10 essential business etiquette tips to improve company culture

by Amara Pope
business etiquette tips

Have you ever felt disrespected at work? 98% of respondents in a survey of thousands of workers stated that they’d experienced uncivil behavior in the workplace.

When workers feel disrespected by their colleagues, they’re less likely to perform well. In many cases, workers resign from their positions, leading to internal tensions in the company. Who would want to work in a place where they feel uncomfortable or unwelcome?

On the other hand, when customers experience uncivil behavior from companies, they’re less likely to purchase from them. Why lose customers before they even engage with your product or company, based on bad manners and poor business etiquette?

To put it simply, incivility is a serious hindrance to the long-term profitability of any organization and has both internal and external effects.

Fortunately, many incivility issues can be avoided by learning and practicing proper business etiquette. When you’re more conscious of how you’re interacting with your colleagues, customers and business partners, relationships will prosper and profits will increase.

We offer you 10 essential business etiquette tips to create a more positive work environment and build stronger relationships with customers.

1 – Solicit feedback

Most people have behavioral blind spots. You may think that you’re behaving in a considerate, respectful manner, without noticing how annoying you might be. We all have pet peeves, but understanding what yours are and being mindful of your own behavior can help you avoid getting on people’s nerves. Asking for feedback is a great way to increase your awareness of your own behavior and how it may actually hinder your abilities to create positive and successful relationships.

Understanding what kind of reputation you hold and the personality you portray is especially important to senior leaders. The reputation of senior leaders can drive employee commitment by as much as 41%.

If you hold a leadership position within your organization, soliciting feedback about the way you conduct yourself is crucial for long-term success.

You may wish to collect feedback informally by asking your subordinates what they think of your style of leadership, or you can collect feedback using digital surveys. In either case, it’s important that you request honest feedback and ensure that negative opinions will not be punished. A good way to ensure that you receive truthful comments, and promise your respondents’ their security, is through anonymous forums that allow people to be more open about what they are saying about you.

Finally, it’s critical that you take actions to rectify any criticisms that are raised. The purpose of the feedback is to give you a better understanding of how you come across and offer you suggestions to improve your workplace behaviour. Understanding and receiving feedback without taking offense to what is said is important. Everyone has their own opinions, and you may not agree with everything that is said. The best way to collect and interpret any feedback is looking for common trends between your respondents’ comments to see if there are any recurring themes.

Feedback can be both positive and appear to be negative… but don’t take anything as ‘negative’ as that word holds a lot of stigmas…rather, see all comments as constructive criticisms to improve your relations or praises to continue doing what you are doing. Take every comment with equal weight and be sure to celebrate the things that you are doing right!

2 – Maintain visibility

Maintain Visibility

Barricading yourself and hiding away from your colleagues can be perceived as hostile and even rude. A closed door might as well be a moat and a gated castle…so put down the drawbridge and be open! Do not isolate yourself from your coworkers!

If you’ve got an urgent task to complete, it may be efficient for you to put on headphones or close your office door until you’re finished working. But, if you do close your door, be sure you crack it open just a bit, as soon as you get your task done.

We understand that sometimes work environments can be rowdy and distracting, making it difficult to get any work done without tuning out your surroundings. We must keep in mind that productivity is important but that open communication is essential for all businesses to thrive.

While everyone needs a little solitude every once in a while, it’s important to make time for your colleagues too. Leave your office door open as much as you can, and encourage your colleagues to come in and talk to you.

Taking 5 minutes every so often to discuss informal matters with your colleagues will dramatically improve your workplace relationships. Sometimes faking an interest in your colleague’s dog or beloved cat can go a long way. Be nice! I’m sure some of them are polite and listen to your own boring stories! But having small-talk with colleagues fosters team-building and you may even find some commonalities amongst yourselves!

If you’re generally perceived as warm and affable, your colleagues can better understand when you need to take some ‘me time’ throughout your workday.

You want to work hard and stay focused while also seeming approachable to your colleagues.

3 – Nonverbal communication matters

Whether or not you believe nonverbal communication, body language and vocal tonality are extremely important when communicating with other people (especially in a business context).

If your words are positive, yet your voice is tense and your body language is contracted, people will view you with distrust.

Always strive to maintain good posture and open body language. If you’re seeking to build positive relationships with your colleagues, closing your arms in front of you, avoiding eye contact and fidgeting excessively, will make the wrong impression of you being disinterested or untrustworthy. Not only does that leave a bad taste in their mouths, but you are also destroying your relationships to the team.

Finally, remember to smile more often! Smiling reduces stress, boosts the moods of people around you and can actually improve your chances of receiving a promotion.

If you are having a rough day, eating your favorite snack or watching a funny GIF can boost your mood, and turn your day right-side up. If you’re in a funk, it will show! So, fake it till you make it!

4 – Behave impeccably during meetings

Whether you’re meeting with team members, shareholders, or clients, the way you conduct yourself during formal meetings tends to leave a long-lasting impression – so make it a good one!

Make sure to arrive punctually and thoroughly rehearse what you plan to say before the meeting. If you start discussing long-winded topics that aren’t specifically relevant to the people in the room, they’ll only resent you for wasting their time. Leave the small talk for breaks and lunches!

Speak loudly enough to convey your message clearly, but don’t take it too far or you may be perceived as aggressive.

Introduce people who don’t know each other in the meeting and always listen quietly when someone else is speaking Avoid checking your phone during meetings and always set your ringtone to silent.

Only eat during a meeting if everyone else is eating too. When the meeting is finished, clean up after yourself before leaving.

Finally, avoid asking a string of questions at the end of the meeting. Other people may be ready to leave and will feel that you’re holding them up if you do so.

