Business etiquette is an often overlooked but very important factor in workplace success. Ignorance of workplace etiquette can doom you.
No matter what you do or what position you hold, the way you dress and present yourself can have a major impact on your success. Despite claims to the contrary, people always judge you by the image you project. Competition is fierce and your image can be an asset or a hindrance.
The question “what is etiquette?” always elicits responses like “good manners,” “politeness,” “respect,” etc. The encyclopedia Britannica uses the following statements to define and discuss etiquette.
- A system of rules and conventions that regulate social and professional behavior in any given environment
- These are norms of behavior mandated by custom and enforced by group pressure
- An offender faces no formal trial or sentence for breach of etiquette; the penalty lies in the disapproval from peers and superiors
Proper etiquette dictates that you practice different kinds of behavior at home, at your favorite social hangout, and at work. If you start treating your boss and your coworkers the same way you treat people you hang out with at the corner bar, you are asking for big trouble.
Some general concepts apply to workplace etiquette in all forms, no matter who you are dealing with, and no matter what form your interactions take. The list below states the basic guidelines to managing all business relationships:
- RESPECT AND KINDNESS: Every person you work with deserves respectful treatment. Even if you dislike someone, you will come out on top if you maintain a respectful manner.
- APPEARANCE: Always go to work well groomed and dress appropriately for your position and work place. Most companies have both written and unwritten rules about appropriate attire. Dressing appropriately is especially crucial with the increase of international business. Americans are incredibly casual compared to international businesspersons. People in the international business environment see it as a sign of disrespect.
- CULTURAL AWARENESS AND DEFERENCE: Leave gender, race, marital status, political preference, sexual preference, etc. out of the equation. Always maintain an appropriate level of deference. Always act with respect and consideration for everyone, regardless of his or her position, age, or status. REMEMBER: office romances are career killers.
- HONESTY AND INTEGRITY: Be honest and above reproach in all your business dealings.
- LANGUAGE AND SLANG: Always talk like a professional. Do not use slang, rude, derogatory, or obscene language, no matter whom you are addressing.
- CYBER-ETIQUETTE: An e-mail is a written document that can be printed and forwarded, so use proper grammar and check the spelling for all office communications. Do not use the office email address to send or receive personal emails.
- RESPECT PERSONAL SPACE: Everyone has his or her own amount of personal space that acts as an invisible border. Never touch someone other than to shake hands or politely tap a shoulder to get attention.
- OBSERVE THE CORPORATE CULTURE: Every company has rules of behavior even if they are unwritten. If everyone in your office dresses in business attire, do the same. In some workplaces, it is acceptable to walk over and chat with co-workers in others it is taboo. You can avoid most pitfalls by carefully observing and going with the flow.
A detailed discussion on Business Etiquette can be found in The Corporate America Survival Handbook. ISBN: 1598000942.