The rules of business etiquette are unique. It is all about communication.
You and your company will be judged by how well you communicate!
Social etiquette is based on chivalry;
Business etiquette is based on hierarchy.
Rank and authority outrank gender and age.
Does this seem like a minefield? Are you bewildered and confused by all the possible pitfalls? Join Back Chat as we take you through the nuances and niceties of this tricky business.
If you still have problems do contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on the blog. I would love to hear from you and help you solve your problems
When making introductions, mention the most important person first.
Exception: Customers and clients outrank even the C.E.O. Especially if they have come to visit.
Remember that titles are important in a culture based on rank and status.
Differentiate between your C.E.O’s and your C.F.O’s. In the company of others, especially strangers, show your boss respect and address him or her formally as Mr or Ms. This rule is flexible as a culture of informality exists in many businesses today.
Ms. is an appropriate address for both single and married women in the business arena.
Exception: A woman may tell you that she prefers to be addressed as Mrs. In a business context, use her first name rather than her husband’s; e.g. Mrs Jane Smith.
People hate having their names pronounced incorrectly. Always make the effort to find out the correct pronunciation. If really stuck, say so. People will be only too happy to help you.
N.B. Best not to joke about people’s names, they do not find it amusing and many will find it offensive.
Should be firm and painless and take about 3 seconds. No finger crunching or hanging on for dear life.
Maintain eye contact. In a business context, a handshake is the only truly acceptable physical contact between men and women. So keep the eye contact friendly but neutral.
DRESS FOR SUCCESS
When visiting another company, always acquaint yourself with their dress code and dress accordingly. A small but necessary courtesy. You are communicating respect for their business milieu.
ELECTRONIC AND TELEPHONE ETIQUETTE
The e-mail is an indispensable tool in business and needs to be treated with respect. Communicate with charm, courtesy and efficiency. Both a laconic and a curt attitude offend and are just bad business manners.
Whenever required, respond either personally or via your secretary. A swift response is an indication of an organised well-run operation. Tardiness is unprofessional.
Keep your promises. If you say that you are going to do something THEN DO IT and do it at the designated time.
If you have rejected a proposal or a presentation, say so. It is perfectly acceptable to say ‘no’ but communicate your decision to the party concerned. Do not allow the issue to drift into the ether.
Ensure that customer complaints are dealt with thoughtfully at the appropriate level and are not fobbed off onto juniors.
Keep it real. Never ever computer generated replies with computer generated signatures.
THE TELEPHONE AND THE CELL PHONE
Always indicate if you are using speaker-phone.
Cell phones in business are the norm. However, it is unnecessary to take private calls when you are in a meeting. Turn off your cell phone. Remember, in an emergency situation you can always be reached via the switchboard or your secretary.
MEETINGS AND APPOINTMENTS
‘Punctuality is the politeness of kings’ was a favourite saying of Louis XVIII. So be regal and be punctual.
Study the agenda in advance. Come to meetings prepared. Make sure that you have all the relevant papers that have been issued to you.
Find out who will be attending the meeting.
Prepare your comments in advance. You will lose your audience by rambling on and on and by being repetitive.
If you are leading the meeting, have the material ready that you wish to pass around.
Note well: These are business occasions and not social occasions. All the rules of business protocol apply.
SOME DO’S AND DON’TS AT THE TABLE
Allow the host to set the tone of the level of food and drinks.
Observe time constraints. Keep up with the pace of eating so as not to slow down the service.
As a rule it is best to keep politics and religion out of the conversation. Keep the discussion general and avoid leaping immediately into business talk and take care not to dominate the conversation.
Table manners remain as important as ever.
Table-hopping is completely out of the question.
It is preferable not to take calls on your cell phone. If you are expecting an urgent call, alert your companions to that possibility.
Keep your Blackberry out of sight and resist the temptation to check your messages and emails.
Never forget to show your appreciation. Write an email to your host and make it charming.
Smoking is now considered very uncool. However, if people wish to smoke they can do so only in designated areas.
SMOKING IN THE WORK PLACE
Buildings and work-areas today are smoke-free. The rule is that if you can’t see an ashtray, don’t smoke!
Business cards should be kept in a pristine condition. Always be discreet when giving someone your card.
When you receive cards, receive them graciously, look at them and place them somewhere meaningful.
Keep your cards with you at all times; you never know when you will need them. But be selective and do not hand cards out indiscriminately.
DO AS YOU WOULD BE DONE BY
LET GOOD COMMUNICATION BE YOUR MOTTO
Illustrations by Katherine Lauinger