Business Tips and Professional Etiquette for Modern Professionals

Professional Etiquette can Help you Get and Keep the Job you Want

Let's face it. It's a tough job market out there, and employers that are hiring can afford to be picky.

Good grades, honors and recommendations may help you look good on paper, but professional etiquette can help you get and keep the job you want.

That's right. Your mom knew what she was talking about when she told you to mind your manners.

In the workplace, the conduct of employees - their manners, or lack thereof - has proven to be as important as the performance of tasks. Rudeness and insensitivity to others is rarely seen as a trait of a successful business person. Yet, even "nice" people may inadvertently offend co-workers and harm their chances at success in the workplace.

From interviewing to attending business meetings, you will need to consider your behavior both at the job and after hours. The top business tips in each of these categories are described below, considering work environments of modern professionals.

Professional etiquette will take you far in a career
Professional etiquette will take you far in a career | Source

Professional Etiquette in an Interview

You know the old adage, you only get one chance to make a first impression. This is never more true, or more important than in a job interview.

During an interview, the people making hiring decisions and with whom you may be working are evaluating your interpersonal skills after deciding that your qualifications warrant an opportunity to audition - if you will - for the position. Manners are paramount in this situation.

The following professional etiquette tips for use in an interview will help demonstrate that a decision to hire you will add value to the company from an interpersonal standpoint:

  1. Arrive promptly
  2. Dress and groom yourself appropriately
  3. Turn off your cell phone; do not check it during any breaks
  4. Respect the person's work space. Avoid looking at potentially private materials, do not touch items on a desk, and ask before hanging up a coat or sitting down in a chair
  5. Bring extra copies of your resumé, references and/or sample work product
  6. Be a good listener; pause and take a breath before speaking; do not interrupt
  7. Be prepared with genuine, thoughtful questions about the position or the company
  8. Ask if you can provide any additional information
  9. Thank the person for their time at the conclusion of the interview
  10. Follow up with a written thank you note after the interview (not email!)

Questions to Ask in a Business Interview

Conduct yourself appropriately at a business meeting
Conduct yourself appropriately at a business meeting | Source

Professional Etiquette at a Business Meeting

Now that you have a job, you will need to use professional etiquette to gain advancements, promotions, raises or other perks.

Being respectful and polite to co-workers, clients/customers and prospects is particularly important in a business meeting or other group setting. Good manners dictate the following:

  1. Arrive promptly
  2. Turn off your cell phone and avoid checking it during the meeting
  3. Be prepared to make comments, hand out materials, or give a presentation, if you are expected to do so
  4. Do not interrupt speakers
  5. Congratulate other attendees on recent successes or other good news, if appropriate
  6. Cease small talk with those around you once the meeting commences
  7. Be an excellent listener, focusing your entire attention to the person speaking
  8. Engage in constructive criticism, if necessary, refraining from personal attacks
  9. Be succinct and focused in your comments; avoid repetition of yourself or others
  10. Offer to take on follow-up tasks, or assist others, if appropriate, at the end of the meeting

Excellent Business Tips for Speaking on the Phone in a Professional Manner

Professional Etiquette During Work Hours

In a corporate/business setting, people often work in close quarters, either separated by partitions or thin walls. It can be hard to maintain appropriate boundaries in these situations, but impeccable manners will help.

Professional etiquette also requires that you respect the boundaries between work and your personal life. Doing so will improve your performance and help you advance in the long run, as well. Consider following these business tips during work hours:

  1. Respect others' work space
  2. Close your door or lower your voice (if appropriate) during phone calls that can be overheard by others
  3. Conduct personal business on breaks or after hours
  4. Consider the impact of noise and odors on surrounding workers; turn down music and annoying cell phone ringtones, avoid eating smelly foods at your desk and refrain from using fragrances if possible
  5. Respond to work inquiries in a timely manner
  6. If you will be absent from scheduled work hours, attempt to ensure there is coverage for your position so that others are not unnecessarily burdened as a result
  7. Follow company policy regarding sick days and vacation
  8. Refrain from making comments about co-workers' personal choices; if necessary, report a co-worker's violation of company policy to a superior or human resources director
  9. Agree to disagree with a co-worker rather than allowing an argument to escalate
  10. Respect company property; do not take for personal use any items provided for the business (pens, coffee mugs, etc.)

