Getting ahead in business is about more than crunching numbers and sealing the deal. Whether it's table manners or writing an email, business etiquette is just as important as business itself, and often means the difference between getting ahead and getting the boot.
Looking to improve your corporate standing? You're in luck. We've compiled 10 easy ways to boost your business etiquette. Now sit up straight and get reading.
1. Greet like you mean it.
First impressions count. When meeting new clients and associates, be sure to make eye contact and shake hands like you mean it. Say, "It's nice to meet you." And don't forget to smile! Friendliness goes a long way, even in business.
2. Depart politely, too.
It's not enough to be polite when you first meet someone. When meetings are over, walk clients and associates to the door. If you've just met, be sure to shake hands, make eye contact and reiterate how nice it was to meet him or her.
3. Elbows off the table.
Mom bugged you about table manners for a reason: They count—and not just at home. All of the standard rules apply. When hosting or attending a business lunch or dinner, don't start eating until all of your associates are present. Place your napkin in your lap. Sit up straight. Keep your elbows off the table. Don't speak with your mouth full.
4. Be a good host.
Offer hot and cold drinks to visiting clients and associates. If it's lunchtime, offer lunch, and be sure to ask about dietary restrictions. Take their coats. Think about visitors to your office as you would visitors to your home. Treat them with respect and you'll be respected back.
5. Be a good guest.
Just as it's important to be a good host, it's also important to be a good guest. Whether you're on the receiving end of a cup of coffee or an elaborate dinner, remember to thank your hosts—not just for food and drink, but for their time as well.
6. Save the drinking for afterhours.
We all like a bit of cheer now and then, but it's best to skip drinking alcohol altogether at business functions. This may be difficult if you're nervous or celebrating a new account, but it's best to err on the side of caution when it comes to mixing alcohol and business. Trust us, you don't want to learn the hard way.
7. Evaluate business documents promptly.
If someone sends you a business document to evaluate, chances are, unless stated otherwise, he or she would like it reviewed sooner rather than later. If you need a reminder, set a calendar alarm. Write a Post-It. Save the procrastinating for your personal life and get busy.
8. Email is business. Treat it as such.
It's tempting to be casual when writing business emails, but steer clear of LOLs and emoticons. Capitalization counts, as does spelling. There's a huge difference between emailing friends and family and emailing colleagues and bosses. Take the extra time to be extra careful. Treat every business email as a business document.
9. Beware of "reply all."
While we're on the subject of email, we'd be remiss if we didn't address the potential bombshell of the "reply all" function. When receiving a business email, always take note of its recipients. Everyone in the office doesn't need to know you can't make Thursday's meeting because of your annual dentist's appointment.
10. Don't trash talk.
The fastest way to alienate others in an office environment is to talk behind your colleagues' backs. As the old saying goes, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. The same goes for the rumor mill. Even if you're not spreading negativity, spreading half-truths or flat-out lies—whether they're about potential promotions or office romance—can often be just as bad.