What is Business Etiquette ?
Every profession requires a certain set of manners and it is these very manners that are known as business etiquette. Business etiquette is generally enforced by members of an organization and it is custom that upholds business etiquette.
Further business etiquette is about building valuable and respectable business relationships with others. It is about creating an environment wherein all members of an organisation feel secure, comfortable and relaxed.
Business etiquette is about maintaining a pleasant atmosphere at work by treating employees and co-workers with courtesy and respect. The rules of business etiquette may vary from one organisation to another, however there are some universal business etiquette rules that are applicable almost everywhere and for most etiquette professionals
Here are some business etiquette rules that every professional must know:
Stand When Being Introduced
In an office or business environment you must stand up when you are being introduced to someone. Standing up during introduction will create a positive impact on the opposite person. Your presence is better established when you stand up during an introduction.
In the event that you are unable to stand up because you have been caught completely off guard, make an attempt to at least lean forward during the introduction or while shaking hands with the person.
Have Gratitude But Don’t Sound Needy and Desperate
In any situation, be it business or social, saying thank you is the polite thing to do. However if you are going to repeatedly say the word in a single conversation it will lose its value and impact and may even make you sound needy and desperate and even helpless.So ensure that you don’t use the word more than once or twice in a single conversation.
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Avoid Crossing Your Legs
Crossing your legs in a business environment or during a meeting is highly inappropriate. Though both men and women tend to do it, it must be at all costs avoided.
If at all you find the need to cross your legs, make sure you cross them at the ankles and not knees. That way when you need to suddenly shift you can do it subtly without making it obvious.
Pointing Must Be Done With An Open Palm
If you can avoid pointing all together that would be ideal. However if a situation arises where you can’t avoid it, make sure you point with an open palm and not with your index finger.
This rule is applicable to both genders. Pointing with a single finger or particularly your index finger indicates aggression. So when pointing keep all your fingers together and point with an open palm.
Your opinion may matter and you may have a very valid point to put forward in a group discussion at your office place, however wait until you get a chance to speak. Don’t cut other people off or interrupt them while they speak.
Mind Your Tongue
You may encounter a situation where you’re extremely annoyed with a colleague or subordinate. Irrespective of how heated the situation maybe, ensure that you keep your cool and watch your language.
Never use abusive language or obscene words in the office. Even written communication should be polite and respectful. Ensure you don’t use derogatory or rude language, it is absolutely unacceptable.
Knock Before Entering
Make sure you knock before you enter a colleagues or seniors cabin. Don’t ever walk in unannounced. You have absolutely no right to interrupt someone’s work and it is essential for you to respect their space and privacy. So if you find that their cabin door is pulled shut, knock and announce your presence before walking in.
Stay Miles Away From Gossip
Though it may be extremely tempting to indulge in office gossip, stay away from it. Gossiping about colleagues not only damages their image in the organisation but it also speaks volumes about the kind of person you are. Don’t let curiosity carry you away and avoid listening to other people gossip too.
No matter how busy you are or how senior your post in an organisation may be, ensure that you show up on time for meetings and conferences. If you think being late is fashionable and gives people a reason to believe that you are extremely busy, you are wrong. Showing up late only shows how inconsiderate you are and how you disrespect other people’s time.
Keep Your Phone Away
It is NOT ok to take calls, reply to text messages and scan through emails during meetings. It is extremely irritating and highly disrespectful to other people attending the meeting. Also make sure you keep your phone on silent while attending a meeting so that it doesn’t disturb the other attendees and the speaker.
Avoid Pulling Out A Chair For Others
In a social setting it is acceptable for a man to pull out a chair for a lady. However in a professional atmosphere this is highly unacceptable and rude. Men and women are considered equals at the work place and both can pull out their own chairs.
Don’t Leave Before Your Senior Does At a Corporate Party
It is absolutely rude and unacceptable for you to leave a corporate function or party before your senior departs. Ensure you stay back at the event until your senior excuses himself and leaves.
Food should be eaten only in the office etiquette dining place and not in your cabin or cubicle. If for some reason you are absolutely unable to make it to the lunch room, then make sure the food you eat in your cubicle doesn’t have a foul and unbearable odour. Also ensure you clean up after your meal.
Make sure that you dress in a professional and acceptable manner. Avoid wearing clothes that are revealing or inappropriate. If your office has a dress code then make sure you stick by the code.
Limit Personal Calls
As far as possible avoid attending personal calls in the office. If it is absolutely necessary for you to take a personal call then keep it as short as possible.
