Good grades, honors, and recommendations may help you look good on paper, but professional etiquette can help you get and keep the job you want.
That’s right. Your mom knew what she was talking about when she told you to mind your manners.
In the workplace, the conduct of employees — their manners, or lack thereof — has proven to be as important as the performance of tasks. Rudeness and insensitivity to others are rarely seen as a trait of a successful business person. Yet, even “nice” people may inadvertently offend co-workers and harm their chances at success in the workplace.
From interviewing to attending business meetings, you will need to consider your behavior both at the job and after hours. The top business tips in each of these categories are described below, considering the work environments of modern professionals.
Professional etiquette at a business meeting
Now that you have a job, you will need to use professional etiquette to gain advancements, promotion, pay raise or other perks.
Being respectful and polite to co-workers, clients/customers and prospects is particularly important in a business meeting or other group setting. Good manners dictate the following:
Turn off your cell phone and avoid checking it during the meeting.
Be prepared to make comments, hand out materials, or give a presentation, if you are expected to do so.
Do not interrupt speakers.
Congratulate other attendees on recent successes or other good news, if appropriate.
Cease small talk with those around you once the meeting commences.
Be an excellent listener, focusing your entire attention to the person speaking.
Engage in constructive criticism, if necessary, refraining from personal attacks.
Be succinct and focused in your comments; avoid repetition of yourself or others.
Offer to take on follow-up tasks, or assist others, if appropriate, at the end of the meeting.
Professional etiquette during work hours
In a corporate/business setting, people often work in close quarters, either separated by partitions or thin walls. It can be hard to maintain appropriate boundaries in these situations, but impeccable manners will help.
Professional etiquette also requires that you respect the boundaries between work and your personal life. Doing so will improve your performance and help you advance in the long run, as well. Consider following these business tips during work hours:
Respect others’ workspace.
Close your door or lower your voice (if appropriate) during phone calls that can be overheard by others.
Conduct personal business on breaks or after hours.
Consider the impact of noise and odors on surrounding workers; turn down the music and annoying cell phone ringtones, avoid eating smelly foods at your desk and refrain from using fragrances if possible.
Respond to work inquiries in a timely manner.
If you will be absent from scheduled work hours, attempt to ensure there is coverage for your position so that others are not unnecessarily burdened as a result.
Follow company policy regarding sick days and vacation.
Refrain from making comments about co-workers’ personal choices; if necessary, report a co-worker’s violation of company policy to a superior or human resources director.
Agree to disagree with a co-worker rather than allowing an argument to escalate.
Respect company property; do not take for personal use any items provided for the business (pens, coffee mugs, etc.)
Professional etiquette after hours
The line between work and “after hours,” has become increasingly blurred with the use of smartphones that allow us to check emails, texts and voicemail messages 24/7.
As discussed below, social media and other advances of the digital age now require employees to be on their “best behavior” even after they leave for the day. Co-workers, clients and even future employers can find information about you that you might otherwise have believed to be private.
Even if you don’t have a smartphone or Facebook account, it’s advisable to follow these professional etiquette tips when you’re “off the clock,” in order to help protect your job position:
Avoid dating a co-worker, client or customer.
Be polite in public places at which you might encounter a person with whom you work (nearby restaurants, sports facilities, airports, etc.).
Refrain from gossiping or spreading rumors about the company or other employees.
Do not publicly complain about workplace conditions; valid complaints should be directed to a superior or human resources director.
Public displays of affection, drunkenness or other inappropriate behavior are not advised, particularly if you are in an area near your office, a trade show or business meeting location..
Professional etiquette in the digital age
Respond to emails and telephone calls promptly.
Update your voicemail message to inform clients and colleagues when you will be out of the office with instructions on how to reach you or leave a message.
Avoid use of all caps in email correspondence.
Stay on topic in response to an email.
Email can be impersonal; a face-to-face meeting with co-workers is preferable, with a telephone call the second-best option.
Personal discussions should not take place on business email servers; respect company equipment and time.
Avoid using company computers for personal pursuits (Facebook, eBay, Pinterest, dating sites, you name it).
Refrain from using your cell phone to respond to work requests during off hours if you are otherwise engaged and cannot devote your full attention to the matter (for example during your son’s baseball game, or from the bar during happy hour).
Carefully consider whether to “friend” or “follow” co-workers on social media sites and, if so, keep posts clean and professional, especially during off-hours.
Keep in mind that your online profiles, posts, and comments on any site are generally accessible and permanent. How you behave online can have a significant impact on how you are perceived at work.
(Featured image by Atstock Productions via Shutterstock)
DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation for writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.
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