Whether you are starting your ﬁrst internship or have many years of professional experience under your belt, how you present yourself to others in the workplace matters. Setting a professional tone is crucial to building new relationships and ensuring you have a positive, successful experience in the workplace.
Make a Good First Impression
People often form impressions about others within seconds of meeting them, so it’s important to ensure you present yourself as a professional. Be aware of your body language and how others may perceive it. A good rule of thumb is to stand straight, maintain eye contact, and smile! Make sure you know the workplace dress code and oﬃce policies ahead of time. Arrive on-time and be prepared for important meetings.
How you treat people says a lot about you. Don’t make value judgments on people’s importance in the workplace or speak negatively about your coworkers, even if you ﬁnd yourself frustrated over a certain situation. Be thoughtful about how you interact with your supervisor(s), peers, and subordinates as well.
Communication is Key
Communication is an important part of workplace etiquette. It’s sometimes not what you say, but how you say it that counts so be mindful of how you communicate with your colleagues in meetings and one-on-one conversations. In regards to email, be sure your correspondence inside and outside of your workplace is written clearly and free of spelling errors. Remember, email is a permanent record of any conversation so never put anything in writing that you would say to someone’s face.
Understand your Work Environment
The values, policies, and procedures of a workplace can be diﬃcult to discern at ﬁrst. If you are in a larger organization with a structured human resource division, you may have access to an HR Manager or in-house trainings to keep you informed of your organization’s expectations. In a smaller workplace setting, some of that knowledge may come from observing others and asking questions of your colleagues when needed. Lastly, observing the atmosphere and actions of others can help you understand what’s appropriate and what’s not, and how to best navigate the workplace while maintaining your professionalism.
As the global market grows, the need to understand multiple international standards of business etiquette is also growing. If you take a job or internship in another country, be to research the proper etiquette, culture and customs for both that country and the organization you plan to work for.
Be Personable Yet Professional
Sharing information about your personal life is your choice, but be cautious when it comes to what you share; some colleagues may be more open than others and might choose to keep their personal life private as well. Similarly, you may want to limit personal calls, emails, and other non-work related tasks to after work hours. Within your workspace, it’s okay to add personal touches but remember that your colleagues will see the space and consider it a reﬂection of your professional self. Lastly, getting to you know colleagues is a good thing but always be respectful of others’ space. If you need to discuss something with them, don’t just walk in; knock or make your presence known, and always oﬀer to schedule a meeting for later in the day if they are busy in the moment.
People’s upbringing has become a basis for their behavior. Today, how people treat others builds the foundation of lasting relationships. Respect and proper office etiquette may be too simple to do, yet, they are easier said than done. Apparently, rudeness remains a common issue in the workplace—without knowing its effects on human interaction.
Read on and learn the importance of proper etiquette and how it differs from manners and courtesy. Further, get tips to becoming a well-mannered person while working with diverse people.
Etiquette, Manners, and Courtesy Defined
Though manners, etiquette, and courtesy appear to suggest the same thing, they actually mean different concepts. Here’s how dictionaries define them:
Manners or social conduct are the ways of behaving regarding polite standards.
A set of conventional rules as to social behavior, referring to conduct as established in any class or community.
The way of showing politeness toward others.
A Study on Manners and Courtesy
Good manners and courtesy aren’t technical matters. Yet, studies on recruitment and career growth raise the need to practice them regularly.
A study revealed the reasons office workers get annoyed with their colleagues. These include use of cell phones during meetings, leaving the tables or the kitchen area messy, and not greeting them.
The Basics of Courtesy: Relearned
Whether you’re a team leader or rank-and-file employee, be courteous at all times. Consider doing these simple things:
- Introduce yourself and other people.
- Listen when someone is speaking.
- Build a rapport with your audience.
- Say “hello,” “goodbye,” “please,” and “thank you.”
- Open and hold the door for others.
- Give compliments.
- Leave a “Thank you” note.
- Respect other people’s time.
Why Office Etiquette Matters
Good traits promote a harmonious working space for each worker. Further, it eases the stress and conflict among employees. A workplace with rude workers will surely bring a bad impact to the business.
What is the bad office etiquette you need to shun to keep a pleasant working environment? Here’s a short list: gross behavior, bad language, never buying a round, not giving due credit, boasting about salary, and talking behind people’s back.
6 Common Office Rules for Employees
Let these office etiquette rules guide everyone in the workplace:
- Respect other people’s need to work.
- Reduce noise.
- Always come tidy.
- Respect one’s work space.
- Take an absence when you’re sick.
- Always be considerate and tolerant.
What a Professional Should Do
Smiles and eye contact build great perceptions about you. Likewise, your appearance will create an impression of you as a professional. Hence, wear business casual attire when coming to work. In addition, stay clean and neat during your shift, wear a mild-scented perfume, and avoid chewing gum in front of someone or in public places. Follow these to make you look professional and well-mannered.
Now, how will you stay courteous while speaking? Heed these tips:
- Watch your words. Don’t be sarcastic. Avoid using obscene language.
- Be wary of the places where you hold conversations.
- Explain acronyms and jargon so everyone will understand them.
- Avoid expressions such as, “I guess,” “I hope,” “maybe,” and “perhaps,” making you appear unsure of what to say.
Must-Do During Meetings
- Prepare the things needed for the meeting.
- Turn off your mobile phone once the discussion starts.
- Make a backup plan should the equipment fail.
- Avoid sidebar chit-chats.
- Pay attention to the speaker.
- Don’t take or make calls. If needed, seek permission to go out.
- Check your presentation for spelling and grammar errors.
With rules on office etiquette set in place, respect will sure reign supreme in the workplace. The outcome? Happiness. Each worker feels happy with a setting where professionalism and respect thrive.
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Work etiquette is a standard that controls social behavior expectations in the workplace. It covers a wide range of aspects among employees. Some of these include body language, behavior, technology use, and communication.
Basically, it is about how you conduct yourself around coworkers, potential business partners, and customers. It boils down to treating others with respect, to be aware of everyone present and to be polite overall.
Etiquette makes your work easier with and more pleasant for your fellow colleagues. When someone interrupts you while talking, arrives late for a meeting, or snatches your food from the fridge in the standard room, you begin to wonder how an individual could be so disrespectful. All of this stuff is nothing but workplace etiquette violations.
There is no universal agreement to standard workplace etiquette. It all depends on the office personality. However, specific proper workplace etiquette rules apply to almost every business .
And if you want to promote a professional and civilized environment for yourself and your coworkers, it is essential to adopt the etiquette rules as early as possible. Here are the top 8 workplace etiquette tips that everyone should follow.
Top 8 Workplace Etiquette Rules Everyone Should Follow.
1. Be Respectful To Your Coworkers
All of your colleagues deserve respect, even though they are not always respectful towards you. It’s essential to learn to acknowledge other people’s religious views, political opinions, and sexual preference. You don’t have to agree with them all the time, but maintaining respect is proper etiquette.
Sharing work space with others means you’ll inevitably engage in conversations. It is more common in open office structures. Please take it in turns, talking without having to interrupt. Encourage each person to complete a thought and engage in discussion.
Also, as workplaces generally keep busy, so you must honor the schedules of your colleagues. Before starting a conversation, make sure that they have the time or want to talk at that moment.
Again, when you’ve been requested a meeting, make sure you reach on time or better, arrive early. Also, resisting your personal calls during a meeting is a smart idea. It shows you care for them, and that they can count on you.
Do not indulge in rumors about other staff or the business in the office. Keep a safe distance between the professional and personal life of yourself and others too. When you’re on personal time, hanging out with colleagues, talk of something light and positive rather than office gossip .
2. Maintain Virtual Office Etiquette
Virtual meetings have become a part of our daily work routine. It is a whole another story compared to in-person meetings. Here are six simple things that you need to follow to maintain the perfect virtual workplace etiquette.
