Business Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts
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therefore imperative that we present ourselves authentically, with honesty and integrity but also take into account the simple yet profound practice of business etiquette. Etiquette, in its basic form, is practicing good manners; knowing how to behave in a given situation and knowing how to interact with people in a way that shows respect for them. Proper etiquette helps you make a great first impression and stand out in a competitive market. We’d like to discuss with you some of the ‘rules’ that matter. One of these that quickly springs to mind for many people when asked is punctuality. Richard Cecil said: “If I have made an appointment with you, I owe you punctuality; I have no right to throw away your time, if I do my own.” Some other points to consider in terms of business etiquette, include giving those you are in a meeting with or speaking to, your undivided attention. In other words, focus on the face, not the screen. It is a digital world and can be challenging not to be distracted with the plethora of devices at our disposal. There also seems to be a pervading consciousness that says we have to multi-task in order to feel efficient and productive. It is really more effective to pay attention and be fully present.
Remember that the so-called ‘old-fashioned’ virtues of common courtesy and manners will go a long way towards presenting yourself positively, in your professional as well as personal capacity. Simple things such as saying ‘Please’ and ‘Thank-you’, making eye contact and shaking hands warmly and firmly, smiling – all convey a confidence and self-respect which in turn inspire others to respect you. Business etiquette is like a key – it locks the doors of poor communication and misunderstandings and opens doors to successful business relationships. In our #advancingSA chat this evening, we’d like to hear your views on business etiquette and how we in South Africa might improve the practice.
1. When it comes to business etiquette in our ‘always on’ modern world, what is your opinion on late night communication? Do you think it’s appropriate for bosses/colleagues to send emails and/or messages at all times of the day/night? Why or why not? 2. What is your opinion on cell phone usage during meetings? Should they be switched on or off? 3. Do you think expectations regarding grooming and attire in the workplace have changed? What do you consider ‘too casual’ if anything at all? 4. What do you think the most important tips are to keep in mind when entertaining clients/customers? 5. Business etiquette tips for voice mail? Also, how do you feel about being placed on hold during a phone call – appropriate or not? 6. The use of emoticons in business emails – do you find them appropriate or not? Why or why not? 7. What is your pet peeve when it comes to poor business etiquette? SUMMARY
Business etiquette as a topic is one we could easily spend a great deal more time on. This particular chat was challenging due to network slowness on Twitter but there was still a great deal of positive feed-back from those who participated, with #advancingSA trending nationally. 1. When it comes to business etiquette in our ‘always on’ modern world, what is your opinion on late night communication? Do you think it’s appropriate for bosses/colleagues to send emails and/or messages at all times of the day/night? Why or why not? The general verdict on this from the #advancingSA community was that late night emails were acceptable (particularly if urgent) but that they did not necessarily warrant an immediate response, that it would be acceptable to then reply to them first thing in the morning. Most of you felt that SMS’s and other communication after hours was an infringement on personal time, however, a number of you also said it is dependent on the relationship between employee/employer/colleague as well as the nature of the communication/the given situation. 2. What is your opinion on cell phone usage during meetings? Should they be switched on or off? There was almost unanimous feed-back that cell phones be switched off out of courtesy during meetings.
3. Do you think expectations regarding grooming and attire in the workplace have changed? What do you consider ‘too casual’ if anything at all? There was mixed feed-back on this subject, but overall what stood out is the sense that it for us as entrepreneurs to correctly interpret what is appropriate attire for different situations. To be well-groomed, neat and dressed fittingly for the occasion is a sign of respect for yourself and others. 4. What do you think the most important tips are to keep in mind when entertaining clients/customers? This is a question that was perhaps not covered adequately in the chat. It goes almost without saying though, that when entertaining clients (for example a lunch or coffee meeting) it is the host’s responsibility to pay. What other tips would you add? Leave your thoughts in a comment. 5. Business etiquette tips for voice mail? Also, how do you feel about being placed on hold during a phone call – appropriate or not?
Placing a client on hold during a call is considered less than ideal by some, but again depends on a variety of factors. In circumstances where an incoming call takes priority, it may be more appropriate to apologize for needing to cut the call short and request that you return their call at an agreed upon time. 6. The use of emoticons in business emails – do you find them appropriate or not? Why or why not? The overall feeling from you was that emoticons are too informal for business communication via email. (That being said, it was iterated that it again depends on the relationship you have with your client/colleague etc.) One point that was firmly emphasised during the chat was the need for proper spelling and grammar as well as the elimination of ‘MXIT/SMS lingo’ from business communication. 7. What is your pet peeve when it comes to poor business etiquette? The pet peeves you mentioned, included:
lack of punctuality, people who show up for meetings ill-prepared or unprepared, people who show a lack of respect with scruffy attire, people talking in a business meeting while chewing gum, people not making eye-contact or listening attentively, people who don’t use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.