Proper Dress and Grooming for the Workplace is Good Etiquette

Quotes About Etiquette

  • Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot. - Clarence Thomas
  • Etiquette means behaving yourself a little better than is absolutely essential. - Will Cuppy
  • Be sincere, Be brief, Be seated - Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • In social matters, pointless conventions are not merely the bee sting of etiquette, but the snake bite of moral order. - Florence King
  • Politeness is the art of choosing among one's real thoughts. -Abel Stevens
  • Whoever one is, and wherever one is, one is always in the wrong if one is rude. -Maurice Baring
  • People count up the faults of those who keep them waiting. -French Proverb
  • Treat people as you would like to be treated. Karma's only a bitch if you are. -Author Unknown


Professional Etiquette After Hours

The line between work and "after hours," has become increasingly blurred with the use of smart phones that allow us to check emails, texts and voicemail messages 24/7.

As discussed below, social media and other advances of the digital age now require employees to be on their "best behavior" even after they leave for the day. Co-workers, clients and even future employers can find information about you that you might otherwise have believed to be private.

Even if you don't have a smart phone or Facebook account, its advisable to follow these professional etiquette tips when you're "off the clock," in order to help protect your job position:

  1. Avoid dating a co-worker, client or customer
  2. Be polite in public places at which you might encounter a person with whom you work (nearby restaurants, sports facilities, airports, etc.)
  3. Refrain from gossiping or spreading rumors about the company or other employees
  4. Do not publicly complain about workplace conditions; valid complaints should be directed to a superior or human resources director
  5. Public displays of affection, drunkenness or other inappropriate behavior are not advised, particularly if you are in an area near your office, a trade show or business meeting location

Professional etiquette requires that you mind your own business
Professional etiquette requires that you mind your own business | Source

Professional Etiquette in the Digital Age

  1. Respond to emails and telephone calls promptly
  2. Update your voicemail message to inform clients and colleagues when you will be out of the office with instructions on how to reach you or leave a message
  3. Avoid use of all caps in email correspondence
  4. Stay on topic in response to an email
  5. Email can be impersonal; a face-to-face meeting with co-workers is preferable, with a telephone call the second-best option
  6. Personal discussions should not take place on business email servers; respect company equipment and time
  7. Avoid using company computers for personal pursuits (Facebook, eBay, Pinterest, dating sites, you name it)
  8. Refrain from using your cell phone to respond to work requests during off hours if you are otherwise engaged and cannot devote your full attention to the matter (for example during your son's baseball game, or from the bar during happy hour)
  9. Carefully consider whether to "friend" or "follow" co-workers on social media sites and, if so, keep posts clean and professional, especially during off-hours
  10. Keep in mind that your online profiles, posts and comments on any site are generally accessible and permanent. How you behave online can have a significant impact on how you are perceived at work

Be Careful Using Facebook!

What is Your Biggest Pet Peeve When it Comes to Manners in the Workplace?

  • People who interrupt others when they are talking
  • People who talk on the phone too loud
  • People who end up making more work for others because they are unreliable
  • People who don't respect other people's workspace, property or food!
  • People who are always late to meetings
  • People who never return emails or phone calls
  • People who spend all day online, slacking off
  • People who are constantly checking their cell phone
  • All of the above!
  • Other: describe in the comment section below
See results without voting

© 2012 Stephanie Hicks

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Comments 43 comments

agreenworld profile image

agreenworld 4 years ago from CT-USA

I especially like the points you bring out on how to conduct yourself during business hours. Over the last 5 years companies have had to scale back internet allowances because many played online games instead of getting their work done.

You are right with what you said from the outset, employers can afford to be picky. If they allowed you to come in through the front door we should not want to do anything that will have us going out the back door in shame.


Chin chin profile image

Chin chin 4 years ago from Philippines

This is a great summary of how people should behave in the workplace at all times. A professional should really consider these points if he wants to be commended for behaving well at work and keep his job for a long time.


