14 Tips on Business Etiquette: Setting a professional tone with co-workers, clients and customers
For organizations and employees alike, recognizing the critical link between business protocol and profit is key to your success. Learn how to confidently interact with colleagues in ways that make you and your whole organization shine with this special report...
Business Management Daily, publisher of Mastering Business Etiquette & Protocol, has compiled this report to help you discover best practices on making proper introductions, cubicle etiquette, “casual dress” rules, handshake protocol, guest etiquette, workplace behavior faux pas, business dining etiquette, office wedding invites and other co-worker special occasions, business letter and email protocol—and even how your office decorations may affect your professional image.
14 Tips on Business Etiquette: Setting a professional tone with co-workers, clients and customers also presents real-life etiquette questions answered by “America’s foremost authority on manners,” Letitia Baldrige. And you’ll learn tips on how to finesse awkward, embarrassing situations at work, courtesy of the great-grandson of Emily Post, etiquette expert Peter Post.
Business Etiquette Tip #1
Cubicle etiquette: 8 close-quarters rules
Even if there aren’t four walls and a door marking the area, you need to respect everyone else’s work space. Four etiquette rules:
1. Don’t “prairie dog.” Walk around the partition to see a neighbor, instead of popping your head over the top. And as you walk down the passageways, don’t peek into each workstation.
2. Grant your neighbors private time. Stagger lunch breaks to provide everyone a few minutes alone at their desks.
3. Don’t chime in to conversations you hear over the wall. Whether it’s a work question you can answer or a private conversation you’d rather not hear, ignore comments that aren’t directed at you.
4. Keep lunch in the kitchen. Or, when you absolutely can’t leave your desk for a meal, choose foods without strong odors, and dispose of your trash in the kitchen, not in your own wastebasket.
Business Etiquette Tip #2
'Casual dress' etiquette: Demystify your event's dress code
Casual. Corporate casual. Business casual. Smart casual. Resort casual. Don’t leave meeting attendees baffled about your event’s dress code.
Explain what you mean by “business casual” or “corporate casual,” etc. with examples of appropriate attire for men and women. One event’s “resort casual” encouraged wearing jeans, while another explained that shorts were acceptable, but not denim or cutoffs.
Business Etiquette Tip #3
How to finesse awkward, embarrassing situations
Knowing whether or not to tell your CEO that he has spinach stuck in his teeth is one sure test of your business etiquette skills. (Answer: Tell him, but discreetly.)
The situation: You find a personal—and potentially embarrassing—document left behind on the photocopier.
Solution: Normally, you’d put forgotten pages in a tray beside the copier, for people to claim later. In this case, though, deliver the document in person, advises Peter Post, author of The Etiquette Advantage in Business.
Business Etiquette Tip #4
Handshake etiquette: Setting the stage for instant rapport
A good, well-timed handshake to pair with your smile is a sure way to stand out, whether you’re at the company picnic or an industry conference.
Here’s how important it is: A prospective employee with the best handshake is more likely to get the job, research shows.
Even if you’re not a job-seeker, a good handshake will grant you instant rapport when meeting someone new. Find a refresher course on the business protocol of the perfect handshake in 14 Tips on Business Etiquette.
Business Etiquette Tip #5
Job etiquette: When a co-worker gets the pink slip
Your friend at work gets handed a pink slip, and now you feel awkward. So awkward, in fact, that you’re tempted to do nothing. But that’s the last thing you should do.
React quickly, or risk appearing insensitive. Even if you can say only, “I’m sorry. And I don’t know what to say.”
Steer clear of downplaying or saying anything inauthentic. Avoid saying things like, “This place is going down the tubes” or “I know how you feel.”
Set up a gathering, once the initial shock has faded. Make it just the two of you or invite others, so you have time to say goodbye outside the office. Keep it focused on the person, and “understand that some things are out of our control,” advises psychologist Kenneth E. Reinhard.
Business Etiquette Tip #6
Guest etiquette: Roll out the red carpet for visitors
When a VIP comes to your office, how do you dole out extra-special treatment?
Find out how to implement Post's advice and more in 14 Tips on Business Etiquette.
Business Etiquette Tip #7
Business phone etiquette: Soothe angry callers
Turn a growling caller into a purring, pleased customer with these telephone etiquette techniques:
Business Etiquette Tip #8
Kitchen faux pas: Who ate my yogurt?
