Updating Business Etiquette

The workplace is always evolving, and so does business etiquette. No matter where you are in your career, make sure you understand the unwritten rules of etiquette where you work today. Here are a few things that have changed in most organizations.

  1. When is it acceptable to do social things with coworkers? While socializing with coworkers used to be discouraged, it is now quite the norm. Our advice is to remember to keep it fair and equitable. Going out to lunch or getting a group together after work is fine when it’s inclusive. Socializing with coworkers gets to be an issue when business is discussed without necessary stakeholders present or when the conversation devolves into office gossip.

  2. When the workplace is casual dress, where do I draw the line? Business casual used to mean that men could lose the tie and women could wear pants instead of the skirted suit, but otherwise it was still formal by today’s standards. Now a wide range of clothing is acceptable in the workplace. Always err on the side of professional over too casual. Even with casual dress, watch the neckline, hemline, and choice of fabric. It’s never okay to show cleavage. Skirts should be at least as long as your fingertips when your arms are resting at your sides. Fabric should be thick enough and loose enough not to show undergarments or fleshy contours.

  3. When being introduced to someone, should I stand or remain seated? The rule used to be that men would stand when introduced, but women were to remain seated. Now everyone should stand when being introduced to someone new.

Most organizations have a published employee handbook with some rules and expectations. All organizations have a set of unspoken rules that go along with the company culture. It’s very important to understand both. Here are five tips for general business etiquette that are likely to apply anywhere you work.

  1. Be punctual. In business, time really is money. Come to meetings prepared, and arrive a few minutes early to settle in and observe others before the meeting gets underway.

  2. Understand the appropriate channels of communication. Ask your boss on the organization’s preferences regarding when to use email, text, phone, direct messaging apps, or call an in-person meeting. Find out what the organization values in those communications…generally clear, concise, factual communication is best when written. Observe written tone used by leaders and follow their example. Any communication where reading emotions is important, negotiations will take place, or brainstorming would be valued should be saved for in-person interactions.

  3. Put the phone away. Don’t mistake your smart phone for a productivity tool when in meetings. Checking texts and emails during a meeting is distracting and counter-productive to effective collaboration. Instead, keep meetings brief, on topic, and suggest taking a quick break to check messages if necessary.

  4. Opt for listening over talking, asking questions over voicing opinions. It’s more important to prove yourself with results than assertions. Avoid interrupting, and encourage others to do the same (e.g. “I’m interested in hearing the rest of Adrian’s idea.”)

  5. Brush up on formal table manners. When attending conferences, awards dinners, and important meetings over meals, table manners are on full display. Remember BMW: Bread on the left, Meal in the middle, and Water/wine/whatever you drink on the right. Eat slowly and quietly, cut your food properly, only cut the bite you are about to eat, and never make gestures with utensils.

 

 

Recommended Resource:

Modern Manners: Tools to Take You to the Top, Dorothea Johnson, Liv Tyler

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *