As we’re slowly emerging from lockdowns and quarantine, and entering back into the workplace, a refresher course on professional and business etiquette is becoming necessary. For young professionals, learning about business etiquette is also necessary to learn about before entering the workforce!
Written by: Josephine Redfern
Business etiquette can be defined as the unwritten rules that govern the expectations of social behavior within a workplace. Business etiquette covers the expectations of how individuals dress, how they communicate, and even how to have a meal! Paying attention to how you act within a workplace is oftentimes very important for professional success. Keep reading to learn about some of the standard expectations and rules of business etiquette!
What is Business Etiquette?
When you think of the word, “etiquette” the first thing that might come to mind is having good table manners or standing when a woman walks into the room. These things are important in social settings and might overlap with some of the tenants of business etiquette, but generally, they fall within what is called, “social etiquette”. Business etiquette differs from social etiquette in that the goal is to treat others the way that they want to be treated, instead of treating them how you would want to be treated. For example, business etiquette doesn’t necessarily always pay attention to someone’s gender, meaning in many cases it wouldn’t be appropriate to stand up when a woman comes into a room. It also wouldn’t be acceptable to only shake men’s hands and ignore women or give them different treatment based on their gender.
Professionalism is essentially the way that you interact with other people. As a professional, you should be focused on being diplomatic. This means that you are respectful to other people, even if you don’t like them too much. Professionalism also means that you stay calm in tense situations or under a lot of pressure at work. Accepting criticism with an open mind is also important. If you are closed off to any mention of areas that you could improve, you likely won’t succeed as a professional. A couple of other things to remember that will make you more professional is to show up on time, keep your word, and be flexible to change!
Different workplaces will have different expectations of how you should dress. However, generally, you should practice proper hygiene, look neat and put together, and not like you just rolled out of bed. Even if your office is very casual, it’s better to aim to be slightly more formal and business casual than underdressed. Casual dress is typically what you would wear on an everyday basis to hang out with your friends. Smart casual is still informal but slightly more formal than everyday outfits—think a nice shirt and jeans. Business casual is what you would think of in a normal office. Jeans are inappropriate in a business casual setting, but slacks and blazers are expected. Formal wear is typically only seen on an occasional basis at black-tie events. What you wear to work is going to depend on your office! In fact, asking during your interview process about what the dress code is, is a great idea!
The way you speak and interact with other people is incredibly important in the workplace. With COVID-19, people who would typically have face-to-face meetings throughout the day have had to shift to phone calls, video conferences, and email communication, which is becoming more of the norm and has its own etiquette. For example, when on a video chat or phone call make sure that you are muted when you aren’t speaking and are looking at the camera—not at yourself. Emailing people all day can become annoying, but make sure that you respond promptly and do not hit reply all. Remain professional all day, even when communicating with people that you can’t actually see. When speaking face-to-face with people make sure that you are maintaining eye contact, minimizing distractions, and practicing active listening!
Sometimes companies will take clients or potential employees out for lunch or dinner. This allows them to get to know each other more personally instead of just talking about business or work. It’s important to remember that even though a restaurant might be a more casual setting, keeping it professional is still necessary. Whoever sets up the meal is responsible for paying—usually the company hosting the client or potential employee. Talking about business should wait until everyone has exchanged pleasantries and ordered their food. If you are unsure of what to order, just make sure that your meal is within a similar price range as other members of your group. If everyone else is getting something small, maybe don’t order a three-course, steak dinner.
Meetings happen almost every day—especially at Union Home Mortgage. Whoever sets up the meeting should make sure that an agenda is prepared just to be sure that nothing goes off track. Set up lunch or request that people bring their food if the meeting is happening around the lunch hour—you don’t want hangry team members. If anyone in the group is new make sure that they are properly introduced to the rest of the group! If meeting virtually—be mindful of time zones and the schedule of whoever you are meeting with. Also, be sure that nothing in the background of your screen is upsetting or distracting to others.
General Rules to Remember
To become a pro at business etiquette, here are some more general rules to keep in mind. There are several more, but this list is a great start!
- Pay attention to names and give handshakes to everyone you meet (firm but not painful).
- Send customized and personalized follow-up emails and notes to people after meeting with them!
- Be positive, respect others, and the rest will come naturally.
With practice, business etiquette will become second nature when you’re at work. But starting out, these skills can feel odd. It’s important to remember that everyone else is following the same rules, which is what makes business etiquette so great; we’re all on the same page when it comes to how we should behave within a workplace!
If you want to learn more about career readiness and business etiquette check out our signature Career Readiness Program, uLaunch. uLaunch is a done-in-a-day career readiness curriculum, specifically curated for high schoolers. There are over 29 courses about interviewing, resume writing, soft skills, and more. The content for this blog was specifically gathered from our course on Business Etiquette. Sign up for a uLaunch workshop today to help build these skills for yourself and your organization by filling out your information on our Contact page and a representative will reach out to you with more information!