A Graduate's Introduction to Professional Etiquette and Manners in Business
Inside the world of business, etiquette is a necessary knowledge.
Thousands of college graduates will be flooding the job market in the coming months; however, many will lack the basic etiquette skills needed to successfully obtain employment. Research shows that only thirty-six percent of these graduates will send thank-you notes, yet seventy-six percent of business executives take into account post-interview thank-you notes when evaluating job candidates. Recent college graduates can stand head and shoulders over their competition with some basic etiquette knowledge. Regardless of how skilled you are in business, poor table manners can squelch a deal. To succeed in business in today’s competitive global economy, your skills at the dining table must be on par with your skills at the boardroom table. Companies are looking for employees who can travel well, and they are more and more concerned that many job candidates are not up to the task.
- Introductions include handshakes, and thus the rules for conducting a handshake properly: According to an article in the New York Times by Brown (written on May 21st 1989), you should extend your hand with the thumb up, clasp the other person’s palm entirely, give two or three pumps from the elbow (avoiding the painful “bone-crusher” and the off-putting “wet fish” moves), and look at the person directly in the eyes, never below the chin.
- Casperson’s “Power Etiquette” tells us to always remember to close an introduction by saying something like, “It was nice to have met you.” Never simply walk away.
Introductions are commonplace in the world of business and that is why it is important to know how to do them correctly and well. Properly introducing yourself can leave a good impression with clients, coworkers, and business partners, ultimately boosting their confidence in you. Even if you never make a move to the business world, knowing the proper way to conduct introductions can help you feel at ease in any situation.
Deference refers to common courtesy that is extended to one another. In Margulis’ book, “Be In Charge”, written in 2002, he states: With regard to introductions, juniors are always presented to seniors. A common rule is to introduce the highest ranking person first, and then introduce everyone to him/her. Deference is based on the rank in a company, not on gender. Margulis also reminds us that a client always outranks someone from within your company (even your supervisor). Use the name that was given during the introduction. Name tags should always be placed on the right side so that an individual may easily look at your name when shaking your hand.
In order to have good etiquette, keep in mind that eating etiquette and introduction etiquette are interrelated and necessary knowledge. In business, a good reputation and well-known name are beneficial but not enough to attract and keep employees and clients happy. While good manners have never gone out of style, business etiquette has quickly become an essential business tool. In the wake of this impersonal era, good manners help strengthen business relationships.
Eating Etiquette 101
- Avoid chewable challenges.
- Don’t talk with your mouth full.
- Don’t overindulge in alcoholic beverages.
- Avoid finger foods.
- Don’t order a drink unless offered, and even then remember the company’s alcohol policy and refrain if in doubt.
- If you are there to talk business, leave your portfolio or briefcase under your chair until the entrée plates have been removed. After that, do not cover the entire table with papers; pull them out one at a time, according to Casperson and her book, “Power Etiquette”, written in 1999.
Eating etiquette is one of the most important tools inside business. In the near future, you could be at a job interview that contains a business lunch to test your manners as part of the hiring process. In a New York Times article by Joe Sharkey, written on May 5th 2006, accessed on September 12th 2009, Ms. Martin, who gives seminars on etiquette, states, “A lot of companies as part of the job interview will take someone out for lunch or dinner just to see if they talk and chew at the same time…If you have poor etiquette, it doesn’t matter how intelligent you are. You are going to be viewed as stupid.” “Corporate hiring attitudes sometime comes down to “who can we send abroad who’s not going to embarrass us?” she said.
A quote from Sharkey’s article about Ms. Chaney, who has been conducting seminars on etiquette for 25 years, expressed amazement at the deterioration of skills in simple aspects of etiquette, like table manners. “Some of our students just don’t realize that they are being invited to a meal as part of a job interview so somebody can watch them eat,” she said.
Brown, Patricia L. "The Business of Etiquette ." 21 May 1989. NY Times. 1 December 2009 <http://nytimes.com>.
Mohn, Tanya. "Executive Life; The Social Graces As a Business Tool ." 10 November 2002. NY Times. 07 December 2009 <http://nytimes.com>.
Nahas, Donna Kutt. "Companies Honing Employees' Etiquette." 16 August 1998. NY Times. 9 December 09 <http://nytimes.com>.
Sharkey, Joe. "Avoiding Tan Suits and Other Travel Gaffes ." 2 May 2006. NY Times. 1 December 2009 <http://nytimes.com>.
*Parts of this article are also posted at suite101.com by the same author