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Business Tips and Professional Etiquette for Modern Professionals

Updated on August 7, 2020
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Stephanie has been a lawyer since 1994 and knows her way around a professional office environment.

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

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!

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


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

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Stephanie Marshall

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