The basis of business etiquette is about building strong relationships in your field by fostering better communication. This can only happen when those you work with feel secure and comfortable. Although basic business etiquette may vary from country to country, some principles stand the test of time and geography.
Arrive on time
In the business world, it is best to observe the old rule, “Five minutes early is late.” Allow yourself enough time to arrive promptly, take off your coat, and settle in a bit. Arriving at a meeting exactly at the appointed time can make you feel rushed, and you will look it. Time is a commodity; by being punctual, you show you respect others.
While appropriate dress certainly varies from field to field and climate to climate, some things remain the same. Clean, pressed clothing without any loose threads or tags and relatively polished, closed-toe shoes are a must. Look at the people around you for ideas on what sort of clothing is standard. The adage, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” is a good rule to follow. When in doubt, ask human resources personnel when you get the job or discreetly ask someone you work with.
Taking care to greet your co-workers and remembering to say “please” and “thank you” make a tremendous difference in the way they perceive you. Your good manners show that you acknowledge those around you and are considerate of their presence. Avoid discussing political or religious matters. Keep the conversation focused on noncontroversial topics, so your co-workers find you easy to talk to. That sort of diplomacy is the basic idea of business etiquette.
Avoid gossip or eavesdropping
Gossip and eavesdropping are childish behaviors that have no place in the workplace. If you hear a rumour about someone in the workplace, do not pass it on. People don’t always know or remember who started a rumor, but they always remember who spread it. If you walk into an area, and it seems your co-workers don’t know you are there, make sure to greet them politely to remove any chance that you accidentally eavesdrop on their conversation.
Showing interest goes beyond business etiquette into general politeness, but it bears repeating: When speaking with someone, show you are truly engaged. Do not play on your phone or computer, and if you have to answer a communication say, “Excuse me one moment; I’m so sorry.” Maintain friendly eye contact. Listen. People will remember how you make them feel, and nobody wants to feel as if they are ignored.
Watch your body language
In the Western world, a handshake is still the typical greeting. Say hello with a firm but quick handshake. This handshake is the extent of how much you should ever touch a co-worker – when it doubt, just don’t touch. Hugs or other types of affection that you share with friends and family are out of place in the workplace.
Introduce yourself and others
Sometimes you can tell people do not remember your name or position. Introduce or reintroduce yourself quickly if that seems to be the case. If you are with a co-worker who is new, take the time to introduce him to others. It helps to have a friendly person make you feel comfortable in the office.
When you have a great idea or suddenly remember something important, it can be tempting to blurt it out. Do not do this. Interrupting the person who is speaking sends the message that what she is saying isn’t as important as what you have to say. Demonstrating you are an attentive listener is the backbone of diplomacy.
Mind your mouth
Using vulgar language is a surefire way to become unpopular in your workplace. Vulgar language includes swear words and judgmental language. Business etiquette requires being constantly mindful that you are in a diverse environment with people you do not know on a personal level. Speak as though someone from human resources is always listening.
If you attend an after-hours work event, do not drink too much alcohol. When at work, take care not to bring particularly malodorous foods that everyone in the office can’t help but smell. Don’t make noises during or after you eat; no one wants to hear that.
At the heart of these 10 basics of business etiquette is diplomacy. Taking care to treat everyone as the valuable people they are says a lot about who you are as a person. That is the kind of care people notice and want to be around. Embrace the basics of business etiquette to become a lasting employee or to advance through the corporate ranks.