Take a few minutes to get appropriately dressed and brush your hair before starting your day. That’s the first step to be productive while working remotely.
When you join a virtual team meeting, speak up when you are asked to. Do not keep silent, but make sure not to interrupt when someone else is talking.
Use attentive body language if you’re using your webcam. Sit up straight, don’t make weird gestures, and don’t let your eyes wander too far.
Mute your microphone when you are not talking as it will help avoid noises.
Make sure your work setup is professional. A messy room
a background, a screaming child or a barking dog can be distracting.
Consider having a snack before or after a virtual meeting.
Make proper eye contact in the camera.
**Download our Free ebook on Work From Home: A Definitive Guide For Managers**
3. Stay Accountable
Workers should hold responsibility for their feelings, words, and behavior, especially when they have made a mistake. This personal accountability is closely related to honesty and integrity and is a vital element in workplace etiquette. Accountability speaks about your character, keeps your reputation high, and builds better workplace relationships.
4. Know What To Wear To Work
In modern workplaces, appearance is often combined with performance, and it plays a crucial role in business success.
Your professional image has exceptional value in the corporate setting. Not only does a professional outfit give you more confidence, but it also helps boost your growth and instills brand loyalty.
Having a dress code demonstrates employee equality. However, many companies do not have it, but you should still try to get smartly dressed.
If you’re unsure what dress code will suit you, the best choice will be to pick a traditional business dress with colors like black, blue, grey, or white. Your clothes should clean, ironed, and fit you perfectly. Avoid wearing fancy or too many accessories. If you follow a casual Fridays, do not go too casual because remember, it’s just another workday.
5. Understand Teamwork
Proper business etiquette is essential to building and sustaining a team of employees who trust, love, and value each other. It is not a good practice not to hand in your part of a project or take a personal phone call during a team brainstorming session.
If one person does not do his portion of the job, the other members of the team are compelled to take the stress. And it may create resentment among coworkers and productivity losses, which will ultimately cost the company.
6. Make Friendlier Employee Onboarding
The warm and gracious welcoming of new members of your team would help you stand out. Shake hands, introduce yourself to the newcomer, organize a team lunch, or share a cake just as a welcome treat. Offer to answer any questions or queries and get the conversation going for at least the few initial weeks. It will help them to adjust quickly and give your professional reputation a boost.
7. Know When It’s Your Treat
Lunch meetings help you to get to know a colleague or team better. The rule of thumb is that if you are inviting others for a business lunch, it is your treat. That is, the person offering the invitation should be footing the bill. Make no fuss about it.
8. Filter Your Speech
For obvious reasons, a workplace is a challenging, stressful environment. Each worker has different aspirations, attitudes, and personalities. However, they together towards one common goal with different working styles, and thus, clashes will happen.
One easy way that you can maintain a friendly and productive workplace is by measuring your words. Think before you speak. Respect others’ perspectives, don’t be offensive with hitting replies, and never make arguments personal. Don’t forget to apologize in words, whenever required.
Yes, we’re all moving at a faster pace than ever before, and the rules of office etiquette may not be so clearly defined as they use to be. And yes, all the technological tools we use in the workplace have made breaches of polite behavior more common.
As a manager, you can set good examples of office etiquette for your team by remembering the basic manners you learned in preschool: Pay attention when someone’s speaking to you, and if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
If your staff isn’t following your lead, you’re not alone. Senior managers in a new Accountemps survey said they notice a lack of common courtesy when workers run late or miss meetings (34 percent), don’t respond to calls or emails in a timely manner (26 percent) and gossip about others (23 percent).
See a slideshow with more survey details, below.
Here are five tips you can follow to improve office etiquette — and lead your staff and your company to success.
1. Be punctual, and pay attention
Try to arrive a few minutes early to start your workday or join a business meeting. Whether you’re leading or attending the meeting, make sure you aren’t distracted by calls, emails, texts or side conversations. Unless you’re making a presentation, don’t monopolize the discussion, and don’t allow anyone else to, either.
2. Discourage gossip and public criticism
Gossip says more about the person sharing it than the person it’s about. So give a clear message to your team that not only won’t you share in gossip — defined as casual or unrestrained reports typically involving personal details that are not confirmed as being true — but you disapprove of it.
As a manager, it’s important to keep any discussion of sensitive issues to one-on-one, face-to-face conversations with employees.
3. Be mindful and courteous
You should be mindful that scents travel. If you share a refrigerator, cover your food to make it airtight, and toss out your old food and beverages at the end of each week.
Other potential distractions? Speakerphones, loud voices, ringing phones that aren’t picked up, conversations or loitering next to desks, messy desks and cluttered workspaces.
You can also be courteous by acknowledging your colleagues when they help you and give them credit when appropriate. Build healthy mentoring relationships, get to know your employees and pay attention to them.
4. Communicate with class
Keep your language clean, no matter how comfortable you are with your team or how casual your office is. Make sure you know how to properly pronounce employee or customer names. Consider your audience when you use humor, sarcasm, irony, puns and wordplay. Set workplace standards for email and phone communication. Encourage two-way communication and listening. Be open to input from your staff; in fact, ask for it. Express gratitude in person when possible.
Read about how workplace communication has changed through the generations.
And yawning while someone is talking to you? Well, sometimes that can’t be helped, but you can see how it looks.
5. Show respect for down time
Here’s a message for those you supervise: Going to work sick does more harm than good. It will only make you feel worse, your productivity will be lowered, and you could spread your germs to the rest of the office. Use your sick days, and stay home when you’re sick.
You can be a better boss by demonstrating work-life balance. Unless it’s an emergency, avoid late-night phone calls and emails, especially if you expect the recipient to respond after hours. Keep reasonable business hours and expect others to do the same.
How much does office etiquette matter?
A lot. People may not be as formal at their jobs as they used to be, but they still expect their colleagues to be respectful and courteous. What’s more, good manners project an image of professionalism, strengthening your reputation and improving your chances for career success.
How you handle sensitive workplace situations can make or break your professional image. Whether you work for a major accounting firm or lead a small business, there’s likely some degree of office politics within your company. Most organizations are not immune to political issues, especially small businesses with few employees, where office politics can have a big impact.
Find out How to Navigate Office Politics with this guide you can download now.
What if you make a mistake?
Everyone makes mistakes every now and then, so don’t beat yourself up if you have a minor etiquette slip-up at work. Simply acknowledge your faux pas and apologize to anyone you might have offended as quickly as possible. Then think about what might have led to the mistake: Were you feeling stressed or consumed with handling a problem outside of work? Try to deal with the root of the issue, and consider how you might deal with the situation in the future so that you don’t repeat it.
If you haven’t demonstrated the kind of office etiquette you’d like your employees to emulate, know this: You can recover. The first step is to see your error.
For more on Business Etiquette 101, take a look at the slideshow.
This is a listening exercise based on a current IELTS topic. The topic of modern office layout was reported in writing task 2 this year, 2017. This lesson will give you listening practice and also useful ideas for the topic.
Modern Office Layout: Listening Exercise
Listen once to the recording and write down your answers at the same time. In the real test, you will only be able to listen once. So, use this practice lesson to try focusing and getting the answers in the first listening.
Choose no more than one word from the recording to complete each sentence below. Listen only once and write down your answers.
- Many offices favour the ………….. interior design.
- There is less ……………. in the modern office design.
- The ability to focus on work becomes a problem if there is too much ……………..
- Being ………… of other people’s beliefs is important.
- If you are ………………., it’s better for everyone if you stay at home.
Click below to reveal the answers and the transcript:
Office etiquette is all about common courtesy to other people in the work place. It is becoming more common for offices to have a modern open-plan design with members of staff all working in one large room without dividers. This type of office design unfortunately does result in a lack of privacy which means staff need to be more mindful and considerate than ever before of each other.
