Business Etiquette

Business Introduction Etiquette

The first rule for introductions is that they be made. Don’t get too worried about making a mistake during the introduction, that will almost certainly be forgiven. Forgoing an introduction altogether, however, is a mistake that may leave an impression.  With that said, here are some important business introduction etiquette rules to remember:

Generally, a lower ranked person in business is introduced to the higher ranked person – not vice versa. (Executives, clients, important guests would fall into the “higher ranked person” category.) Say: “Mr. Duke (the executive) I would like you to meet our new Commodities Analyst, Billy Ray Valentine. Billy Ray, this is Mr. Duke, our Board Chairman.”

  1. When a client is visiting, everyone in the office is introduced to the client first.
  2. When a peer from another company is introduced to a peer from your company, the person from your company is introduced to the person from the other company first.
  3. Typically, someone younger is introduce to someone older.
  4. A family member is introduced first to your boss.
  5. At an event with a guest of honor, all other guests are introduced first to the guest of honor.

If you introduce yourself to another person, provide them with both your last and first names. The other person may have an easier time remembering your name if you give them a small piece of information about yourself.

Introduction Response Etiquette

Say “I’m pleased to meet you” in response to an introduction. If you are being introduced, stand unless you are physically unable to.

If you are introducing more than one person, add a small amount of information about each person (any mutual interests you are aware of, how you know them, or their occupation). This gives them a starting point for a conversation.

Always have business cards on hand.

Introduction Mistakes

When you do not know if the people know one another, ask – “Have you met before?”

If you are being introduced and the person doing the introductions hesitates, fill in the introduction details.

There will be times when you do not remember someone’s name – the best option in this case is to suggest that the people introduce themselves.

If you are introducing someone and forget their name in the middle of the introduction, admit that you have forgotten rather than forgo the introduction altogether. Say “I’m having a difficult time remembering your name.”

Handshake Etiquette

A handshake can be initiated by either person.

The space between your thumb and index finger should meet with the same space on the other person’s hand.

  1. One squeeze.
  2. Two pumps.

Use a firm grip, but not aggressively so.

Make eye contact.

A handshake should end by the time you have finished greeting the person.

When meeting an elderly or disabled person, allow them to initiate the handshake.

A handshake is appropriate when meeting a business associate in a social setting.

Women and Men in the Workplace

In a business setting, women and men are colleagues. Men should avoid following traditional etiquette customs – such as pulling out chairs, opening doors, helping with coats, or carrying packages. Proper etiquette still requires that a person (regardless of gender) arriving at a door first should open it. If you notice someone (regardless of gender) carrying something heavy or cumbersome as they approach a door, offer aid.

Business Communication Etiquette

Telephone Etiquette

Proper business etiquette is just as important when speaking on the phone as it is in person.

  1. Do your best to keep business conversations short and to the point.
  2. If placing someone on hold, do not leave them there for over 30 seconds.
  3. Keeping a phone log may be a good idea if a record of the conversation may be useful in the future.
  4. Like any conversation, listening is key.

Voicemail Etiquette

Return messages as promptly as possible, wait no longer than one business day at the longest.

If you know you will be unable to return an outgoing message within one business day, record a message letting callers know what dates your will be unable to return messages for and provide an alternate number if you can.

Make sure your outgoing message is brief and professional.

If leaving a message, provide:

  1. Your name;
  2. Your number;
  3. The date of your call;
  4. Whether you anticipate calling back; and
  5. A brief reason for the call.

Speakerphone Etiquette

Always let the people you are talking to know that they are on a speakerphone. If it’s possible, ask them if they mind being placed on speaker before switching to speakerphone. Keep outside noises to a minimum.

Cell Phone Etiquette

Many people believe it’s important to stay connected with people using their cell phone. Your number one priority should be to give the people around you courtesy and respect. Remember that during business hours, business comes first.

Business Email Etiquette

Each time you send an email, you are creating a virtually permanent record of your discussion. Emails sent using the company’s email system are company records and are frequently the subject of discovery requests in litigation. Stop and think before sending a message you would not want your supervisor reviewing in the future. If you find yourself needing to discuss a particularly sensitive matter, pick up the phone instead. If you are diligently working on a matter and want a record of your communication efforts, email is a good choice.

When sending a business email, keep in mind that you are conducting business and need to maintain a level of formality. Use at least the same propriety you would use in a face-to-face meeting.

