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Basic Business Etiquette to Be Aware Of

Individuals often feel uncomfortable in business situations, as this is one topic most business schools overlook. They don’t cover proper business etiquette at times such as this, leaving a person wondering what they should say and how they should act. Until this changes, a person may wonder if they are presenting themselves properly in this setting. Fortunately, people can learn what is expected of them by doing their own research. Following are some common business situations and how one should act in each.

Business Calls

The telephone remains an essential communication tool and not simply for the ability to check emails and send texts. Speaking to someone over the phone remains the fastest, simplest and most personal way to connect with another person. However, a failure to use proper phone etiquette can have a negative impact on the outcome of the call.

Woman making a phone call and smilingRemain amiable and professional on all calls while following the rules of common courtesy. Never let a phone ring more than three times before answering to show the call is important to you. However, don’t pick up immediately either, as this can be disconcerting to the other person.

Smile when answering the phone, as this has a positive influence on your tone of voice. In addition, be sure to address the other party by name to show you value them as an individual. Talk slowly and clearly while keeping the phone approximately two inches away from the mouth to ensure you can be heard clearly and provide appropriate answers. Never use the phrase, “I don’t know”, as it’s best to reply that the matter needs to be looked into and a reply will be forthcoming. In the event the other party must be on hold, be sure to ask permission and check in regularly to let them know they haven’t been forgotten. That’s the key to business etiquette on the phone.

Business Emails

Emails today tend to be the preferred means of communication for many businesses. An email ensures all points are clearly stated in writing to avoid confusion. However, the use of email can also lead to issues that are often unforeseen.

First and foremost, make certain the subject line presents an accurate representation of the contents of the communication. Never leave this line blank or provide a generic description. Including a descriptive subject line increases the odds of the email being opened and read.

Laptop and email interfaceAlways include a salutation and a full signature. While the message is being delivered electronically, this does not mean any elements may be left out. The salutation serves as a greeting to the other person and the full signature ensures they know how to contact you in the event of a problem or if a question arises. There is no need for them to search for this information, as it is right in front of them. This will be appreciated by the recipient.

Refresh the reader’s memory regarding past communications. Don’t assume they have this information. By taking this simple step, you can avoid confusion and make certain the recipient doesn’t have to search through past communications to remember what has already been discussed.

Formal writing remains necessary in all business communications. A failure to use proper punctuation, for example, may lead the other part to believe you are lazy and careless. Nobody wants to leave others with this impression, so don’t become lenient in this area. Finally, proofread all communications before sending, as this step ensures the proper message is being delivered and the email is well crafted.

Business Letters

Business LetterTraditional business correspondence delivered via snail mail has become less popular today. However, there are times when a letter must be sent. As a result, every person in the business world must be aware of etiquette when crafting one of these documents.

First and foremost, every letter should have a purpose and this purpose needs to be clearly laid out in the communication. Remain on topic throughout the letter and ensure it is composed properly. Never make use of industry jargon either, as this may confuse the reader and lead to the intent of the letter being unclear.

Proofread the document and walk away. Take a break for a few hours and read it again to detect any readability issues, grammar issues, or misspellings. These are simply unacceptable in any formal communication also.

Finally, be sure to check the name and address on the envelope, as having internal information shared with the wrong person or business could be disastrous. Furthermore, this helps to ensure the right individual receives the letter and the message it conveys. Always take this step when postmarking the mail and again before sending to ensure no errors are present.

Meetings

One wrong move in a business meeting can be disastrous for a person’s career. It negatively reflects on their professionalism, regardless of whether they know they did anything wrong. To avoid a mistake of this type, always be aware of business meeting etiquette.

Hand shakeBe sure to use full names when introducing individuals. This information is of great help when two people try to connect at a later date. Having the other party’s last name makes it easier to locate the individual on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn.

Never fidget during a meeting and refrain from chewing gum or eating. Obviously, an exception to this is those times when a meal is being served. Otherwise, hold off on food and gum until a meal break is called.

Meetings take up a great deal of time. When participants ask numerous, lengthy questions or ask the same things again and again, it holds everyone up. Be sure to keep all questions short and to the point. When more clarification is needed, follow up with the individual at a later date via email or a private meeting.

Any time you are extending an invitation for a dinner meeting, be prepared to pay. The bill becomes the responsibility of the person who initiated the meeting, yet many seem unaware of this. Being aware of this prevents an awkward moment when the bill arrives.

Meals

Table perpared for dinnerAs mentioned above, a person who extends an invitation for a meal is expected to pay for this meal. However, this is only one of the many business meal etiquette rules one needs to remember. The key to a successful meal is to find a way to blend the social and personal aspects and many struggle with this. Following are some guidelines to help anyone navigate a meal of this type.

Be on time for the meal. While waiting for everyone to arrive, introduce yourself to any new faces and shake hands with them. Once this has been done, follow the lead of the host or hostess. They should always be the first to sit and place their napkin in their lap. Furthermore, follow their lead when ordering. Choose a meal that is similarly priced and don’t ask for any extras, such as appetizers or a dessert, unless they do.

The use of silverware during a business meal terrifies many, but it is part of a proper business etiquette. A good rule of thumb to remember is to use the silverware from the outer piece inward. For example, use the fork that is farthest left for the salad and the knife that is farthest right for the same. The knife and fork for use with dinner will be closest to the plate. Butter plates and knives are located above the forks while water and wine glasses are on the other side.

