You may think of "etiquette" as just meaning that you know which fork to pick up first when you are dining in a nice restaurant. But "business etiquette" encompasses a lot more than this. It is about body language and eye contact; it's about presenting yourself in a way that projects confidence and allows other people to feel comfortable around you both at networking events, and in your office. Here are the keys to proper business etiquette.
Practice basic courtesy. It may seem like common sense, but it is still ignored by many people. The most important rule of business etiquette is to exercise all of the basic courtesies you learned as a child. Say "please," "thank you," and "excuse me." Offer apologies when they are due. Don't interrupt people. Avoid raising your voice both in person and when on the phone. You will be amazed by how far these basics will get you.
Speak well of your superiors. Perhaps this is another rule that we can hearken back to our kindergarten days. It echoes of "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't day anything at all." Sometimes in an office setting, people tend to build camaraderie around bashing the boss behind his or her back. Don't participate in this. You should speak well of your boss both inside and outside your workplace. Speaking poorly of him or her reflects back on you.
Obey meeting etiquette. If you are asking employees to attend a meeting, make sure to follow some basic guidelines. First, even if you work in a business casual setting, wear a suit and tie with a snug tie knotto the meeting. Showing a lack of care for your appearance can be insulting to your coworkers. A suit will help you to appear prepared, authoritative, and like you value your employees' time. Before the meeting, send out an email explaining the objective, the expected duration, and the items that need to be discussed. In the meeting, make eye contact and thank attendees for their time and participation. Oftentimes, employees leave a meeting wondering whether their contributions were even noticed, so this acknowledgement is important. Also, very importantly, turn off your cell phone during a meeting.
And obey email etiquette as well. Even if you have something unpleasant to say, you should always start an email with one nice, friendly sentence such as "I appreciate your..." or "thank you for..." Emails should be as to-the-point as possible. Avoid typing in all caps (it comes across as shouting) or in unusual colors that can be difficult to read. Include a subject line that is specific to the email topic; avoid ambiguous subjects such as "for you" or "a question." Always include a salutation and a closing, such as "regards" or "best." These are professional and nice without sounding overly emotional.
Pay attention to your body language. Albert Mehrabian, a professor of psychology at UCLA, says that 55% percent of the message you convey at any given time is through your visual appearance. Pay attention to your body language; make sure you smile and stand up straight. When shaking hands, you do not have to wait for the other person to extend his or her hand first. Business is now gender neutral. When speaking in person with a coworker, stand about 3 feet away from him or her. This is close enough to avoid yelling and far enough to avoid invading his or her personal space.
Avoid classic awkwardness traps. Everyone has, at some point, experienced the awkward scenario where you simply cannot remember the name of someone you met at a networking event. Don't let this trip you up. Simply smile and say something to the effect of, "My mind just went blank, can you please remind me of your name?" Or, "I know your face but I've forgotten your name." After this, make a concerted effort to remember the person's name!
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