Business manners aren't that complicated, even for millennials. The key: Always remember the golden rule.
Business manners aren’t that complicated, even for millennials. The key: Always remember the golden rule.

What does “business etiquette” mean?

Business etiquette is an umbrella term that includes not only business manners in the workplace (including business dining), but also business communications, business attire, and more.

As someone who’s been around for a while, it’s amazing to think that a blog on the subject of business etiquette could be helpful, but I think it is. How many times have you been in a meeting when an attendee gets a phone call…and takes it right there and then? How many times have business associates shown up late to a meeting with you? These situations demonstrate poor business etiquette.

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Why business etiquette matters

To boil it down, etiquette is about being respectful for others. In a business context, it means showing this respect by the way in which you interact with employees, colleagues, and other business associates. By using good business etiquette, you show your own integrity.

As Theodore Roosevelt said: “Politeness is a sign of dignity, not subservience.”

The value of good business etiquette to your company can be enormous. It can improve the company culture and make employees feel more comfortable in the workplace. Perhaps even more important, good business etiquette can translate into better business relationships, which in turn, helps your business grow.

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What to be mindful of

Don’t think of business etiquette as a do’s and don’ts list. Rather, look at it as the business embodiment of the golden rule. Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Be considerate of others in everything you do. This means showing up on time, keeping promises, and showing respect in talking and treating others.

2. Follow the rules of proper communication. Whether in person or by phone, text, or email, stay professional. Understand some basic rules, such as writing with proper grammar and punctuation, avoiding all caps (which can be interpreted as yelling), knowing when to use cc or bcc in your email, and responding to all communications in a timely manner.

3. Conduct yourself properly. How you look and act creates an impression of who you are (whether fairly or not). So, dress the part, even if this is casual. Use good table manners whether in the break room or dining with customers, prospects, vendors, or anyone else.

Final thought

I can recall childhood lessons about how to behave at the dinner table, to use my napkin, and to chew with my mouth closed. I guess early instruction can help form a lifetime of good behavior. For those who did not receive similar coaching, it’s never too late to learn.

As the doyen of etiquette Emily Post said: “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners no matter what fork you use.”

Good manners and other good behavior demonstrate good business etiquette.

Barbara Weltman is the founder of Big Ideas for Small Business, Inc., which publishes Idea of the Day. She is the author of J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes 2019 and other books that inform the small business community of tax, financial, and legal information they should know about.