The word "etiquette" gets a bad rap. For one thing, it sounds stodgy, old-fashioned and pretentious but courtesy and manners are always essential, particularly in business and are a key to business success.
Here are a few tips that I find useful:
Thank You Notes
Did your mother make you send them? My southern belle mother sure did! She made it fun though, we’d go shopping for pretty note cards and later, I got fancy, personalized ones. I am shocked at how little they are used today from people interviewing for a job to someone who received a promotion. Send thank you notes!
If you want to separate yourself and reflect well on your company; a nice personal thank note makes all the difference. You can never go wrong sending a thank you note. One speaker I met gave me a great tip; she travels with some blank note cards in her briefcase. She can jot off a note while on a plane and mail them when she’s landed. Handwritten notes are much more impressive than emails, but emails are better than nothing.
Know People by Name
Get to know the people in your company, regardless of their roles, and acknowledge what they do. Knowing all the people who work hard to make your company run is invaluable. Someone’s assistant today could be the boss tomorrow. It’s a good practice to remember.
Elevator and Restroom Conversation
It’s a good reminder to not discuss business in the elevator or in a restroom. Even if you are alone with a colleague, it’s better to wait until you are out of public areas to discuss business, a meeting or the company…and no cell phone conversations in the bathroom!
Focus on faces not screens
It is tempting to check emails at an event when we all have smart phones and devices to keep us connected. The message one sends by checking their emails is that they are bored and disinterested in the conversation or presentation. It is also very disrespectful. We are all busy, and I think everyone’s time is important, no one’s time is more important than someone else’s. We may think we are efficient and productive, yet the message is to the negative. It’s important to remember to turn off your phone, don’t check emails, pay attention and give the meeting, gathering or whatever your full attention. Even if everyone is checking the phone; you’ll stand out as someone who is confident and aware. Hold off when you are in an elevator too; it’s an opportunity to acknowledge someone.
Many offices have open-plans and cubicles and while it may seem that everyone is available for interruption; it’s good to have boundaries and respect these boundaries. Don’t barge in to someone’s space. It’s good to say “excuse me” and pause or knock before entering. You may want to call or email to see if they are free or see if they can drop by.
Have respect for people and not judge someone. Today’s etiquette encourages not criticizing others. You may disagree, but remember everyone is trying their best. In a meeting, you may think what someone said is the dumbest thing you’ve heard, keep it to yourself.
Before you create a hashtag or post on your Facebook page; remember who may read what you write. Ask yourself if you really want people to know this information and how does it reflect on the company where you work. Think twice about writing about your colleagues and respect their privacy.
The office kitchen is great place to practice business etiquette. Do your colleagues steal food or sodas from the office fridge? You’d be surprised at how many employees complain about food pilferage. You will really shine if you help keep the refrigerator and microwave clean but it shouldn’t be your job alone. You may want to consider a clean-fridge policy so no one will have any excuse. We have pretty storage drawers here with everyone’s name on them to help eliminate confusion and keep plastic bag clutter to a minimum. Keep a marking pen close by to label containers with names and expiration dates.
We all like to personalize our office space especially since we are at work more time than anywhere else. It’s important to balance a personal and professional image. Answer these questions before you accessorize. Who will see it? What does it say about you? Is it distracting and does it go overboard? Also, like me, you may be the clutter king or queen at home, but your office should be kept neat and make a nice impression. If you like to decorate for holidays, make sure to remove the decorations when the holiday passes. If someone was visiting your office what impression it makes should be the guiding question before you leave in the evening.
So how are you going to celebrate National Business Etiquette week???