Here are a couple of rules for common office etiquette. Keep your desk tidy. There’s nothing worse than working along side someone who has spread their chaos. Focus on keeping your desk clear and avoid too much mess. Also keep the noise level to a minimum as noise can be distracting to others who need to concentrate on their work. Another rule is to be friendly but, at the same time, respect people’s boundaries and wish for solitude. Working in close proximity to other staff means that you need to be tolerant of other people’s beliefs and also work methods. Lastly, keep your illness to yourself and stay at home. Don’t come to work, if you’re sick. Spreading illness will not help you, your colleagues or the company you work for.
- open-plan / modern
- This answer means that you can have the word “open-plan” as your answer or the word “modern” as your answer. You can’t have both words. Also you can’t have the answer “open”
- You can’t write “open plan” as your answer as that is too words. There should be a hyphen between the words.
- In the transcript you will see that the information about “ability to focus on work” is paraphrased as “distracting to others who need to concentrate on their work”. This is about noise levels.
- The topic of mess is before this and is not about focusing on work. But it is easy to get confused due to the words “too much…”.
- If you got this question wrong, read through the transcript and see how you made the mistake by focusing too much on words and less on meaning.
- You can’t have the answer “respectful” because that word is not given in the recording. Your answer must come from the recording – you can’t use synonyms as answers.
- You can’t have the word “friendly” as the answer. “Being friendly of other people’s beliefs” has not meaning in English and is grammatically incorrect. Your answer must make sense and be grammatically correct.
- You can’t have the word “ill” or “unwell” because that word was not used in the recording.
- The word “illness” was in the recording but it grammatically incorrect to use in this sentence and is an incorrect answer.
I hope you found this lesson useful.
If you would like more listening exercises, see my main listening page: IELTS Listening Lessons & Tips
Develop your IELTS skills with tips, lessons, free videos and more.
Although current government advice until 19 July remains that everyone who can work from home should do so, many business have already begun the transition back into an office working environment or are in the process of planning this. Returning to the office after a lengthy absence, whether from a career break or maternity leave, can be a daunting prospect at the best of times. But those who have been working from home for over a year now because of the pandemic may be wondering what exactly they will be going back to. As an employer, it is important that you address any anxieties that returning employees may have in a proactive and timely way. This includes the more obvious and legally required Covid-19 safety measures, but also more subtle processes that will help everyone feel safe and therefore comfortable.
If not already in place, you should consider the following:
- Creating a Covid-19 workplace health and safety risk assessment driven plan – start by reviewing the government guidance on working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19);
- Before resuming office work, check the building to see if it’s ready for occupancy – check for hazards, assess ventilation systems and water systems for risks of contamination;
- Identify where and how employees might be exposed to Covid-19 at work – identify work and common areas where employees could have close contact (meeting rooms, locker rooms, waiting areas, kitchens); and
- Educating employees and supervisors about steps they can take to protect themselves at work – topics should include, but not be limited to, awareness of signs and symptoms of infection, staying home when ill, social distancing and hand hygiene practices.
Some of the measures you can put in place to maintain social distancing include:
- Using floor tape or paint to mark work areas;
- Providing signage to remind people to keep a 2 metre distance; and
- Limiting movement of people:
- rotating between jobs and equipment
- in hightraffic areas like corridors, turnstiles and walkways
- staggering shifts or having a maximum capacity in the office
- allow only essential trips within buildings and between sites
General office etiquette and rules should include:
- Maintaining a 2 metre distance from each other at all times;
- Washing hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, using water and soap;
- Ensure work surfaces, phones and IT equipment are cleaned before and after use;
- Sit side-by-side or back-to-back in office areas, avoiding being positioned face-to-face where possible;
- Only use equipment in designated spaces;
- Keep desks as clear as possible; and
- Be mindful of social distancing when moving around the office and using share devices, such as printers.
It is important to note that whilst the final restrictions are set to be lifted on July 19, these are largely social restrictions and employees may expect social distancing measures in the workplace to be around for some time after, in order to feel safe. A large proportion of the population are still not vaccinated, and there seems to be a higher resistance amongst the under 25s. Some under 45 year olds many have not had their second jab yet. Hence some NHS regions are offering walk in vaccine opportunities. Employers will need manage expectations and find a balance between accommodating those who are keen to get back to normal as soon as possible and those who see it as a more gradual process. The aim being that all employees feel fully supported at all times. Employers will also need to communicate and consult with staff on their plans clearly and effectively, in a way that encourages employees to respect each other’s views and personal circumstances.
Please get in touch [email protected] if you need advice on any element of returning to the office.
We act for businesses of all shapes and sizes and in many different sectors. Our advice covers all aspects of the employment relationship, helping to settle disputes, defending employment tribunal claims and providing immigration compliance audits.
COVID-19: Understanding what Coronavirus means for your business
Companies across the UK and globally are now considering how they can mitigate the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
It’s your first day at a new job. You walk into the office and realize the layout, the people and the pace are completely different from your last role.
How do you adjust to the new environment while being professional? Each office has its own characteristics for being a good employee, but there are general office etiquette rules you can take with you when changing jobs.
What is office etiquette and why is it important?
Office etiquette is a set of unwritten rules for employees to practice professionalism and polite behavior. While office etiquette varies based on the company, generally, respectable office etiquette allows employees to form strong relationships with colleagues and clients and helps employees advance their careers.
When it comes to etiquette, first impressions matter. In the results of a recent study from researchers at the University of Chicago, people were much quicker to re-define someone based on bad behavior rather than on good behavior. Therefore, less-than-ideal impressions stick and might hinder you from forming critical relationships with your colleagues and boss. Establishing good relationships right off the bat will make you quickly integrate into the work environment and impress your boss. Those with good etiquette also show that they’re serious about their work performance, which can put them on the path to future promotions. Below are office etiquette rules you can follow in your work environment.
10 Office Etiquette Rules
1. Be on time.
Time is precious, and no one wants to feel like you think your time is more important to their time. Whether arriving at the office, visiting a client or making a deadline, being prompt shows that you’re serious about work and respect the other party’s time. If you miss a deadline, your whole team is affected and may have to cover for you. Clients expect high-quality service so if you are late to an appointment, the client might question their money and wonder if you value their time. When running late, it’s courteous to let the other party know and keep them in the loop about your schedule.
2. Avoid gossip.
Think high school is over? That’s not always the case in the workplace. While it’s natural to stress over work, be careful about the extent of what you share. How you treat people reflects on your character, and if you speak negatively about your coworkers, people might associate you with that negativity. Also, colleagues might be less inclined to trust you if they hear you badmouthing other colleagues, wondering if you do the same to them.
3. Understand your work environment.
It’s important to observe and understand your work environment so you know what’s appropriate. For example, startups have a more relaxed dress code, but if you work in the corporate sector, you may dress more business professional. According to Columbia University Center for Career Education, if you work at a larger organization, you can access the HR department and in-house trainings. For smaller companies, you would learn from observing others and asking questions. You’ll learn the values and policies of your company over time, but it’s good practice to research and observe in order to navigate the company.
4. Keep it clean.
At work, you don’t want to be known as someone who can’t pick up after themselves. If you are in common area and leave coffee cups, pieces of paper or random snacks, then someone will clean it for you which can cost time and their patience. Also, keeping your desk or workspace clean and organized reflects your professional brand. It is good to periodically check to see if you have maintained a clean workspace.
5. Be mindful of how others work.
People have different working styles, so be mindful when working in an open office. Some people might want to blast music and others might want silence. If you want to listen to music, podcasts, or any other audio, do so with some headphones or if permitted, find a cubicle or office space.
6. Be personal but professional.
Since you’ll see your colleagues for the majority of your week, it’s human to get to know them on a personal level. If you don’t share, you might come off as snobbish. At the same time, you don’t want to relay everything such as a cheating spouse or your drunken weekend escapades, since that may distract you and others from focusing on professional projects. It’s also important to be mindful of other peoples’ boundaries. Sharing personal information is a choice, so do not push employees to divulge information.
