In the startup world, we pride ourselves in disposing the archaic business practices of yesteryear, and embracing the culture of forming genuine relationships and wearing sweats to work. Okay, the latter isn’t true, but startup culture is indeed transforming the way we approach our professional lives.
At the heart of this discussion is knowing that etiquette rules are not about tradition or creating boundaries in our professional sphere. Rather, they're indicators of our respect for the people around us, and a commitment to growing professionally in a positive manner.
Saying a proper goodbye to someone you barely know can be awkward, but it’s also extremely rude to just slip out. Wait until it’s your turn to talk in the conversation and bring out your ‘exit line’ (e.g. “great to meet you, see you next time”).
This one’s an oldie but goodie: wait until you’ve left the premise of your meeting (i.e. when your elevator gets to the bottom floor) with a client before talking about them. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
While dress codes vary from company to company, the rule that always applies is to keep yourself tidy. Wrinkled shirts, messy hair, and clothes on the last thread of life are the usual suspects in this case.
Aside from observing basic table manners for a business lunch, it’s important to always ask if you can bring along another colleague. If you’re organising the meal, make sure to drop an email asking about any food allergies or special diets that the client may have. Also, the host always pays.
This isn’t your ex’s Halloween Party. Being on time, or ideally 5 minutes early, is the most basic but crucial business etiquette out there.
If you’d like to discuss something with a colleague, it’s good practice to ping them first to let them know instead of just approaching them. This applies whether you work in an office or open workspace.
We love our smartphones, but devices are blurring the line between life and work. Try not to send demanding emails during out of office hours or weekends, especially if it's a task. Nothing ruins a weekend like a work email unless it's truly urgent. Generally, it’s okay to wait a couple of hours before replying to a work email over the weekend.
One thing about being in a flexible work environment is that we feel free to be ourselves, even it comes down to personal grooming. Buffing your nails or putting on makeup are best left at home.
This is also an oldie, but it’s something we just have to observe even in a friendly and close-knit office. Simply do not touch other people’s food, and clean up after yourself. Keep in mind that it is a communal space, and people spent money on it; just because it's food doesn't mean it's not stealing.
Get into the habit of emailing your interviewer, host, or client after your meeting to thank them. This rule is a bit out of practice, which means observing it will definitely set you apart. Out-of-the-way politeness reflects well on you as a person and that of your company.
The main takeaway from business etiquette is empathy. Being unconstrained by passé procedures means that we can be more open and honest. With this comes a more pressing need to be aware of our words. Not judging others, and being mindful of our opinions creates a more positive work environment that you can connect with.
25 May, 2020 - HK
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