Arlene V. Poma 4 years ago

This Hub has everything you need to know about being a model employee. These facts and tips given here are crucial for anyone seeking employment or those who want to keep what they already have in this shaky economy. As far as interviews go, I was never good at them because I was brought up to be a NICE GIRL and not toot my horn. I finally woke up and went after what I wanted. But at the same time, I'd be content mucking stalls. Voted up and everything else.


Born2care2001 profile image

Born2care2001 4 years ago from Asheville NC

Well done Stephhicks68!

As a hiring manager I have often been disappointed when I realized a promising candidate didn't do their homework in many of these areas, more than a few of which I adopted as GWS (Goes Without Saying) things...just common sense.

I greatly appreciate the message this hub delivers and I sincerely hope more people read it!

Voted up and awesome!


Geraldnduru profile image

Geraldnduru 4 years ago from Kenya

getting a job takes months but losing it takes a few minutes.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

I had no earthly reason to read this hub other than the fact that I enjoy your writing; you presented your information clearly and I am sure it will be helpful for a professional type which I surely am not. Thumbs up Steph!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks agreenworld - employees have to remember that the competition for their positions is fierce and there is usually no guarantee that they will retain a position unless both their performance and manners are impeccable. It is more than just poor etiquette to spend the day online (other than for work projects), its considered stealing from your employer. Thanks for the great comment. Best, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks Chin chin, I thought it would be helpful to have many professional etiquette tips pulled together in a single hub. Best, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Billy, thanks for the comment anyway! Of course, professional etiquette tips can be applied in any social setting - i.e., the business meeting tips at other gatherings. Have a great day, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

That is spot on, Gerald! Cheers, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thank you Born - I was thinking as I was writing this hub how nice it would have been to actually work with people who consistently followed these etiquette tips. :) And yes, nearly all of these suggestions should be adopted as GWS. Best, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Arlene - what a great point you make about tooting your own horn in interviews. It can be a difficult thing to do if your personality is one of modesty. The same issue arises during self-evaluations. Congrats to you for your success in life, which in my opinion is defined by doing what you love, regardless of pay or status. Best, Steph


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

What a fantastic collection of tips! I'm afraid I don't adhere perfectly to all of your etiquette guidelines... but I am pretty good about most of them.

Great point about bringing multiple resumes to an interview. And perfumes!!! People are typically careful about not smelling too HUMAN, but there's also a lot of bother associated with smelling like a perfume counter.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks Simone - that perfume/cologne one is a big pet peeve. Sometimes riding the elevator up with the Old Spice man is not quite what I envisioned when watching the commercials... LOL! :)


alissaroberts profile image

alissaroberts 4 years ago from Normandy, TN

You have highlighted some great tips for work etiquette. Smelly food and personal calls during business hours were two big pet peeves of mine. I use to share a work space with 5 other loan officers so believe me I couldn't help to hear their personal business. And even though we had a break room upstairs they felt the need to eat in the shared workspace. Hopefully they will run across the hub and mend their ways! Great job - voted up!


BusinessTime profile image

BusinessTime 4 years ago from Twin Cities

This is a great, comprehensive guide to getting employed and staying employed -- I have a few friends I might share this with, if I can think of a polite, kind way of telling them they should probably read some of these valuable tips.

Thanks! Voting up!


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Haha I agree with Simone about perfume. Some of the teacher aides I worked with when I taught special ed would dose in it. I felt bad when the kids had to sit close to them. Aside from people being turned off from the smell, it's awful for those with allergies.

Great tips all around! In this digital age, many of these tips about computer and cell phone etiquette are more relevant than ever.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Ah yes, Alissa! People really need to be more cognizant of the fact that shared space is quite limited in an office setting. My poor husband tells me stories about his co-worker who loudly crunches potato chips will gabbing on personal phone calls. Even over the "lunch hour," employees should consider whether other people are still trying to work. Otherwise, their behavior is just rude! Thanks for the comment, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hahaha - having tact is another touchy workplace issue, isn't it? Hopefully, you can drop hints in an effective way. Cheers, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Yes, RC - allergies to perfume or any other scented product (hairspray, deodorant, etc.) can greatly affect workplace conditions. Some people even get asthma attacks, rashes or watery eyes as a result. People should realize that their choice of personal hygiene products can directly affect the work performance of colleagues. Thanks for the great comment - best, Steph