7. Show genuine interest.
We all have thousands of thoughts running through our head. We’re checking off to-do lists, worrying about how we’ll finish tasks and if we remembered to pick up the dry cleaning. When speaking with colleagues or clients, we’re hoping they speak quickly so we can move on. However, people can tell when you are actively listening. When speaking with others, give your undivided attention, maintain good eye contact and ask inquisitive follow-up questions. That way people are aware that you are focused and also a pleasure to be around.
8. Introduce others.
If you’re new to a workplace or even if you have been in a job for awhile, there’s always more people to meet. It’s not fun to stand awkwardly with a group of people who have no idea who you are and vice versa. When given the opportunity, introduce people to each other. It’s polite and it makes people feel valued.
9. Be polite and professional in all communication forms.
For phone, email and meeting face-to-face, it’s important to remain professional. When emailing, keep in mind that there is no context for tone or facial expressions, so keep messages short but friendly. Do not send anything that you wouldn’t say in person as emails are permanent.
10. Put down the phone during meetings.
Nowadays, it is hard to put down our phones. However, when you are in meetings, it’s not advised to be texting or browsing the web. It gives off the impression that you’re not paying attention and it can reflect poorly on your company if in front of a client. In meetings, turn your phone off or put it on silent.
How can managers influence office etiquette?
Workplace etiquette is exemplified from the top down. As a manager, you have the opportunity to set a good example for your team. If managers are on time, courteous to others and professional they set the tone for their team and promote office culture. An easy way for employees to be aware of workplace etiquette is to include rules in the workplace handbook or to request HR to put etiquette into onboarding presentations or manuals.
Managers can also encourage respect between coworkers, by avoiding gossip and treating their employees equally. If there is a dispute, it is important to hear both sides without favoring certain employees. Managers can remind employees that professionalism is expected and can consult HR if they need guidance. A positive reinforcement of office behavior is showing appreciation for employees who go above and beyond the standards.
While we may not always consciously think about etiquette, there are certain formalities that can show you are an above and beyond employee. Good business etiquette can accelerate your career and make a more comfortable work environment. The general key etiquette skills are to respect others’ time and workplace habits , avoid gossip and research your work environment.
Have you wondered why all of us do the same set of things when we go to work each morning? We wear formal clothes or uniforms. We smile and greet our colleagues when we reach our workplace. Many of us put our phones on silent before beginning work. No one has told us how to behave or present ourselves at work, yet we understand what’s expected of us in such social settings.
We dress, speak and behave in this way because we want to appear professional. In doing so, we practice basic office etiquette. Read on to know more about what office etiquette entails and why is it important.
What Is Etiquette?
Etiquette reflects our cultural norms, ethical codes and various social conventions. It is always evolving with the demands of society. Etiquette varies from place to place and culture to culture. In a nutshell, etiquette is a complex network of unwritten rules that govern social interactions and behavior. By mastering the rules of etiquette, we can build confidence, improve our social skills and progress professionally.
Understanding and following etiquette can help us avoid uncomfortable situations. Here are a few advantages of behaving in socially responsible ways:
It creates good first impressions and enhances communication
It helps build lasting relationships and creates friendships
It improves empathy and makes us more emotionally intelligent
What Is Office Etiquette?
We practice different types of etiquette depending on the social situation we’re in. Office etiquette is a type of business etiquette that is instrumental to professional development and career advancement. Often used interchangeably with workplace etiquette, it can be defined as a set of rules and norms that govern social interactions in the workplace.
If you have been wondering what workplace etiquette examples are, read on:
Turning up for meetings on or before time
Being friendly and encouraging to coworkers
Respecting your coworkers’ working styles and schedules
Basic Office Etiquette
How you present yourself to your coworkers, managers and supervisors affects your professional development. Here are some office etiquette tips to ensure that you present yourself appropriately in business environments:
Identify Your Office Culture
Understand your workplace culture and the standard codes of conduct. Learn about existing policies and procedures. Reach out to Human Resources in case you want to know more about the organization’s values.
Although many modern organizations don’t emphasize dress codes, you should wear appropriate attire to work. Consult your manager or coworkers if you’re unsure of what is appropriate. Make sure you go to work looking tidy and professional.
Be Flexible And Respectful
Keep an open mind at work. Be flexible to new ideas, thoughts and diverse perspectives. You may be required to work with different teams and collaborate with colleagues who have different work styles. Flexibility prevents conflicts from turning ugly.
Avoid Unnecessary Discussions
Try not to engage in gossip. Oftentimes, we’re too quick to judge our coworkers and engage in unpleasant discussions. Treat everybody with equal importance and respect, irrespective of their job title.
Always keep your mobile phone and laptops on silent to avoid noisy distractions. Pay attention to your body language and habits and make sure you are not distracting. For example, tapping your feet repeatedly, fidgeting or yawning loudly can annoy others.
Keep your personal belongings in your personal space. Make sure that your desk is not cluttered. Clean your desk regularly and keep a small dustbin if needed. Use organizers such as files and penholders to keep your space neat.
Maintain Meeting Etiquette
Always be on time for meetings. If you enter a meeting late, apologize and sit down quickly to avoid interrupting the flow of the meeting. Many meeting organizers send a meeting agenda beforehand to help you prepare for the meeting. Make sure you read it.
Maintain Telephone Etiquette
If you need to take a call, use your earphones or step outside. If you’re on a conference call and you’re not speaking, mute yourself so that there isn’t any unnecessary disturbance. If you receive an emergency call during a meeting, excuse yourself before you answer it.
Don’t Overstep Boundaries
Find the right balance between the personal and professional versions of yourself. As social creatures, we’re bound to share information about our personal lives with our coworkers. But it’s equally important to respect and maintain personal boundaries.
Be a Team Player
Understand that people are unique and have different expectations and working styles. It’s acceptable to not be friends with everyone, but try to be professional and cordial in your interactions. Communicate with your teammates, encourage them, and if conflicts arise, manage or resolve them calmly and politely.
Good workplace etiquette not only teaches you how to impress others but also creates a positive and encouraging environment for everyone. Harappa Education’s Practicing Excellence course will show you how to go beyond your call of duty and engage with people ethically and respectfully. The Four Selfs of Excellence framework will help you present the best version of yourself. Sign up for the course to start learning workplace-appropriate behaviors today!
Explore topics such as What is Etiquette, Business Etiquette, Meeting Etiquette, Telephone Etiquette, Social Etiquette & Difference Between Etiquette and Manners from our Harappa Diaries section and improve your social skills to develop professionally.
Etiquette expert Myka Meier shares the faux pas to avoid at work.
Some days it may feel like you spend more time at your desk than you do at home, but it’s important to remember that work isn’t a place to let loose and forget your manners. “As a general rule of thumb, I always advise people to be extra conscious in any workspace that requires you to share it,” says etiquette expert Myka Meier. “Having good etiquette at work mostly simply means to be considerate and respectful of everyone around you.”
With that in mind, here are Meier’s top 20 etiquette faux pas to avoid in the office.
1. If you have a door, close it if you take personal calls. If you don’t have a door or are in an open plan space, keep private calls short by saying you’ll call the person back on your next break, or walk to an area that is more conducive to personal calls like a lounge area or even outside. If you work in an open office space and professional phone calls distract you, remember that it’s probably not the person’s intention to bother you. Try to be understanding of the situation and keep a good pair of headphones nearby.
2. Keep your computer and phone muted or on silent, so that every time you get an email or message it does not alert everyone on your floor.
3. Do not use a conference room to take long personal calls or treat it as your personal office. Squatting is for the gym—not the workplace.
4. In addition to doing your part to keep the bathroom clean, do not use the restroom to socialize, whether you need to call your mom or catch up on the latest office news. It’s called water cooler chat for a reason.
