Many people assume 'etiquette' refers to which fork you use for the salad and how quickly you should send a thank you note after receiving a gift. When it comes to the business world, however, the way you behave says a lot about your professionalism.
Even the tiniest misstep can hurt your career more than you realize. After all, no one wants to work with someone who is rude or inconsiderate. By being conscious of business etiquette you can help set yourself apart professionally.
Here are 10 business etiquette rules you need to be aware of and avoid breaking at all cost:
1. Use your full name when introducing yourself.
Let's face it, a lot of people are terrible about putting names to faces. You run into someone you met at a conference last year and it's clear they can't remember what your name is. Introducing yourself with your full name helps distinguish you from the sea of Matts and Lindsays they've met. Knowing your last name also makes it easier for people to find you on sites like LinkedIn so you can stay connected.
2. Stop crossing and uncrossing your legs.
When you've been sitting for a while, it's natural to get uncomfortable. However, repeatedly rearranging your legs is distracting. Instead of fidgeting, try to find one comfortable sitting position and stick to it.
3. Don't eat at your desk.
Everyone has that one co-worker who brings in their overly pungent leftovers and eats them at their desk, making it hard to concentrate until the odor dissipates. Don't be that guy. Eat your lunch in the break room. Some days it might be difficult to find time in your schedule to get up from your desk, but even if it's only for a few minutes, getting up to eat will be a productivity boosting break.
4. Don't just walk into someone's office.
Imagine how you feel when you're buried under work and a co-worker pops into your office. Maybe it's just to ask a simple question, but that momentary distraction completely derails your train of thought and productivity. Don't do that to your co-workers. Even if right now is the perfect moment for you to discuss something, that doesn't mean it is for them. Take the time to send an email to find out when both of you have a few spare minutes.
5. Keep personal items off the table.
Ten years ago, there would have never been purses, wallets, or any other personal item sitting on the table during a meeting or business lunch. But now, none of us can survive unless our cell phones are within arms reach. Keep your cell phone stowed away. Having it out on the table is a sign to those you're with that they don't have your full attention.
6. Keep questions to a minimum in meetings.
Meetings are a great time to bring up questions or concerns you might have. Having multiple people there ensures you'll get the right answer. However, if the meeting is running late because of all your inquiries, it's a waste of everyone else's time. Limit yourself to the most important questions during the meeting and then follow up with an email if you still have more after it ends.
7. If you did the inviting, you pay.
Nobody like doing that back and forth dance of how-do-we-split-the-check. Especially when the answer is so simple: if you invited clients or co-workers, you pay the bill. It doesn't matter if it's a business dinner or a quick cup of coffee to catch up, the tab is your responsibility when you invite others somewhere.
8. Reply to everyone on emails when it's necessary.
As dangerous as the 'reply all' button can be, you need to be in the habit of using it when it comes to sharing important information. For example, say someone sends out a group email asking about some project details. If you respond to just the original sender with the answers, everyone else is out of the loop. Now, either people don't have the information they need or the sender needs to waste time forwarding your email to everyone in the chain.
9. Remove people from email threads who don't need to be there.
On the other hand, having your inbox overrun by email chains that are useless and irrelevant to you is annoying. If the email thread gets more specific, remember to remove people who don't need that information.
10. Limit your "thanks yous."
There's nothing wrong with showing appreciation, but if you're repetitive with your gratitude it begins to make you seem a little insecure. Instead, one confident and sincere thank you is enough.
In the professional world, being polite is about more than minding your P's and Q's. But if you follow these business etiquette rules, you'll be able to get ahead in your career a lot easier.
What are some other important business etiquette rules? Share in the comments below.