business etiquette rules

20 Business Etiquette Rules for Professionals

Etiquette goes beyond knowing which fork to use for the salad or sending ‘thank you’ notes. When it comes to business etiquette rules, there’s a set of behaviors that shows your level of professionalism. A minor misstep may not seem like much, but it can affect your career more than you expect.

Indeed, learning about professional etiquette can give you an edge over the competition. This article explores some of the best rules in any business setting.

Business Etiquette Definition

According to a California State University study, 88% of senior-level professionals have excellent manners. Meanwhile, that percentage drops to 40% for middle-level managers and 12% for fresh MBA graduates. Indeed, business etiquette is something a professional learns and acquires as they climb the corporate ladder.

Who Exhibits Impeccable Manners Among Business Professionals?

88% – Senior-Level Managers

40% – Middle-Level Managers

12% – Fresh MBA Graduates

Source: California State University

Before we go into the set of rules you must follow in a professional setting, let’s answer this question:

What is business etiquette?

When a person abides by certain business etiquette rules, it means that they work with professionalism and uphold the image of their company. This set of professional behaviors varies from culture to culture. However, when everyone follows them, there’s a sense of unity in the workplace.

Most of the time, the rules are unspoken. Even so, people in the corporate setting agree upon what comprises business etiquette. When people live by it, they promote effective communication and harmonious collaboration in the workplace.

So, what are the best business etiquette examples?

Business Etiquette for Initial Encounters

1. Dress Appropriately

According to a Quantified Communications survey, a person’s clothing—even in virtual meetings—conveys their character. Most of the respondents say that business casual attire is the option that gives the strongest impression of innovativeness, trustworthiness, and authenticity. Meanwhile, if you want to go for an expert look, business formal would be the best choice. Unfortunately, wearing casual clothing is the least popular choice for the four perceived traits.

The Right Attire of Professionals

Authentic

Innovative

Expert

Trustworthy

While more professions have come to embrace casual workplace attire, it’s not a good idea to settle for ragged shirts and distressed jeans. If you want to leave a good first impression, you should put more thought into your work clothing. Your outfit should reflect your role and the company’s image.

2. Make Eye Contact

Dr. Fauci is doubtful that handshakes will ever become a thing again after the pandemic. However, even if they’ve been replaced by fist and elbow bumps, there are still ways you can make the greeting sincere.

For one, you can make eye contact and give a sincere smile – even behind a face mask. If you greet someone and avert your eyes, you could come across as someone who lacks confidence and honesty.

3. Introduce Yourself Using Your Full Name

Admit it—you also have trouble putting names to faces. Perhaps, you’ve experienced bumping into someone you met at a networking event and you struggled to remember their name. So, if you want other people to recall your name easily, you should introduce yourself with your full name.

Doing so will help others to distinguish you from the sea of Karens and Matts. What’s more, if a person knows your last name, it will be easier for them to find you on LinkedIn.

4. Remember Names

Of course, it’s professional etiquette to remember the names of people you meet. Pay close attention to how they pronounce their names. If you don’t hear it clearly, politely ask them to repeat their name.

Most of the time, people won’t mind repeating their names during introductions. After all, it shows that the other person is taking genuine interest in them. It’s also a good practice to use a person’s name three or four times in a conversation.

5. Be Punctual

Whether you’re meeting someone for the first time or you’re joining a regular meeting, always be on time. This behavior shows that you respect other people’s time. So, if being punctual is not your strongest suit, you should strengthen your time management skills.

There are plenty of ways and tools you can use to ensure that you’re always on time. For instance, you can use a time tracking app like Traqq. This tool comes with smart alerts and notifications that tell you how long you’ve been working. So, if you have a meeting within the next hour, Traqq will help you stay on track.

6. Say “Please” and “Thank You”

Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson may not be the ideal resource person for business etiquette examples. However, no one can deny how much respect his “please” and “thank you” can gain. He always says these when anyone offers help.

Whether you’re asking a client to call back or a staff member to work late, be polite and appreciative. Acknowledge other people’s efforts, no matter how small they may be. If you’re managing a team, your “please” and “thanks” can go a long way. Glassdoor’s Employee Appreciation survey revealed that 81% of employees are motivated to work harder when their manager appreciates their efforts.

7. Listen Actively

Once you begin a conversation, you should smile or nod. Doing so shows that you are listening actively and that you are genuinely interested in what the other person has to say.

Moreover, you shouldn’t interrupt. However, if you must, open your mouth or politely send other non-verbal signals. In any case, it’s always respectful to wait for the other person to finish.

Business Etiquette Rules for the Workplace

8. Treat Shared Spaces with Respect

If you’re back in the office, you may share spaces like the bathroom, copy room, kitchen, or lounge area. The way you treat these areas will reflect on how you are as a professional. So, it’s important to stay organized, properly label items, and respect other people using the spaces. Business etiquette rules dictate that you clean up after yourself and be mindful of your colleagues.

Now, if you’re working remotely, you may also come across shared virtual spaces. In this context, these areas may be a project management tool or Google Drive folders. In these shared virtual spaces, you should follow company policies.

9. Ask People for Their Time

It is rude to pop into someone’s cubicle or office space unannounced. Perhaps, this is acceptable if you’re asking a simple question. However, remember that even a momentary distraction can derail someone’s productivity and train of thought.

