What You Don't Know About Emily Post Can Derail Your Career (and 3 Questions to Avoid Costly Gaffs)
Building professional behavior throughout your organization creates an environment of courtesy, trust, and corporate commitment. Well of course it does. That makes perfect sense. But it’s not easily done.
Business Etiquette Is Not What You Think It Is
It’s not about rules. It’s about your behavior.
Cultivating good relationships in a professional context are at the heart of business etiquette.
Business etiquette is about how you interact with different people, in different settings.
And that’s what makes it hard. Figuring out the “rules of engagement”; who expects what you to act like, where, when and how.
The Birth of Gaffs:
Different People Expect You to Behave in Different Ways
There are now at least three generations and up to five generations of people working in any given business. The Silent or Mature Generation. Baby Boomers. Generation X. Millennials. Digital Natives. Each generation is shaped by its time and that creates expectations about how we think others should act.
As the workforce has grown more diverse and simultaneously older and younger it has impacted the environment of the workplace.
The “rules of engagement” are now not only shaped by the type of organization- formal, traditional such as a law firm or bank, more creative like a PR firm or technology group, or more informal such as field oriented community based organization- but increasingly by the changing demographics of its employees. People who grew up during the height of the cold war and the start of civil rights movement often look at world differently than those who watched the Nixon resignation and Challenger explosion on TV.
And that can lead to misunderstandings and missteps.
However, finely honed people skills, that are rooted in respect, consideration and honesty go a long way in maintaining a smooth way forward in the midst of dynamic shifts.
“Etiquette is a code of behavior based on the principles of respect, consideration and honesty.” ~ Peggy Post, Forbes Magazine 2011
Respect, consideration and integrity are essential for healthy and productive relationships.
Principles of Business Etiquette Guide Behavior, Not Dictate It
Respect is valuing of other people and yourself leads you to see the value of other people and yourself, even if they are very different from you and to be flexible.
Consideration is simply thinking before you act, including thinking through the impact of your potential actions.
Honesty is acting and and speaking with integrity and sincerity.
A code of behavior for your office should be specified, so that everyone knows the expectations - the “rules of engagement” for a given business, meeting, office suite. Clear expectations help pave the way for smooth working relationships. But like any path, it needs to remain relevant overtime for it to be useful. And that means the “rules of engagement” are likely to be shaped overtime to meet the evolving needs and norms of the time.
When Faced with a Business Etiquette Conundrum
Ask These 3 Questions
When you’re faced with a business etiquette conundrum go back to the three principles and what you know about the people you are interacting with. Consider what their perspective might be, and ask yourself these three questions:
- What does the other person expect in terms of respect? (What would be respectful in their eyes)?
- What would make the situation comfortable for everyone, myself included?
- What is the action I can take that has the most integrity and how can I be transparent about it?
If you are not sure, ask.
Deirdre Danahar is an executive coach and organizational consultant helping high performing people and teams be forward-thinking, enhance performance and improve their bottom line by making themselves and their communities better. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.