5. If you’re in a meeting, give your undivided attention to the person speaking. If you must send off a quick note or check something on your phone or computer, keep it short and sweet.
6. Unless everyone is in on the joke, keep loud conversation to a minimum. There might be a distraction but you don’t want to become one.
7. While eating lunch away from our desks is a luxury these days, remember those sitting around you. Try to avoid foods that splatter or slurp or have a lingering smell in a shared office space. As much as you may love steamed fish, the rest of your team will probably won’t.
8. Remember that others need to use the communal kitchen too. If someone continues to prep their lunch in front of the communal microwave after heating up their food, it’s okay to politely bring attention to the fact that they’re taking up the space by saying something like, “Looks yummy! Do you mind if I pop my bowl in?”
9. If someone is nice enough to bring in food to share with the rest of the office, don’t leave the cleanup all to them. If you take the last slice of cake, wash the dish it came on and make sure it gets back to them.
10. If you’re sick and contagious, you shouldn’t be at work, otherwise you risk getting the entire office ill.
11. Think before you hit reply-all. Does everyone need to take the time out of their day to read your note?
12. Email tone is very hard to read, so be sure you’re using language that helps the recipient understand it. And despite what your middle school English teacher may have told you, exclamation points are almost required these days. A simple line like “Really appreciate your help! Thank you, Michael” is better than “Thanks. Michael”
13. Don’t block the elevator door. If the elevator’s full when someone tries to get out, and you’re in the way, simply exit the elevator altogether and then re-enter.
14. When it comes to opening doors, only go in front of someone who opened the door if they motion you through. Same rules apply to whoever swiped their card to access the door—wait until the first person has walked through before you follow.
15. Etiquette in general is becoming more gender neutral, so when it comes to opening doors and getting in and out of elevators, what matters more is showing respect to people who are more senior to you in your office. If you’re entering your floor or the elevator at the same time as your boss—or your boss’s boss—be sure to hold the door open for them and let them enter first.
16. While it’s impossible to always be on time, it’s important to let people know you’re running late. For every minute you think you’ll be late, give two minutes warning. So if you think you’ll be 10 minutes late for the call, email 20 minutes ahead so your colleague or client can adjust their schedule accordingly.
17. You might love your gardenia-bomb perfume, but the office is a place to keep scent subtle. If you choose to put on fragrance, remember it’s meant to go on pulse points only and not clothing—it can permeate the whole room.
18. When it comes to throwing out trash and recycling, be considerate of everyone’s space as much as possible. If you go to put your box or recycle in the designated area and see that it’s overflowing into someone’s work space, think of your colleague and hold off on piling more on. You never know where your next desk will be.
19. In the age of social media, remember that nothing is “private” anymore. Don’t complain about your colleagues or work on Facebook or Twitter. Even if your account is private, it could get back to them.
20. Even if you’re friendly with your colleagues, be aware of crossing boundaries. Over-sharing details of your personal life is unprofessional no matter how close you are with your team.
The responsibility for proper business etiquette lies with all team members in the workplace, including employers, employees, external work contacts (such as suppliers or distributors) and clients, both current and potential. Employers set the standards for practicing proper business etiquette. They may also be responsible for training employees and enforcing participation in expected etiquette practices. Employees have the responsibility of looking to employers for guidelines on etiquette, including business dress code and workplace formality standards.
Etiquette is not a modern development. Guidelines for etiquette have been around for centuries, and business etiquette got an early start in the United States when military officer Henry Martyn Robert summarized and standardized operating parliamentary procedures from around the country in 1876, bringing order and efficiency to public meetings. In 1922, Emily Post published her iconic book, "Etiquette," which further detailed proper business etiquette practices for the professional environment.
Proper business etiquette dictates that, when speaking on the phone, you always let customers speak first and fully speak their mind to get the best understanding of their needs, according to Workplace Moxie. Address customers by their title, including “Mr.,” “Dr.,” or “Professor,” unless invited to use their first name. Always avoid slang and profanity. Telephone business etiquette dictates that you should try to return a phone call on the same day, and avoid placing someone on hold for more than 30 seconds.
In person, offer a consistent, firm handshake and friendly eye contact. Carrying business cards is a good idea when practicing proper business etiquette.
In written correspondence, double-check emails and letters for typos, and make sure that the recipient’s name is correctly spelled. When emailing, always include a subject in the subject line and avoid using only capital letters. Affix an automatic business signature that includes your contact information, including telephone and fax numbers.
The workplace often involves business meals eaten in restaurants. Proper business etiquette practices extend to these venues. “Proper Business Etiquette” recommends allowing the host to take the lead when ordering, and avoiding ordering the most expensive or least expensive item on the menu. Avoid messy foods, and refrain from drinking alcohol. Take small bites to facilitate conversation without disruptions due to chewing and swallowing.
The International Workplace
Proper business etiquette guidelines may shift in the international workplace, where cultural expectations may differ by country or region. In Japan, for example, it is proper to review business cards respectfully when they’ve been offered rather than put them away at once. Israeli business etiquette includes sensitivity in dress, since religious guidelines may encourage or discourage certain apparel choices.
The art of practicing proper business etiquette involves flexibility and tact. You should “go with the flow” rather than stick rigidly to hard-and-fast etiquette rules and risk offending business clients or co-workers. For example, generally refraining from alcohol at business dinners is generally thought to be good etiquette. However, should your host produce a very special bottle of celebratory wine, it might be rude to refuse a small glass. Nor would it be appropriate to publicly correct the mistake of co-workers who perhaps lack your own proper etiquette savvy.
“You go first.” “No, please, you go ahead.” If this polite consideration doesn’t sound like any office you’ve worked in, you’re not alone. Business etiquette has become a rare occurrence in many offices. Most people don’t intend to be rude or thoughtless. But with everyone rushing to meet deadlines and reach their goals, there seems to be a lot of stepping on toes and just plain bad manners. Sometimes, though, what constitutes a breach of business etiquette to one person is unimportant to another, so it helps to know what is considered bad business etiquette.
What Is Business Etiquette?
Business etiquette translates to using good manners in business settings. You could say it’s applying the Golden Rule at work: Treat others the way you want to be treated. Basically, if everyone treated their colleagues with respect, business etiquette would occur naturally. That means listening actively when others are talking, eschewing office gossip, being considerate of other people’s time and responding to emails and phone calls promptly.
10 Bad Business Etiquette Examples
There seem to be universal examples of etiquette breaches that bug people at work:
1. Being chronically late. It may be standard practice to arrive a little late for a party, but not for work. This goes for being late to work in the morning and to meetings, business lunches and anything else that comes with a specific start time.
2. Playing on your phone. The only time it’s okay to play games on your phone at work is when you’re taking lunch at your desk. Even if you’re checking email, it’s rude to be on your phone instead of paying attention in meetings or when others are talking.
3. Interrupting. Do you mind being interrupted when you’re speaking? Oh, you do? Well, so does everyone else. Instead, listen attentively and wait politely for your turn.
4. Gossiping. Engaging in office gossip bothers many people, though it’s mentioned by employees, not C-levels. Could be the gossip isn’t shared with the bosses.
5. Responding late. When colleagues send you emails, they’re waiting for a reply. Same with phone calls. Don’t wait more than a day to respond to either, even if it’s only, “Got your email; will get back to you shortly.”
6. Skipping meetings. Not showing up for a meeting is rude on many levels. First, you have to bother others to catch up on what you missed. Second, it looks like you think you’re more important than everyone else. Third, it’s disrespectful of the time someone put into planning the meeting.
7. Being critical. Sure, you wish everyone had your dedication, but saying so aloud is considered bad form, from outing someone who sneaks into meetings late to bemoaning the constant errors in the company newsletter.
8. Grabbing credit. It’s much nicer to congratulate someone on their accomplishments than to try to take credit for them.
