Emily Post, the arbiter of etiquette, once said: “Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is ethics. It is honor.”
Having good etiquette is actually a good business move. There are various forms of etiquette, but they all overlap. There is office etiquette, business etiquette, social etiquette and “netiquette”, the social convention for using computer networks. And just how important is etiquette to business? So important, in fact, that The Protocol School of Washington five years ago created the National Business Etiquette Week. It is a week set aside to recognize the proper business etiquette/business intelligence necessary to compete in the growing global marketplace.
There are various mistakes people tend to make when it comes to social etiquette. The top three, according to Stephanie Hunt, director of Swan Noir, LLC, a finishing school for children, teens and adults in New York City, are:
1. Poor table manners. “Not being able to navigate at a formal dinner table. Not being able to yield a knife and fork,” explains Hunt.
2. Common courtesy. “People do not realize that it is still the little things that matter– Please; Thank you; Excuse me,” she says.
3. Not being a good listener. “With social media being such an important part of a lot of our lives, we have really lost what it means to be present and really listen to our friends, spouse, children, etc.,” notes Hunt.
According to Hunt, the top three mistakes people make on a business level are:
1. Lack of respect for people’s space in the workplace. “I get a lot of complaints about boundaries and respect in the office, such as people using speakerphone in a cubicle setting,” she says.
2. Communication issues. “Not being able to communicate effectively because we use email, and other forms of social media. When it is time to present face-to-face, there is no polish or the message is not delivered,” she says.
3. Disrespectful emails, using CAPS, smiley faces, exclamations, LOL, OMG. “All not acceptable in the workplace,” advises Hunt.
Social media also has is own etiquette no-no’s, says Hunt:
1. Posting personal information and pictures that may be regretted later.
2. Thinking that your industry or company won’t be privy to your tweets or posts. Recent examples would be Roland Martin’s tweet that got him suspended from CNN and Oprah’s tweet urging viewers to tune into her OWN Network. Both events riled the broadcast industry.
3. Parents giving their children no boundaries or monitoring when it comes to social media, leaving children open to all forms on negative influences.
So how can etiquette help you career? “I would use this example: You have worked in a job for many years and you are looking to advance and move up in the ranks or corporate world. You notice that you are stuck. Maybe you need to seek help with your image, communication skills, dining etiquette, first impressions, etc.,” says Hunt, who teaches social and business etiquette to people of all ages. “You would seek someone out like me to give you the appropriate skills necessary to succeed and advance. This investment would then allow you to advance in your field and possibly make more money. People invest in many different ways. Sometimes you need to think about investing in yourself. You would be able to be a better leader, build better relationships with clients and participate or work better in a team, etc.”
Business etiquette is a must when dealing with international clients. One should know the cultural norms of the client’s country so as not to offend–and blow a deal. “International Business Etiquette is all about details. I call it the Devil in the Details,” offers Hunt. “Knowing when to kiss, bow, or shake hands…you have to get it right. It could cost you millions if a mistake is made or if someone is offended.”
So how does one learn proper etiquette? “There are etiquette consultants and companies that train individuals and work with companies. When doing a search, I would recommend using key words like etiquette consultant, life skills, soft skills, etc. I work with non-profits, schools (public and private), and even pageants,” says Hunt. “I recommend books to clients all the time. I like to combine lessons or workshops with a little homework. If you are seeking help with social skills, for example, I would recommend attending networking events and putting your skills to work by meeting new people. It is really hard to get some of the soft skills needed to succeed just from reading about them. You have got to get out there and use face-to-face communication and body language.”