“He who observes etiquette but objects to lying is like someone who dresses fashionably but wears no vest.” — Walter Benjamin
What is business etiquette?
Business etiquette is a set of rules that govern the way people interact with one another in business, with customers, suppliers, with inside or outside bodies. It is all about conveying the right image and behaving properly.
Importance of business etiquette
- 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.
- In business, the relationships you build are critical. Establishing good rapport is significant if you want to progress your professional future. The way to build positive relationships in the business world is by exercising good etiquette, specifically by exhibiting top-notch communication skills.
- In the business world, people with good etiquette are rewarded for their professional and polite skills. Those who exemplify good business etiquette are proving that they respect their position, job, coworkers, and take their performance seriously. As such, these individuals win promotions and get ahead in their careers.
Business etiquettes that one should follow
1. Pay attention to names
- Names are one of the first pieces of information that we learn about someone. It is how people recognize and address you.
- When you tell others your name, include your last name. This is especially important if you have a common first name like Ashley or John.
- When you first meet someone, pay attention to their name. If you aren’t sure how to pronounce it, be sincere and ask. If it is unusual or difficult to pronounce the name, the person is probably used to it and won’t mind. It shows that you have taken an interest in them and care about getting it right.
2. Greet everyone
- Greeting the people that you come in contact with isn’t only polite but it establishes rapport. You never know who the people that you greeted could be, so it is important to greet everyone with the same degree of kindness.
- A simple “Hi, how are you?” or even a smile and nod is enough. However, adding more could make them remember you and view you as friendly and pleasant. It can also strike up a conversation. Be considerate though. If they appear to be in a rush or not interested at the moment, don’t force a conversation on them.
Some ways to strike up a conversation could be to:
- Compliment something that they are wearing and ask where they found it.
- Remark on your surroundings. This can be anything ranging from the weather to a book they are holding or the office space.
The key is to ask open-ended questions that will require more than a “yes” or “no” and move the conversation along.
3. Offer a handshake and make eye contact
- Handshakes are the universal business greeting. A firm handshake is still considered a positive trait. A weak one is negative. Usually, the higher ranking person will offer their hand first, but if they don’t, you can still offer yours.
- But looking at the current time when the entire world is facing a pandemic, hand shakes may no longer remain an effective business greeting. Verbal greetings or greeting by touching the elbows are prominent ways to avoid the spread of the virus.
- Make eye contact when you shake their hand and smile. Those who avert their eyes are viewed as lacking confidence and honesty.
4. Give cues that show you’re paying attention
- When someone else is speaking, it is important to nod or smile. This shows that you are engaged in and actively listening. It tells them that you care about what they say and value their thoughts.
- Be careful not to interrupt. If you wish to speak, you may send a nonverbal signal by opening your mouth, but it is polite to wait for them to finish.
5. Introduce others
- No one likes to awkwardly stand with a group of people who have no idea who they are and what they are doing there. It’s uncomfortable. If you strike up a conversation with someone and are with a person that they haven’t met yet, it is polite to make an introduction.
- Give a little more information than just their name though. You might add the person’s role at your company and what they do. This gives others some background, but keep it brief.
6. Proofread emails for grammar and typo mistakes
- Each message sent reflects on you, so you need to make sure that they are professional and well-written. You shouldn’t have typos in emails. It only takes a few seconds to proofread your emails before hitting send.
- Technology can even do most of it for you. There are a lot of apps available that can help in checking grammar inadequacies.
7. Be polite and professional in all forms of communication
- It doesn’t matter if you are meeting face-to-face, by phone or through email, each interaction needs to be professional.
- When you communicate through text only, you don’t have the tone of voice, facial expressions, and other nonverbal cues that accompany it. Remember this when writing emails. Keep messages short and to the point, but don’t send anything that you wouldn’t say in-person.
- Don’t talk loudly and avoid speaking very fast.
8. Always be on time
- Whether it is arriving to work or a meeting or making a deadline, punctuality is critical. Time is precious.
