When you think of the word etiquette, you might be imagining a “Miss Manners” book from the 1950s.
Proper business etiquette, however, is about much more than using the right salad fork.
Etiquette might seem old-fashioned, but it’s also an essential business tool.
If you’re ignoring proper business etiquette, you’re doing so at your own peril.
With more employers hiring based on company culture fit and communication skills, you can’t really afford to display ill manners.
Whether you’re trying to nab a great job or finally nail that promotion, your manners matter much more than you might think.
Here are 10 business etiquette rules you might not have ever considered, which can help you climb higher on your career ladder without stepping on any toes:
1. Introduce yourself with your full name
When meeting someone, whether in a boardroom or a networking event, always introduce yourself with your full name. No matter the situation, the name of the game is to be as memorable as possible.
If you only use your first name, your new contact might later struggle to remember which Kevin or Rachel you were. This is another reason why having business cards to hand are always a good idea, no matter the circumstance. Unless you’re Madonna, always include your last name in introductions.
2. Uncross your legs
Crossing your legs can be distracting, and even just a little bit too sexy. More important, however, is the health concerns. Crossing your legs can be very bad for your circulation.
3. Limit your thank-yous
It’s great to be grateful, but you don’t want to be overly thankful. Saying too many thank-yous in a single conversation can actually work in reverse to your meaning, diluting the impact of your initial thanks. It can also work to make you come off as needy and unsure of yourself.
4. Keep your lunch in the kitchen
It’s easy to get overwhelmed at work and decide you don’t even have 20 minutes to eat lunch. Instead, you end up eating lunch hunched over your desk looking at spreadsheets. Not only is this a sad state of affairs for you; it’s also not great for your coworkers.
Most of your coworkers don’t want to hear you crunching lettuce or smell your reheated leftovers. Take the time out of your day to eat lunch in the kitchen or common areas, even if it means taking only a short lunch. Your coworkers, and your stomach, will thank you.
5. Always pick up the tab if you did the inviting
If you invited clients or coworkers out to dinner, don’t look for contributions when the bill comes. If you were the host of the evening, proper etiquette dictates it’s your turn to pay the bill.
6. Keep personal items off the table
Today, we’re all very attached to our cell phones … maybe a little too attached. Many of us will put our cellphone right beside us when dining, like an uninvited dinner guest.
If you choose to do this, know your smartphone is probably not the only uninvited guest. In fact, cellphones are great for sharing more than pictures and status updates; they’re also great for sharing bacteria.
7. Don’t ask an overwhelming amount of questions in meetings
When you go to a meeting, it’s always good to come with a few questions in tow. The key word here is “few.” You don’t want to overwhelm the meeting host or overtake the meeting agenda by asking a barrage of 20 questions.
Choose your most important questions and wait until the end of the meeting to ask. If you leave with more questions, you can always ask later by email.
8. Don’t just walk into someone’s office
“Hey, Bob — you busy?” The answer is probably yes, but perhaps Bob is too uncomfortable to immediately shoo you out.
By walking unannounced into someone’s office, you assume you have the right to interrupt another’s work. Instead of just shambling in whenever you please, take a few minutes to call or email and set up a time to talk.
9. Reply to all on emails when it’s necessary
The “reply all” function can be dangerous. But if you forget to use it when needed, you’re creating a lot of extra, unnecessary work for others. Now, people won’t stay in the loop, and time is wasted.
10. Remove people from email threads who don’t need to be there
Conversely, there’s nothing more annoying than getting stuck on an email thread when you’re not needed. You come back from lunch and suddenly your inbox is bursting, except none of the emails are relevant to your work at all.
Before starting an email chain, make sure everyone involved needs to be kept in the loop on all work. If someone on the chain might not appreciate a barrage of emails, leave them off and only send updates when necessary.
Proper business etiquette can help you move up the ladder by endearing you to your bosses and coworkers. Keeping an eye on proper manners can do more for your career than you might think.
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