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The Definition of Business Etiquette
Business relationships, not unlike personal relationships, are difficult to establish and time-consuming to maintain. Cultural differences, language discrepancies and mismatches in nonverbal communication can create barriers between people, rather than bring them together. These incompatibilities can be compounded by workplace informality that’s reflected in open-office floor plans, informal tweets, and other spontaneous social-network postings. In such a work atmosphere, where employers are increasingly concerned about how employees are representing the company, the importance of adhering to the rules of business etiquette is greater than ever.
When a company’s employees and partners adhere to business etiquette rules, the interactions between these individuals go more smoothly. Business etiquette is the set of written or unwritten rules of conduct that facilitate interaction between people in the work world by setting expectations or standards for appearance and behavior. Your personal behavior, for example, including how you speak to others and how you use the phone and Internet, influence your co-workers’ and employer’s opinion of you.
Work Relationships Etiquette
A person’s abilities and aspirations affect his career, but an individual’s talent for making personal connections while adhering to business etiquette rules heavily influences his ability to move up through the ranks. The recognition of what is appropriate in particular situations as stated in business etiquette rules is the first step in effectively and ethically managing your workplace relationships. For example, respecting different communication styles and considering nonverbal communication in the form of body language and tone of voice can contribute to your ability to form solid work relationships. Also important is your willingness to adapt your communication to your co-workers' learning styles and to approach others in ways that respect their personal boundaries and values.
While work relationships are somewhat dependent on shared interests, such as hobbies or sports or religious institutions, the formation of workplace bonds and trust is also due to each individual’s willingness to adhere to the rules of business etiquette. Because business etiquette can neutralize personal differences and the resulting ambiguity and complexity in communication, adhering to business etiquette is especially important during business meetings where trust among co-workers is essential to gaining agreement. You establish this trust in a number of ways, such as a willingness to arrive to a meeting on time and adherence to your organization’s business meeting conventions. It’s also important that you display respect for the speaker by using body language that demonstrates interest, turning off your cell phone and laptop, remaining in the meeting for the duration, and addressing meeting attendees only when the chairperson asks you to do so.
Business etiquette is tricky in times of the informal workplace, very casual digital communication and ubiquitous gadgets, but a company’s Internet usage policy can help you avoid the most egregious electronic offenses. For example, the policy will likely prohibit hacking, the use of your computer to commit fraud and introducing malicious code into the company’s intranet. But, you need to rely on business rules of etiquette to ensure your electronic habits don’t offend your co-workers. For example, always contact a co-worker by phone or email to arrange a time to meet, rather than stopping by a cubicle uninvited. In addition, leave voice mails and send email messages during working hours, and refrain from sending emails over a weekend, unless an employee must respond to an actual emergency.
Billie Nordmeyer works as a consultant advising small businesses and Fortune 500 companies on performance improvement initiatives, as well as SAP software selection and implementation. During her career, she has published business and technology-based articles and texts. Nordmeyer holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting, a Master of Arts in international management and a Master of Business Administration in finance.