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Workplace Communication Part 6 of 7: Etiquette Matters

Updated on March 15, 2012
Think calm to communicate.
Think calm to communicate. | Source


In a business environment, the first and often only contact we have with a customer or another professional is over the phone. Opinions are formed of us and our business immediately. A poor first impression can be costly in more than one way. Conversely, by using telephone communication effectively we can appear sharp and competent. Remember these points:

  • Have an aim. Know what you want to discuss. Ensure that you have all the information you need to achieve your aim. This saves everyone time.
  • Tailor your style to that of the person you are talking to. Busy people often prefer a clean-cut, direct approach. Others may prefer a more relaxed approach.
  • Limit social conversation.Social chat may be pleasant, but taken to extremes, it wastes time.
  • Give concise answers to questions. Long rambling answers are unprofessional, dull and confusing.
  • If you don't know, say so. If someone relies on you, and you guess wrong, then they may not trust you again. Instead, get back to them with a firm answer or direct them to someone else.
  • Summarize the points made at the end of a call. This ensures that both people agree on what has been said, and know what action will be taken.
  • Don't be distracted by talking to anyone else or multi-tasking when on the phone. End the call or put the person on hold if interruptions are necessary.

When you are the caller:

  • Take the initiative.When a call has to be made, do it. Procrastination can just build stress if it is going to be unpleasant or difficult.
  • Consider timing. Don't make a call very early or very late. Give others a chance to settle in before you ring them or use their time when it’s time to leave the office.
  • The answering machine. If you are not prepared for it, then hang up and ring back. It is better to prepare and deliver a smooth message than to sound off-balance.

Taking incoming calls:

  • The phone should not ring more than 3 times before being answered. This is expected of efficient business organizations.
  • Don't answer the phone while eating. This either sounds indistinct or sounds like having your ear nibbled!


Similar to telephone communication, the first and often only contact we have is in writing. Again, first contact opinions are formed of us and our business. There are additional factors to consider when creating a written communication. There can be legal ramifications and anything written can last longer than other forms of communication. We should remember to:

  • Have an aim. Know what you want to write. Ensure that you have all the information. If needed, research your content.
  • Be concise. It is expected that letters will get to the point as quickly as possible. Especially, if you are responding to a correspondence.
  • Edit and review your work. Check grammar, spelling, the use of language, and general tone. Read it back aloud to confirm your message is clear and sound. If the correspondence is of special importance, have another review it too.

Written communications should be an extension of our other forms of communication. It should reflect our personality, our intelligence, and our potential.


If you are the meeting coordinator…

You are responsible for the meeting parameters. As with any event coordination, you must consider your needs and the needs of the attendees to increase the productivity of the encounter. Once you have set the day, time, venue, and attendees; you will be creating interactive communications to confirm the event, by telephone, email, or mail.

Once the basics have been established, it is important to review the expectations of the meeting:

Why are we meeting? Be organized. Prepare an agenda and any additional materials prior to meeting time. If possible, send the materials prior to the meeting so the attendees can be as prepared as possible.

What is expected outcome? Be clear about goals. Discuss which topics require decisions to be made and which topics that are just entering a discussion faze.

Keep the meeting on track.

  • Announce the meeting expectations at the start.
  • Allow a certain amount of time for each topic and each person.
  • Address and acknowledge reactions and feelings to topics.
  • Close a topic if necessary to move on.
  • Close with a comments or question and answer session.
  • Thank the attendees.

If you are a meeting attendee…

Be prepared. Prepare and bring essential materials. Practice your best active listening skills, taking notes instead of interrupting. If given the opportunity to speak, be polite, positive, and clear and then move back into being an active listener.


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