- Don’t “prairie dog.” Walk around the partition to see a neighbor, instead of popping your head over the top. And as you walk down the passageways, don’t peek into each workstation.
- Pretend that workstations have walls. Don’t barge into a work area that has no door. Lightly tap on the wall near the opening or say “Excuse me” to announce your arrival. Never assume it’s OK to enter someone’s work space unless he or she signals you to do so
- Allow co-workers to complete calls. Don’t try to interrupt with sign language
or lurk just outside the cubicle. Drop a note on the desk or return later.
- Grant your neighbors private time. Stagger lunch breaks to provide everyone
a few minutes alone at their desks.
- Move conversations from hallways. Lead the group you’re talking with to a
conference room or other common area so you don’t disturb co-workers who are
trying to concentrate.
- Don’t chime in to conversations you hear over the wall. Whether it’s a work
question you can answer or a private conversation you’d rather not hear, ignore
comments that aren’t directed at you.
- Keep lunch in the kitchen. Or, when you absolutely can’t leave your desk for a
meal, choose foods without strong odors, and dispose of your trash in the kitchen,
not in your own wastebasket.
- Turn down the volume. Mute any sound effects on a screensaver, set your
phone ringer on low (and send callers directly to voice mail when you won’t be
able to answer), set your personal cell phone to silent mode and minimize the
volume of any computer alarms.
BUSINESS ETIQUETTE TIP #2
'Casual dress' etiquette: Demystify your event's dress code
Casual. Corporate casual. Business casual. Smart casual. Resort casual. Don’t leave meeting attendees baffled about your event’s dress code.
Explain what you mean by “business casual” or “corporate casual,” etc. with examples of appropriate attire for men and women. One event’s “resort casual” encouraged wearing jeans, while another explained that shorts were acceptable, but not denim or cutoffs.
Strike the right tone in offering your advice to attendees, whether it’s a formal “suits are not appropriate” or a friendly “leave your ties at home!”
If you will be attending a meeting where the dress code is unclear, conduct casual research: Contact someone in the host organization, talk with previous attendees to learn what people really wear (ties are encouraged, but no one wears one) or seek the advice of experts at a clothing shop that caters to business people.
BUSINESS ETIQUETTE TIP #3
How to finesse awkward, embarrassing situations
Knowing whether or not to tell your CEO that he has spinach stuck in his teeth is one sure test of your business etiquette skills. (Answer: Tell him, but discreetly.)
How would you handle the two difficult or embarrassing situations below?
Situation 1. You find a personal—and potentially embarrassing—document left behind on the photocopier.
Solution: Normally, you’d put forgotten pages in a tray beside the copier, for people to claim later. In this case, though, deliver the document in person, advises Peter Post, author of The Etiquette Advantage in Business and great-grandson of Emily Post.
And don’t peruse its contents. “Save the person any worry,” writes Post, “by volunteering: ‘I didn’t read this when I opened the copier lid, but I could tell it was private and thought I’d drop it by.’”
Situation 2. The boss is expecting a visitor any moment, and you notice his fly is open. You wonder whether you should tell him or just hope someone else does.
Solution: If you’re a man, tell him. If you’re a woman, ask one of the guys in the office to let him know.
Office etiquette no-no’s: The top annoying behaviors
Showing consideration for your co-workers isn’t merely polite. Those surveyed for the staffing firm Office Angels said they’re more likely to help considerate co-workers, and that those colleagues are more deserving of promotion than annoying office mates.
The top irritating behaviors cited:
- Receiving email from someone sitting 3 feet away.
- Listening to voice mail over a speakerphone.
- Swearing at the computer.
- Playing music a co-worker doesn’t like
Noise created by technology topped annoyances that ranked high just a few years ago, such as leaving the photocopier with a jam or gossiping.
Don’t dismiss the impact of annoying habits: More than a third of office workers say they’ve considered switching jobs to escape the irritation.
BUSINESS ETIQUETTE TIP #4
Handshake etiquette: Setting the stage for instant rapport
A good, well-timed handshake to pair with your smile is a sure way to stand out, whether you’re at the company picnic or an industry conference.
Here’s how important it is: A prospective employee with the best handshake is more likely to get the job, research shows.
Even if you’re not a job-seeker, a good handshake will grant you instant rapport when meeting someone new. With that in mind, here’s a refresher course on the business protocol of the perfect handshake:
- Focus on the person you’re shaking hands with. Look directly into the person’s eyes during the handshake.
- Keep your grip firm and assertive but not too tight. General rule of thumb: Grasp as tightly as the other person does.
