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Business etiquette 101

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  • 1. Business Etiquette 101 By Chelse Benham “Having good manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse. Whoever makes the fewest people uneasy is the best bred in the room.” – Jonathan Swift, (1667-1745) Irish writer The devil is in the details. The details of etiquette are being evaluated and surveyed, judged and measured constantly in business interactions. Are you etiquette savvy? If you want to get on the professional fast track, the subtle but serious execution of business etiquette will get you there or hold you back when violated. The basis of all business etiquette and good manners is common sense and thoughtfulness. “We offer a proper dining etiquette workshop and workplace professionalism workshop to students,” said Velinda Reyes, assistant director at The University of Texas-Pan American’s Career Placement Services Office. “These workshops give helpful tips to students to assist them as they start their first job.” Business etiquette is found in everything from e-mail, table manners, professional dress to office parties. Lou Kennedy – Australia’s nationally known author on business etiquette has compiled a list of 10 "no-no's" to avoid this holiday season: - Mistake No. 1: The blow-off - The biggest error is not going to an office party that is a "must-attend" event. - Mistake No. 2: Forgetting the boss is watching. Senior managers pay attention to how people handle themselves at corporate events. - Mistake No. 3: Inappropriate dress at an office party draws attention, but the wrong kind. The goal is to display professional qualities, not show how funky or daring you are. Skip the plunging neckline and heavy cologne. - Mistake No. 4: The business-talking bore - Don’t talk business at social functions. - Mistake No. 5: Me, Me, Me. Self-centered young professionals will have trouble working in teams with others and co-workers and bosses pick up on this. - Mistake No. 6: Always introduce yourself to your boss or superiors at company functions. - Mistake No. 7: Don’t talk about pay. An employee who raises pay or other personal issues at a company party is marked as a person who does not understand what is and is not appropriate at social events. - Mistake No. 8: Absolutely no hanky-panky. No longer is an office party an excuse for employees to become intimate. Now it means sexual harassment charges and dismissal for one or both individuals. - Mistake No. 9: It’s not a college bash. Office parties are extensions of the workplace and not campus free-for-alls.
  • 2. - Mistake No. 10: Don’t drink to excess. "Drinking to excess at a company party will kill a career instantly,” said Kennedy "Don't have more than two alcoholic beverages and better yet, don't drink at all." At www.career.ucsb.edu the following rules called “the first 12…” as guides for creating a positive business impression. The first 12 words you speak should include some form of thanks if appropriate when meeting with someone. Examples: “Thank you for scheduling this meeting.” (or) “It is a pleasure meeting you.” (or) “I appreciate the time you have taken to arrange for us to meet.” The rules of introductions are as follows: always stand smiling and shake hands firmly while repeating the person’s full name. The first 12 steps you take should be those of confidence. Whether you're walking from the parking lot to an office building or down a hall corridor, walk with a purpose. People who walk 10 percent faster than they normally do are perceived as getting more done. So quicken your pace! The first 12 inches from your head down should feature impeccable grooming. Your hair, collar, tie/scarf and other accessories should be a reflection of the quality person you are. The last 12 inches from the floor to mid-calf should be very well-maintained. That includes shoes that are polished and look like new, even if they're not As George Frazier, columnist for The Boston Globe puts it, “Want to know if a person is well-dressed? Look down.” Perhaps, there is no area more scrutinized than the dining table where etiquette minutiae are put to the test. Paula Gamonal, web developer and feature writer for Ravenworks, a web-based business advice company, puts table etiquette succinctly. When sitting at a banquet table, you may begin eating when two people to your left and right are served. If you haven't been served, but most of your table has, encourage others to start. Reach only for items in front of you; ask that other items be passed by a neighbor. Offer to the left; pass to the right, although once things start being passed, go with the flow. More dining details can be found at www.career.utk.edu, a few are listed here. Napkin - When dining with others place your napkin on your lap after everyone at your table has been seated. Do not open your napkin in mid-air. As you remove your napkin from the table begin to open below the table level and place on your lap. If you must leave a meal, do so between courses, and place your napkin on your chair or to the left of your plate. When a meal is completed, place your napkin to the right of your plate -- never on the plate.
  • 3. Served - Wait for everyone at your table to be served before beginning to eat. However, if an individual who has not been served encourages you to begin eating, you may do so. Eat slowly while waiting for their food to be served. Soup - When eating soup, think of making a circle: spoon away from you, bring around to your mouth and back to the bowl. Soup is taken from the side of the soup spoon -- it is not inserted into your mouth. Do not slurp or make noises when eating soup. Seasoning - Always taste your food first before using any seasonings. Do not assume it needs to be seasoned. Bread - Bread/rolls should never be eaten whole. Break into smaller, more manageable pieces, buttering only a few bites at a time. Finished - When finished with a course, leave your plates in the same position that they were presented to you. In other words, do not push your plates away or stack them. Guest - If you are someone's guest at a meal, ask the person what he/she recommends. By doing this, you will learn price range guidelines and have an idea of what to order. Usually order an item in the mid-price range. Also keep in mind, the person who typically initiates the meal will pay. If you are paying, show up early and prepay the bill to avoid the awkwardness over who is going to pay. Even if you have impeccable social graces there may be a blunder at some point. Hika Klinkenberg, director of Etiquette International, a business etiquette firm, advices to apologize sincerely without gushing or being too effusive. State your apology like you mean it and move on. Making too big an issue of your mistake only magnifies the damage and makes the recipient more uncomfortable. Nowadays no business is completely cut off from e-mail messaging. In this final frontier of business transactions there are definite rules when sending and replying to e-mail messages. At www.prosearch.com some of the tips for proper e-mail etiquette are provided, a few are listed below. 1. Watch your words! You may think that what you say is easy to understand, but sometimes words can be misconstrued. Be concise and to the point. 2. No negative comments. If you use antagonistic words or critical comments you can hurt people and cause awkward situations. 3. Remember, few people like "spam." When sending unsolicited e-mails, make sure that there is value to the recipient. 4. Nothing is private. Never forget that there is no such thing as a private e- mail.
  • 4. 5. Keep attachments to a minimum. The larger the attached document, the longer it takes to download and the more memory space it fills on a recipient's computer. 6. If your message doesn't need a response, let the recipient know. This can save time -- theirs and yours -- and stop the cycle from continuing on in perpetuity. 7. Don't forget to include a short and relevant subject line. Many recipients will use this line to determine which messages they read and delete. 8. Don't send e-mails that simply say "Thanks." Another are e-mails that just say "OK." These one-word replies are no better than spam. Business etiquette is like the grease that keeps the machine of commerce operating smoothly. Without it decorum would be lost and maneuvering through business interactions would be anyone’s guess. Taking time now to learn proper business etiquette could save years of repairing a bad impression. “Good manners sometimes means simply putting up with other people’s bad manners.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr., author

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