Good manners show respect for others. The manners you display casually among friends and family probably need some adjustment in the professional world.
According to BusinessDictionary.com, the definition of business etiquette (a/k/a, good manners at work) is:
“Expected behaviors and expectations for individual actions within society, group, or class. Within a place of business, it involves treating coworkers and employer with respect and courtesy in a way that creates a pleasant work environment for everyone.”
There are some surprises
In “The Essentials Of Business Etiquette,” Barbara Pachter has some tips that may surprise you.
Pachter says never cross your legs. This applies to both men and women. She cautions against saying “thank you” too often in a conversation. This may give the impression you are not sincere. When at a business meal in a restaurant, it’s taboo in Pachter’s book to ask for a take-out container. On a more conventional note, Pachter offers the reminder to always stand when being introduced to someone.
Pay attention to the basics of good manners
Here’s a huge good-manners tip from Workopolis. Put your phone down when you’re meeting with others. Don’t even sneak a peek. And while we’re on the topic of telephones, here are rules to live by: Retrieve your voicemail messages regularly and return all calls promptly. Do this even if it’s just to say, “I haven’t forgotten your request, I’m waiting for more information.”
Workopolis also reminds us to pay attention to the basics. Say hello and goodbye, please and thank you, and acknowledge others in the elevator.
Lisa Quast offers a terrific list of office do’s and don’ts in her Fortune article on overcoming bad manners at work. Here are more basics that can’t be over-emphasized: Be on time for meetings. Keep meetings that YOU lead running on time. Quast advises against wearing perfume and cologne. And she firmly warns, “Stay home if you’re sick.” It is decidedly NOT polite to expose your co-workers to germs from coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose and then touching the buttons on the copy machine.
Good manners = no lettuce in your teeth
More tips for eating out on business: Elbow in your lap, not on the table. Use utensils from the outside in if you don’t recognize what they are. Don’t order messy food. Stay away from things that need to be picked up with your hands, even sandwiches. Avoid salads and other foods that might get caught in your teeth. Soup is generally the safe choice. It’s best to make a favorable impression and leave hungry. Remember, you’re there to do business, not enjoy the all-you-can-eat buffet.
It’s all worth it when the most senior person at the table picks up the check.
Author Ibby Vores, SHRM-SCP, is a human resources consultant, recruiter and communication expert. She is a job readiness instructor and coach in the Virtanza Sales Training, Certification, Training, and Job Placement Assistance Program.