Business etiquette can be a minefield. COVID-19 altered many business mores, such as shaking hands. And younger employees, many of whom have never worked in an office setting, might not be au fait with unwritten business pleasantries, which vary from country to country, and from company to company. But if you follow the basic rules of business etiquette, says writer Zoe Kaplan, you can thrive professionally while improving your interactions with your colleagues. Learn how to behave with propriety while embracing the adaptability required to flourish in the workplace.
- Successfully navigate your workplace culture by prioritizing good business etiquette.
- Align your clothing choices to your company’s dress code.
- Be respectful toward your colleagues.
- Learn your company’s meeting etiquette to improve your engagement.
- Good communication greases the wheels of your professional relationships.
- Be accountable and adaptable, and prioritize work-life balance to achieve personal success.
Successfully navigate your workplace culture by prioritizing good business etiquette.
Learning professional business etiquette can give you a leg up at work in two ways: Others perceive you as more professional, and you contribute to a more respectful workplace.
“Navigating a workplace when you don’t know the ‘rules’ can be intimidating and stressful.”
While it can be confusing to navigate the mores and norms of a new workplace, taking time to learn the “rules” of business etiquette can improve your career development and interactions with others.
Align your clothing choices to your company’s dress code.
If you’re unsure of your workplace dress code, err on the side of overdressed initially. If your organization is active on social media, check out photos on sites such as LinkedIn to gauge how to dress. If you’re working remotely, wear clothes on your bottom half during virtual meetings to avoid embarrassing mishaps.
Be respectful toward your colleagues.
With more people working remotely, bonding with co-workers is trickier than ever. To improve collaboration, strive to overcome obstacles to getting to know your colleagues. Exhibit an interest in their lives, show empathy, be respectful and listen thoughtfully. Maintain professional boundaries; don’t treat your co-workers like your best friends or engage in gossip. Be sensitive to the fact that some people might prefer to limit in-person gatherings and wear masks due to COVID-19.
Learn your company’s meeting etiquette to improve your engagement.
Follow these eight rules to maximize your effectiveness and show others respect in meetings:
- Be discreet when multitasking – Doing another task while someone is speaking is rude. But if you must multitask during an online meeting, be discreet and respectful.
- Be punctual – Let your colleagues know if you’re running late.
- Test your technology – Before joining a virtual meeting, ensure your camera, mic and speakers work.
- Learn technology basics – Understand the basics of the platforms you’re using – how to schedule a meeting, share your screen and use breakout rooms, for instance. If you don’t, inform yourself.
- Respect schedules – When scheduling a meeting, give people different options, and consider any time zone differences.
- Mute yourself – When you’re not speaking, mute your mic.
- Check camera norms – Always turn your camera on for small online gatherings and one-on-one interviews. For large company meetings, ask your co-workers about your company’s camera protocol.
- Prioritize virtual workers – If meeting in a hybrid manner, put the needs of those contributing virtually first. Ensure they can hear all speakers and contribute their ideas.
Good communication greases the wheels of your professional relationships.
Ensure you respond promptly to colleagues, especially on platforms such as Teams or Slack. Remote workers should “overcommunicate” about their projects, as people can’t directly observe one another’s work in a remote context. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help, but do your own research first, lest you frustrate your co-workers by asking them for information you could easily obtain yourself.
Be accountable and adaptable, and prioritize work-life balance to achieve personal success.
Take responsibility for mistakes when you make them. Don’t dwell on small errors. Instead, say something along the lines of, “I’m sorry, I missed this. I’ve done X to fix it.” Don’t bother colleagues outside working hours; schedule emails to arrive when you know they’ll be working instead. Be accountable to yourself, too, by setting boundaries to protect your work-life balance. Take breaks during the day to avoid burnout.
“Knowing the proper business etiquette can help make your jump into the world of work a little easier – and help you look professional and create a respectful workplace at the same time.”
The rules of workplace decorum are constantly evolving. Thriving amid the rapid pace of change and disruption can be challenging. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of being able to adapt to changing work arrangements and expectations. Respond to uncertainty by embracing a flexible mind-set and learning new skills when necessary to ensure you remain successful and productive.
About the Author
Zoe Kaplan is a senior writer at Forage, a virtual work experience provider, where she shares career advice. She previously wrote and edited content for Fairygodboss, a career-centered community for women.