5 – Give respect to everyone

Don’t be a kiss-ass or a push over and treat everyone at your office equally.

It’s no secret that most people in an organization are looking to further their careers, but when you’re blatantly showing that all you care about is climbing the ladder, it will ruin your workplace relationships.

Be confident in who you are and your position on the team. If you do not agree with something, do not be afraid to politely voice your opinion while acknowledging the feelings and opinions of others.

Whether speaking to an intern or a CEO, you should always be polite and treat everyone equally. It can be intimidating speaking to a manager, a boss, or someone with a high title at your workplace. If you say your “please” and “thank-you’s” to everyone on the team, not only will you be respectful to everyone, but you might even gain more confidence by seeing and treating everyone the equally.

Part of team building is ensuring that everyone on the team is heard and felt respected.

Irrespective of what position a person holds in your organization’s hierarchy, always treat everyone with respect and gratitude.

6 – Shower your colleagues with praise

You may believe that embellishing your own achievements will improve your chances of getting a promotion, but the opposite is usually true.

When you downplay the achievement of others, they may actively start working against you in order to prevent you from achieving your goals.

Avoid the bloodbath and give a compliment.

Taking credit for the work of others is unwise.

As a better approach, take every opportunity you can to praise your colleagues – especially your subordinates. When you praise others for their achievements, they’ll be more inclined to work harder in the future.

When you create a culture of praise, people perform to the best of their abilities and profits increase.

Mindvalley, a company renowned for its unorthodox workplace culture, creates a weekly Awesomeness Report which chronicles all the things that went right that week, with a specific focus given to employee achievements.

7 – Punctuality is key

When you show up to the place you’re supposed to be, at the right time, day in, day out, this demonstrates you’re a person who honors their commitments.

Conversely, when you consistently show up late (irrespective of how valid your excuses are), this shows that you’re not fully committed to the organization that employs you.

If you’re late to a meeting with business partners, think about what this conveys.

Professionalism and punctuality go hand in hand, so always endeavor to honor your commitments in a timely manner.

Perhaps you will be late in hitting your deadlines, or you’ll be hard to get a hold of if an urgent situation arises. If something does come up that you cannot avoid, be sure that you do what you can to compensate for the lost time or the missed deadline. Sometimes things happen, and sometimes dogs really do eat our paperwork. Just be sure you keep a copy of everything you do and keep a record of your work processes. Offering to make up for missed time can mean a lot to an employer or offering alternative arrangements demonstrates that you have considered the consequences of the interruption and are committed to your responsibilities.

Also, let everyone involved in the project know that something has happened… leaving people out of the dark makes you look both unprofessional and creates an unwanted surprise for your colleagues and employers.

8 – Don’t gossip

In an office, it’s not expected that every single conversation will revolve around work topics. However, indulging in office gossip is never a good idea if you want to be respected.

Talking about colleagues behind their back is unnecessary and will damage relationships when rumors spread.

If you find yourself getting dragged into office gossip, simply leave the situation instead of adding fuel to the fire. If you really can’t avoid these situations, try to inject work related topics into the discussion to kill off the petty gossip.

If you’re going to talk about colleagues, emphasize their strong points instead of slandering them.

9 – Be professional at the dinner table

dinner table

It’s easy to let your guard down when you’re at dinner with your colleagues or customers. After all, it’s the evening and the work day has finished – you can enjoy some wine and relax a little.

While it’s true that dinner provides an opportunity to get to know business associates on an informal level, it’s important to remember that you’re still a representative of your company – in every situation!

Never talk with your mouth full and always remain courteous, especially if you’ve had a drink or two. Be polite to the waiting staff, even if something goes wrong – losing your cool is never okay when you’re with business associates.

Carefully consider which restaurant to dine at depending on who you’re with. It’s fine to visit your local fast food venue with your team members during your lunch break, but this kind of venue would be an inconsiderate choice for meeting with potential business partners.

Likewise, if you choose a restaurant which is too lavish, this could convey that your company is wasteful in terms of financial management.

Finally, please learn the proper etiquette for dining utensils – not knowing how to leave your plate when you’re finished eating can make a terrible impression.

10 – Dress appropriately

Dress codes differ from company to company, so ensure that you have a good understanding of yours.

For men, choosing a pair of work shoes that matches the color of your suit is wise. Your suits should be ironed and fit your body properly – if your pant leg is too short, your socks will always be on display which looks unprofessional. Also, make sure that your socks MATCH. Other than watches and wedding rings, avoid jewelry.

For women, wear something professional…whether it is a blazing blazer or a lovely dress. Heels, flats, and boots can all work with these outfits depending on what you decide and what is weather appropriate. Accessories should always match the overall aesthetic of your outfit. Again, jewelry should be kept to a minimum, as they can be distracting and even uncomfortable.  You want to make sure that you are comfortable…if you walk to work, wear running shoes or boots and pack some heels or flats in your purse to switch into when you get to the office.

Also, don’t be too casual when it’s dress-down day. Any time you’re with your colleagues, impressions matter! You can switch from your formal, collared shirt to a short sleeved shirt, but don’t come to work in a tracksuit or something you’d wear around the house.


Ultimately, good business etiquette comes from having empathy for other people. These business etiquette tips should help you out. But if in doubt, put yourself in someone else’s shoes and think about how your behaviour would affect them.

Always be considerate of the needs of others. When you build a culture of respect, you greatly enhance the possibility of achieving long-term profitability for your organization and will be viewed as more ‘professional’.

Be aware of your actions and how they can leave an impression on both business partners and coworkers. Increasing your understanding of how you come across and help you to create more positive and successful relationships.

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