Keep Time Zones In Mind
When interacting with clients and customers who live in foreign countries, keep the time zone of that country in mind before calling your customer. You don’t want to end up calling a client at the crack of dawn or at an unearthly hour.
Avoid Bothering Colleagues On Holidays and Weekends
Making work related calls to colleagues on holidays and weekends is extremely rude and intrusive. Your invading their personal and family time by doing so. As much as possible avoid making calls to colleagues on the weekend, but if absolutely necessary then keep the call as short as possible.
Send Grammatically Correct Emails
Sending professional emails that contain grammatical errors or slang language is absolutely unacceptable. Make sure that the emails you send out are grammatically correct and free of spelling errors.
Maintaining business etiquette at the work place is absolutely necessary for professionals. It will help them go a long way and increase their goodwill in the company as well as amongst clients. To sum up the do’s and don’ts in the office environment here is a short list to keep in mind:
- Stand up when being introduced
- Show your gratitude
- Point with an open palm
- Watch your tone and mind your tongue
- Knock before entering a colleagues or seniors cabin
- Stay away from gossip
- Be punctual
- Dress as per the office dress code
- Eat only in the office lunchroom
- Limit or avoid personal calls
- When dealing with international customers and clients keep clients in mind
- Send grammatically correct emails
- Say thank you more than twice in a conversation
- Cross your legs while sitting in a meeting
- Pull out chairs for others
- Leave a corporate party or event before your senior
- Bother colleagues on weekends
These are the basic and general business etiquettes that are applicable in most organizations across the globe. However do keep in mind there may be certain parts of the world where additional rules are applicable that may not be a part of this generalized list. For instance in Japan it is mandatory for all employees to take off their footwear before entering the work place.
If you hold a senior post in the organization, ensure that strict disciplinary action is taken against those employees who break the rules of business etiquette. A circular or notice can be sent out to all the employees in a company to inform them about what is acceptable and unacceptable in the organization.
There are a wide range of books available on the subject of business etiquette. If you are looking to read further on the matter here is a list of books you should consider getting.
- Work Well With Others – Ross McCammon
- Modern Manners – Dorothea Johnson
- New Rules At Work – Barbara Pachter
- Complete Business Etiquette Handbook – Barbara Pachter and Marjorie Brody
Some of these books are international best sellers. They can be referred to to brush up your business etiquette skills. Besides this there are also several PDF files on business etiquette as well as e-books that you can download. They give you all the information you can possibly require on the subject.
There are numerous professional institutes that also provide thorough business etiquette training. These institutes conduct workshops, classes and courses that train the attendees for business etiquette.
There are also an extensive range of seminars conducted by authors who have written business etiquette books. Often the organization itself conducts an internal business etiquette seminar to brief the employees on what behavior is acceptable and what behavior is intolerable in the office. In such seminars there are several business etiquette games and activities that are played and conducted.
If you are looking to set up your own company, make sure that you stick to these business etiquette rules. When juniors and employees see their bosses behave in a certain manner, they are most likely to adopt the same practices.
Clients and customers also find it easier to trust and work with companies that follow comply by the rules of business etiquette. If you find that in your organization some of the employees are behaving out of line, conduct a business etiquette seminar within the office.You can also consider calling a business etiquette expert to etiquette guide your employees during the seminar.
Business etiquette is not only applicable in the organization but also when you are sitting for an interview. A large number of organizations across the globe pay close attention to the business etiquette of prospective employees and interviewees before hiring them on the team.
If you wish to make a strong, positive and impactful impression on an interviewer make sure you brush up on your business etiquette knowledge and apply the same rules on the day of your interview.People who are well mannered and follow the rules of business etiquette are more likely to get the job they are interviewing for.
Here’s a list of things you can do to brush up on your business etiquette:
- Read books on business etiquette
- Attend business etiquette seminars and courses
- Observe other people in the organization, particularly people who are highly respected
- Read PDF files on business etiquette
- Read magazine articles on business etiquette
If you wish to be a successful business person and run a successful company make sure that you stick to the rule of business etiquette. Follow them and encourage colleagues and subordinates to do the same.
Make sure you evaluate the business etiquette that prospective employees exhibit before you hire them because hiring someone who lacks business etiquette can be extremely detrimental to the reputation and goodwill of your organization.
Don’t be afraid to correct employees in your organization who misbehave in anyway or break the rules of business etiquette. Business etiquette in an organization is as important as marketing or advertising.
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