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Business etiquette guidelines

Business etiquette refers to the requirements and expectations of social and business behavior, practices and conduct that are prescribed by social convention, and a code of ethical behavior among professionals.  It basically boils down to demonstrating good manners.  As so-called common courtesy becomes less common, manners and etiquette are essential components of career success.  It’s not just about rules and telling people what they can or can’t do, it’s about ensuring that people are treated with respect.

Some basic business etiquette practices:

  • Show appreciation to colleagues and customers and send thank-you notes.
  • Stand up and shake hands when you meet/greet someone.
  • Call someone by his or her name and if you have forgotten ask the person to remind you.  Prepare to re-introduce yourself when necessary.
  • Use formal modes of address until told otherwise. Formal means Ms./Mr./Dr./Professor (last-name).
  • Knock before you enter someone’s office and ask if they have time to speak with you or if another time could be arranged. (Don't ask if they're busy. Everyone is busy. That's a different question.)
  • Give your full attention to someone who has taken the time to seek you out in person.  Phone calls and electronic communication can wait.
  • Arrive to meetings on time, prepared and ready to take notes.  Stay engaged during the meeting and do not be distracted by electronic devices.
  • Follow the dress code.  Dress appropriately for business and office functions.
  • RSVP to events and meetings. That means respond, by the deadline, as to whether you will attend or not. Show up if you said you will, and don't show up if you didn't say you would. "Maybe" is not an acceptable response.
  • Be aware of dining etiquette so that you conduct yourself appropriately during work-related meals and social events.
  • Treat everyone with respect and kindness.

Be aware that certain behaviors rise above simple good manners to the level of ethical conduct. For example, it is rude to be late to an interview; it is unethical to no-show for an interview.