9. Leaving people out. Don’t be the oaf who fails to make introductions. They needn’t be super-formal. “Jerry, this is Carrie” is fine. Bonus points if you tell each person a little about the other.
10. Diving right in. It’s ironic that being too businesslike can also be rude, isn’t it? While it may seem that small talk is a time waster, asking about a co-worker’s children or recent vacation helps build relationships that can make working together more pleasant.
Why Is Business Etiquette Important?
Instances of bad business etiquette are bad business practices because they make working together more difficult. Being consistently rude could even affect your standing and promotions in the company. And when you are promoted, being considerate of others makes you a better manager.
Learn how to show professionalism in the workplace and get essential office etiquette tips for professional communication at work.
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Business Etiquette: Master Communication and Soft Skills
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Learn soft skills, from proper email etiquette to presenting yourself well
New to the professional workplace or preparing to get back to the office after time away?
This course designed by CQUniversity will make sure your office etiquette is up to the correct standard and give you essential workplace communication tips and soft skills for working efficiently and professionally.
Improve your communication skills and learn the email etiquette rules in the workplace
With over 300 billion emails being sent around the world on a daily basis, email is widely used across business and personal communication.
When it comes to work, a key component of your success relies on you being able to use appropriate email etiquette. This course will help you identify the key pillars of email etiquette.
You’ll learn how to maintain open and professional channels of communication in all areas, including how to construct a professional email message, adding attachments and hyperlinks, adding a signature block, as well as guidelines on copying others to email correspondence.
Grow your soft skills and show professionalism in your appearance, attitude, and behaviour
As well as learning how to communicate professionally with your clients and colleagues, you’ll learn how to enhance your soft skills like communication, time management, and listening so that you can present yourself in a way that aligns with the values of your place of work.
The course designed by CQUniversity will teach you how different dress codes can have a significant impact on interview success and impressing important clients.
You’ll also explore how the way you present yourself can positively impact your attitude and confidence, ultimately altering the perception others have of you.
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Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.
Find out the basic rules of business etiquette and how to follow them, both in person and online.
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. 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?
Many, but not all, of us follow these 15 time-tested rules of better behavior. Do you?
1. When in doubt, introduce others.
Always introduce people to others whenever the opportunity arises, unless you know that they’re already acquainted. It makes people feel valued, regardless of their status or position.
2. A handshake is still the professional standard.
Not only does this simple gesture demonstrate that you’re polite, confident and approachable, it also sets the tone for any potential future professional relationship. In a very casual work atmosphere, you might be able to get away with a nod or a hello, but it’s worth it to make the extra effort to offer your hand.
3. Always say “Please” and “Thank you.”
This should go without saying, but even in a very casual professional atmosphere, this basic form of courtesy is still imperative. Today, sending a thank you email is perfectly acceptable, but a handwritten thank you note is always a nice touch.
4. Don’t interrupt.
We’ve become a nation of “over-talkers,” so eager to offer our own opinions or press our point that we often interrupt others mid-sentence. It can be tongue-bitingly difficult to force ourselves not to interject, especially when the discussion is heated. Don’t. It’s rude and shows disrespect for the opinions of others. Remember, be assertive, not aggressive.
5. Watch your language.
Verbal and written communications are often much less formal than in times past, but be careful to choose your words wisely. Of course, derogatory, rude or offensive language is unacceptable, but so is slang. While it may be commonplace in our society, it’s never acceptable in a professional atmosphere.
6. Double check before you hit send.
While we’re on the subject of communication, always check your emails for spelling and grammar errors. Since the advent of spell check, there is no excuse for typos. Also, do a quick read to make sure the meaning and tone are what you wish to convey. And no smileys, please.
7. Don’t walk into someone’s office unannounced.
It’s disrespectful to assume that you have the right to interrupt other people’s work. Knock on the door or say hello if it’s open and ask if it’s a good time to talk. If the discussion is going to take more than a few minutes, it’s a good idea to call or e-mail and schedule a good time for both of you.
8. Don’t gossip.
It’s so hard sometimes to resist engaging in a little “harmless” gossip. But the reality is that gossip is never harmless. It is most certainly damaging to the subject of the gossip, but it also reflects poorly on you. It’s natural to be curious and interested in what other people are doing, but talking about someone who is not present is disrespectful.
9. Don’t eavesdrop.
Everyone is entitled to private conversations, in person or over the phone. The same goes for email; don’t stand over someone’s shoulder and read their emails.
10. Acknowledge others.
When someone approaches you, acknowledge him or her. If you’re in the middle of something important, it’s fine to ask them to wait a minute while you finish. If you pass someone in the hallway or on the street, but don’t have time to talk, at least wave a hand and say hello. Busyness is not an excuse to ignore people.
11. Avoid the “Big Two.”
We have blurred many of the personal and professional lines, but politics and religion are still off-limits. These topics are highly charged minefields for a professional atmosphere. Leave them at the office door.
12. For better business etiquette, be on time.
We’re all busy. Being punctual shows others that you value their time. Being late doesn’t mean that you’re busier than other people; it just means that you’re inconsiderate.
13. No phone during meetings.
When you’re in a meeting, focus on the meeting discussion. Don’t take calls, text or check email. It’s disrespectful to the other attendees, not to mention extremely annoying. It also makes meetings last longer because the participants keep losing focus.
14. Don’t be a business card pusher.
Don’t simply hand out business cards to everyone you meet. It’s a bit aggressive unless you’re on a sales call. Ask for the other person’s card, offer to exchange cards or at the very least, ask if you can leave your card before you reach in your pocket.
15. Show genuine interest.
Keep eye contact and make an effort to truly listen to what others are saying. We are so easily distracted in this climate of increasingly short attention spans; we often can’t wait for the other person to hurry up and finish so we can move on to the next thing. Resist the lure of distraction and haste. Take the time to ask questions and show an interest in the other person’s thoughts.
Royale Scuderi is a freelance writer and success coach. She is the founder of Productive Life Concepts and has been featured on top rated blogs such as Stepcase Lifehack and The Huffington Post. You can also find her musings on life and business at Twitter.com/RoyaleScuderi.
A version of this article was originally published on October 3, 2012.
What most people often forget is that there’s a fine line between the comfort and professionalism. There’s no harm in talking with people but if proper etiquette is not observed when communicating – especially in the workplace – people might just get the wrong message. If you want to have a successful endeavour, then you should perfect your communication skills, as the exchange of ideas and information is crucial for any business. Proper communication is important in any workplace, no matter what type or where it’s located; whether it be a co-working space in the UK, virtual office in Manila, or open space office in China.
If you don’t know the proper communication etiquette for the office, here are some of them!
#1. Focus On the Other Person
It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert in multitasking, giving your sole attention on the other person will always be appropriate. If you have an email to reply to or a text message you have to read, kindly tell the other person and avoid multitasking. It’s not just appropriate it’s also a sign of respect, by giving your attention to another person you make them feel that they’re worth your time. Also, if you’re not focusing on the person, you might miss social cues that define where a conversation is headed.
#2. Listening Is Underrated
When miscommunication occurs, it may come at a cost; such as lawsuits, loss of respect, or misunderstandings. The way to avoid this is by simply listening to the one talking instead of thinking of a response already. Listening is too underrated in a fast-paced setting like a workplace but when it’s practiced consistently, it’ll develop into a habit. This will allow you to pay attention with all intent and listen to anyone who’s talking.
If you didn’t hear or understand something, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Showing physical cues can also be helpful because smiling, or nodding appropriately can let the speaker know that you’re paying attention.
#3. Appropriate Timing
When you want to talk to someone in the office, first, check if they’re not busy. Because communicating with someone while they’re busy may be counter-productive. This is because you may only get their divided attention or they could annoyed because you’re disturbing them. Also, if you’re the one who’s busy, you should ask the other person if it’s urgent, if not, ask them if you can talk to them later because you’re trying to finish something. Tell them as kindly as possible and they’ll surely understand.
