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When working in business, there are some things that can severely impact your reputation and future job prospects that have nothing to do with your job performance. Companies want employees who do their jobs well and who can be relied upon to represent the company in a positive manner. How you conduct yourself, the rules of business etiquette that you employ, can help to advance your career and build profitable business relationships. As international business relations become more important, there is a need to observe not only American business etiquette but also that of international business partners.
Observe Personal Space
There are times when it's appropriate to touch someone and times when it's not. In business, you must remember to respect the personal space of your coworkers, clients and business partners. When greeting each other, you should always stand and offer a verbal greeting stating your full name. It is appropriate to greet the majority of business associates with a polite, firm handshake. Otherwise, you should not be overly familiar. Do not hug or casually touch your associates unless you are given leave to do so. Maintain an appropriate distance, about arm's length,without stepping too far away and risking becoming physically distant from the meeting or conversation.
Sensitivity and Diplomacy
When conducting yourself in an office environment, it is important that you use sensitivity and diplomacy in your actions and words. Things such as racism and gender stereotypes have no place in the office. Make sure to listen to what other people have to say carefully and provide thoughtful answers or suggestions. Conversation is a give and take, so you should take turns communicating rather than interrupting your guest or host. Avoid making cultural stereotypes and generalizations. When you're faced with a culture that you have limited experience with, rather than falling prey to any preconceived notions, look for similarities rather than concentrating on the differences between yourself and your guests.
While there are many commonalities between American and international business etiquette and manners, there are also differences that are expected to be observed. When you are traveling internationally, you are expected to know and understand the local rules of etiquette and have at least a passing familiarity with the language. Conversely, when hosting visiting business associates, you should not automatically expect them to know your business etiquette and language. In dealing with different cultural norms and expectations, the best way to fully understand the culture is through direct exposure to both the language and culture. In the event that's not possible, talk to someone who has direct knowledge of the culture and language. If you do not feel comfortable attempting to speak another language, have someone in your office who does, such as a translator as a courtesy.
Rules of etiquette must be followed not only in your in-person interactions in business but also in your communications. When in doubt, maintain a formal tone and form. Address emails and faxes to the recipient by name and note any enclosures. When sending information to business associates in other countries be mindful of the time that you send your correspondence. If you must send an email after hours or on the weekend, expect to wait up to a day to receive a response. When speaking on the telephone or in person, make sure that you know how to properly greet and thank your host or guest according to his country's customs. Also know each person's name and how to correctly pronounce it.
Residing in Los Angeles, Kristin Swain has been a professional writer since 2008. Her experience includes finance, travel, marketing and television. Swain holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Georgia State University.
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