Business etiquette is made up of significantly more important things than knowing which fork to use at lunch with a client. Unfortunately, in the perception of others, the devil is in the details. People may feel that if you can't be trusted not to embarrass yourself in business and social situations, you may lack the self-control necessary to be good at what you do. Etiquette is about presenting yourself with the kind of polish that shows you can be taken seriously. Etiquette is also about being comfortable around people (and making them comfortable around you!)
People are a key factor in your own and your business' success. Many potentially worthwhile and profitable alliances have been lost because of an unintentional breach of manners.
Dan McLeod, president of Positive Management Leadership Programs, a union avoidance company, says, "Show me a boss who treats his or her employees abrasively, and I'll show you an environment ripe for labor problems and obviously poor customers relations. Disrespectful and discourteous treatment of employees is passed along from the top."
Most behavior that is perceived as disrespectful, discourteous or abrasive is unintentional, and could have been avoided by practicing good manners or etiquette. We've always found that most negative experiences with someone were unintentional and easily repaired by keeping an open mind and maintaining open, honest communication. Basic knowledge and practice of etiquette is a valuable advantage, because in a lot of situations, a second chance may not be possible or practical.
There are many written and unwritten rules and guidelines for etiquette, and it certainly behooves a business person to learn them. The caveat is that there is no possible way to know all of them!
These guidelines have some difficult-to-navigate nuances, depending on the company, the local culture, and the requirements of the situation. Possibilities to commit a faux pas are limitless, and chances are, sooner or later, you'll make a mistake. But you can minimize them, recover quickly, and avoid causing a bad impression by being generally considerate and attentive to the concerns of others, and by adhering to the basic rules of etiquette. When in doubt, stick to the basics.
The most important thing to remember is to be courteous and thoughtful to the people around you, regardless of the situation. Consider other people's feelings, stick to your convictions as diplomatically as possible. Address conflict as situation-related, rather than person-related. Apologize when you step on toes. You can't go too far wrong if you stick with the basics you learned in Kindergarten. (Not that those basics are easy to remember when you're in a hard-nosed business meeting!)
This sounds simplistic, but the qualities we admire most when we see them in people in leadership positions, those are the very traits we work so hard to engender in our children. If you always behave so that you would not mind your spouse, kids, or grandparents watching you, you're probably doing fine. Avoid raising your voice (surprisingly, it can be much more effective at getting attention when lower it!) using harsh or derogatory language toward anyone (present or absent), or interrupting. You may not get as much "airtime" in meetings at first, but what you do say will be much more effective because it carries the weight of credibility and respectability.
The following are guidelines and tips that we've found helpful for dealing with people in general, in work environments, and in social situations.
It's About People
Talk and visit with people. Don't differentiate by position or standing within the company. Secretaries and janitorial staff actually have tremendous power to help or hinder your career. Next time you need a document prepared or a conference room arranged for a presentation, watch how many people are involved with that process (you'll probably be surprised!) and make it a point to meet them and show your appreciation.
Make it a point to arrive ten or fifteen minutes early and visit with people that work near you. When you're visiting another site, linger over a cup of coffee and introduce yourself to people nearby. If you arrive early for a meeting, introduce yourself to the other participants. At social occasions, use the circumstances of the event itself as an icebreaker. After introducing yourself, ask how they know the host or how they like the crab dip. Talk a little about yourself- your hobbies, kids, or pets; just enough to get people to open up about theirs and get to know you as a person.
Keep notes on people. There are several "contact management" software applications that are designed for salespeople, but in business, nearly everyone is a salesperson in some capacity or another. They help you create a "people database" with names, addresses, phone numbers, birthdays, spouse and children's' names; whatever depth of information is appropriate for your situation.
It's a good idea to remember what you can about people; and to be thoughtful. Send cards or letters for birthdays or congratulations of promotions or other events, send flowers for engagements, weddings or in condolence for the death of a loved one or family member. People will remember your kindness, probably much longer than you will!
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To： Willian Huang， Department of General Affairs
From： Joseph Liu， Director of Personnel
Subject： Work Transfer
Date： July 15， 199-
I think， Mr. Huang， the Director of your Department has already talked to you about the change in your work. We have arranged to appoint you as section supervisor in the Security Department at a salary of US$** a month （20% increase） as from Tuesday， August 1， 199-. In your new post， you will be responsible to Mr. Francis Yang for the work of night shift employees in the department.
Your eight years of loyal service in the General Affairs Department have been appreciated by the leadership of the company. Your transfer is completely due to the need of company. You have known that many thefts have recently taken place that have caused heavy losses to our company. We trust that with your appointment to this post， the security work will be greatly strengthened.
Please write to confirm that you will accept this appointment.