  1. Keep messages as short and to the point as possible. Break up any paragraphs longer than a couple of sentences so that they are easier to read.
  2. Make your subject line meaningful. Make sure the recipient knows the subject of the email to avoid having it deleted or ignored.
  3. Have a relevant message. Stick to the subject of the original email in your replies. A useful technique is to copy questions from the email you are answering and type responses in a different color so that they stand out.
  4. Use standard, basic text fonts and sizes. Avoid adorning your signature line and other areas with more stylized fonts, quotes, and images.
  5. Create a standard signature line that includes your job title and alternate contact information including your phone number and address.
  6. Take the time to use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Avoiding mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation is professional (it shows you care about detail and your work product) and makes the message easier to read.
  7. Stay clear of jokes, punctuation faces, and emojis. These are obviously fine in social correspondence, but avoid them when conducting business.
  8. Keep your attachments to a reasonable size.
  9. Don’t try to recall a message. The recall feature is unreliable at best and usually highlights the fact that there is something in the email you sent you want to recall.
  10. Remember you are communicating without the benefit of interpreting gestures, facial expressions, and speech tone and inflection. It’s easy to misinterpret something said in an email. It’s important not to read too much into what’s said and do not overreact to something not clearly stated that you interpret as negative. Never spell words using all capitals.
  11. Reply promptly. Do not ignore emails and always try to respond promptly. Letting an email sit, without a response, is unprofessional and disrespectful to the person that sent it. At a minimum, reply and let the person know that you are considering the issue they have raised and that you will reply within a certain time with a final response. Make sure you are checking your email frequently throughout the day.
  12. Avoid copying too many people or the wrong people. Busy colleagues will quickly become annoyed if you continually copy them on correspondence they have little or nothing to do with. Keep the people copied limited to those directly involved with the matter at hand, and possibly your supervisor or project leader if they have asked to be included in the chain of compunction. It’s not a bad idea to ask them what level of correspondence they want to be included on.
  13. Copying supervisors. People will sometimes copy an associate’s supervisor on emails requesting something from that person. Depending on the situation, you may risk offending the person you are asking something if you do this. They may believe that you are reporting them to their boss.

Work Etiquette

Use proper business etiquette in the office by following these basic rules:

  1. Be on time. Be a few minutes early when arriving to work and meetings. Make sure you are completing work assignments in a timely fashion.
  2. Always be courteous and polite.
  3. Study the politics of the office. Watch and listen to learn proper behavior in your office.

Following these fundamental business etiquette rules:

  1. Remember that your boss always gets the last word – wrong or right.
  2. Do your best to inform your boss. You don’t want to put your boss surprised with good or bad information from an unwanted source.
  3. Do not go over your boss’ head. Undermining your boss without letting her or him know what you are doing is a good way to sabotage your own career.
  4. Use your best effort to make your boss look good. Making your boss look good will be appreciated and lead to your future success.
  5. Dress appropriately, be well-groomed, and appear professional.
  6. Have a “can-do” attitude. Work ethic, the willingness to take on challenges, and displayed creativeness will improve your reputation in the office.
  7. Stay flexible. Adjusting well to change shows that you are a team player and are willing to do what’s best for the company.
  8. Be generous with the credit when working on a project. Make sure everyone on the team is appropriately recognized.
  9. Treat everyone with respect, regardless of their position in the organization.

Business Travel Etiquette

Car and Taxi Business Travel Etiquette

Driver’s should consider passengers’ preferences if you listen to the radio, air conditioner, or heater. On long trips, offer to take periodic breaks for passengers to stretch their legs.

If even one passenger is a non-smoker, there should be no smoking in the vehicle. If traveling with a smoker, the driver should offer to periodically stop for smoke breaks.

Tip the person at hotel that schedules a taxi you use. Greet the driver as you enter the cab. If you are traveling by taxi with a group of business colleagues, proper etiquette dictates that senior colleagues be offered a seat in the back (unless they prefer to ride in front). Tip 20% and request a receipt.

Air Travel Business Etiquette

Once seated and buckled in, avoid unnecessary trips out of your seat. If you anticipate having to frequently leave your seat during a flight, make sure to book and isle seat.

Keep in mind that some fellow travelers will enjoy a good conversation during the flight and others won’t. Before striking up a conversation, evaluate your travel companion’s body language. If you begin a conversation and their responses are short and they ask no questions or thoughts, end the discussion.

Treat flight attendants with respect. Avoid using the call bell if possible. Make requests as the attendants are passing by instead. Ask politely, and say thank-you. Offer a good-bye as you exit the plane.

For travel during working hours, dress in business attire. If traveling outside of business hours, business casual is appropriate.

Remember to keep detailed expense records during your business trip. Request receipts for each service you receive. Using one credit card makes tracking expenses easier. Apps that help track expenses can also be helpful. Never “pad” a business report by adding a few extra dollars for a meal or additional mileage.