Some employees can tolerate co-workers’ swearing and rude behavior, but don’t even dream of touching their yogurt or ham sandwiches. The most offensive thing an office worker can do is steal colleagues’ food from the office fridge, says a TheLadders.com survey of 2,500 U.S. employees.
A full 98% agreed that fridge raiding was unacceptable workplace etiquette.
Respondents also cited, in order: bad hygiene, bad habits, drinking on the job, swearing, wasting paper, cooking smelly food in the microwave and using a BlackBerry in meetings.
Help everyone keep the fridge clean
The greatest mystery in many workplaces is what’s lurking in the office refrigerator. Go beyond scheduling regular “use it or lose it” deadlines. Follow these tips:
1. Post a copy of the clean-fridge policy on the refrigerator door, so no one will have any excuses.
2. Make it easy for people to label containers with their names and expiration dates by keeping a marking pen and tape in the kitchen.
3. Promote safe food storage by posting the USDA’s cold storage chart.
Business Etiquette Tip #9
Office donations: Keep it low-key when passing the hat
Not only is there no such thing as a free lunch, but those birthday cakes for co-workers can cost you, too.
It’s not unusual to be asked to help pay for celebrations at the office, such as birthdays and baby showers. In a survey by OfficeTeam, more than 75% of respondents said employees chip in at least once a year; 15% said employees receive donation requests monthly.
Business Etiquette Tip #10
Business letter etiquette: The art of the personal note
Angela Ensminger, co-author of On a Personal Note: A Guide to Writing Notes with Style (Hallmark), told attendees at an International Association of Administrative Professionals convention that great personal notes come from taking these three steps:
1. State why you’re writing in a straightforward manner. Example: “Thank you for taking the time to visit our offices.”
2. Elaborate on step 1. Example: “It was so valuable for our entire executive team to meet with you face to face. And your meeting sparked several creative ideas that we’re excited to pursue.”
3. Build the relationship. “This is the most important step,” says Ensminger. “What you’re saying here is: ‘Your relationship matters, and I’m proving it by taking the time to write this note.’ In business relationships, time taken is worth everything. If there’s a bell curve of emotion to a personal note, this is the top of it.”
Access more of Ensminger's business letter etiquette guidelines in 14 Tips on Business Etiquette.
Business Etiquette Tip #11
Business dining etiquette: 5 rules
Whether you’re lunching with peers at a convention or meeting with a vendor, business dining etiquette can keep you from marring your image with a faux pas.
Here are five etiquette rules for business meals, according to Robin Jay, author of The Art of the Business Lunch: Building Relationships Between 12 and 2.
1. Never, ever talk with your mouth full. Instead, take small bites so you can quickly swallow if somebody asks you a question, Jay says.
2. Come prepared with a few casual, non-business topics in mind. It helps you avoid awkward silences. People enjoy giving their thoughts on subjects like travel, sports and movies.
3. Always be kind to the wait staff, no matter what happens. Anyone who is nice to you but nasty to the server is not a nice person.
4. Know your lunch partner’s business. It’s especially key when your tablemate is someone you’d like to impress, but the rule holds true regardless. The fewer times you have to say (or think), “I didn’t know that!” the more impressed the other party will be. How to steal this idea: Take a few minutes to do a Google search before you leave for lunch.
5. Put some thought into choosing the right restaurant. Too casual or inexpensive and the person may not feel valued. Too expensive and they may perceive you as wasteful. When in doubt, suggest that the other person pick the place.
Business Etiquette Tip #12
Office decorations: Balance personal & professional image
Personalizing our office space is tempting because we spend more awake hours there than anywhere else. But strike a balance by answering these questions about your cubicle décor:
1. Who will see it?
Business Etiquette Tip #13
Party etiquette: Special occasions with co-workers
Office party etiquette is simple: Don’t do anything that you don’t want the entire company to be talking about for several years to come. Contrary to popular myth, an office party is not the place to wear a lampshade on your head. Keep your dignity, and respect the dignity of others.
For co-worker special occasions, follow these gift-giving tips in 14 Tips on Business Etiquette.
Business Etiquette Tip #14
Etiquette questions: Expert advice from Letitia Baldrige
In 14 Tips on Business Etiquette, "America's foremost authority on manners," Letitia Baldrige, answers this sampling of reader questions on business etiquette and protocol.