The essential rules of good business etiquette

tccst‘Good manners are the art of making those people easy with whom we converse.  Whoever makes the fewest persons uneasy is the best bred in the company’.  Jonathan Swift – 1720

What Jonathan Swift wrote nearly 300 years ago still applies today.  It is important to make those around you feel at ease; to show consideration for the people you work with, regardless of whether they are above or below you in the company structure.  This does not mean that you have to constantly flatter everyone around you – this will soon be sickening to everyone who comes in contact with you.

Simply having respect for others and doing your job to the best of your ability will get you a long way.  If you stick to the following essential rules, you will go much further than you expect.

  • Honesty – There is no substitute for honesty.  You should be scrupulously honest at all stages of your career.
  • Consideration – Being able to listen to others, to consider their thoughts and their feelings (usually before speaking and acting) is the basis of consideration.
  • Good manners – Many people today maintain that good manners are a thing of the past, and that young people know little about them. The latter may be true, but those who do not have good manners will find that they won’t get very far in the business world unless they can learn them very quickly.
  • Discretion – The old saying Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil’ applies at all times in the workplace. ‘Passing on’ office gossip may benefit someone, but it’s most unlikely to be you.
  • Personal matters – Sometimes it’s hard not to bring you personal problems to work. But if you apply the golden rule of ‘Don’t bring your personal life to work with you’, you won’t go far wrong. If it’s a matter that could affect your work, the best way is to discuss it with your employer, and see how you can most effectively resolve the problem without it affecting your work.
  • Responsibility – How you look at responsibility depends on whether you are seeking to be given responsibility, or whether you have the power to allocate responsibility.
  • Being fair – How you treat your colleagues will show whether or not you are fair. Ideally, you will treat everyone with the same respect, courtesy and understanding.  If you are asked a favour by someone, your reaction should be the same whether it is the boss or the junior messenger.
  • Acknowledging success – There will be times when one of your colleagues will be promoted or even just congratulated on a job well done. This is a good opportunity for you also do acknowledge his or her achievement.
  • Showing your appreciation – When someone goes out of their way to help you, even if it’s only by giving you information or by telling you where you can get some information, it is not only polite but essential that you show your appreciation. Apart from having made a good impression, you know that you can always approach that particular person again. Whatever form the ‘thank you’ takes, what is important is that you have taken the time to make the gesture.
  • Performance and productivity – It may seem obvious, but good performance and high productivity are important.
  • Punctuality – Every job has its own set of working hours, which may not be the traditional nine-to-five. You may have to start as early as 07.30 – or you may even be asked to work a night shift. (Of course, nobody minds if you start early).  You may think that it won’t matter if you arrive a few minutes late, but somebody usually notices and ultimately it will count against you.

Ria Vorster
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