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“Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners.” Laurence Sterne
As I sat down to write this business etiquette blog for The Estrin Report, I wondered, are good manners a requirement for business success? Not surprisingly, the answer is an unequivocal no. Anyone who has worked in corporate America can effortlessly think of at least two people who are rude and inconsiderate, but who are nevertheless wildly rich and successful.
What is the point of good manners, then, if you can succeed with bad manners?
The point of good manners is simple: people prefer to work with and for others who treat them with consideration and respect. Yes, fear and manipulation have been used to great advantage by many in the workplace, but the effectiveness of such tactics is always short lived.
Americans are tired of the success-at-any-cost business model and are again embracing good manners as the foundation for success in business. Although housewives, meatballs, and mean- spirited music moguls can be entertaining, we have decided that they are not who we want to define us. We, thankfully, are choosing calm over chaos, nice instead of nasty, and poise over posturing.
With this in mind, I offer ten of my favorite business etiquette basics. You will see that these are not new ideas. I hope, however, that you agree with me that these are good ideas. And while I admit that following these guidelines will not guarantee your success, I can promise that they will firmly place you on the road to success, which, as any truly successful business person will tell you, is half the battle.
1. Show Respect for Others.
Liberally use the magic words that you (hopefully) learned as a child: please, thank you, and excuse me. They are universal crowd pleasers. Use them often and sincerely. Everyone around you will smile, and you will be regarded as thoughtful and well mannered.
2. Practice Restraint When Sharing Personal Information.
Sharing some of life’s personal events with coworkers can be both healthy and fun. But, please, avoid over-sharing, which may make others feel uncomfortable and can put you in the position of being identified by potentially embarrassing personal information. What is over-sharing? Here are two examples of sharing v. over-sharing: 1) Sharing: your wife gave birth to a baby girl. Over-sharing: your wife gave birth to a baby girl who is the spitting image of your best friend, Donald. 2) Sharing: you need to tend to a personal medical emergency. Over sharing: you think your new tattoo may be infected.
3. Practice Good Grooming and Hygiene.
Please come to work dressed as if you mean business. There is no need to break the bank – clean and neat is always fashionable. My favorite trick is to buy the best suit that one can afford and wear the pieces as separates. You are now appropriately dressed for any business casual situation, and you have a suit available if you need a more polished look.
4. Promptly Respond to Email and Voice mail Messages.
You will be beloved among your peers for prompt, concise responses to their inquiries. Throw in spell check for email responses and create a list of topics before returning telephone calls, and you just may reach Superhero status.
5. Present a Positive Attitude.
Enthusiasm really is catching. Try to see the positive in your work experiences. A positive attitude can make you appear competent and trustworthy. Don’t enjoy a particular assignment? Look at it as an opportunity to showcase your skills. Don’t like working with a difficult team member? Take it as a valuable lesson in dealing with negative personality types in the workplace.
6. Practice Punctuality.
Be on time to work. Every day. Not everyone notices when you are on time, but everyone notices when you are late. Even if your job schedule is flexible, try to arrive at the same time every day so your coworkers and managers know what to expect from you and when they can reach you. Being accessible is an easy way to build solid relationships at work.
7. Use Positive Body Language.
Mother and Father were right: stand or sit up straight, make eye contact when talking to someone. Uncross your arms. Offer a dry, firm handshake when meeting and greeting others. Good eye contact and a firm handshake will make others feel comfortable around you.
8. Listen. Listen. Listen.
Take off your headset, put down the smartphone, don’t review documents or multi-task on the computer. Listen to what is being said to you. Pay attention. You cannot communicate effectively with others if you are not listening. If you are not communicating effectively, you will not succeed in business.
9. Remember that Corporate-Sponsored Events are Work Events.
If your company or client is sponsoring the event, you are still at work and all of the workplace rules apply even if it is Saturday and you are at a theme park. You don’t want the office talking about your drunken rant or dance moves for years to come. A cautionary word about Karaoke: I don’t know why companies offer this career side tracker at work functions, but if you must get your sing on, choose one or two appropriate songs only. Save your version of Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” for Girls’ Night Out.
10. Practice Good Table Manners.
Landing an invitation to lunch with your boss, while common in the 21st century, is still an honor. Be prepared so you can feel confident and showcase your ideas instead of highlighting your bad table manners. Yes, you may get a second invitation in spite of your bad table manners, but why take the risk?
Eliminate cringe worthy bad habits such as talking with food in your mouth, wolfing down your meal, double dipping, and using your napkin as a handkerchief. Never order the most expensive item on the menu even if you are told to choose “whatever you want.” And it goes without saying that you should never use your cell phone at the table.
Enjoy this classic bad table manners scene from the sitcom King of Queens. Hopefully, you will not recognize yourself in this video. If you do, give Spencer Crane Etiquette a call! I can help.
Originally appeared on The Estrin Report blog.