Professional Etiquette

Today we need the rules of etiquette more than ever, with offices being mostly cubicles, our constant communication using electronic devices and the boundaries between our professional and personal lives dissolving.

Etiquette is a code of conduct that allows us to live and work together with relative ease. It helps to foster good relationships, makes for happiness and even helps in achieving professional success.

As you enter the corporate world, you need to learn to be conscious of how you across to the people you work with. Develop a professional identity. Let’s discuss the basics of how to converse at work and in official settings.

Common Etiquette: A common denominator in all etiquette, whether in the office at a party or at a friend’s are – Think about other people’s feelings first and suit your actions according to the time and place.

  • Smile and be gracious at all times
  • At the workplace keep your phone on silent
  • Avoid checking your phone when talking to others and at a meeting
  • Take personal calls during breaks and away from working areas. It is always possible that you may get important and urgent calls, try to keep them short and speak in a low voice in order to not disturb others.
  • Use common areas like the pantry and the washroom etc and stationery with care, and don’t monopolize them

Communication: Success in business often depends on your ability to communicate, be tactful, develop empathy, and make the effort to appreciate other people’s points of view. You’ll make your workplace happier and more cohesive and connect well with colleagues and clients.

Verbal: Develop your vocabulary, cut out slang and jargon, sound professional. Use good language.

  • Speak in an even tone of voice with some amount of animation in it. A flat, monologue is boring.
  • Allow others to speak. Its basic good manners and must never be forgotten. Even if you have a lot to say and important things to speak about, give others an opportunity to speak.
  • Listen well. We tend to miss out a lot because we just ‘hear’ the words. We miss out on the meaning, reasoning and feeling behind words. And in the process, we may not be able to connect well with people.
  • Asking questions at the right time indicates you are interested in and creates a bond. But remember to avoid interrupting the other.

Introductions: Introducing yourself and colleagues and friends is an integral part of work life. You will be meeting people from various groups, companies, and countries. The way you introduce and present yourself offers people a first impression of you.

  • There are 3 parts to all first-time introductions, the handshake, and greeting, introducing yourself and others and moving into the conversation.
  • It’s good to be prepared with a self-introduction. State your name, role or title, company and if asked an impactful description of interests, work etc.
  • When introducing others. Its proper to introduce the younger person to the senior/older. Start with their name then say you would like to introduce them and later add interests, work etc.
  • Find out about cultural differences so you avoid any faux pas.

Non-verbal: Be conscious of your posture, facial expressions and personal space/distance and make eye contact. Remember to smile! Not giving the speaker your full attention conveys that ― there is something more important than him/her and can be considered very rude.


  • Keep your communication short, concise
  • Use simple and good language.
  • An error-free and crisp email, note or document conveys your clarity, preparedness. Take the time to draft all your written communication.

Dining Etiquette

It’s common for companies to have meetings at lunch or dinner. Understanding the rules of etiquette involved will help you to focus on the discussion and enjoy and contribute to the conversation.

  • Long before you enter the home or the restaurant, make sure you turn off your cell phone
  • Sit up straight with your arms close to your body. Practice proper posture.
  • Bring your hands to the table only when you are eating. At all other times keep your hands on your lap or resting on the table (with wrists on the edge of the table).
  • Take responsibility for keeping up the conversation, without monopolising it. Stay away from controversial subjects, such as politics, religion, gender, and sexual matters.
  • Order something easy to eat after consulting with others at the table.

It’s safer and better to avoid spaghetti, peas, expensive items and anything that sounds like a large quantity of food.

  • Avoid alcoholic beverages unless it is a casual get-together
  • Start eating only once everyone has been served
  • Eat at the same pace as everyone else
  • Take small bites. And as we all know, chew with your mouth closed and avoid talking with your mouth full. If asked a question while you are eating, finish chewing, swallow, then speak.
  • Bring food to your mouth—don’t bend down over the plate to eat.
  • When you require something from across the table, politely ask others to pass the items out of reach. You can reach out to things that are in front of you.
  • Remember to say “please” and “thank you.” Your polite attitude will foster an overall positive impression.
  • If you need to excuse yourself, mention the reason before leaving the table. Place your napkin on your chair seat.
  • Try not to waste food. Eat your entire meal if possible.
  • Formal meals: Indicate that you are finished with your meal by placing the knife and fork, on your plate, at the 4 o’clock position. In such times place the napkin on the right-hand side of your table setting.

Sit back and leave your plate alone.

Manners are “the principles of courteous behavior” and etiquette “the rules that apply to a particular situation.” Which means manners don’t change, but etiquette evolves. Be aware of the rules and stay with them. Wishing you success in all your interactions.

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