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Guide to Business Etiquette & Workplace Manners

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When someone is qualified and talented at a job, their good manners become icing on the cake. Good manners and proper workplace etiquette show respect for yourself and courtesy for others. However, poor manners, such as slouching in an interview chair or slurping soup in a cubical, alienate peers and are a red flag for how you'll represent the company.

Social Etiquette

Respect employee work spaces. Always ask before borrowing supplies or walking into someone's office. A simple "excuse me" or "may I talk to you when it's convenient?" are ways to acknowledge someone's time and let the person know you would like a conversation. Include people regardless of age, gender, sex, race or ability. Purposely eliminating someone from an important sales meeting because of his thick accent is rude and hurtful. When dealing with international people, get to understand their customs and cultural practices, such as holidays, food and clothing. In addition, always say "please," "thank you" and "you're welcome" during peer and client interactions.


Workplace apparel must be appropriate at all times, even during social events outside of the office. No matter how casual the office environment seems, flip flops, tank tops and low-cut blouses are never appropriate. Pay attention to who you are meeting with -- a conservative accounting firm may call for a suit while it might be OK to wear jeans and a nice blouse to a creative meeting. Ringo Nishioka, a 20-year human resources veteran and chief operating officer of Seattle-based BigDoor, advises to keep current on today's styles and make sure clothing is clean and wrinkle-free. "It's never OK to wear your father's suit to an interview," he insists.

Interview Etiquette

An interviewer and interviewee should learn names quickly. Look people directly in the eye -- without holding a stare -- and shake hands firmly. Be on time, act alert and refrain from over-sharing. The human resources director does not want to know the details of your last lay off just as you don't want to know about her boyfriend woes. Remember that a workplace is where business happens. People are not productive when personal business takes center stage. After an interview, exchange pleasantries and, if you are the interviewee, send a prompt, well-written, thank-you note to everyone you met with.

Gift Giving

Check with the company policy and co-workers to see if gift-giving is allowed and encouraged. Stay away from anything intimate, such as perfume or flowers, or something that can hit a sore spot, such as a bottle of wine to an recovering alcoholic. It's also in poor taste to give your office mate a Christmas card if she celebrates Hanukkah or spend more money on a gift than it's obvious you can afford. Instead, be thoughtful about your choice. A nice umbrella during the rainy season or a unique plant for the person who enjoys gardening shows consideration.

Electronic Devices

Pick up your face and look people in the eye. Updating your social network status when someone is talking to you or checking email during a client presentation is a big no-no. According to the National Education research published in the "Journal of Experimental Psychology," discovered that multitasking is less efficient and highly distracting to people on the receiving end. Also, be mindful of time zones when making calls -- you don't want to wake your boss at 2 a.m. when she's out of the country. It's also good manners to promptly return phone calls, ask before putting someone on speaker phone and write grammatically correct, lowercase emails.


Based in Los Angeles, Lisa Finn has been writing professionally for 20 years. Her print and online articles appear in magazines and websites such as "Spa Magazine," "L.A. Parent," "Business," the Famous Footwear blog and many others. She also ghostwrites for mompreneurs and business owners who appear regularly on shows such as Ricki Lake, HGTV, Carson Daly and The Today Show.

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