Business etiquette can simply be described as a set of manners that one needs to have while relating to others in the workplace. It consists of business manners that are required of people who belong to a profession.
Having proper business etiquette is as important as exhibiting good manners in informal settings such as family meetings, club parties, and so on. You need to be respectful, courteous, and considerate in a corporate setting too.
According to a study conducted by Harvard University researchers, it was gathered that social skills make up over 80% of the reasons one would have a successful career. Displaying the right corporate etiquette is also among the social skills that one should have as a professional in his or her field.
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Business Etiquette Rules
There are a number of corporate etiquette rules that every professional must know. It is necessary to have knowledge of them for a variety of reasons.
When you display good business manners, you tend to seem more likable to the people you are dealing with. It can really go a long way in helping you to develop better working or business relationships with your colleagues, supervisor, boss, partners, customers, etc.
For example, it is beneficial for effective communication during events such as board meetings, office presentations, etc. Another example can be seen in an instance where you meet a contact for the first time. You will be able to create and maintain a good first impression in the individual’s mind.
You do not want to make a potential investor lose interest in making a deal with you just because of bad manners. Other merits of corporate etiquette include the following:
- Boosting your personal brand image
- Improvement of corporate communication and cooperation
- Fostering mutually respectful working relationships
- Fostering better customer relations
- Boosting productivity
20 Rules of Business Etiquette
Here, you will learn about 20 rules under professional business etiquette that you cannot afford to break—if you want to maintain cordial relationships in the office. You will be surprised to discover some things that you did not think are inappropriate or offensive.
1. Adhere to Dress Codes
This is the first item on our list of proper business etiquette rules because your appearance creates the very first impression others will have about you. Always wear the right clothes to work and look smart.
2. Be Punctual
In the business world, time is of the essence. Punctuality should be an unbreakable rule on every working day. Office opening hours, deadlines, and starting times for meetings should always be on your mind.
Take cognizance of the progress of time, so you do not overestimate how much of it that is left to achieve a goal. Coming late for an appointment will make you appear inconsiderate, unserious, and disrespectful to others. If you are not going to make it on time for an appointment, notify others.
3. Remember to Greet
When you meet people in the workplace, you should greet them properly even if you are not familiar with them (they may become important contacts to you later). Even a simple nod and smile can be enough depending on the circumstances. This will make people think of you as a pleasant person even if they are not close contacts.
Never forget the universal way of greeting in a business setting—the handshake. Do not hesitate to offer them in the right circumstances along with eye contact and a smile.
4. Be a Good Listener
You should also show courtesy when listening to others talk. Just as it is important to the previous rule, eye contact is also important during business conversations or meetings. Endeavor to reassure others that you are paying attention to what they are saying. Avoid unnecessary and rude interruptions.
5. Maintain Politeness
Be courteous at all times. Make words and phrases like “please”, “thank you”, “thanks”, “I’m sorry”, “excuse me”, “apologies”, and so on come easily to you. It pays to be humble and polite.
6. Control the Volume of Your Voice
The office is supposed to be a controlled environment where people talk in moderate tones, and background noise is just really a tolerable hum—and not actual noise pollution.
Try not to be too loud when addressing others, so as not to disturb those that are not part of your target audience. The sound coming from your workplace should not constitute a nuisance to neighboring businesses.
7. Memorize Names
It is important to make a mental note of the names of people we work with. Ensure that you say your full name when introducing yourself to others. It is what will help them to recognize you in the future.
Ask for clarification when you are not sure about how to pronounce the names of others. You can think of a short form of your name that is easier to say. Do not presume that using a nickname to address the other person is in order unless he or she suggests it.
8. Be a Good Host
When you host people or you invite a colleague to a lunch meeting, you would want to make them have a pleasant experience. Anything contrary to that will be a turn off that will make them unwilling to honor another invitation.
Activities such as lunch meetings can be organized to get familiar with your colleagues, as well as to relate with a potential client or investor in a conducive environment. As the host, it is only right that the bill should be on you.
9. Maintain Professionalism
Professional business etiquette requires you to be on your best behavior at all times. You cannot afford to make costly mistakes when interacting with others. Whether you are meeting them physically or communicating through electronic media, always ensure that you are doing everything right. The way you handle things in the office says a lot about your character.