robie2 profile image

robie2 4 years ago from Central New Jersey

Very cool and comprehensive information on getting and keeping a job. Appropriate behavior in the workplace is and always has been and always will be key to success. Voted up up and away:-)


liftandloadremovals 4 years ago

it’s really great that you share this with us thanku.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks Robie - my next hub should be how to handle a difficult co-worker with poise and without ruining your own reputation. Goodness knows I've had plenty of experience in that department... :)


pmccray profile image

pmccray 4 years ago from Utah

Excellent advice . . all the degrees and awards are no help if you have the social grace of a chimp. Starting an hub about manners myself. Thank you for sharing, voted up, marked interesting


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi pmccray, I love the way you put that! Social grace of a chimp! :) Looking forward to your hub on manners. Cheers, Steph


mikeydcarroll67 4 years ago

Though I am not big on the idea of doing 40 for 40 (40 hours a week for 40 years), some of these apply to entrepreneurs like myself. I find myself making sure that I aim to be as professionally dressed and (hopefully-I am still working on this) to act more professionally when I am out in public even if I am not meeting a client or a potential client. You never know where you might meet a new customer or a potential employer out in public, even if you are not looking.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Mikey, you are definitely right about using good manners and etiquette when out in public. You just may run into a potential future client or employer. Thanks for the great comment, Steph


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

Great tips, Steph. This is great advice for everyone--no wonder it's been hovering in the top 10, often at the top. Awesome job. You write and present your information so well. Voted up and many other things!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks Victoria - its nice to see the hub doing well. And, I appreciate your kind comments. Glad that my professional experience could be helpful to others. :) Best, Steph


birdslover profile image

birdslover 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

Nice suggestions, I will try to remember as many points as I can.


KeithTax profile image

KeithTax 4 years ago from Wisconsin

Another point to consider is integrity. If you lie or bad mouth a previous employer, your credibility drops to zero and your chances of landing a job and/or keeping it diminishes.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Absolutely! Earning trust is difficult to do when you are in a hole like that. Excellent point, Keith. Best, Steph


emilybee profile image

emilybee 4 years ago

Wow. This hub is chalked full with very useful information. The video you have for asking questions on an interview was excellent and funny video on what not to wear at work! Voted up!


Skyler Meyer profile image

Skyler Meyer 4 years ago from 297 Garlington Rd Unit A Greenville, SC 29615

Great tips about Professional Etiquette for Modern Professionals and I definitely agree with agreenworld that many employees are doing social media such as facebook and playing games during working hours and that's not good because you didn't use your time wisely.. It can destruct your focus in your job and the same time it can cunsumed your time instead of work. Love your work and be honest!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Super hub full of all the information any business professional needs to stay out of trouble. Lord knows there are enough challenges on the job when it comes to performance; why create unnecessary challenges in the etiquette and conduct departments if you don't have to? Your common-sense advice points everyone in the right direction. Voted up and everything else!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks emilybee, I love when I can find interesting videos for my hubs. The one on what not to wear at work was pretty funny. :) Best, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks Skyler - you are right! Too much time on social media sites is spent during non-break hours. Many employers look upon that as stealing. Cheers, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks Sherri - good manners and etiquette on the job can make the difference between just earning a paycheck and moving up in the company. Cheers to you! Steph


Jason Jefferson 4 years ago

Great hub Stephhicks68!

I've had my share of bad interview along the way, and I'm sure these tips can help people out.

Being a good listener is a really good one, something that took me a while to learn - it allows you extra time to organize your thought as well...

Thank you :)


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks Jason! Practicing being a good listener is a very important skill for a successful interview. Pause before answering a question and collect your thoughts first, as you point out. Best, Steph


parga profile image

parga 4 years ago

Thank you very much. Your advice about professional etiquette was very useful for me, I helped my friends and colleges too... http://www.lichnosbeach.gr


Sustainable Sue profile image

Sustainable Sue 4 years ago from Altadena CA, USA

Your last video's been removed, Steph!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks for the heads up, Sue!

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