Business Etiquette Basics

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Today’s etiquette topic is one I’ve gone back and forth with. It was suggested by a good friend and supporter of this blog, so I decided to bite the bullet and just put it all out there. We’re going to talk about business etiquette. Why have I been indecisive on writing this, you ask? Well, in theory this post would be about placing your name badge on your right side, having a firm but not too hard handshake, etc. However, the real lack of business etiquette in today’s world consists of a lack of respect and decorum. Are you noticing a trend on “respect” lately? Hmm….I digress.

To start, I do want to cover some business basics. When you are in a business setting, some of the traditional etiquette functions go by the wayside. In business, men and women are equals, all other things equal. Men would not primarily open doors for their women co-workers. It would simply be whomever got to the door first. Now, I feel the need to add a caveat in here. I live in the South. Many traditions spill over into business, and this is an area that strongly does. If I am approaching a door at the same time a male is, I can guarantee they will beat me to door every time. Though this is definitely not necessary, I appreciate the thought behind it.

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Now, business etiquette for both males and females.

The name tag should, in fact, be placed on your right side. The reasoning: You extend your right arm when greeting someone, and their eye is immediately drawn to that area, making name recognition for them. Also, your handshake should be firm but not hard. This is not a time to show them how strong you are.

The person who has the higher rank extends their hand first, if the two are meeting on their own. Otherwise, the “less important” person is introduced to the “more important” person. Both men and women should stand when meeting someone. However, there is an exception to this rule. If it is a formal business affair, women may remain seated, as it may be physically more difficult to move a chair in a dressy gown. Also, if people are physically unable to stand, of course they remain seated.

Titles, if used, should be used uniformly. You would never say, Jane Smith, may I introduce Mr. John Smith. In business, if you do not know a woman’s marital status, Ms. is perfectly appropriate. Along the lines of titles, you do not use a title of “Doctor” when being used unless you are a medical doctor. The only exception is if you are a Doctor of the area in which you work. So, if your doctoral degree is in English, and you are an English teacher, you may be called “Doctor.” If, however, your degree is in English, and you are in banking, you would not use that title.

I hope these guidelines help you feel more comfortable in your daily business life! I will continue this series with e-mail etiquette, interviewing etiquette and other parts of etiquette that are applicable to business.

Thank you for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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