There is more to prospering in a new role and building a solid, rewarding career than what is written in your resume. Or how you handle yourself in interviews.
Ask any successful technologist, working in business means—working with other people. And that means understanding workplace etiquette: the unspoken rules that drive interpersonal dynamics. This understanding and our own application will influence how well – or poorly – we work with other people.
First impressions are important wherever you are, whatever you are doing. And the workplace is no exception.
Human beings often form first impressions of each other within seconds. And once an impression has been formed, it is hard to change it.
If you are starting a new role, or going into a new company, meeting a new customer or team, take some time beforehand to think about how you want to be perceived.
Do you want to project confidence? Authority? Do you want others to take you seriously, trust you, and feel straight away that you are dependable?
First impressions hinge, oftentimes, on really simple things.
Your Personal Signals
Such as the way you stand, your body language, eye contact, how you are dressed, whether you smile when you meet someone, alertness, and punctuality. Each of these are cues and indicators that help you project personal attributes that will influence how other people perceive you as a professional. It is also important to understand the cultural norms for your region as business etiquette varies across the world.
To help you better understand the rules of engagement, here are tips and hints to keep you straight in business etiquette – and well on track to success, wherever you are in your career.
Advice on Improving Your Business Etiquette
What is in a Name? Well, plenty. Successful people tend to be those who remember other people’s names. So make an effort to learn them.
Repeating someone’s name a few times when you first speak to them, keeping business cards, writing names down in your diary – whatever works for you, remembering a name is a clear sign that you value a colleague, whether they are your superior or subordinate in the hierarchy.
Give Respect by Default
And talking of hierarchy, if you treat everyone with respect it’s a sign that you are not the kind of person to make judgment calls on the relative importance of the people you work with.
Treating people with respect means many things – among them respecting other people’s privacy and personal space. Do not walk into someone’s office without knocking.
Do not eavesdrop. Do not be the office gossip. Not only are you likely to cause harm to the people you gossip about, but also it will reflect badly on you.
And remember to steer well clear of topics that may cause offence – chief among them: politics and religion.
What are Words Worth?
Communication. It is essential and yet fraught with all kinds of dangers and pitfalls. As a rule of thumb, re-read your email before you hit send. Every. Single. Time.
So many misunderstandings and confusion can be caused by an innocent email.
Try this too: avoid saying something in an email that you would not say directly to someone’s face.
Re-reading that email will also help you spot any misspellings or typos that will reflect badly on you. And while you are at it, watch your tone. There is very rarely any excuse for bad language in a business context, but even using an informal register or slang can cause offence.
If in doubt keep it neutral, keep it professional.
Ask anyone who has worked in business for any length of time. There can be fewer things that convey a lack of respect for colleagues more emphatically than arriving late for a meeting.
If you cannot avoid it, ring ahead or send a message to let colleagues know you are running late. And once you are there remember two important rules of etiquette: do not take a phone call during a meeting; and do not interrupt others.
Be punctual. Be polite. Be prepared.
Our Interconnected World
Increasingly we work in a globalized environment becoming more connected with one another each day in the digitization era. Our colleagues and customers might be anywhere in the world. This opening up of business brings with it all kinds of opportunities to learn and to grow. But it also brings an array of possibilities to get it wrong.
It is a very good idea to do some research beforehand if you are traveling to or communicating with business contacts abroad.
In most countries a handshake is customary as a business greeting, but in countries like Spain, for instance, it is the norm for men and women to exchange a kiss on the cheek when meeting for the first time – something that would be quite against the rules of etiquette for many countries in the Middle East.
Be guided by your own powers of observation, as in any learning process, and if in doubt, ask. With discretion. With respect.
Being successful at work comes down to some of the basic rules we learn in grade school. Be respectful, use your words, and be polite. There are many ways to ensure you are successful at work, it is not one simple magic combination.