Even though business etiquette is evolving and might look different than it did a decade ago, it's still an important part of the success journey. With company heads taking a more casual approach to dress codes, office layout and time management, you might expect a "lazy" way of doing business to develop.
There's a fine line between casual and sloppy; if efficient management slips into an overly lax state, and good staff manners turn bad, the company they represent goes downhill, too. The need for business etiquette may be higher now than in the days of flannel and tweed when you also consider today's competitive landscape, online and off.
When Addressing the Dress Code
Dressing appropriately says a lot about a person. Imagine that a friend shows up at your wedding or graduation in ragged jeans and dirty sneakers. Would make you question how much he values your friendship, right? The same goes for interviews, the all-important first day on the job and meetings of all sorts.
Whatever you're doing, dress the part, dress for success, dress as if you've already been promoted to your dream position. Being overdressed for an occasion is better than the alternative. You don't have to go overboard; think kempt and modernly understated rather than stuffy and pompous.
When It Comes to Conduct
Ever conducted business with, perhaps, a salesperson who showed a lack of interest in your concerns or presented herself in a downright rude way? We really begin to realize the benefits of business etiquette when we conduct ourselves respectfully, not haughtily or in a pushy manner. So, practice the art of diplomacy:
- Be sensitive to the personalities or beliefs of others; you don't have to agree with their ways or opinions, but don't make your differences an issue.
- Use discretion if you're handling a sensitive matter. For example, if you're discussing options for pulling a client's bottom line out of the red, do so behind closed doors, not in an open-office setting.
- Be thoughtful. Don't use underhanded tactics or undue praise to get ahead – most bosses see right through the tactics of cheaters, backstabbers and phonies – use your well-earned certifications, skills and natural competencies, instead.
Showing a genuine interest in fellow workers, managers and clients alike makes them feel comfortable around you. Not to mention, your ideas and agendas will be taken more seriously than if you struggle to connect. When you make everyone you meet feel like they matter and like they're being heard, your credibility goes up alongside your likability.
Pertaining to Punctuality
One of the biggest business annoyances is being stood up without explanation. But tardiness is more than an etiquette faux pas; running late makes us appear unorganized and disrespectful, as if we think our time is more important than anyone else's time.
Delays happen. We can't always be on time but we can always be polite. If you're running behind schedule, send a quick text or call to explain and apologize.
What About Netiquette?
Face-to-face contact with clients and even coworkers or management is becoming less common with the surge of remote or work-from-home positions. But just because you're communicating with folks by, say, email from your kitchen island, rather than together at an urban coffee bar or a decked-out office with a view doesn't mean you can drop the etiquette ball.
The importance of etiquette and manners when communicating via a device is just as high as it is when sitting down at the same table or desk with an investor or client. So, be professional, polite and considerate, whether you're writing an email or conducting a meeting by video. As for the latter, dress appropriately, at least in a sophisticated-casual fashion, and consider where you sit – there's nothing professional about a pile of dirty dishes, an open door to a toilet or a blaring TV in the background, while you're conducting business from the comfort of home.
No matter the era, the importance of business etiquette is a given and to practice it takes little more than common sense.
Lorna Hordos is a home-improvement business owner and freelance writer. She has written hundreds of conversational business articles for WordPress.com, Bizfluent, AZ Central and Global Post.