Just as with anything else, etiquette changes with the times. And aren’t we glad? It would be unbearably hot to wear a dress or skirt so long to cover one’s ankles during a hot and humid Georgia summer. And those gloves? Another hot item. And those poor men with the stiff collars and coats. Granted, I am referring to etiquette points most associated with social situations and business settings are often a little different. I also grant you that women were usually not a part of business when ankles and high, stiff collars mattered. Today, there are still specific rules or guidelines one must follow in order to be “appropriate” in the workplace, it’s just based on mutual respect and hierarchy rather than chivalry.
Good business presence and superb communication and interpersonal skills are among the most important characteristics a professional should possess. And, just as with the technical skills of the job performed, one should continuously study and train to ensure they are working at optimal performance alongside their co-workers and customers. Business etiquette pulls this together by ensuring one displays respect, civility and consideration. An added benefit is the implied message of integrity one gives with good manners.
The following tips will keep you in good graces with women and men alike when conducting business:
1. Men are no longer required to rush ahead to open the door for women. Whoever gets there first should hold the door for the rest. One should consider hierarchy here and perhaps the low man could get the revolving door moving for his or her boss or client.
2. Whoever is closest to the elevator door exits first.
3. Neither men nor women are assisted with their chairs unless help is needed.
4. Those of lesser importance are presented to those of greatest importance when making introductions. Watch your wording while making the introduction so the order is not reversed. Hint: It is not “Mr. President, I would like to introduce you to Mr. Mailroom Manager.”
5. The most important person in any hierarchy of any company is the client. Remember this during introductions and seating arrangements for business meetings and meals.
6. Do not assume gender when writing an email. There are more women than ever in the workplace!
7. When shaking hands, shake hands like you mean it. This one requires some common sense. Here is the rule: Always give a firm handshake using your entire hand – even to a woman. Here is the caveat: Don’t hurt anybody! Men, if your hand is twice the size of a female associate, do not squeeze her hand like you might a rugby buddy. The message you send with a handshake is a permanent one, so enlist a female to grade you on this skill.
8. When dining for business, the meal begins when the host (male or female) picks up the napkin. No need to wait for the woman to start.
Word of warning to you ladies: Remember who you are because it will not ever change. We are still women and it’s not ok to have foul language, less than perfect table manners or to dress inappropriately. These are the things that will deflate a woman in business quicker than breaking any of the rules above.
Word of warning to you men: These rules apply in the business world. The rules of social engagement are quite different and I would suggest you pull out your mother’s chair every single time.