Having a basic understanding of business etiquette rules is crucial.
In “The Essentials of Business Etiquette,” Barbara Pachter writes about the things people need to know in order to conduct and present themselves appropriately in professional social settings.
Here are some of her most important points:
1. Stand when you’re being introduced to someone
“Standing helps establish your presence. You make it easy for others to ignore you if you don’t stand. If you are caught off guard and cannot rise, you should lean forward to indicate that you would stand, if you could,” Pachter writes.
2. Always say your full name
In a business situation, you should use your full name, but you should also pay attention to how others want to be introduced.
3. Always initiate the handshake if you’re the higher-ranking person or host
In today’s workplace, the host or the higher-ranking person, regardless of gender, should extend their hand first, she writes. “If the higher-ranking person fails to do so immediately — often because of gender confusion — the lower-ranking person should extend his or her hand without missing more than a beat.”
Either way, the handshake must happen. “In the United States, the handshake is the business greeting. If you want to be taken seriously, you must shake hands and shake hands correctly.”
4. Dress appropriately
“Clothing, an important form of nonverbal communication, can enhance a person’s professional reputation or detract from his or her credibility. You want to send a professional message through your clothing choices,” Pachter writes.
Always find out what the dress code is at an event, meeting, or restaurant and make sure your attire falls within the guidelines.
5. Only say ‘thank you’ once or twice during a conversation
“You need to say it only once or twice within a conversation,” Pachter writes. “Otherwise, you may dilute its impact and possibly make yourself seem somewhat helpless and needy.”
6. Send separate thank-you notes to everyone involved
You should send thank-you notes within 24 hours, and you should send separate notes to everyone you want to thank.
“Before you choose between email and handwritten notes, consider that regular mail may take several days to get to its destination while email arrives almost immediately,” Pachter writes. “This time difference can be important after a job interview, if the hiring decision is being made quickly.”
7. Put your phone away
Everyone brings their phone everywhere they go today — but you should avoid taking it out during meetings.
You might be tempted to text or email, but no matter how sly you try to be, it’s noticeable and rude.
Also, don’t place your phone on the table when meeting with someone. You are telling that person that you are so ready to drop him or her and connect with someone else.
8. Use professional headshots
Always post professionally appropriate photographs on LinkedIn and your other professional sites, she suggests. “You want to look like a credible, approachable person — not like you just came from the beach,” Pachter tells Business Insider. Use a head shot that highlights your head and face and part of your chest and shoulders. “You are the focus of the picture.”
9. Use a professional email address
If you work for a company, you should use your company email address. But if you use a personal email account — whether you are self-employed or just like using it occasionally for work-related correspondences — you should be careful when choosing that address, Pachter says.
You should always have an email address that conveys your name so that the recipient knows exactly who is sending the email. Never use email addresses (perhaps remnants of your grade-school days) that are not appropriate for use in the workplace, such as “[email protected] …” or “[email protected] …”
10. Always double check that you have selected the correct email recipient
Pay attention when typing a name from your address book on the email’s “To” line. It is easy to select the wrong name, which you really don’t want to do.
11. Use professional email salutations
Don’t use laid-back, colloquial expressions like, “Hey you guys,” “Yo,” or “Hi folks.”
“The relaxed nature of our writings should not affect the salutation in an email,” she says. “Hey is a very informal salutation and generally it should not be used in the workplace. And Yo is not ok either. Use Hi or Hello instead.”
She also advises against shortening anyone’s name. Say “Hi, Michael,” unless you’re certain he prefers to be called “Mike.”
12. If you forget someone’s name, admit it
Everyone forgets a name occasionally, Pachter tells Business Insider.When it happens to you, say something, such as, “I’m so sorry. I have forgotten your name.” Or, “Your face is so familiar; I just can’t recall your name,” she suggests.
13. Greet people at work
Say “hello” and “good morning” to people you know and don’t know, she tells Business Insider.
“The person that you say ‘hello’ to on the way to the meeting may be the person sitting next to you at the meeting. And you have already established minor rapport. And if someone says ‘hello’ to you, you have to say ‘hello’ back. It is not optional.”
14. Keep your fingers together when you point
“Point with an open palm, and keep your fingers together. If you point with your index finger, it appears aggressive,” Pachter writes. “Both men and women point, but women have a tendency to do it more than men.”
15. Be punctual
Always show up on time for meetings. You don’t want to waste anyone else’s time by not being punctual. Plus, it makes you seem unprofessional.
If a situation out of your control causes you to be late, let the people you’re meeting with know. Send an email or give them a call updating them on your new ETA. Apologise and briefly explain the situation (don’t make a million excuses!) and when you do arrive, don’t waste any more of their time by complaining about the traffic or train delays.
16. Never pull out someone’s chair for them
It’s OK to hold open a door for your guest, but Pachter says you shouldn’t pull someone’s chair out for them regardless of gender. In a business setting, you should leave those social gender rules behind.
“Both men and women can pull out their own chairs.”
17. Don’t order anything too expensive
If you order an expensive steak or lobster, for instance, you will look like you’re taking advantage of your host, Pachter writes. “However, if your host makes recommendations, you can order any of those suggestions, though it’s still better not to choose the most expensive.” The same goes for wine.
Also be careful when ordering a “special.”
“Many waiters do not mention the price when telling you their specials of the night. Specials can cost from 10% to 40% more than regular menu items, but you cannot comfortably ask the price of a special in a business situation.” You’re better off steering clear.
18. Order the same thing as your guest/host
This means that if your guest or host orders an appetizer or dessert, you should follow suit.
“You don’t want to make your guest feel uncomfortable by eating a course alone,”Pachter writes.
19. Never ask for a to-go box
“You are there for business, not for the leftovers,” Pachter writes. “Doggie bags are ok for family dinners but not during professional occasions.”
20. Remember the host should always pay
“If you did the inviting, you are the host, and you should pay the bill, regardless of gender. What if a male guest wants to pay? A woman does have some choices. She can say, ‘Oh, it’snot me; it is the firm that is paying.’ Or she can excuse herself from the table and pay the bill away from the guests. This option works for men as well, and it is a very refined way to pay a bill,” Pachter writes.
“However, the bottom line is that you don’t want to fight over a bill. If a male guest insists on paying despite a female host’s best efforts, let him pay.”
21. Stay sober
Do not get drunk at business-social activities, Pachter tells Business Insider. “Jobs have been lost and careers have been ruined because people got drunk and said or did things that were inappropriate. One suggestion to follow is to order a drink that you do not like and nurse that drink all evening.”
22. Prepare a polite exit
Pachter says you need to be the one talking as you’re making the exit. “Remember to leave when you are talking. At that point, you are in control, and it is a much smoother exit.”
You should also have “exit lines” prepared in case you need to leave a conversation. You can say “Nice to meet you” or “Nice talking to you” or “See you next week at the meeting.”
You can also excuse yourself for a bathroom break, to get food, or say you wanted to catch someone before they leave.
Jacquelyn Smith and Vivian Giang contributed to earlier versions of this article.
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