Personal Behavior for Professional Success

Good manners aren't about “putting on airs.” They are about making people feel at ease at the table, in business meetings, and at social events. The impression you make on someone will determine your ability to succeed as much as your on-the-job abilities and knowledge. Business manners parallel social manners. They are characterized by consideration for others whether they are customers, clients, or co-workers.

On the Job
On the Phone
In Business Meetings
On the Road
Lunch/Dinner Parties or Invitations

On the Job

  • Learn the company culture, including dress codes, conduct, and especially the "unwritten" policies.
  • Find out what your boss expects of you from the beginning so you know how to act appropriately.
  • Be on time for work, meetings, and projects.
  • Introduce yourself to others.
  • Keep your workspace organized and orderly.
  • Don't make your personal life a big part of your professional life!

On the Phone

  • When answering your own phone, it is appropriate to identify yourself ("Hello, Jane Smith" or "Bill Jones speaking").
  • If answering someone else's phone, identify their name and office ("Hello, Jane Smith's office. This is Bill Jones; may I help you?").
  • When placing a phone call, identify yourself to the person who has answered the phone before asking to speak to your party. It may also help to tell the receptionist your purpose for calling.
  • When taking a phone message, ask for the caller's name, organization, phone number, and nature of the call. Also, record the date and time when the message was received, and initial it in case there are further questions. The message should be neat, accurate, and legible.
  • When leaving a message on an answering machine, be succinct. Identify yourself and note the time, date, and nature of the call. If you are asking for a call to be returned, leave your number and the best time to reach you. If you are requesting information that you need by a certain time, include your deadline.
  • Fax machines are for business, not personal use. Material that is sent by fax is not private. Information should be legible. It requires a cover sheet that indicates the number of pages being sent, including the cover.
  • If your office has an 800 number, it is not appropriate to have friends call you on that number.

In Business Meetings

  • Be on time.
  • Introduce yourself to others.
  • Don't doodle, play with pens, drum your fingers, yawn, or make offensive noises.
  • Do not interrupt, but be prepared to speak when called upon or when there is a time for questions or comments.
  • Do your homework and know before the meeting what information you want to request or share.
  • Keep your comments concise and relevant.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Do not request refreshments, although you may accept them if offered. Be careful not to spill or slurp.
  • After the meeting, clean up after yourself and thank the chairperson on the way out.
  • If you are chairing the meeting, show consideration for others' schedules. Inform those invited well in advance and issue an agenda ahead of the meeting so attendees have a chance to prepare. Start the meeting on time, and keep it to its intended length. Maintain control of the meeting with tact and strength to control those who monopolize or deviate from the agenda.

On the Road

  • Always defer to a senior executive during business travel.
  • Keep scrupulous records of your expenses.
  • Keep luggage light. Don't expect anyone else to carry it for you.
  • Allow for travel fatigue. Plan to arrive early and leave time to rest.
  • When traveling on business, dress as though you were going to the office.
  • If traveling overseas, learn how to say “please” and “thank you” in that country's native language. Apologize for your lack of proficiency in your host's native language. Be courteous and respectful at all times and never do anything that would offend your host's pride. Show appreciation for the culture, music, and art of the country you are visiting. Learn the business and social customs of the culture of the people with whom you will be doing business. Scrupulously respect your host's dietary customs, holidays, religion, and form of government. Don't make comparisons unless asked, and even then, not in a judgmental way.

Lunch and Dinner