By Mindy Wolfle
March 30, 2017
Books have been written, the internet abounds with tips and there is an endless stream of seminars and workshops on business etiquette. Yet, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t question someone’s grasp of the subject and perpetrate a few missteps myself.
Business and employment attorney, arbitrator, mediator and trainer Lisa Pomerantz brings some common lapses in business etiquette to the forefront. “It is human nature to avoid giving people bad news. So, people who apply or interview unsuccessfully for jobs or promotions often don’t receive rejection letters. Would-be clients who interview attorneys, accountants or other service providers rarely inform them that they have not been selected.”
Lisa has covered ignoring (what should be) obligations. Here’s my list of when we need to employ some additional business etiquette best practices.
Respect your colleagues’ space.There’s a reason why offices have doors. But many more sit in cubicles and open spaces with little or no privacy. Who remembers Les Nessman, the weatherman on WKRP in Cincinnati? Les’ desk was in a bullpen surrounded by his colleagues. He marked off his space with masking tape on the floor and insisted that people knock on his imaginary door. While we don’t have go this far, there’s no need to shout across a room or hold an impromptu meeting leaning on a co-worker’s cubicle.
Don’t interrupt someone else’s telephone conversation..There is a constant sense of urgency throughout the workday. A good portion of what is deemed urgent can actually wait more than a minute or two. How many times have you been involved in a telephone call and someone else has barged in? Think twice before being that person.
A firm handshake sets a professional tone. Wimpy handshakes are downright creepy. It doesn’t take much for a man or a woman to develop a solid handshake. Just make sure it’s less than the grip of a professional wrestler.
Emails do not solve tense situations. Sure, it’s easier to send an email when diplomacy and a telephone call would better serve the circumstances. In fact, tone of voice cannot be read in an email and the written message can be misinterpreted. Pick up the phone and use tact, courtesy and compassion when dealing with those difficult, but inevitable, situations.
A written thank you is not a thing of the past. Again, emails are quick and easy. But a written note leaves a lasting impression on the recipient. This holds true for notes of congratulations, sympathy and acknowledging important occasions. Note cards are inexpensive and the kind of personal touch that sets apart good from great.
Disconnect, be on time, put the food away..Business meetings – the scourge of the workplace. We attend them; we schedule them; we create action plans; we write the next meeting’s agenda. Are you the first to arrive and sit doing a slow burn waiting for those who dawdle in? Are you glued to your cellphone, distracted and disrespectful of the others in the meeting? Or is there that one colleague who always seems to be munching throughout a meeting?
I’m sure you could compile your own list with other business etiquette pointers. In the meantime, let’s all do a bit better when it comes to plain old courtesy at work.
Mindy Wolfle is the president of Neptune Marketing LLC, chief marketing officer of Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP, and instructor of business writing and not-for-profit marketing in Hofstra University’s continuing education program. She is a member of Women Economic Developers of Long Island, Public Relations Professionals of Long Island, the Social Media Association and Direct Marketing Association of Long Island. Her LinkedIn profile describes her as a marketing/public relations/social media executive, writer, editor, educator, connection maker, semiotician and do-gooder.