#4. Appropriate Delivery
Along with proper timing, your delivery should still be observed. Before you talk to an officemate, try to determine if that particular matter is supposed to be conducted through a face-to-face discussion or you could just tell them through an email or text. Talking face-to-face is not always the answer; by practicing the right delivery you can practice efficient habits in whatever work setting you’re in.
#5. Questions Are Important
Effective communication will never be a one-way street, it’s an act between two or more people. Asking questions – specifically open-ended ones – will always be one of the most effective communication skills a person could have. By doing this, you’ll make the other person feel that they’re worth your attention. This also means that the conversation is a priority because when you ask questions, the conversation will be longer and more meaningful.
Communication skills and etiquette is one of the most important assets a person could have. Effective communication can always make or break a business so, always practice your communication skills and etiquette and you’ll have less problems in the long run.
Sean Si is a motivational speaker and is the head honcho and editor-in-chief of SEO Hacker. He does SEO Services for companies in the Philippines and Abroad. Connect with him at Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
Lesson 4: Business Etiquette
By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:
- Define business etiquette
- Seek ways to improve business etiquette
What is business etiquette?
Business etiquette is a set of manners that is accepted or required in a profession. Often upheld by custom, it is enforced by the members of an organization. Those who violate business etiquette are considered offensive. The penalty for such behavior frequently lies in the disapproval of other organization members.
Business etiquette is important because it creates a professional, mutually respectful atmosphere and improves communication, which helps an office serve as a productive place. People feel better about their jobs when they feel respected, and that translates into better customer relationships as well.
Watch the video below to learn the basics of business etiquette.
To help you define the type of manners or behavior that are expected in your workplace, consider the following:
- How do you treat clients or customers?
- How do you treat your coworkers and supervisor?
- How do you conduct yourself in your cubicle or office?
- How do you conduct yourself during meetings?
- What kind of email messages do you send?
- Do you follow a dress code?
- How do you conduct yourself in the break room?
- How do you conduct yourself during business-sponsored social events?
- How do you conduct yourself during training events?
- How do you conduct yourself on the telephone?
Improving business etiquette
Improving your business etiquette can have a positive impact on your career. Remember to use common courtesy. Adopt the "you" attitude—consider others' needs and feelings first. This behavior leads to good manners and common courtesy, thereby improving your business etiquette.
Examples of courteous behavior include:
- Using please and thank you as appropriate
- Addressing others using Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms. unless otherwise requested
- Speaking clearly and distinctly while using a pleasant tone of voice
- Maintaining eye contact
- Smiling and offering a firm handshake when meeting someone new
- Writing thank-you notes and letters of appreciation, congratulation, and condolence as appropriate
You can improve your business etiquette skills by:
- Conducting some research. When at work, pay attention to the manners and habits of your supervisor, mentor, senior management, and other key players. If you are unsure about displaying proper etiquette, consider asking your supervisor or mentor for advice.
- Joining a professional organization. Aside from being a great way to network, professional organizations give you an opportunity to gain insight into the etiquette that's particular to your profession. Added benefits include practicing your business etiquette skills outside of your organization.
- Visiting your local bookstore or library. There have been numerous books written on improving business etiquette. Check out the self-improvement section of your local bookstore or library to find them.
- Going online. Whether it's someone selling books, tapes, seminars, or offering free advice, the Internet is filled with suggestions on how to improve your business etiquette.
Remember, business etiquette can vary depending on your profession and organization.
Business etiquette and electronic communication
Electronic communication has complicated the rules of business etiquette. To ensure you're doing your best to follow business etiquette when using electronic communication, consider the following:
General telephone etiquette:
- Consult your organization's rules for telephone use.
- Answer as quickly as possible.
- Speak clearly and distinctly, stating your name and the name of your organization.
- Use a pleasant but professional tone of voice.
- Transfer calls to the correct personnel.
- Take messages and deliver them promptly to the correct personnel. Return messages as quickly as possible.
- When recording an outgoing message, say, "Hello, you've reached (your name) at (name of organization). I am either away from my desk or on the other line. If you'll leave your name, phone number, and a brief message, I'll return your call as soon as possible. Thank you. Goodbye".
Listen to an example of a professional-sounding voicemail message.
Cell phone etiquette:
- Consult your organization's rules for cell phone use.
- Turn off your phone (or set it to vibrate) where ringing may disturb or offend others. Never take a call in the middle of a business meeting.
- Try to avoid taking calls in the middle of social meetings, such as working lunches.
General email etiquette:
- Consult your organization's rules for email use.
- Include a subject line.
- Keep it brief.
- Pay attention to grammar and spelling.
- Use a pleasant tone.
- Don't forward junk mail.
Email etiquette is especially important because your work email is not private—many companies monitor their employees' work accounts for unprofessional conduct. To learn more about email safety at work, check out our lesson, Email Violations Can Jeopardize Your Job.
Failing to display proper business etiquette won't help your career, but engaging in unprofessional conduct could result in losing a promotion or even your job. Never engage in the following inappropriate behaviors:
- Coming to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Engaging in unethical practices, such as misusing company funds
- Engaging in sexual harassment
- Showing a lack of respect to superiors, peers, or subordinates
- Using foul language
- Complaining publicly about your organization or supervisor
- Engaging in divisive gossip
- Violating confidentiality
Emily Post Institute: Provides information on basic business etiquette.
Columbia University Center for Career Education: Contains a good list of tips on how to make a positive impression in the workplace.
A proper etiquette and attitude at the workplace is important to advance your career. Conveying the wrong message can stall a talented professional, says Devashish Chakravarty.
- Print Edition: Jun 01, 2011
It’s that time of the year again when work performances have been appraised and judgements pronounced. Now, look around your office. Some of your colleagues might have been asked to move on, while others were rewarded with greater responsibilities.
Could you have predicted, with a reasonable degree of success, who among your colleagues would have been included in each category? If you had spent sufficient time with these people, your assessment would, probably, have been spot on.
How could you do that, especially appraise people not part of your team? Well, you judged them on their actions and conduct at office. So, unsurprisingly, one of the best predictors of corporate success (and failure) is behaviour at the workplace.
Social etiquette begins with appearance and grooming. The guiding principle here is to choose what makes it easier to work together. Thus, personal hygiene and understatement rank above individualism.
The guiding principle at the workplace is to choose what makes it easier to work together, be it your clothes or your attitude at work.
The basics of grooming start with proper hair, skin and nail care. Opt for apparel and colours that are not offensive to general sensibilities. Remember that if you attract excessive attention on account of your clothes (or lack of it), you are unlikely to be taken seriously as a professional capable of handling obligations. Similarly, strong perfumes and flashy jewellery are best confined to the weekends.
All of these choices, however, need to be made in the context of the situation and place. A smart shirt may be acceptable as Friday wear at a regional office, but might be out of place without a tie and a suit at the corporate office or at an interview. Have a range of formal and informal wear for appropriate occasions at the workplace. Clean, ironed clothes, pleasant colours, polished footwear and an overall sober demeanour will help build an image of someone who takes his career seriously and who can be trusted with responsibilities.
The next step is to perfect the right attitude. Skills and experience are required to get a job. Keeping the job and excelling requires results, individual and within a team. So, simply put, the attitude one brings to work in the morning makes a difference to the quality of results you deliver. Pride in the job and a passion for getting things done competently is invariably appreciated by colleagues, clients and bosses.
A whining, complaining employee lasts only until an enthusiastic replacement is found. A person who sticks his neck out to ask for work may risk short-term failure but always ends up with more opportunities to excel. Thereafter, the ability to take responsibility and accurately and politely put forward facts and opinions earns the trust of the team. Team members and managers also support someone who consistently acknowledges the team’s contributions to your success. On the flip side, complaining about co-workers and bosses does not further anyone’s career. Be a person who prefers resolving conflicts by tackling problems rather than targeting the individuals involved.
