The Way to Work


The Way to Work: Corporate Manners

August 25, 2008
by Rachel Balik
You spend the better part of your life at work. Our weekly feature, The Way to Work, offers tips and guidelines to help you succeed in the office. Whether you have a job or are looking for one, understanding networking, business etiquette and how to make a good impression are essential to your career. Below, you’ll find tips on representing yourself and your company like a superstar.

Fatal Faux Pas

If you’ve successfully gone through school and secured your current job, you’re probably not completely clueless when it comes to manners. You were well groomed and neatly dressed for your interview; you were considerate, perceptive and savvy when you spoke and afterward, you sent a thank-you note. But fast-forward to your first meeting with a client, and you’ll suddenly find yourself agonizing over all kind of little details you didn’t even think about before. If you’re hosting a client, who goes through the revolving door first, her or you? You certainly don’t want to be debating that point at the last minute. Take the “Miss Business Manner’s” quiz from USA Today, and learn to avoid mistakes like forgetting to tell clients that you’re on speakerphone, not admitting that you’ve forgotten someone’s name or fumbling when it comes time to pay the bill at a business lunch.
Oh, and don’t chew with your mouth open during lunch, advises Jacqueline Whitmore, author of “Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work,” and skip that glass of wine if your clients don’t drink. Other corporate behavior tips that she shares with Time magazine include using discretion with your business cards. “Don’t pass them out like you’re passing out flyers on the corner in Times Square,” Whitmore advises. If someone wants your business card, they’ll ask for it, and if you simply must give it away, be polite about it. And if your business contact is from Europe and wants to kiss you on both cheeks, be polite about that as well. Being startled by cultural differences is never professional.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

As you move forward in the business world, you’ll experience a greater variety of circumstances that require good judgment. But there are basic things you can check off your list to make sure you’re making a good first impression, and Emily Post knows what they are. Whether you’re going on an interview, having lunch with your boss or meeting your client, you’ll want to make sure you haven’t missed out on any of these suggestions. Sure, the list has a bit of an old-fashioned slant, but making sure your nails are clean never goes out of style. Other tips, like making sure your bag has been pared down to only the essentials and that your pen is working when you go for an interview, are less obvious, and just as essential.
Another thing that’s essential when you’re meeting people is you. If you’re shy, you might prefer to avoid networking situations or other necessary, career-building social interactions. But humans are hard-wired to chat, says; if you take baby steps, you can be a gregarious, networking go-getter in no time. Or at the very least, you’ll be able to carry on a fully functional conversation with a stranger without being wracked by fear. Start by smiling, asking questions or having more conversations with friends and family members. Know what your passions are, because when you share them, you become more appealing, suggests Keith Ferrazzi, author of “Never Eat Alone.” You’ll have the opportunity to find common ground with others, and have a conversation topic you know you can fall back on. Most of all, you’ll give off good vibes and have something to offer to a conversation.

Then, if things are going well, you’ll want to share your business card. To do that, of course, you must have one. Colleagues, peers and clients won’t be impressed if you’re scribbling down essential information on a napkin. The Virginia Engineer explains why you need a business card and what should go on it. There’s even a right way to hand out your business card. Pass it out face up so that someone can comment on your card. You should also comment on any cards given to you; anything that illustrates you are focused and have actually read the card makes you look smart and interested.

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