The business world we live in is constantly changing, as are the roles that many of us play. Today we do more with much less than we did before — often times the duties that would have previously been those of two or three people. The lines are blurry and the expectations are high. How do we navigate the business environment we’re in today and keep our professional image in tact? The first step is understanding the importance of having a consistent and intentional personal image. Once that is done then we must gain an understanding of the rules under which we are expected to operate. Many people have a negative association with the word etiquette. It sounds formal, old fashioned and a little snobbish. The fact of the matter is that to reach the level of success most of us desire, we must conduct ourselves in a manner that is acceptable to those we live and work with and around. In business, the proper use of etiquette will set you and your company apart and give you a competitive advantage. I’ve compiled some tried and true ways to help you below. Equal Rights In today’s business environment, gender does not play a role. Men and women have equal rights to make introductions, offer handshakes and hold open doors. When making business introductions the person who is named first is being shown respect for their position. As an example, you would always want to introduce employees of your organization to clients out of respect for their support of your company. However, a new employee would be introduced to the president of your company to show respect to his or her higher-ranking position. Handshakes are a sign of trust, welcome and good faith. We send unspoken signals through our handshakes and should aim to make a positive impression. The key to a great handshake is to connect palm to palm with the other person and give the same pressure that is applied. We are often told that a firm handshake is necessary, but what’s firm to one may be bone crushing to another — not a good impression. As a general rule it is polite to show deference to others when going through doors especially clients, those of a higher rank or those carrying a heavy load. Pitch In Many of us share office equipment and other necessary facilities in our business. A sure-fire way to keep the peace is when everyone, regardless of position, does his or her share to keep in proper and tidy working order. If you know that the printer is low or out of paper, make sure to fill it or let the appropriate people know. I’ve mediated many conversations regarding dirty microwaves, empty coffee carafes and lack of toilet paper. These issues may seem minor, but they can become big sources of conflict in the workplace. Demonstrate the level of respect and pride in your workplace through your actions each day — it will surely pay off. R-E-S-P-E-C-T Unless you own the company, you and the people around you are simply borrowing the company’s assets and supplies on a daily basis. That does not stop people from feeling territorial about their workspace and equipment. Showing respect for the feelings of others will go a long way to enhance workplace relationships. As a rule of thumb, don’t invade the space of others unless it is completely necessary or there is a known workspace sharing agreement. Place mail under doors or neatly on the corner of their desk if someone is not in at the time. Try not to take supplies without permission; it can cause a disruption in productivity and output of work. Don’t assume that just because someone is in their office or cubical that you have an open invitation to waltz in unannounced. Essentially you should aim to be as courteous to those you work with as you would be when visiting another organization. As William Cuppy said “Etiquette means behaving yourself a little better than is absolutely essential.” In business, following this advice and minding your manners will assist you in reaching your goals in a pleasant way.
Shelley Davis Mielock
Shelley Davis Mielock is a certified business image coach and the founder of Mieshel Image Consulting, a Lansing-based firm that specializes in image development for individuals and businesses. She is also a co-host of In Her Shoes, a a weekly women’s talk radio show. To ask Shelley an image question, please e-mail her.