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A Complete Resource Guide to Business Etiquette

Business etiquette should be observed whether interacting with another company or within your own. Of course, there are the rules about which forks to use during dinner. However, choosing the correct utensil is meaningless if the individual doesn't carry him or herself properly. How a person acts is a representation of the company that hired them. Keep from tarnishing the image of your company by following basic business etiquette.

The Basics

Abrasiveness is never welcome in the workplace. However, sometimes its appearance is unintentional and often the offender is unaware their words were taken as discourteous. To avoid the confusion, it is best to always maintain a professional and thoughtful demeanor. One way to ensure this happens is by pretending your grandparents are always around. Before you speak, consider how they would react if they overheard. This concept does not only apply to the words spoken but the tone in which they're spoken as well. Could the way you're projecting your voice be considered yelling? You do not want to shout at your coworkers. The same applies at meetings. People tend to get worked up and begin to talk over each other. In this case, no one is heard. However, the patient individual who speaks with confidence in a professional voice will have their opinion heard in the end.

Talk to Everybody

Whether it be the CFO or the secretary of a company, everyone should be treated equally with respect as they both serve important roles in the company. It doesn't matter who works for who, everyone in the company works together in one way or another. Learn names and get to know a little bit of information about everyone. People like to talk about their families, pets and interests. While this tip is applicable to everyone in the company, it is especially important to get to know your immediate coworkers – the ones you interact with every day. When one person works closely with another, it can be awkward or even unsettling if there isn't at least a small bond between the two. Did you ever take a class in high school where you were unfamiliar with all of the other students? Work is work, but without camaraderie, it will always feel like work too. Consider arriving at work ten to fifteen minutes early just to talk and visit. Make sure to exchange contact information as well and send invitations, congratulatory cards or condolences whenever applicable.

The Boss

Speak to the boss the same way you would speak to a coworker: with courtesy and respect. No one deserves special treatment at a place of employment. In fact, acting differently around separate individuals promotes a feeling of class division. Also remember never to speak negatively of your boss. You may be surprised to find out that the latest troubles you've been experiencing are at the best interest of your own future at the company.

International Business

The inventions of the automobile, the airplane and more recently, the internet, have shown us how small the world really is. It is common in the Twenty-First Century to have business interactions with people from other countries who speak languages we do not know. In the event that such a meeting is being planned, it is courteous to learn a little bit of the foreign language. It also shows that you are serious about maintaining relations with the company. Also consider geographical differences. Don't say "good morning" if you are having a teleconference with businesspeople from a country in another time zone where it is the afternoon or evening. Finally, make yourself aware of their customs. Do not schedule a meeting on a holiday they observe.



Meetings are intended to be productive get-togethers to update on a project and/or brainstorm new ideas. Participants have work to complete, so they want to attend meetings that aren't a waste of time. Therefore, all participants should be prepared ahead of time and ready to share the information they have as per a schedule. At the start of a meeting, the presenter(s) should be sure to communicate the objective as well as the expected duration of the meeting. If you are not part of a meeting, be sure not to interrupt the meeting unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Phone Calls

Incoming Calls: Make sure the voicemail system at your business is maintained. Do not let it fill up or you will lose important calls. Return every call whether you deem it important or not. Building rapport with clients or other companies is crucial to further and more productive relationships. If, during a phone call, you do not have the answer to a question, redirect the party on the other line to the appropriate person. Never hang up on a call. Not every insurance company is soliciting business.

Outgoing Calls: Always identify yourself when calling. Secretaries and receptionists are often instructed to ask for this information before they transfer your call, so you will be saving them time.


When writing business e-mails, always use a specific subject line. If you are forwarding a message, delete extraneous information. Sometimes you'll see a number of addresses or "re:" written a handful of times. If you receive a message and need to reply to it, be specific. One word "yes or no" responses can often be confusing – what exactly are you confirming or denying? Also, be advised not to type with the caps lock on. Messages written in all capital letters are assumed to be either angry or lazy.

New Employees

Assign a "buddy" to show new employees around the company and make them feel welcome. Make sure all new employees have workspace and resources their first day on the job. The company looks very unprofessional if they spend all morning searching for a place to put the new hire. This applies to guest workers as well. Guests should be using the same equipment as the employees in the company who do the same type of work. They should also be seated in an area where they will be aware of what is happening in the company, not sheltered off in a corner.


Every workplace has a certain dress code. Some require specific uniforms, others ask for a suit and tie, business casual, or just plain don't care as long as you're clothed. A great way to determine what is appropriate at a particular workplace is to look at the other employees. If you see a lot of khakis and golf shirts, chances are that business casual attire is considered the norm. If you are unsure, always be conservative. Above all else, make sure you are appropriately groomed and that your scent does not make you unpleasant to sit near.

Table Manners

In the Americas and most of Europe, when sitting at a table the forks should be on your left and the spoon and knife should be on your right. Be advised, many countries in the Eastern hemisphere use different rules. Do your research before visiting new places or meeting foreign clients. There is always a chance (in fact, a likelihood) that you will make some sort of mistake regarding table manners. Not many people cut chunks off of sliced bread and butter them individually, but it is a recognized rule. What is most important is to be respectful and use common courtesy. Consider the above items and your corporate luncheons should be successful.




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