The famous American writer, Maya Angelou, once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Business etiquette has not gone away…if anything, it is even more necessary in today’s society considering the fast-paced world of social media, texting, and less and less face-time with one another. Manners and etiquette may play an even more vital role in ensuring that we are respectful and considerate of each other’s feelings.
When baby-boomers were told to do something by a colleague or supervisor, they would say, “Yes sir.” Generation X grew up being told, “You don’t need to call me sir.” Millennials have grown up saying, “Why do I need to do that?” While our culture has changed due to ever-increasing technology, and fewer people employing good social etiquette, this doesn’t mean it’s not needed anymore, or that it’s not important. In fact, quite the opposite is true. According to an article in examiner.com posted July 11, 2013, titled, “Why Do Millennials Seem to Lack Manners,” millennials spend so much time on their cell phones and other devices that they don’t know how to behave during in-person business situations. With this in mind, I’ve put together some basic business etiquette that is still applicable and highly encouraged for our modern world, and all generations.
Conversation: Avoid the “big 2” topics which are: (1) religion and (2) politics. These two topics can be highly controversial and are best left for personal time and with personal friends who are outside of your business network.
Business cards: (1) Never exchange business cards while dining. (2) Be sure to look at the business card when you receive one. Don’t just shove it in your pocket or purse.
The handshake: (1) Smile when you are introduced to someone as you shake their hand. (2) Greet the person while shaking their hand i.e. “Nice to meet you.” (3) Both men and women should grip firmly; wimpy handshakes and those that try to break your bones are both equally unprofessional. (4) Only two or three pumps during the handshake…you’re not trying to date the person.
Introducing yourself: (1) Always say your first and last name. (2) Always stand when you are being introduced to someone. This helps to establish your presence.
E-mail: (1) Always have a subject in the subject line. (2) Always use a greeting. (3) Use full sentences. (4) Always have a signature. (5) Do not “reply-all” unless everyone needs to know. Just because a group e-mail was sent doesn’t mean that your response needs to go to everyone. Your response usually only needs to go to the person who sent the e-mail, not the entire group.
Cell phones during a meeting or conversation: (1) Don’t check your texts or take a call in the middle of a conversation with someone. It’s just rude! (2) If you expect a cell phone call during a meeting, let others know so that you can politely step-out if your expected call comes in. (3) Don’t have your cell phone on the table during a meeting. Even if it’s on silent or vibrate, it can still be a distraction if it lights up.
Appointments: (1) Be on time. (2) Don’t be more than five minutes early. Arriving super early can be just as inconsiderate as arriving late. (3) If you know you will be late to a meeting, call or text to let others know that you’re on your way and your expected arrival time, and ask if it’s still ok to move forward with the meeting or if you should reschedule. This is being considerate of other people’s time.
Business meals: According to Barbara Pachter in her book “The Essentials of Business Etiquette” (1) The host pays, regardless of gender. If you invited someone to lunch or dinner, then you are the host. (2) Do not pull out chairs for anyone. (3) Do not stack your plates. (4) Do not ask for a doggy-bag.
Thank you: Thank you notes foster positive relationships. According to a study by Emotion, thanking people makes them more likely to continue a relationship, which leads to more opportunities for you. Send a thank you note after an interview, after an important meeting, after sharing information with new people at events, after a receiving a referral, during the holidays, and just out of the blue for something special that was done to help you.