Etiquette for Business

Written by Ann C. Humphries

world_buinessetiquetteWhat is rudeness costing you?

Customers identify the rudest and most annoying behaviors they have encountered:

  • Telephone rudeness
    Organizations can quickly look bad if their telephone systems are outdated, and the people who use them are lazy or casual. Be vigilant about using your phone correctly. Make sure your employees know how to put people on hold and keep them there respectfully, transfer calls expertly, return calls promptly, and identify themselves professionally which includes keeping voice messages updated. Don’t fall into the trap of, “Of course we/I do this well.” Correct poor telephone technique and hold yourself and your staff accountable.
  • Interruptions

    • Make sure your interruptions are worthy of disturbing others.
    • Knock.
    • Preface your conversation with what you want to discuss.
    • Don’t waltz into someone’s cubicle and plant yourself for an extended visit.
    • Be aware of when you butt into conversations, talk over existing conversation, or have to have the last word.
    • Interrupt interrupters if they act inappropriately or disturb your work.
    • Schedule another time to talk.
  • Lack of appreciation
    Not being appreciative of people’s work, contributions, gifts, or invitations will mark you as untrustworthy as will hogging the credit. Tell people you appreciate what they’ve done even if their performance is what you expect.

    • Encourage behavior you want to continue.
    • Respond to invitations.
    • Write thank you notes.
    • Pass along compliments and credit.
  • Inappropriate language
    • Watch your mouth.
    • Make sure your grammar and voice tone are professional.
    • Limit, even eliminate, profanity and coarse language.
    • Is the truth your employees speak undermined by bluntness?
    • Could you use some tact?
    • Don’t you admire people who have a way with words?
  • Inappropriate business appearance

    • Do your clothes fit?
    • Do they fit you physically?
    • Do they fit the occasion and the setting?

    Be clear about how you expect people to look for your business. You may need to be specific with some people who don’t seem interested or concerned about their appearance. Business casual dress remains more formal than what you’d wear at home. You are protected legally when your requirements do not infringe upon religion or gender issues. Practice impeccable grooming.

  • Not honoring people’s time
    Do not impose your lack of organization or control of your time upon others.

    • Start and end meetings on time.
    • Give reasonable notice for projects.
    • Don’t consistently spring things on people at the last minute unless that is a part of the job.
    • Be on time for work.
    • Concentrate on work while at work.
    • If you can’t make a deadline, say what you can do.
    • Let people know when you’ll be late. Offer to reschedule.
  • Public criticism/denial of criticism
    Be aware of how you criticize others and in what settings you do so, so that you achieve the results you want. Also, make sure you can take criticism. Rather than criticize the people who criticize you, or accuse them of not being team players, ask yourself if there may be an element of truth to what they say. Surround yourself with people who will be honest with you, but know when not to press a point.

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