People in the business world have different expectations about eye contact, body language, dress code, and dining etiquette, just to name a few. While many companies have shifted to a more casual culture, understanding proper business etiquette can go a long way. In this piece, we’ll explain what business etiquette is and some of the basic rules to familiarize yourself with.
Business etiquette is a type of behavior that team members are expected to follow in order to uphold the company image and respect each other. Business etiquette may change from culture to culture, but when everyone understands and follows a particular set of standards, it can create a sense of unity.
Business etiquette is sometimes unspoken, but more often than not, team members will agree upon the basic rules so everyone presents a united image. When team members follow business etiquette, it builds effective communication in the workplace.Optimize your organizational structure
The basics of business etiquette vary from culture to culture, and it can be particularly intimidating to understand business etiquette if you're working for a company with a culture different from the one you grew up in. However, there are some universal constants that can help you stick to the status quo as you learn the particular group dynamics and team norms at your company.
These five important business courtesies can help you make a solid first impression and show respect for your team members.
Whether you’re attending an interview or daily standup meeting, being on time in a work environment shows that you respect everyone’s schedule. If punctuality isn’t something you’ve prioritized in the past, brush up on some time management tips to keep yourself organized and aware of your to-do list.
There are nuances to being on time—some cultures operate on a system of being slightly late to everything. But when in doubt, show up on time and adjust from there if necessary.
Acknowledging others is proper business etiquette for both casual and formal work environments. When someone walks in the room at a business dinner or meeting, greet them and say hello appropriately—whether by shaking hands or following some other cultural custom.
The same rule applies if you work from home and attend daily Zoom meetings. You may not be required to get on camera in every business meeting, but speaking up and taking the time to recognize your team members can let everyone know you’re listening and make others feel noticed.
Dressing appropriately is subjective and will depend on whether you work in an office or from home. Some companies that work in the office every day will expect everyone to dress in business casual attire because much of the work involves face time with stakeholders or clients. Other companies who work in a hybrid environment may encourage team members to dress casually in order to promote comfort and productivity.
If you are unsure about appropriate business attire, ask your manager or supervisor for tips. It’s especially common to feel unsure if you just started a new job, but don’t be afraid to send a quick email before your first day to get a feel of the office policy. Alternatively, think back to your interview and try to remember what everyone was wearing so you can dress accordingly.
Even if you work remotely, you may go into the office on occasion or share virtual spaces with your team members. Office spaces you may share with team members include a kitchen, bathroom, printer and copy room, and lounge area. Virtual spaces you may share include Google Drive folders and project management software.
The way you treat shared spaces will reflect on you as a professional, so it’s important that you label things correctly, stay organized, and respect others who also use these spaces. Business etiquette applies to shared spaces whether you’re cleaning up after yourself physically or following company processes online.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, regulate, and understand emotions in yourself and in others. Effective emotional intelligence skills can help you empathize with team members and overcome challenges. While emotional intelligence isn’t a direct rule of business etiquette, it will help you in the workplace, no matter what conflicts arise.
For example, imagine you’re behind on work and your boss suddenly adds a large, time-sensitive project to your plate. With emotional intelligence skills, you can speak with your manager to understand the relative priority of the work. Since you're already behind on work, you can express your worry about becoming overworked and work with your manager to come up with a solution of which work you can deprioritize or delegate less important tasks.Optimize your organizational structure
With the transition to increasingly virtual teams, the definition and practice of business etiquette has changed. In person, you may need a politely firm handshake and the right attire, but when working remotely, you’ll need to know the basics of email, phone, and video etiquette.
Writing an email or communicating with your team through tools like Slack or Asana seems simple enough, but professional communication online differs from personal communication. Consider the tips below for proper email and online etiquette.
Proofread: Proofreading your emails is a hard rule of thumb that you shouldn’t ignore. While your email or project management platform may have a built-in proofreading tool, you should also look over your email before sending it out, just in case.
Be polite and professional: Even though you're not speaking face to face with your email recipient, your tone of voice will come through in your words. It’s important to be polite and professional in your copy. For example, you can use upbeat phrases like: “I hope you... thanks for... just a friendly reminder... please let me know... looking forward to hearing from you.”
Respond in a timely manner: Whenever another team member or client reaches out to you, they’re doing so for a reason. Proper email and team communication etiquette means responding to people in a timely manner, even if that means setting up an automatic response for when you’re out of the office. While you don’t need to respond within minutes, aim to respond within one or two business days.
Keep it brief: Keeping your email copy brief can get your point across quickly and save time for your reader. When you hide the main objective of your message within a lengthy email, your reader may be less likely to respond in the way you hope for.
Remember that who you’re writing to may make a difference in your email or online content. For example, if you’re communicating with other team members through Asana and Slack, you can write in a more casual tone, whereas client emails should be more formal.
Business communication often occurs through phone calls. When speaking to clients or business partners on the phone, consider the following ways to uphold business etiquette.
Don’t call unannounced: Everyone in the business world has a schedule to follow, whether they’re working around a strict project timeline or trying to prioritize a heavy workload. When you need to talk to someone on the phone, send them an email first to schedule your call. Calling unannounced can be considered bad manners because the call recipient may be unprepared to talk to you.
Use reasonable tone and clarity: Your tone of voice is important on work phone calls. You’ll need to keep a polite tone as you speak to team members or clients and be aware of your volume and clarity as well. If you speak too loudly or mumble on a professional call, your recipient may not receive your message the way you hope them to. Tone and communication can also vary based on culture, so keep cultural intelligence in mind when on the phone.
Deliver messages promptly: Just like with work emails, it’s important to respond to work voicemails promptly. You may receive emails from team members or clients asking to schedule phone calls. Respond to these emails quickly with the best time you’re available to talk on the phone.
Create a professional voicemail: Creating a professional voicemail for when you’re unavailable is proper business etiquette because it lets people know who you are, what you do, and that you’re unavailable. They can then leave you messages explaining why they’re calling.
Video is one of the most popular ways for remote workers to connect. With this method of communication, you get the benefit of speaking with many of your team members in real-time, which means there are some video etiquette basics you should know.
Mute yourself: One of the biggest issues team members face on video calls is background noise coming from those who aren’t speaking. This issue has a simple fix: mute yourself when you aren’t the speaker. Muting yourself will ensure your microphone is silent so others can have the full attention of the virtual room.
Engage with your body: When on a video call, others can see how you non-verbally interact with the speaker. If you’re looking down or you’re too relaxed in your seat, you may send the message that you’re uninterested in the conversation. Sitting up straight, looking alert, and using nonverbal communication to show you’re engaged lets the speaker know you’re paying attention.
Don’t interrupt: Interrupting someone on a video call can be especially disruptive. Technology can’t always keep up with multiple people trying to speak on a video call, so interruptions can lead to glitches and confusion for everyone involved.
Dress appropriately: Video calls may only show your clothes from the waist up, but it’s still important to dress appropriately together. Your attire for video calls should follow your company’s dress code. Also consider your personal hygiene when on camera.
Working from home makes it less common that you’ll interact with team members and clients in person, but don’t forget that virtual interactions still leave lasting impressions. When in doubt, approach these interactions with the same business ettiquette and care as you would for an in-person conversation.
The goal of business etiquette is to present a united company image, foster mutual respect for team members, and improve communication in the workplace. When teams communicate effectively, they do better work.
Effective communication doesn’t stop there. Using software can help your team work together to meet deadlines and reach goals. With team communication software, you can facilitate better communication between team members by ensuring everyone receives the right information at the right time.Optimize your organizational structure