You may think that now is the ideal time to discuss something with your colleague. However, that may not mean the same for your co-worker. So, before you meet with them, send a quick email and ask them if they could spare a couple of minutes for you.

10. Maintain a Clean Work Area

Did you know that a messy desk can imply that you’re likely to turn in your tasks late? Well, according to a study published in Current Psychology, people with too much clutter feel overwhelmed and are likely to procrastinate. If you don’t have a clean and organized workspace it can be difficult to focus on your tasks.

It’s worth noting that your work area also reflects who you are as a professional. It should also represent the image of your company. So, it’s good business etiquette to have an organized system for your files and discard rubbish in the bin.

Business Etiquette Rules for Meetings

11. Switch Your Mobile Devices to Airplane Mode

You may think that leaving your phone on vibrate is not disruptive. However, if you keep on getting calls or messages, the buzzing noise may interrupt other people’s train of thought. So, switch it to airplane mode.

If you’re in a big conference or meeting, you may be tempted to sneak in a few tweets or text under the desk. However, if you do so, you won’t be able to give your full attention to the matters at hand. Sure, it’s not a bad idea to use your mobile device to take notes during the meeting. What’s important is that your device is in airplane mode.

12. Limit Your Questions

You may be eager to bring up concerns or questions in a meeting, especially when key resource people are present. Now, if the meeting is running late, be mindful of other people’s time. Keep your questions to a minimum and bring only the most important ones. If you still need to address some concerns, it’s best that you do so via email after the meeting.

Business Etiquette Examples for Emails

13. Check for Typo Errors and Grammar Mistakes

According to behavior scientist BH Fogg, there are four types of credibility. Among them is earned credibility which requires a person or brand to provide a great customer experience or an error-free and factual marketing material. So, in the business setting, sending emails that are filled with typos and grammatical mistakes screams “unprofessional”.

These days, there are plenty of online tools that can help you spot mistakes easily. For instance, you can install a Grammarly extension on your browser. The tool will check your emails for spelling and grammatical errors. It will even offer suggestions on how to correct your mistakes.

14. Be Wary of the “Reply to All” Button

There are instances where the “Reply to All” button is necessary. Let’s say someone sent an email to the entire team about some project updates. If you reply to the original sender only, you may leave your colleagues out of the loop. In this case, responding to everyone in the thread would be necessary.

Now, if HR sends company-wide updates, it may not always be a good idea to use the “Reply to All” button. If you have personal concerns, it’s best that you discuss them privately with the right people.

15. Stay Courteous and Professional

Whether you’re sending an email or talking over the phone, all your interactions must remain professional. In emails, you don’t have the advantage of using non-verbal cues, facial expressions, and tone of voice. So, use the appropriate words when writing your emails. Moreover, keep your messages straightforward and simple.

16. Clean the Email Threads

You understand how annoying it is to be looped in an email chain that you have nothing to do with. So, once the discussions in an email thread become more specific, start removing individuals who don’t need the information.

Professional Etiquette Rules for Business Lunches/Dinners

17. Come Prepared

Before heading out to your business lunch or dinner, you should snack on some dried fruits or almonds. Going on an empty stomach may drive your attention away from the business matters and more towards the food.

Also, dress appropriately and be punctual. If you’re offered alcoholic beverages, take a pass or just enjoy one drink. When making business agreements and commitments, you need to stay sober.

18. Pay for the Meal if You’re the Host

Save both parties from the awkward back-and-forth in splitting the bill. The answer here is simple—the one who did the inviting should be the one who pays for the meal. Whether you’re having a quick catch-up over coffee or having a full-course business dinner, the tab will be on the person who invited the others.

19. In Group Dinners, Introduce Other People

If you’re in a group dinner, make sure to introduce people. It’s terribly awkward and uncomfortable to sit through a meal and discuss business matters with individuals you don’t know.

Now, when you’re making an introduction, give more than a name. Explain the person’s role and their relevance in the business meeting. Keep the explanation brief, but detailed enough to give others some background.

20. Follow Proper Table Manners

Finally, never forget about dining etiquette. Here are the usual rules:

  • Keep your elbows off the table.
  • Don’t open your mouth while you’re chewing.
  • Don’t talk while your mouth is full.
  • Don’t play mobile games or text at the table.
  • Don’t use the napkin to blow your nose.

Business Etiquette FAQs

What are the 5 etiquette rules?

There are many unspoken rules in the business setting. However, here are five of the most popular ones:

  1. Always say “please” and “thank you”.
  2. Arrive five minutes early.
  3. Make eye contact when talking to people.
  4. Avoid office gossip.
  5. Listen before speaking.

What is proper business etiquette?

Proper business etiquette is a set of rules or practices that guide professionals when interacting with colleagues, clients, partners, and suppliers.

What are the 3 basic rules of etiquette in the workplace?

Respect, consideration, and honesty are the three basic principles of etiquette in the workplace. These values encompass a wide range of behaviors that are ideal in a business setting.

What are 5 inappropriate etiquette practices in business?

  1. Never coming to meetings and work on time.
  2. Taking credit for someone else’s work.
  3. Taking calls or sending text messages while in a meeting.
  4. Rudely interrupting other people while they’re talking.
  5. Telling colleagues about your salary.

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