What is Business Etiquette?
“Your manners are always under examination, and by committees little suspected, awarding or denying you very high prizes when you least think of it”, Ralph Waldo Emerson. When a person gets into employment for the first time he gets confused with the corporate culture and finds it very difficult to learn the corporate etiquette which is otherwise also known as business etiquette.
There will be vast cultural gaps from the background from where the individual has come and that of the organization he enters. He finds it very difficult to get along with new cultures, customs, norms and rules. There would certainly be a gap. It takes certain time to get adjusted and adapted to the corporate culture and learn the etiquette.
Every one knows the meaning of etiquette. Etiquette is nothing but manners to be followed in a given cultural environment. Every culture has its own etiquette. But overall the etiquette is universal with certain characteristics and qualifications that run across all people like a common thread. Business etiquette is also an etiquette that has to be adopted in every business keeping ethics and integrity in view. It varies from culture to culture and from country to country and from industry to industry. All the differences are only superficial in nature with the commonalities of basic business etiquette being at the core level. Etiquettes are of different types. It is desirable to focus on a few basic etiquettes which collectively constitute the corporate etiquette. They are Hand shake, Interview etiquette, Mobile etiquette, Telephone etiquette, Office etiquette, Dress code, Giving business card, Dining etiquette, Handling people, International business etiquette, Email etiquette, etc.,
When two men meet each other they shake their hands as a symbol and sign of meeting. There is a right manner in handshake. There has to be firm handshake that represents the confidence level of the persons. If a person presses down the palm of the other person and shakes his hand it indicates that the person is dominant in nature. On the other hand, if the person allows his own palm pressed downwards and lets the other person’s palm upwards it indicates the submissive style of the person. In the third scenario if both the persons keep their palms perpendicular to the ground and if both persons plays neutral neither being in the dominant level nor in the submissive level then it is the right method of handshake and it indicates win-win or assertive handshake. A person’s nature can be easily judged by the way he shakes his hand with others. It becomes the core part of any corporate culture.
When going for an interview, the door is to be knocked, and after seeking the permission the person should enter the interview room. The person should greet the interview panel member like ‘Good morning Sir/Sirs’ depending upon the time of interview and wait for the permission to be seated. If there is a woman Interviewing Officer(IO) it is etiquette to greet her first followed by male members as it is part of the Indian culture to respect women. After getting the permission to sit, the person should sit with straight posture at the back with his back touching the chair and without dragging the chair or dragging the feet. No attempts should be made either to lean forward or to lean too much backward or to sit in totally at an ease position.
The person should sit straight and be alert by keeping both the legs together with both feet touching on the ground. When the question is posed, the person should fully wait till the completion of the sentence by the IO and then reply. No attempts should be made to interrupt or interfere with the conversation of IO. After listening carefully the person should analyze, process with in his mind and then should reply appropriately with clear cut thoughts. In case if there are any differences of opinion, the same should be handled with tact and diplomacy. In case if there is a need to clarify anything, the same can be asked with a request to speak the same. After the completion of the interview, thank them and exit the room smartly without any unnecessary noise.
Now days, mobiles have become both a boon and bane. Whenever there is an engagement or any hectic or important activities are going on, the mobile should be kept in a silent mode. It is not proper to talk over the phone when important discussion or meeting is in progress. After the completion of the meeting the calls can be attended as unattended calls are reflected in the handset. These days, marketing calls do come frequently and it disturbs the mood and also the precious time. These are known as unsolicited calls. The best thing is to cut short such calls by saying, ‘I will get back to you’ or ‘Can I call you back?’
It is more or less like mobile etiquette only. The caller has to identify himself first, and then should confirm whether he is looking for the concerned person and then should start conversation. Even if you are interrupted, exercise patience to the caller and respond. Radiate energy and if it is not possible, at least exercise warmth so that the caller feels comfortable and convenient to communicate. Do not keep the caller on hold without asking ‘Say like, may I put you on a hold for a moment?’ and then put the caller on hold till you connect the right person or to give the correct information. Personalize the conversation to make it polite and presentable. If the concerned person is not there and if the caller provides the information to pass on, then note down on a paper or a note pad, sign and make it accessible and reachable to the concerned person. Small things make major differences in telephone etiquette. Ensure that your voice mail system is working properly and is not full of messages to prevent incoming calls.
When you visit to somebody’s office, do no roam around as though it is your own office. When you are a stranger to a place maintain and behave like a visitor or as a guest not like a host. Do not disturb the receptionist with too many queries. When you are asked to work in your cubicle stick to that only and do not encroach into others’ cubicles. You can call person by name at the corporate world but politely. There is no need to call ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ frequently. The body language must be positive and assertive it should neither be aggressive nor submissive. While addressing a woman if it is not clear whether she is married or unmarried, you can use Ms as that can convey politely for both married and unmarried woman. Personal space from person to person needs to be maintained properly. It is known as proxemics. You should not behave with unknown people by being too close by maintaining intimate distance as it creates discomfort for others.