10. Make Introductions when Necessary
Never fail to introduce others when the need presents itself, so as not to make them feel awkward. Let others know who you are in company with and why they are with you—if it is not a familiar face. It makes everyone in the room comfortable with each other’s presence.
11. Respect Privacy
Everyone is entitled to his or her own personal space, and the boundary around their private lives should be respected. Not everyone is OK with talking about what they do outside office hours, so ensure that you do not come off as intrusive.
12. Keep Your Personal Life Private
Keep the details of your personal life out of the conversations that you have with your colleagues. For example, matters about your romantic relationships or sex life should be off limits in the office. It would be considered inappropriate and awkward if you tell your colleagues about your wild experiences related to parties, drugs, alcohol, and so on.
However, this does not totally mean that you cannot share some decent information about yourself or what you do. People will always be curious about you, so you have to share some information—or else they will think you are a snob or a weirdo.
Avoid topics that are inappropriate for the work environment such as religion, politics, sexuality, etc. For example, you can talk about food, vacation trips, etc.
13. Be Considerate about the Working Styles of Others
There are a variety of ways that people like to work. Some like to perform tasks in total silence, while others need to stay motivated by listening to music. If you are one of those that belong to the latter category, you should be considerate enough to use headphones.
14. Always Proofread Emails
Proofreading is very important in a business setting. It shows good communication etiquette and professionalism. Ensure that there are no typos in your emails, so as to pass the message across as clearly as possible. The use of software applications to check for errors is also advisable. Whatever it takes, you need to ensure that you know how to write a formal business email.
15. Be Conscious of Your Non-Verbal Signals
You should be mindful of your body language at all times. The kind of hand gestures, body postures, and facial expressions you make goes a long way in building the impression that others have about you.
16. Share Office Space and Items Respectfully
You may have a closed office all to yourself, but there are some things that you may have to share with your colleagues. Equipment, work space, and other facilities may be shared. Be respectful and considerate in doing so. For example, remember to leave the kitchen area you used tidy.
17. Mind Your Table Manners
Dining etiquette in the workplace is the same as the table manners that you observe while eating at the family dining table. Of course, you would not want to be talking business in-between mouthfuls.
18. Maintain Good Hygiene and Neatness
The practice of good hygiene cannot be overemphasized. You have to take care of yourself to appear neat always, apart from being well-dressed. You can never take this aspect of proper business etiquette for granted, or else it will reflect poorly on your character.
No matter how good-looking your clothes are, poor personal hygiene will ruin your appearance. Take good care of your body by ensuring that you have well-groomed hair and fingernails. Endeavor to maintain a fresh body and mouth scent.
Neatness should also be extended to your workspace. The items on your table should be well-arranged, and all unnecessary stuff should be put away or trashed. When others see how organized you are, they will have a positive view about how you handle other things.
19. Do Not Use Your Phone at the Wrong Time
In modern times, people have become more used to their mobile devices that they tend to break the rules of professional business etiquette while operating them. It is only right that you avoid using your smartphone while in a meeting that requires your undivided attention, unless the progress of the event requires you to operate a device (maybe your smartphone).
It is disrespectful to your audience when you are clearly distracted by a phone call or something on the screen of your mobile device while in a meeting. Such misbehavior can lead to the loss of that client or your job. Put your phone on “silent”, or better still, turn it off.
20. Report Issues Appropriately
If you need to complain about something in the workplace, do it the proper way by reporting to the right person—not just whining to a colleague who does not have the authority to present a solution.
Exercise caution in your approach to lodging your complaint, so that you do not appear rude, negative, or overly emotional. You can present the matter as a need for improvement, rather than a fault.
These rules are easy to follow provided you learn them by heart. Watching a YouTube video will be helpful for gathering more knowledge about office etiquette.
You can also seek advice from your mentor, supervisor, or others in the workplace if you need clarity about certain rules.
There are some rules that should never be broken—such as business etiquette rules. Adherence to them makes you a better person to work with. People will be more enthusiastic about doing business with you when they realize how courteous you are. You never know the kind of great opportunities that can be unlocked by exhibiting good business manners.