- When you miss a deadline, the whole team is affected and may have to cover for you. Teams rely on everyone to do their part. It is easy to underestimate how much time you’ll need to complete a project if you don’t regularly track your work.
- When you are late, you are being disrespectful and inconsiderate of another person’s time and commitments.
- If you are running behind schedule, contact them as soon as you realize that you won’t make it on time. Don’t show up too early either. Arriving between 5 to 10 minutes before your appointment is ideal.
9. Dress appropriately
- Dress codes have become much more relaxed in recent decades. However, just because no rule says you can’t show up for work in a hoodie, sweatpants and flip flops, it doesn’t mean that you should.
- As much as we like to tell ourselves not to “judge a book by its cover,” our immediate reaction is to do just that. Studies have shown that the first thing that people notice about others is their appearance. It is the primary influence on first impressions.
- You don’t have to put on a three-piece suit, but dressing smart shows that you put effort into your appearance and are more likely to put the same enthusiasm into your work.
10. Always practice good hygiene
- No matter what you wear, good hygiene is always a must. Comb your hair. Trim your beard. Clean your fingernails. Make sure your clothes smell good. No one wants to sit next to and work alongside someone who smells like body odor and fried food.
11. Table manners matter
You should also be aware of other dining etiquettes. Many of the rules that your parents enforced at the dinner table are still in play.
- Don’t talk with your mouth full or chew with it open.
- No elbows on the table.
- Don’t blow your nose with the napkin.
- No texting or playing with your phone at the table.
- Eating while talking business can be difficult if you choose a messy item from the menu. So try to avoid messy food items.
12. Keep your workspace neat
- A desk cluttered with old coffee cups, piles of paper and more Post-It notes than free space, will distract you and annoy others.
- If you can’t keep your workspace clean and organized, then how will you manage your work? It is a question that colleagues, clients, and others will think.
- Your workspace reflects on your professional image as well as on your company, so clean it up. Dust a few times a month, develop a system of organization, and promptly discard trash in the bin.
13. Don’t overshare but don’t be too distant either
- Don’t drag your personal life into professional settings too much.
- People want to know a little bit about you though. If you don’t share anything, you will come off as snobbish or distant. It is important that you know which topics are work appropriate and which are not.
- Remember you may be comfortable sharing details about yourself, but others may not be.
14. Be mindful of how others work
- Some people like to work while blasting loud music. Others might need complete silence to focus and concentrate.
- In one office space, there is a mix of workers with different styles of working. Don’t be a nosy neighbor. Remember to respect the privacy and personal space of others.
15. Be aware of nonverbal cues
- You might be surprised by how much your facial expressions, body language, and hand movements convey to others. Your facial expressions play a huge role in how others perceive you.
- Everything from your posture to your furrowed brow is a form of communication. Stand upright, smile and if necessary, put on your Poker face.
16. Put away your phone
- We’ve become so attached to our smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices that it can be hard to disconnect. However, there are times when pulling out your phone is offensive.
- Texting or surfing the Internet on your phone during a meeting is plain rude.
- It’s impossible to give someone your full attention when you are distracted by your phone, so put it away. Switch it to silent or turn it off completely.
17. Don’t be a complainer
- If you notice an issue that should be addressed, don’t simply whine about it. (Of course, if it is an issue that violates workplace policies or moral conduct, you should report it to the appropriate person.)
- However, if it is anything else, think before you speak. Offer solutions and be careful about how you broach the topic. Instead of expressing it as a weakness or a flaw, frame it as an opportunity to improve or an exciting new project.
Business etiquette can sound like it focuses on small, unimportant things, but all together they make a big difference to the workplace and the kind of responses received in all areas.
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 etiquettes.
TANIYA ARORA, She is pursuing BBA from Indira Gandhi Delhi Technical University for Women. She is an enthusiastic learner and an ardent researcher.
SHWETA MITTAL, Senior Editor