“Etiquette is what you are doing and saying when people are looking and listening. What you are thinking is your business.” – Virginia Cary Hudson
Polite behaviour and decorum are a must – the rules are unwritten and apply to social situations and workplace relationships. In the workplace, especially, business etiquette includes working professionally, maintain proper manners and engage with co-workers in a spirit of cooperation and respect. Business etiquette is easily noticeable – both when it is present and absent. It makes you stand out among a sea of people and increases one’s chances of achieving greater success in your choice of job. Business etiquette is closely aligned to appreciating diversity – when you respect the varied backgrounds and cultures of the people you work with, you will conduct yourself in accordance. You will be mindful of the things you should say and do or not say and not do. Business etiquette is the glue that binds people and keeps them happy in an otherwise stressed out job and market environment. It is extremely important to practice business etiquette to succeed – it fosters good relationships not just with employees but also customers and other business vital partners.
Failure to indulge in and practice good business etiquette will inevitably put stumbling blocks in the path to success. No one likes to work with or be associated with unpleasant people – hence a company and its people that don’t practice business etiquette will soon be shunned. Considerate people and those attentive to the needs of others are able to forge stronger business relationships, which are extremely crucial to survive in the business world. Through the practice of business etiquette, a company and its employees earn respect and trust from customers, other key players in the market, stakeholders and also learn to respect and appreciate each other more. A congenial work environment is a productive and highly beneficial place to be in.
Business etiquette is significant from the point of view of building rapport and a solid foundation within the business community. Good manners foster positive relationships and as people work with you they appreciate politeness and are more willing to enhance the relationships. Business etiquette is also about smooth communication skills – even if a person does not understand or too fluent in a particular language, communication will remain effective given the respect and trust between people. A person that believes in and practices business etiquette will – actively listen, provide constructive feedback, pay attention when someone speaks to them, is more likely to smile and make eye contact, speak clearly and avoid any language or words that could be misunderstood and display other such proper behaviours.
Business etiquette is not only about the spoken word. It also encompasses overall demeanour and non-verbal cues. It is about dressing and having an appearance that would not be offensive and uncomfortable for others in the workplace, given a diverse workforce. Business etiquette demands that each person dresses and conducts themselves professionally and be mindful to pick up cues from those with whom one works with. Another factor of business etiquette is respecting the space and time of others – remember to be punctual for meetings, arriving at the office and other such behaviours that will not have people waiting for you. It helps to take cues from those one works with such that behaviour is aligned with the needs and expectations of others. As we mentioned earlier, business etiquette is an unwritten code of conduct and is not only for the top brass of the company but must be a general norm / culture and value of the company. In some jobs or positions though, business etiquette may be required in an elevated form and more often than other positions – customer service, sales and marketing and other such job roles require employees to have a heightened awareness of business etiquette and good manners.
People and companies that display good business etiquette are considered to be professional, respectful and serious about their job and relationships with their customers, company and co-workers. Such individuals and companies are highly regarded in the world of business and put themselves on the road to success and moving ahead rapidly in their career. In addition, understand business etiquette of many cultures facilitates better communication and opens up opportunities for business and a spurt of innovative ideas brought about by the interaction of people from across industries, countries, experience levels, knowledge base and skills. When people in an organization work and conduct themselves within the framework of business etiquette they give lesser preference to their own communication styles, culture and management inclinations, thereby keeping biases, prejudices and self-centred behaviour aside.
Business etiquette also includes maintaining professionalism and proper conduct when communicating with people through virtual communication channels. Social media, email, on-line chats and other such virtual communication are now indispensable in business relations. Being aware of business etiquette would entail that communication via these channels is clear, precise, concise and meticulously written. For example – bold, underlined, capital letters, use of different colours, multiple question or exclamation marks and other such written matter is construed as extremely rude and often cause a breakdown in communication. It is also not professional to use emoticons when communicating with a business client or customer. In the spoken language, it is possible to explain immediately if the other person misunderstands a word or expression. However, in written communication extreme caution and restraint must be exercised when formulating the email / letter.
Making good and lasting impressions is also a big part of business etiquette. Sloppy appearances, unkempt face and hair and other such slovenly behaviour constitutes disrespect for those who you work for and with. People outside of the company too form impressions of the company based on the outward appearances of the employees – careless and untidy appearances make people believe that the company overall operates in this fashion and could result in lost business, since no one is interested in working with people who do not take their work and business relationships seriously. Perceptions become reality.
Business etiquette does not begin and end in the office alone. Maintaining good manners and decorum in business gatherings, meetings and lunches or dinners is also an essential part of business etiquette. There is a rather amusing and simultaneously sad incident a friend told me about that I recall – this one person had extremely poor manners especially during office parties. He was loud, would get in people’s way, would start eating and drinking before others and continue eating till much later. He also had very poor manners while eating – making loud slurping and chewing noises. The sad part was that he did not realize these poor behaviours and everyone else was too embarrassed to tell him either. As a result he was often left alone during such gatherings. People with good table and social manners on the other hand, are extremely popular in such gatherings and are able to win over the attention and appreciation of their colleagues, superiors and others attending these gatherings.
It is the duty of a company to put down in writing certain ground rules that would constitute business etiquette. With such established guidelines and rules in place people would know when their behaviour is appropriate and when it is a violation of etiquettes. Without such communication, employee behaviour towards the company and each other would not follow a pattern and could result in breakdown of communication and conflicts. Business etiquette encourages solidarity, fellowship and unity among the people in the company and when people work together they achieve greater heights and gain more success for themselves and the company they work in. Treating each other and the company with respect is a very basic requirement for any business relationship and proper business etiquette leads to individual development and enhances the reputation and profitability of the company.