The word may conjure up buried memories of stuffy grade 6 deportment lessons, but etiquette is making a comeback as organisations struggle to differentiate themselves from the pack.
It’s difficult to pinpoint when it all started but, anecdotally, courtesy and manners in business seemed to enter a steep decline after the rise of the internet in all its glory. Email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter – everything happens in a blip. Addressing an email as Dear Mr so-and-so... Forget it!
But, according to etiquette experts at Crane & Co, the concept of etiquette is still essential – especially in light of the new communication platforms which have blurred the lines of appropriateness and left many wondering how to navigate unchartered social territory. At the most basic level, etiquette is about making people feel appreciated and respected.
Eliza Browning from Crane & Co offered the following tips on business etiquette rules that are timeless:
1. Send a thank you note
The art of the thank you note should never die. After turning down an applicant, visiting clients or meeting new business partners, it’s important to take the time to write a note. You'll differentiate yourself by doing so and it will reflect well on the company.
2. Know the names
It's just as important to know your peers or employees as it is to develop relationships with clients, vendors or management. Reach out to people in your company, regardless of their roles, and acknowledge what they do.
Too much time is spent looking up – impressing senior management. But it's worth stepping back and acknowledging and getting to know all of the integral people who work hard to make the business run.
3. Observe the ‘Lift Rule'
When meeting with clients or potential business partners off-site, don't discuss your impressions of the meeting with your colleagues until the lift has reached the bottom floor and you're walking out of the building. That's true even if you're the only ones in the elevator.
Call it superstitious or call it polite – but, either way, don't risk damaging your reputation by rehashing the conversation as soon as you walk away.
4. Focus on the face, not the screen
It's hard not to be distracted these days. We have a plethora of devices to keep us occupied: emails and phone calls come through at all hours, and we all think we have to multitask to feel efficient and productive.
But that's not true. When you're in a meeting or listening to someone speak, turn off the phone. Don't check your email. Pay attention and be present.
5. Don't judge
We live in a world where both people and businesses are concerned about brand awareness. Individuals want to stand out and be liked and accepted by their peers – both socially and professionally.
You may disagree with how another person handles a specific situation, but rise above that and recognise that, in most cases, everyone is trying their best.