When bringing up the subject of business etiquette, I often sense the natural resistance to any imposed rules. We tend to treat those rules as if they restrict the freedom of our behaviour. But I like to think of etiquette as a Highway Code. Compliance with the rules for road use, while it may limit our fantasy to drive fast around town, it promotes road safety. I do not park wherever I want, but only in certain places reserved for parking.
The same is true about etiquette, we respect other participants of social life, we comply with the principles of good neighbourliness and we show courtesy to others. If this restricts us in any way, it surely is a good compromise for society.
Unlike the highway, breaking the rules of etiquette does not lead to fatal consequences, but may undermine our social positions if we do not conduct ourselves in an appropriate manner. Small ‘faux pas’ happen, the worse is if they happen too often and we start getting a bad ‘reputation’.
Why is it so important to know the principles of etiquette in a professional environment? Simply, because it pays off. Civility, etiquette and politeness in professional relationships can help us accelerate business relationships. Courtesy is sometimes imperceptible, but its absence turns out to be poignant.
Courtesy and image
English novelist Daphne du Maurier used to say ‘a friendly word costs nothing, and is the best gift ever’. And I am not referring exclusively to family contacts, friendships or camaraderie. This becomes much more complex when we move the issue of discourtesy to corporate and institutional relationships. There is no doubt that politeness plays an important role in building the image of customer friendly companies and authorities. A skillfully constructed corporate image is, among other things, part of its economic value, because it affects the loyalty of customers and business partners. And you, as an owner or an executive, have to be a business card of your business.
Good will or an obligation?
Many bosses and managers believe kindness is an obligation in relationships with contractors, customers and visitors. People or institutions that hide behind a wall of formalism and bureaucracy, effectively discourage others from contact. Kindness should be an important element of the culture of the company or institution you represent.
In the first seconds of contact with the newly met person or company, we evaluate their ability to build relationships. Good manners – although it may not be obvious – are an important element in proving our competence. This also applies to management skills. Courtesy, without doubt, contributes to building authority with subordinates.
Behaviour, consistent with the principles of etiquette, means better relationships with work colleagues and importantly with the superiors. This may translate into wage increases and promotions. The right style and good manners are a decisive factor for career building. Knowledge, skills, appearance, appropriate conduct and confidence are also keys to success.
Image: part of the picture of Jeff Christensen ‘Just Business’.
Image source: jeffchristensen.see.me