Business Etiquette—the unwritten rules that make people feel good and fuel business success

Being in business is just another excuse for being rude and inconsiderate, said no one ever. However, you’d think someone authorized it because of the all-too-frequent social gaffes we experience in business today.

Missing appointments. Never apologizing. Criticizing a colleague…in front of other colleagues. Not returning a phone call or email. Interrupting. Gossiping. Being late. Checking emails during a meeting.

The list goes on and on.

So why is it that so many today never received the memo on common courtesy? Why does competition and the drive for success become an excuse for rude behavior? It seems that many have put on such a “game face” that they’re blinded to the need for common sense behavior.

But those who take their relationships seriously realize that it makes good sense to make others feel good…in and out of business. Good business etiquette is simply treating others the way you’d wish to be treated…with courtesy and respect.

Think you’ve got the right business skills to get ahead? Maybe you do, but if you don’t have the right social skills you won’t get to first base. Check yourself against this list and see if you’re a little guilty of being out of line. Then, make a conscious effort to think of the other person first. You’ll be rewarded in more ways than one.

  • Send a thank you note? When someone does you a favor, be quick to respond with a thank you phone call or email. If you want to make a special impact, take an extra minute to write an actual snail mail note.
  • Are you on time to meetings? Nothing says “I don’t respect you” more than showing up late for a meeting. Think about it, you’ve agreed to a meeting with someone or a group who all have put aside time for the gathering. Plan your time so you allow the proper time in order to get there. If held up by traffic en route to a meeting, call or text to let folks know you’re on your way and when you should arrive. Planning and timing are everything.
  • Talk politics and religion? Known as the “big two,” politics and religion are big no-nos at the office. These topics are highly charged minefields that rarely go well in a professional setting. Leave your views on these subjects at home.
  • Like to gossip? Have you heard about the gal who swore she had the dirt on the guy in the next cubicle? Well, she didn’t, and the dish backfired. Now she’s wishing she’d never tried spreading those rumors. Gossip is often based on incomplete or incorrect information. Keep your tongue in check.
  • Hey, may I interrupt? Have you found yourself so eager to express yourself that you cut others off mid-thought, mid-sentence? Enthusiasm is one thing, but courtesy is quite another.
  • Excuse my language! While rude, derogatory and vulgar language is off limits, and so is slang. It’s true that verbal and written communication are more informal than they were in the days of the typewriter, but just don’t forget to think before you speak. And leave acronyms out of your business emails, not everyone may understand what you’re trying to communicate.
  • Just checking. Do you constantly check your phone for incoming email and notifications while in a meeting or just chatting with a colleague? It’s amazing how so many of us have become slaves to our smart phones. Do yourself and others a favor by silencing your phone and keeping it in your purse or pocket.
  • I’d like to take credit. Be generous and give credit where credit is due. Acknowledge business colleagues for their successes and you’ll bask in the glow of their appreciation.

If you recognize yourself in any of these situations, consider this a gut check. We all need a little reminder now and then to ensure that we’re the best human beings involved in business today.

Peggy Swords

About Peggy Swords

Peggy Swords is the founder and president of Excalibur Exhibits, a $10 million Houston-based exhibit manufacturing and production corporation. Excalibur Exhibits designs, builds, delivers, assembles and disassembles as many as 300 exhibits per year. Swords was named as a finalist for NAWBO Houston 2003 Woman Business Owner of the Year and 2005 Enterprising Woman of the Year Finalist. Additionally, Excalibur Exhibits is a five time member of the Inc 5000, a three time member of the LSU100 and a two time member of the Houston Fast 100, a list of fastest growing privately held companies.