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Business Etiquette in the 21st Century
2011-09-19

At some point, we have all come across people with poor manners or etiquette you know the ones that say the inappropriate things or make jokes at inappropriate times. Whatever the particular circumstances, such distasteful behavior receives a rather universal response from those who witness it, and people consequently try to avoid exhibiting such behaviors while in public.
The realm of business etiquette, however, is not quite as simple. Certainly, it does not take a genius to understand that making a crude joke or speaking at an inappropriate time are all unacceptable in a professional environment, but the finer nuances of professional etiquette remain far more complicated, and far less absolute. While crude jokes will always be considered improper, the acceptable modes of communication (and consequent formality of language) are constantly changing, and the guidelines of professional etiquette are consequently evolving.
In the following, we will look at some of the most important factors in exhibiting proper etiquette around the office in the 21st century.
i.) Be respectful and courteous - while some things have changed, others haven't, and it remains extremely important to always be respectful and courteous to coworkers. When you have a meeting, be considerate of the attendees, and make good use of the scheduled time. That means having a previously set agenda, and providing each of the participants' with ample notice of the meeting's objectives, the topics being discussed, and the meeting's duration. This allows them to adequately prepare, and assure that nobody's time is being wasted.
In addition, always say 'please' and 'thank you,' and make an effort to acknowledge the contribution of others; few things are more frustrating than the feeling of being unnoticed, and taken for granted.
ii.) Avoid ambiguity in e-mails - this follows from the above rule, and the fact that you should always be considerate of the time of others. In the subject line of your e-mail, avoid ambiguous phrases like "Hello" or "Just one thing," and be as specific as possible. If your e-mail is simply asking your coworker if they would like to play squash after work, the subject should be "Squash after work."
In addition, do not use the term "urgent" unless it truly is urgent, and never type in all capital letters.
iii.) Avoid the overuse of acronyms - while some might feel they're building a rapport with coworkers by using casual, informal language, the fact is that using acronyms such as "lol" (laughing out loud) or "ttyl" (talk to you later) makes you appear unprofessional and slightly immature. Certainly, there are many who would not be bothered by the use of abbreviations like "lol," but for the sake of those who would be, be consistent and simply avoid the "lol's" altogether.
There are, of course, exceptions - "asap," for example, is a perfectly acceptable acronym for the workplace.
iv.) Avoid sending incessant text-messages - as has already been discussed, you should always respect the time of others, and sending incessant text messages can be a terrible distraction. Keep text messaging in the workplace to a minimum, and always keep messages brief, and to-the-point. (And the acronym rules do apply to text messaging as well.)
v.) Do not use social networking sites to vent about your job or your coworkers - while this should be an obvious rule, stories of employees getting fired because of their actions on Facebook and Twitter remain quite common. Just remember that once put on the internet, your words are forever in the public domain. If you need to vent, talk with your partner, or pick up the telephone and call someone. No good ever comes out of online venting.

Written By Andrea Gressman


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