- Two up-and-down pumps are adequate. The shake should last about three seconds.
- Two-handed handshakes are a sign of real affection, so steer clear of them when meeting new people.
- Be ready to shake hands, regardless of your gender or the other person’s. He or she will remember that you extended your hand first.
BUSINESS ETIQUETTE TIP #12
Office decorations: Balance personal & professional image
If reaching for reference materials requires moving a handful of beads you brought back from Mardi Gras, your personality may be overpowering your professional image.
Personalizing our office space is tempting because we spend more awake hours there than anywhere else. But strike a balance by answering these questions about your cubicle décor:
- Who will see it? A receptionist in an office with many VIP visitors obviously enjoys less freedom of expression than someone whose workplace hosts few outsiders. In wide-open spaces, search for private spots to display meaningful mementos. Example: Post an inspirational quote on your keyboard tray.
- What does it say about you? Great choices for office decorations tell visitors something about you that might spark a conversation. A photo of you crossing the finish line in a marathon might inspire others as well as yourself. But a wall of blue ribbons hints at either boasting or insecurity. If doodads and figurines obscure your computer and desktop, don’t be surprised when others question your commitment to work. And while live plants add a splash of color, a dead one screams “Neglect!”
- Is it distracting? Although cubicle walls may block your items from view, they still may disturb others. Avoid screensavers and toys with sound effects, or fresh flowers each week if your neighbor suffers from allergies. Judge whether a candy dish on your desk offers hospitality, unwelcome temptation or an invitation to distractions from work.
- Does it go overboard? Show off a few prize pieces from your collection, not hundreds of frogs. The test: If it’s impossible to take a professional-looking photo of you from any angle in your workstation, you’ve surrounded yourself with too many items unrelated to work.
Just like professional dress in the workplace, seek cues from the corporate culture, your manager and others you respect about what’s appropriate in your workplace
Business email etiquette: 3 quick tips
1. Send the right message with your email sign-off by “mirroring,” says Judith Kallos, creator of www.NetManners.com, a site dedicated to online etiquette. “In business, you want to maintain the highest level of formality until the other person in
dicates otherwise,” she says. “Let the other side set the level of familiarity.”
2. Unless your organization specifies otherwise, you need not respond to email messages if your name is in the “cc” field, says productivity expert Laura Stack. And don’t reply simply to confirm receiving a message, since most email systems allow the sender to request a receipt if needed. Reply only if you can’t handle an assignment in the time frame expected.
3. Find out whether you’ve been rude via email at www.NetManners.com. You’ll find business email basics, Netiquette forums for discussion, even a “Netiquette Questions?” section that allows you to pose your own questions and receive personal advice. Brush up on proper manners and be part of the trend toward more courteous exchanges online.
BUSINESS ETIQUETTE TIP #13
Party etiquette: Special occasions with co-workers
Office party etiquette is simple: Don’t do anything that you don’t want the entire company to be talking about for several years to come. Contrary to popular myth, an office party is not the place to wear a lampshade on your head. Keep your dignity, and respect the dignity of others.
For co-worker special occasions, follow these gift-giving tips:
A common practice is for the birthday person’s co-workers to provide a cake and a small in-office party. Flowers from the boss are also a nice touch. A birthday card for a co-worker celebrating the special day is always considerate, but birthday gifts are never required in business. An executive may choose to give small gifts to special staffers, such as a long-time assistant. There’s no need for employees to give gifts to the boss, unless the working relationship has extended over many years or the employee is socially close to the boss and his or her family.
Although all wedding invitations require a written acceptance or regret, you are not required to attend the weddings of all employees who send invitations. If you receive an invitation from someone who is not in your department or is not your superior, feel free to send your regrets. A gift is not required for these events, but a note congratulating the newlyweds is a thoughtful touch.
If invited, executives should attend the weddings of their staff and senior-level managers. If they can’t attend, executives should still send a gift. Among peers, wedding invitations are common and should be treated as social events. Except when invited to the wedding, employees are not required to give their bosses wedding presents. In any event, a wedding gift from a subordinate to a boss need not be lavish.
If you are invited to a baby shower, you should follow the personal rules you have established for contributing to office celebrations. It is not essential that you attend the shower or give a gift to every company employee who has a baby. However, executives should give shower gifts to their close colleagues, assistants and immediate staff. You may choose to send others a card or a personal note.
When an executive retires, a party is standard protocol. At a retirement party, the company should give the person a gift based on his or her length of service and seniority.
The retiree’s staff and immediate boss may wish to give him or her a present in addition to the official corporate gift. The best gifts are small presents that express how much the retiree will be missed at the office.