When it comes to business etiquette, interviews are all about creating a great first impression. Google ‘interview etiquette’ and you’ll find plenty of guidance on how to conduct yourself in an interview situation. There’s advice on how to dress, the appropriate way to greet your interviewers, rules on making eye contact and when and how to sit in your chair. Understanding these rules of non-verbal communication enables the interviewee to perform well.

Once in the workplace, business etiquette becomes a minefield of Do’s and Don’ts. There are often few rules in place. It can take employees a while to adapt to working in a new business culture and environment. What’s right for one business or suits one individual might not be the same for another. We recommend having some clear etiquette guidelines in place for all employees to follow.

In a nod to Business Etiquette week (4-10 June), we’re taking a look at some of the unspoken rules of non-verbal workplace etiquette. Do you think it’s better to have a relaxed attitude or take a stricter stance around what is and is not acceptable?

At what stage in a business relationship does it become acceptable to hug?

Business etiquette handshake

A handshake is a safer greeting option

Take greetings for example, at what stage in a business relationship does it become appropriate to hug someone hello? Is it ever ok to hug a long-term colleague or supplier? What about air kissing – we’ve all had moments of uncertainty where you’re not sure which side to go and accidentally bump faces or, perish the thought, brush the other person’s lips by accident. Why not avoid the possibility and go for a good old-fashioned handshake instead.

The prospect of physical contact in a work environment can be intimidating. If this could be an issue for your organisation, avoid confusion (and possible discrimination claims), by outlining suggested greeting etiquette in your employee handbook or code of conduct.


How late is late in a business context?

This was an interesting question we saw posted on LinkedIn recently. If you organise a meeting and the other person is late, how long is it acceptable to wait for them before giving up and leaving?

If you’re the person who’s running late, it’s polite to call ahead and let the other person know. When someone is continually late to work or business meetings without warning, it can create a very bad impression. As a first step, we would recommend the line manager talk to the employee about their behaviour and request to see improvement. In some cases, particularly when employees are new to the workplace, lateness could simply be a result of misplaced expectations. A strong induction programme can assist with getting employees workplace ready.


Business etiquette in meetings

In our experience, employee behaviour in business meetings varies between two extremes. You have the relaxed beanbag meetings where anything goes, and at other end of the scale the formal, structured approach. Whatever your organisation’s approach to business meeting etiquette, it’s a good idea to establish a set of guidelines for employees to follow. As a reminder you might stick them on the walls of your meeting rooms.

Here are a few points to consider:

  • Are there different rules for internal and external meetings?
  • Is it ok to eat during meetings?
  • What’s your policy on mobile phone use or checking emails during meetings?
  • Always leave the room and equipment the way you found it


Body language

Woman sitting desk

What does your posture say about your attitude to work?

We’re very aware of our body language and the impact it creates during that first interview. How you hold yourself when standing, walking and sitting continues to matter and make an impression as you progress through your career. If you slouch in your chair at your desk or in a meeting, what impression does that give to colleagues about your attitude to work? Making eye contact with the person you’re speaking to shows that you’re listening and interested in what they’re saying.


Dress code

How you present yourself at work says a lot about your attitude and commitment to your workplace. A workplace dress code is a key factor in achieving a professional look among your employees but have you updated yours recently? Does it extend to seasonality (flip flops, strappy tops, Ugg boots) and cover basic expectations around personal hygiene too?



Email etiquette

Do you really need to send that email?

By far one of the most controversial forms of non-verbal communication is business email. An email might be the first impression a prospective client has of your business, yet many employers don’t provide adequate training in this area. Some common mistakes include:

  • Failure to proof your message before you press send
  • WRITING IN CAPITALS – it can appear aggressive
  • Using kisses or emoji’s
  • Sending large attachments and clogging up the recipient’s inbox
  • Inconsistent email footers and use of old branding
  • Emailing when a phone call would suffice

Basic communication skills are one of the modules in our workplace training package. Please contact us if you’d like to find out more.


The foundation of corporate culture

Good business etiquette leads to a strong corporate culture that all employees, clients, suppliers and visitors can feel comfortable working in. What’s acceptable in one workplace may not be acceptable as professional in another. You must decide on the standards that are right for your organisation and business culture in order to build respect and a credible reputation in your industry.

Once you’ve made your decision, don’t forget to document your guidance in the form of employment policies and include these in your employee handbook. If you need any assistance in this area, please give our experts a call.