The confident professional is identified as one who loves to share knowledge and improve his team’s and colleagues’ performance. An insecure employee often tries to protect his turf and invariably fails when alienated team members find a way around to get things done. As a manager, be quick to take decisions and slow to change them rather than the other way round. The former method gets great output (provided the decision was correct) whereas the latter stalls productive work. Good communication is also necessary to maintain working relationships in the office, which goes a long way towards success in your career (How to Say it Right, May 2011). Communication is enhanced and empowered by non-verbal cues and body language.
Effective non-verbal communication complements and emphasises what is being said and, thus, increases the message’s influence. Positive body language serves to foster trust and conveys attentiveness, which is important at work. Facial expressions and posture reflect emotional responses. Gestures accentuate what you are trying to get across. The tone of your voice conveys sincerity, intensity and energy (or the lack of it).
Finally, eye contact is a measure of attentiveness, assertiveness and affection. Touch or physical distance conveys a great deal of information including assertiveness, dominance, confidence, support or the reverse of all these. To learn to read and master non-verbal language, it is necessary to be completely present in the moment and focus on the other person and the communication itself. Listen to the words, but learn to observe with your eyes to read non-verbal cues.
Good grooming, attitude and communication make for a successful combination at the workplace. Note that none of these can substitute for competence, but a lack of these can definitely derail a skilled professional.
The writer is CEO, Quetzal Verify, an HR solutions company run by IIM-Ahmedabad alumni.
Body, eyes and tone. Focus on what people are saying through eye contact, tone of their voice and gestures and posture. The more you observe, the better you recognise non-verbal cues. Now, try listening to your own non-verbal output to perfect communication.
Focus on Dissonance
Maximum information is conveyed when words and non-verbal signals are contradictory. Note that people almost always ignore words and prefer to communicate through the unsaid. Learn to use your body and voice to match your words and, thus, make your communication more powerful.
The Complete Picture
It is easy to go wrong in comprehending non-verbal messages. Do not read too much into one single event. Focus on the whole picture. Interpret non-verbal communication in multiple signals that are conveying the same message.
Within the Context
Decipher non-verbal cues within context. As in verbal, the occasion, emotional state, interpersonal relationships and past communication give different meanings to the same set of gestures.
Good cubicle etiquette is extremely important, as employing it illustrates personal respect and professionalism. Without proper workplace etiquette, office harmony can become seriously disrupted and employee turmoil can adversely affect a company’s bottom line. When employees practice appropriate cubicle etiquette, however, workplace disturbances and general employee discomfort can be greatly reduced.
Working in cubicles does not typically allow employees a lot of personal space. Such may be a more efficient choice for accommodating a certain number of employees in a limited space, but if proper office etiquette is ignored, such can also be a blueprint for disaster. Cubicle etiquette, therefore, is important to help maintain order and professional respect for others in the workplace.
In a busy workplace, cubicle etiquette is also important in helping keep outside distractions to a minimum. Frequent interruptions, loud talking, gossip and overbearing scents can cause distractions that slow work production or make nearby employees quite uncomfortable. To avoid this, many employers have strict rules about cubicle etiquette that all must agree to adhere to on a consistent basis. Rules like not entering another employee’s cubicle without an invitation, speaking in soft tones, never yelling out to an employee in another cubicle, using headphones to listen to music, not eating inside of cubicles and respecting the privacy of others are very important activities that can help make working in cubicles a lot easier and more productive in a busy workplace.
A lack of good cubicle etiquette may not only be a distraction, but can be downright offensive to some. Private telephone conversations that demean certain groups of people or that are riddled with profanity can make people feel uncomfortable in the workplace. While refraining from doing so is considered good office etiquette, in general, it is particularly important when people are assigned to work closely or even share a single office cubicle.
The importance of cubicle etiquette not only applies to the comfort of employees, but a lack of good etiquette can also cause serious implications for an employer. This is particularly the case when employees feel threatened by a co-worker’s lack of respect for privacy or offensive behaviors such as overtly sexual or racial comments, lewd photographs and suggestive music. Even when activities involving potentially offensive behaviors occur within the confines of an employee’s assigned workspace, an employer may be at risk for expensive legal woes when proper cubicle etiquette is not practiced.
Many companies don’t practice good Business Etiquette because they underestimate the value it has and how it can make or break a business. Here are 5 reasons why you need to train your employees on Business Etiquette:
- To create an understanding of the importance of portraying a professional image. Your staff needs to understand that first impressions are lasting. They need to uplift your name and brand through their own image. They are after all your brand ambassadors.
- To help staff build strong and lasting professional relationships. Being on time, keeping your promises, honesty, loyalty etc. are all things that keep clients coming back. People do business with people who they trust.
- To prevent misunderstandings and confusions by writing and communicating professionally. Many written and verbal communications can be misunderstood if not done professionally.
- To understand, appreciate and work together with diversity. Not only in South Africa but companies across the globe have very diverse cultures. It is important to understand cultural differences, to embrace them and to work together towards a common goal.
- To help create a professional safe workplace. This will help you to create a healthy workplace where professionality can set the bar for equality in the office.
During our Business Etiquette training course your employees will learn the hidden value – and priceless potential – of image, etiquette and protocol and how it can make a difference to their career success and your business.
In life and in business first impressions, as well as on-going interactions, are critical because people buy from people. Employees’ appearance, attitude and behaviour are therefore a direct reflection of your company and brand.
Whether it is appropriate wear or image, sending out professional business communication, wording an email correctly or having awareness about cultural sensitivities, having good business etiquette can give us the edge in almost every situation.
Have a look at our course outline https://themindspa.co.za/index.php/training/office-professionals/business-etiquette to gain a better understanding of what will be taught throughout this course.
Other Recommended Courses include:
Effective Communication, Presentation and Negotiation Skills
Change and Diversity Management
Anger and Conflict Management
Kindness and patience are at the heart of good etiquette
Q: Before COVID, you had written several columns about workplace etiquette. I was wondering how you think those norms will change now that we are all returning back to the workplace.
A: Unlike in your personal life where you can simply choose to socialize and visit with those you know are vaccinated — or have good reason not to be — once you enter the workplace you will be in unknown territory. Unless your employer requires all employees and customers to be vaccinated, — which is very rare — you will be interacting with coworkers and customers who may or may not be vaccinated.
Therefore, the assumption should continue to be that — unless you know you are among only vaccinated people — precautions are in order. So, what will that look like in the workplace? While this is constantly evolving, I would follow this general advice:
Don’t offer to shake hands if you are introduced. Simply say “It’s nice to meet you” with a smile and a nod of the head while keeping your hands by your side. If someone offers their hand to you, it’s okay to say “It’s so nice to meet you, but I’m not shaking hands yet,” implying that someday you will. Note: elbow bumping, while it was novel at the beginning, is unnecessary and now comes across as gimmicky, so skip it.
At work, don’t even think about it. If offered a hug, use the same formula as before: smile and say “Great to see you again but I’m not hugging yet.”
What we used to consider “personal space” at work has now grown by one or two feet. Although keeping “6-foot social distance” will no longer be practical, possible or necessary, I’d give those around me plenty of room to maneuver. If you are a loud talker, be self-aware and maybe take a step back.
Know the mask rules for your location and follow them
Rules might change from one room or one location to the next. Conference rooms, elevators, break rooms, open workspaces, outdoor areas, could all have different mask requirements. Learn and follow the rules. Remember, etiquette is not so much about rules, it’s about being considerate and thoughtful of others. This means, always carry a mask with you just in case. And never make fun of someone for wearing a mask, or taking a precaution.
Lastly and most important: Be kind and be patient.
We are making it up as we go along, we have all been through a lot, and we really don’t know what others have experienced. Kindness and patience are at the heart of good etiquette. Follow your instincts and you’ll be fine.