send is a reflection of your professionalism, so make sure it's well written and free from spelling and grammatical errors.
That's not to say your messages can't be a bit more informal once you develop a rapport with a co-worker, but even then, check yourself and your words before you share them with anyone. If you're not entirely comfortable with your proofreading skills, Grammarly makes an add-on grammar checker that can help.
'Reply All' Only When Necessary
If someone was copied on an email, but they don't need to be part of an ongoing conversation about a topic, by all means, omit them from future correspondence.
If you've ever been on the receiving end of a seemingly never-ending email thread that doesn't involve you directly, you know how this can be a distracting nuisance day after day.
Spare the extra recipient the details if they don't need to be involved.
Think Outside the Email Box
Don't over-rely on email for every communication. Some conversations are better suited for a phone call, handwritten note, or even an in-person meeting.
If you need to have a lengthy discussion with someone, pick up the phone and give them a call or schedule a face-to-face meeting where you can hash out the details. Many important conversations still need to be accomplished by talking to other people in-person rather than sending messages back and forth.
If you want to send someone a sincere thank you, try a digitally handwritten thank-you card. In an age of texts and emails, a printed message really stands out.
Follow Business Protocol for Proper Etiquette in the Workplace
There are a lot of rules to follow when it comes to your behavior in the workplace.
But when you follow business protocol, you'll be putting yourself in the best position to communicate in a professional manner.
Use some common sense, follow these tips, and you'll be well on your way to becoming a master of business etiquette.