The death of business etiquette
Recently a colleague was lamenting to me the lack of etiquette he deals with on a daily basis.
A salesman, he calls on and sees a lot of different businesses every week. “You would not believe how some of these people speak and act,” he told me. “They don’t know how to answer the phone, they text while talking to you, and when you walk in, they don’t greet you appropriately. They don’t even seem to know how to say ‘please’ and thank you.’”
Do I need to mention that he is in his 50s and he was mostly referring to younger workers? No, I don’t think I do. But it is valid nonetheless. And I must say, I share some of his concern.
And so, after speaking with some etiquette experts, I came up with the Top 10 Business Etiquette Blunders to avoid:
1. No texting while talking: If you are in a face-to-face conversation with someone at work, then the rule should be that you cannot start texting, emailing, or answering unimportant calls.
2. Take off the headphones: Unless you can do your work by yourself, ditch the headphones, especially in halls and other public places.
3. Avoid taking this casual thing too far: Yes, we are living in a far more casual work environment than even a decade ago, but casual is not the same as sloppy. Your team needs to know what is and is not appropriate dress. What does ‘business casual’ mean at your workplace?
And so too, casual dress can lend itself to a casual attitude. That can be all well and good, but make sure your people remember that they are at work, not home. The rules are different.
4. Don’t cause cubicle claustrophobia: People need their space, and that is even truer when they work in an ill-defined cubicle situation. Grant them their privacy. Knock before entering their cubicle. Don’t eavesdrop on their calls. Avoid peeking into their area. Don’t snoop.
5. Answer the phones respectfully: Your receptionist is vital to your brand. As they say, you don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression, and that often comes from your receptionist. Help them help you.
6. Remember, please and thank you are the magic words: Do you remember that childhood song? We used to sing it to our kids. Today we need to sing it to our employees. When customers call, they should not be thanking you, you should be thanking them.
Consider having a ‘best practices’ meeting where everyone is reminded of the importance of using the magic words – with each other, and especially the public.
7. Institute e-mail rules: Email is now the dominant form of business communication and should be treated as such. Some uniform policies help everyone stay on track.
8. Treat guests like guests: Someone who walks into your shop should be treated like the guest they are. They are not a pain or a bother or an annoyance.
9. Respect punctuality: 10 people should not have to wait to start a meeting just because one person has not yet learned how to be on time. I once worked at a place where the meeting room door was locked one minute after the meeting began. Harsh? Sure. But people were rarely late to those meetings after that policy change.
10. Don’t eat other’s food: Their food is their food. And while you are at it, clean up after yourself, don’t leave spoiled food in the fridge, and repay people when you borrow a buck to buy a soda.