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Business Etiquette

Etiquette is defined as “the forms, manners and ceremonies established by convention as acceptable or required in social relations, in a pro...

Etiquette is defined as “the forms, manners and ceremonies established by convention as acceptable or required in social relations, in a profession, or in official life.”

Times change and this affects the guidelines of etiquette. Common sense will typically be your best guide, but it is helpful to have some general ideas regarding business etiquette. (**To learn about dining etiquette, contact Career Services about the annual “Power Dining Experience”.)

A good point to remember in business etiquette is everyone should be treated with equal courtesy and respect. Times have changed and some of the old standards no longer apply. Administrative assistants or office support staff are important people and should never be taken for granted. Treat them courteously in all your transactions. Treat people the way you wish to be treated. Gender no longer needs to be the deciding factor in everyday events. Business etiquette should be a give and take, to help each other when help is needed and have consideration for others. Good manners and business etiquette have always been based on common sense and thoughtfulness.
Business Etiquette
When meeting someone, rise if you are seated, smile, extend your hand and repeat the other person’s name in your greeting. A good handshake is important – it should be firm and held for 3-4 seconds. Today, in the business world, it is not necessary to wait for a female to initiate the handshake. Females/males should both be ready to initiate the handshake.

Introducing people is one of the most important acts in business life, yet few people know how to do it. Introduce a younger person to an older person; introduce a non-official person to an official person; and in business introduce the junior to the senior. Be sure to explain who people are and use their full names. Also do not assume that everyone wants to be called by his or her first name – wait until you are told to use a first name.

In many situations you will be wearing a nametag to identify yourself and your affiliation. Nametags serve an important purpose and should be worn on the right hand side of your front shoulder area. Do not clip nametags to the bottom edge of your jacket. Wearing the nametag on the right side of your shoulder immediately enables a person to see your name, particularly as you are shaking hands. If the nametag is one worn on a cord around the neck, be sure to adjust the length so it can be easily seen without the other person having to look down. If writing your own nametag, write in large clear letters that can be easily read by others.

Reception/social hour
Most receptions or social hours are for the purpose of mingling and making contacts whether for job leads, as part of an interview or an employee entertaining clients. When you enter the reception observe the layout of the room; is everyone standing; some cocktail rounds or tables for seating. Seeing the room layout gives you a clue on how to proceed at the reception.

If no tables are available, you should only have a drink or your food in your hand – never both. You should be prepared to greet and shake hands with individuals. If having a drink hold it in your left hand to keep your right hand dry and ready to shake hands. If eating hold your plate on the right hand and eat with the left hand. When someone approaches, you are able to switch the plate to your left hand and your right hand is clean and ready to shake. If tables are available, you may have your drink and food together. However, always be ready to stand and greet people.

Networking and/or mingling are an important aspect of attending a business function even if the event is described as a social time. Be sure to greet or introduce yourself to the host/hostess. Spend a few minutes conversing with them on topics that relate to the event or to their business. To move on you can politely say “I know you need to talk with your other guests.” Connect with as many of the attendees as is possible. Do not interrupt people but wait until they include you or there is a break in the conversation and you can introduce yourself. To start conversations, ask the person something about themselves or their job. You will find most people enjoy talking about themselves and this is a good way to begin a conversation. Do not be looking around the room for your next contact as you carry on a conversation with someone. Focus eye contact on that individual and after a time politely excuse yourself to move on to someone else.

Office Parties
Business Etiquette
Office parties are good opportunities to improve morale and build good will. Keep in mind these people who see you every day and they will remember a lapse in behavior. Be aware of your alcohol consumption and do not embarrass yourself. Do not discuss business – this is a social occasion and an opportunity to learn more about your co-workers.

Introduction To Etiquette
Be on time – no one wants to be kept waiting. If it is an avoidable delay, try to contact the person. Keep in mind that you never know when you will encounter heavy traffic, wrecks, construction or other delays. Always allow extra time particularly if you are going to an interview. For interviews you should arrive 10-15 minutes before the interview time.

Be aware of smoking policies. You should never smoke during an interview, at a meal, or when you are aware that the other person’s pleasure does not include tobacco smoke.

Telephone manners are very important. Have a definite purpose for calling someone because telephone calls are an intrusion into their busy day. Identify yourself and speak clearly into the phone – never chew gum, eat, drink or smoke while using the telephone.

Voicemail/Answering Machine
If you encounter someone’s voicemail, state your name, organization, and reason for calling and slowly give your telephone number. Many people will leave a very good, clear message and then quickly rattle off their phone number. Voicemail is most efficient if you leave a concise but detailed message. Many times the person receiving the call will be able to get the information you need and leave that in their return call or message to you. Use voice mail wisely and efficiently. Always have a concise, professional greeting on your answering machine/voicemail.

E-mail has become an important part of our communication and should be used in a professional manner. It can be a quick and effective means of communication. Always put identifying information in the subject line to help the individual receiving the message know what it is in reference to. The text box of the e-mail message should begin with a salutation such as “Dear Ms. Smith” or “Hello John” depending on the relationship. After the salutation, drop down to the next line to begin the message. Use complete sentences and appropriate capitalization and punctuation as you would use in a business letter. If needed, you may have multiple paragraphs. The casual e-mail correspondence you have with your friends is not appropriate for business. Do not use all caps in the message nor the symbols for happy faces, etc. Even if you have automatic signature on your e-mail, you should still close the message. (Example: Thank you, Ann Smith). Remember to read your message through after you have written it and to run spell check before you click on the send button.

Cultural Courtesy
Cultural courtesy is becoming very important as more business is being conduced in and with foreign countries. Show appreciation and respect for the differences between our country and someone else’s. You should always be aware of these cultural differences in etiquette. Be sensitive to their rules of etiquette. If you are traveling overseas representing an American firm be very aware of the customs and culture of the country you are visiting. This can be very important to your business dealings. Research the customs and culture of the country with which you will have business transactions.

Five Key Words
Remember five words that are too often neglected in business: Please, Thank You, and Well Done.
Social skills can help us build more productive relationships. In these changing times, one needs to prepare for a variety of encounters in both the business and social environments.