The business and professional world is filled with a ton of subtle, unspoken rules regarding etiquette and manners. No-one wants to work with someone who consistently breaks these rules and is seen as rude and unprofessional.
Although many of these rules seem to be more in the realm of common sense, you would be surprised by the number of times I’ve personally seen them broken. And with more and more companies opting for a more relaxed workplace environment, some of these rules need to be mentioned more often.
Though they may seem antiquated and old-fashioned, business etiquette, and etiquette in general, is about customer service and providing a presentable and respectable face of the company.
With a plethora of talented individuals working amongst you, having the rules of etiquette firmly in-place may just help you succeed professionally.
We’ve compiled a pretty exhaustive list of business etiquettes and what you should, and more importantly shouldn’t do in the workplace.
I also highly recommend the book, “Don’t Take the Last Donut: New Rules of Business Etiquette” as additional reading. This book was presented to me by my first manager and I subsequently provided it to all employees under my direction thereafter.
Stand When Being Greeted
This is a common mistake I see in the workplace. When being introduced to someone or meeting someone for the first time, it is best to stand and greet them.
You don’t want to awkwardly shake someone’s hand while sitting down, forcing them to bend over to greet you.
Give A Firm Handshake and Make Eye Contact
Handshakes are still the go-to when meeting or greeting someone. Make sure you give a firm handshake while meeting someone and look them directly in the eyes and offer a warm, inviting smile.
Greet and Introduce Yourself to Everyone
When you enter a meeting or a room of other people, it is best to introduce yourself and shake everyone’s hand. This gives you an opportunity to introduce yourself and to meet everyone there.
When introducing yourself, I always prefer to give my full name and I recommend you do the same.
Going off the same theme, you should never assume that employees or individuals know one-another. If speaking with a few people, make sure that everyone is properly introduced and offer a brief introduction on their behalf.
In addition, throwing in a few positive traits, such as, “This is Robert, he is a Project Manager on my team. Honestly, he is one of the best project managers we’ve ever had” will allow individuals to feel more comfortable when speaking to new people.
Pay Attention to Names and Pronouns
Take the time to remember each person’s name. If you missed their name or are unsure of how to pronounce their name, then genuinely and politely ask. You should only call people by what they refer to themselves as and never assume otherwise.
Someone named Michael may prefer to be addressed as-such. Don’t assume that you can call them Mike.
In addition, more-and-more people are going by pronouns which they feel comfortable with. If someone prefers a specific pronoun, then you should refer to them as-such. You should never make them feel uncomfortable for it and you should never ask them why they choose that designation.
Avoid Social Media in the Office
You can definitely check your social media accounts if you have some downtime, but you should absolutely avoid posting anything to a social network from work.
Don’t Be the First Person at the Food Line
When in a meeting where food has been catered, you should never be the first person in line. Rather, allow the organizer to go first or someone more senior to break the ice and get everyone going.
Limit Your Portions
In addition, when food is being provided, you should limit your portions. I’m not saying don’t put enough to get full, but don’t put extra on your plate that it is falling off.
Don’t Volunteer to Take Leftovers
Similarly, when food is catered, you should never volunteer or state that you will be taking the leftovers home with you. Rather, eat what you have put yourself and if the organizer asks if anyone would like to take some home, then you can raise your hand.
Don’t Over Order
If you happen to go to a work outing, event, or client meeting at a restaurant, you shouldn’t overorder. Limit the amount that you order, especially when it comes to alcohol.
In a similar vein, when meeting at a restaurant for a work-event, you should never order an item more expensive than the most senior member on the table. So, if your manager orders an item that costs $25, you should limit yourself to that price point.
Be Cautious with Alcohol
While alcohol is a social lubricant, it should be used cautiously at work-events. Never drink too much or past your limit, especially when it is being offered at no charge.
In addition, when meeting with clients, you should allow them to make their drink offers first. If you notice that none of them ordered any alcoholic beverages, then neither should you.
