Use Proper Etiquette 

Good business etiquette is essential at every phase in your career. Keep this advice in mind to make a great impression during the interview process, in the workplace, and as you advance in your field.

What is Etiquette?

Etiquette is respect, good manners, and good behavior. It is not just each of these things, but it is all of these things rolled into one. More and more, proper business etiquette is viewed as an important part of making a good impression. These visible signals are essential to your professional success. We will focus on five elements of business etiquette: work, social, dining, correspondence, and telephone.

Work Etiquette

The following principles can be utilized by office employees to show proper etiquette. 

  • Be timely. Arrive to work and meetings on time. Complete work assignments on time 
  • Be polite, pleasant, and courteous.
  • Learn office politics. Pay attention to the way things are done and appropriate office behavior.
  • Appear professional and well-groomed. Dress for your next promotion or job. 
  • Understand the four unwritten rules of business: 
  1. The boss is the boss. Right or wrong, the boss always has the last word. 
  2. Keep the boss informed.
  3. Never go over the boss’s head without telling him or her first.
  4. Make your boss look good! Promotion and opportunity arise when you help the organization reach its goals. 
  • Adopt a can-do-attitude. Those who accept challenges and display creativity are valuable.
  • Be flexible. By remaining flexible and implementing change, you gain a reputation as a cooperative employee.
  • Give credit to everyone who made a contribution to a project or event. 
  • Do not differentiate people by position or standing in a company. 

Social Etiquette

When meeting people, both nonverbal and verbal behavior help to define your social skills. Using effective handshakes, maintaining eye contact, and making the proper introductions show good business etiquette. 


Handshakes are vital in social situations. 

  • Develop a comfortable handshake and keep it consistent.
  • Handshakes should not be forceful or limp.
  • Make a solid connection with the web of skin between the thumb and forefinger.
  • The host or person with the most authority usually initiates the handshake. 

Eye contact is critical when meeting people. 

  • Eye contact increases trust, shows respect for the person and business situation, and shows confidence and good interpersonal skills. 

Proper introductions help establish a connection when meeting people. 

  • Authority defines whose name is said first. Say the name of the most important person first and then the name of the person being introduced. “Ms. Client, I’d like you to meet Mr. Colleague” or “Mr. Boss, I’d like you to meet my husband, John.”
  • Introduce people in the following order: younger to older, non-official to official, junior executive to senior executive, colleague to customer.
  • Keep introduction basic. 
  • Remember names for future reference.
  • Provide some information about the people you are introducing to clarify your relationship with that person.
  • Always carry business cards.
  • Keep written notes on people in order to follow up both personally and professionally. 

Dining Etiquette

In today’s world, business is often conducted at the dinner table. Whether at home or in a restaurant, it is important to have complete understanding of how to conduct yourself. You can reduce dining anxiety by following these simple guidelines: 

  • When possible, let the host take the lead.
  • Ask for suggestions if you are unsure of what to do.
  • Do not order the most or least expensive menu items. 
  • Avoid sloppy or hard-to-eat foods.
  • Avoid alcohol even if others drink
  • Always pass to the right. It is acceptable to pass yo you immediate left if you are the closest to the item requested.
  • Always pass the salt and pepper together.
  • Choose the correct silverware. Knowing the formal table setting allows you to focus on the conversation, rather than which utensil to use. 

The Basic Table Setting

  • Eating utensils are used form the outside in. Dessert forks/spoons are placed at the top of the plate. 
  • Everything to the right you drink, to the left you eat.
  • When you don’t know what to do, watch your host.
  • When finished, leave your plate where it is. Do not push it away from you. Lay your fork and knife diagonally across the plate and side-by-side placing them as if pointing to the numbers 10 and 4 on a clock face. Place the sharp edge of the knife facing you. 

Napkin Etiquette

  • Place the napkin in your lap immediately after seated.
  • Do not shake it open. Place the fold of a large napkin toward your waist.
  • If you must leave the table during the meal, put the napkin on your chair or to the left of your plate.
  • When finished, place the napkin to the right of the plate.


Eat Properly

  • Begin eating only after everyone has bee served.
  • Bread and rolls should be broken into small pieces. Butter only one or two bites at a time. Butter should be taken from the butter dish and placed on the bread plate, not directly on the bread.
  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • Do not talk with your mouth full.
  • Take small bites so you can carry on a conversation without long delays for chewing or swallowing.
  • Cut food one piece at a time.
  • Always scoop soup away from you.
  • Do not leave your spoon in the cup. Use the saucer or plate instead.
  • Taste before seasoning.
  • Do not use a toothpick or apply makeup at the table.
  • If food spills off your plate, pick it up with your silverware and place it on the edge of your plate.
  • Never spit a piece of off into your napkin. Remove the food from our mouth using the same utensil it went in with. Place the offending piece of food on the edge of your plate. Fish bones or seeds may be removed with your fingers. 

When at work, your personal cell phone can have a negative impact on how you are viewed. By following some simple rules of cellphone etiquette, you will maintain your professionalism. 

  • Turn your cell phone ringer off or at least to vibrate.
  • Do NOT answer your phone to a meeting
  • Let calls go to voicemail, unless expected and important.
  • Return voicemails and use your personal phone in a private place (not at your desk).
  • Inform others when you are expecting a very expecting a very important call that you will need to take prior to a meeting. 

Correspondence Etiquette

Whether you have just met someone or have known the person for some time, it is important to send follow-up correspondence after meetings. 

Thank You Etiquette

  • Write a follow-up/thank you letter within 48 hours.
  • Whether a handwritten note or formal letter, always follow guidelines for writing effective business letters.
  • Women should be addressed as “Ms.” regardless of marital status.
  • Do not forget to sign your letter.
  • Always proof for typos and misspellings. 

Telephone Etiquette

When speaking on the telephone, proper etiquette is just as important as when you meet someone in person. Like face-to-face interactions, how you behave on the phone tells others much about you. 

  • Email is appropriate to use but NEVER use all caps and watch for typos. 
  • Always include a meaningful subject line in your message.
  • Use correct grammar and spelling.
  • Use a signature if you can. Make sure it identifies who you are and includes alternate means of contacting you (email, phone, and fax numbers are useful)
  • Use active words.
  • Use proper sentence structure
  • Avoid long sentences; be concise and to the point.


Email Etiquette

  • Do not keep someone on hold for more than 30 seconds.
  • Always try to return calls on the same day.
  • Always leave your phone number if you ask for someone to call you back.
  • Make sure your voicemail works.
  • Keep business conversations to the point.
  • Maintain a phone log to refer back to for valuable information.
  • Active listening is essential, whether in person or on the phone. 

Cellphone Etiquette at Work