For men the shirt should be in light color with a tie. There should not be any cabbage socks. The socks need to be changed regularly. Avoid wearing white socks. The body can be applied with light perfume. It is essential to wear tie for formal meetings. A few companies have separate and specific dress code to its employees on specific days. There is a traditional formula for male attire. BBTTSS is the acronym for Boot and Belt which must be of the same color, Tie and Trouser should preferably match with each other and Shirt and Socks should match with each other. There is no hard and fast rule to accept this formula but it all depends on the situation and occasion. Ultimately the dress code should be pleasing, neat and clean and presentable.
Dress code for women is a very complicated one. It differs from region to region and from country to country based on their cultural background as well as their tastes and temperaments. They should not dress like a Christmas tree. There should not be any hanky panky costumes. Don’t decorate with excessive jewellery or ornaments. The dress should match as per the corporate culture and values of the organization. The clothes must be positive and presentable and not of tight fittings, no obscene clothes or revealing clothes etc.
When business card is given, it must be taken with the right hand in India. It must be read with details like name, designation and other details and then it should be kept in a visiting card holder. Always give fresh cards and do not give the cards that look dirty or old or faded cards.
• Wait for your host to ask you to sit or else sit after the host sits.
• Keep solids of the food on the left and the liquids on the right side.
• Keep the napkin folded towards you on your lap.
• If you have any food allergies tell the same in advance or to the server and if it is already served leave it on the plate.
• Don’t fill your plate with entire food at one go. Fill little by little as you consume.
• If you have any doubts regarding the starting of eating food or about the chronological order of eating food, observe your host closely and follow.
• At the time of eating, keep the knife across the top of your plate when you are eating, blade facing towards you.
• It is formal to leave some food on the plate at the end.
• If you are a slow eater and the host has completed eating food, you leave the food and catch up with the host.
• If the food is not good and if the host enquires how is the food, say politely, “Fine, thank you”.
• Once the meal is finished your silverware should be parallel to each other in the ten and four O clock position with handles at 4.00 and tops of the utensils at 10.00. The knife blade points towards you.
• The amount is usually paid by the host.
• Thank the host for your meal at the end.
Every business person should learn basic etiquette to deal with people. Of course, there are number of written and unwritten rules and guidelines and when in doubt stick to the basic and follow:
• Build good relations with peers and subordinates.
• Never differentiate people based on designations and rank.
• Memorize the names of the people. If not, then correlate the name of the person with that of your previous acquaintances with in your mind for effective retention. Make a good practice of collecting the names of the people with their phone numbers, date of birth, family details. This will help you to build strong relations with them.
• Learn to appreciate people sincerely. If it is essential to criticize, do not attack the person rather attack his behavior as it takes the matter away from person-centric to problem-centric or behavior-centric.
• Never surprise your boss. Always keep him informed about the work related activities and try to be in the good books of your boss.
INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS ETIQUETTE:
With the rapid growing technology the globe has become smaller. As a result, there are plenty of opportunities since the communication has become easier. Employers began thinking broadly and are trying to set up their ventures at the global level. Along with that the employees have opportunities to work with the people across the globe.
It is necessary to know the basics of international etiquette such as the multicultural issues, different time zones, different workings hours, holiday patterns, table manner etc., Mr. Laxmi Niwas Mittal the global steel czar has clearly mentioned about the significance and importance of multicultural issues so as to succeed in the international business.
Paper correspondence is gradually losing its relevance. In every business there is growing significance attached to Email and it is necessary to dwell at length about email etiquette in this context. The subject matter should be simple, specific, short and identify yourself. It should not be like compound sentences. The receiver should be in a position to identify its source and the objective behind it. In the ‘To’ address column put the main addressee and if the same is to be informed to other addresses you can add those emails in the ‘CC’ column. It is usually considered unethical to use the BCC column. If the mail is not to be known to the other addressees and in extreme cases you can use ‘BCC’.
Personalize the mail to create bonding with the reader. Dear Sir/Madam, followed by the name of the person with designation as it impresses the reader for the significance you have accorded to the designation and also for having made it personal. Follow proper alignment and the margin on the left side. Write the contents in simple, straight and short manner. The contents must be concise, crisp and clear. Put across all the points. At the end, you may conclude with ‘Regards’, or ‘Best regards’, or ‘With regards’, or ‘Best wishes’ followed by your signature. Before sending check for grammar, syntax, sentence format, punctuation. Read and reread the email before hitting the ‘send’ button as it becomes an evidence for future records. While replying to official mails do not check ‘Reply all’ button as the confidential information, if any, will be known to all.
Etiquette and business etiquette is essential to survive and succeed both at the personal and professional level. It has paramount significance and importance at the corporate world either to make or break the business deals. Therefore, it is mandatory to stick to the basics of all etiquettes to become a successful professional. To conclude, the business etiquette is essential from peon to principal and from employee to employer.