Stand to greet new arrivals, but never pull out a guest’s chair for them. This is not standard behavior for a business event. Don’t ask for detailed explanations of different dishes and cut food one or two bites at a time. Finally, avoid controversial topics and, if someone else brings them up, politely defer to the opinion of others. This helps to keep peace at the table.

Dress Etiquette

Appearance is of great importance in the business world. People often make judgments based on nothing more than how a person looks. Fortunately, a person can dress for success and influence the option of others.

Man in a suit, standing next to stairsKnow the dress code of the company and follow it. However, even if cutoff shorts and graphic tees are considered acceptable, the clothing should always be clean and fit properly. This includes the shoes which need to be neat and polished.

Reserve strong colognes and fragrances for after work occasions. If a scent is worn, ensure it is subtle. Allow others to remember you for your personality as opposed to the lingering smell you leave behind.

Accessories need to be wisely chosen, and this includes hosiery for women. Don’t wear any jewelry that makes noise when you move and avoid open toe shoes unless you have recently had a pedicure. Men need to make certain their facial hair is trimmed and tidy also.

 

A person may feel overwhelmed by the many rules and guidelines regarding business etiquette. Spend some time brushing up on this information before an event. If you are still concerned about behaving appropriately in different business settings, don’t hesitate to practice when out with friends or family. Explain what you are doing and why. Not only will this give you extra practice, they may also learn something new that will be of benefit to them. When this happens, everyone wins.

Laptop and email interface

Etiquette Basics for Business Emails

Five years ago, analysts with technology research firm, The Radicati Group, Inc. predicted more than 130 billion business emails would be sent and received each day by the end of last year. Current figures indicate we’ve met those expectations in full force. This form of communication has not only inundated the business world but transformed it. In light of this development, understanding proper business email etiquette is the key to conveying professionalism and authority in today’s online landscape.

Building a Winning Email Strategy

Email has certainly become the norm these days, leaving some a bit lax on the finer points of the game. As a result, many formal emails fall short of delivering on their intended purposes. To carry a professional image, business etiquette dictates certain elements should be included.

  • Straightforward Subject Line: Subject lines are our first, and possibly our only, opportunities to grab recipients’ attention and convince them reading further is worth their time. These shouldn’t, under any circumstances, be left blank. Of course, a vague generic description, like “read this now” reeks of spam and could be equally ineffective. Be direct and concise regarding the email’s contents, such as “End-of-Year Marketing Report Attached”. Specificity greatly increases the chances of an email being opened and read through.
  • Appropriate Salutation: Salutations are also crucial components of business etiquette. Openings like “Dear”, “Good Day”, “Greetings”, “Hello” and “Hi” all serve nicely in a professional environment. These should be followed by the recipient’s name. While “To Whom It May Concern” and “Dear Sir or Madame” once ruled the world of formal salutations, they’re both considered somewhat off-putting in the modern-day sense.
  • Writing a business emailFull Signature: Be sure to add your signature to business emails as well. Though these shouldn’t drone on beyond five or six lines, they should definitely contain your name, email, company designation and phone number. All these give recipients ample ways of contacting you directly in the email, so they don’t have to spend extra time looking up your information elsewhere.
  • Be Thorough: Regardless of how many past exchanges you’ve had with a recipient, it’s important to provide details. Compose each email as if it were the first communication between the two of you, briefly but fully covering the subject at hand. This helps avoid confusion and prevents recipients from having to scroll through previous conversations to remind themselves of what you’re talking about.
  • Follow the Rules of Writing: Though the world has become fairly lenient when it comes to the ins and outs of written communication, business email etiquette places great emphasis on them. Write in complete sentences with proper punctuation and capitalization in all the right places; otherwise, you’ll appear sloppy or even uneducated in the eyes of others.

After all is said and done, be sure to proofread before sending. Walk away for a few minutes and come back to it, so you’ll read what you wrote rather than what you meant to say. With all these elements in place and careful attention to detail, you’ll build a well-crafted formal email strategy sure to draw the attention of coworkers, clients and prospects.

What to Avoid in Business Emails

Just as certain components should be part of your winning email approach, some things should be left out of the mix. Allowing anger or frustration to sway your good judgement could be considered the most vital point on this end of the spectrum. Other factors to sidestep include:

  • Sharing Private Info on Group Emails: This may seem like common sense, but it’s easy to forget who and what are involved in a hasty moment. Never share private contact information or files in group chats unless you have explicit permission. Doing so compromises security and trust, and it could get you into quite a bit of legal trouble if the breached individual decides to take the situation that far.
  • Five guys jumping in the air

    Humour is suitable for the working atmosphere, but not in a professional email.

    Using Humor: Humor is a wonderful gift when used in face-to-face exchanges, but it tends to lose something in digital translation. Statements that might be hilarious in person could be taken as outright offensive via email, so just don’t make the attempt. It’s better to come off bland than boorish.

  • Inserting Informal Features: Casual acronyms certainly have their places, and emoticons are capable of brightening people’s days, but there’s no room for them in business emails. Smiley faces, LOLs, excessive exclamation points and other non-essentials tend to detract from professionalism, so leave them out of the mix.

Last but not least, don’t leave an email sitting in your inbox unless it’s the definitive end of a conversation. If a recipient took the time to read an email from you and respond to it, return the courtesy.

Professionalism is vital when it comes to online correspondence where facial expressions, vocal indications and other communication tools don’t apply. Follow these rules of email etiquette, and you’ll be all set to impress. Attention to detail takes a little extra time and effort, but it pays off in the grand scheme of things.