Avoid Using Your Phone at the Table
You should place your phone on silent and be committed to the conversation. You can take a peek at it every so-often to ensure no emergencies, but you should avoid it as-much-as-possible.
Don’t Speak with a Full Mouth
Avoid talking or speaking if your mouth is full. You should wait until you have finished your bite to begin speaking.
Keep Your Elbows Off the Table
Rather, you should have your hands neatly placed on the table. Alternatively, you can have your arms at you side, in your pockets perhaps, or folded over your stomach.
If You Made the Invite, Pay the Bill
This is for more formal invitations and doesn’t cover casual lunches with colleagues. However, if you invite coworkers, colleagues, or clients to a lunch or dinner, then the expectation is that you will pay the bill for the party.
Don’t Stiff the Tip
When taking coworkers, colleagues, or clients to a restaurant, you should never stiff the tip for the waiter or waitress. Try to at least give a 20% tip, if not more, especially if the service was excellent.
Always Arrive on Early
You should always strive to be early, whether it be to work or to a meeting, you should try to be one of the first people in. It is better to be early than it is to be late.
Professional dress has changed over the years, but you should attempt to mimic the dress of your manager or the senior members on your team.
Your clothing should be clean, wrinkle-free, and fit your body. Your clothing should be presentable and should not be flashy. For men, closed-toe shoes are a must.
Practice Good Hygiene
Aim to shower regularly and use bodywash. You should always use deodorant and bring backup if needed. Lightly spray your wrists and neck with perfume or cologne.
Don’t Cross Your Arms or Legs
Crossing arms can come off as defensive and crossing your legs can come off as rude. Rather, keep your arms to your sides or folded over your stomach. If you need to cross your legs, do so at the ankle.
Avoid Vulgar Talk
You should absolutely avoid vulgar or indecent conversations and talk. Never give-in to gossip and rumors and steer clear of office gossip.
Send Professional Emails
We’ve discussed how to compose great business emails here.
When sending emails, always be professional and utilize correct grammar and punctuation. Don’t use emojis or “text speak”. Address everyone individually when emailing a group of three or less. More than three individuals on an email chain can be addressed as a group.
Clean-Up After Yourself and Others
Don’t think you are above anyone due to title or pay grade. Always clean-up after yourself and clean-up messes caused by others.
Keep Your Working Space Clean and Neat
Every month you should deep clean your desk and office space. Keep everything tidy and tuck away any items that you don’t use.
We’re not saying to not be cordial and build relationships with your coworkers, but they really don’t need to know every intimate detail of your personal life.
Avoid discussing intimate details and only share what you would feel comfortable being shared with everyone.
Be Mindful of What You Bring to the Office
Whether it’s a particularly pungent smell from last night’s dinner or an offensive piece of clothing, you should always be cognizant of what you bring to the office and how others may react.
Use Your Inside Voice
Be respectful of everyone in the office. Don’t yell, shout, or speak loudly.
Take Personal Calls Away from Your Desk
We all get or make personal calls at work. However, you should avoid making those calls from your desk. Rather, find a quiet room away from others to conduct your calls.
Don’t Smoke Outside of the Office
If you smoke, whether it’s cigarettes or vape, you should do so away from the office entrances. Try to go to the side of the building or find if there is a designated smoking area.
Avoid the Big Three
The big three topics have always been religion, politics, and sex. You should never discuss, or avoid discussing, these three topics at work.
Don’t Walk into Someone’s Office Unannounced
Don’t assume that an open door is an open invitation. You should always knock and ask if they are available to speak quickly. If the discussion is going to last longer than ten minutes, it is better to send a formal meeting invite to confirm they have the time to meet.
The office is meant to be a professional environment. It is a place of business where everyone should be treated equally and with respect. You should be careful to never offend, whether intentionally or not, anyone else.
Use these tips as a starting point and you’ll definitely be in the more professional crowd at work.