Business etiquette is a kind of code of conduct that describes appropriate behaviour and manners in any professional context. It is intended to give you guidance in new or critical situations to ensure that you always present yourself confidently and professionally. This involves a lot more than simply maintaining a smart appearance or arriving at meetings on time. We have summarised the most important manners for you below.
- Depending on the culture, interaction preferences can differ. Therefore, always observe your environment and try to respond to it. If you are planning a stay abroad or an intercultural meeting, it is important to familiarise yourself with the cultural customs of the other party. In particular, an appropriate greeting is crucial here.
When greeting people, you should always keep an appropriate distance from the other person. The most senior people are usually greeted first. If you are not sure about the order of precedence, start with the person who is closest to you, accompanied by the words "I'll start here". Be confident, friendly and open. If you and the other person do not know each other yet, introduce yourself with your full name and function. Stand up for the greeting, maintain eye contact with the other person and show interest. If you are handed a business card, study it with interest for a moment before carefully stowing it away in your wallet or documents.
- In German-speaking regions, the less formal "Du" is always offered by the higher-ranking person! If you are not sure how to address your counterpart, use the polite form of address.
Always remain polite and calm during the conversation. Don't let yourself become flustered even if faced with provocative questions or stressful situations, which will help you gain self-assurance. If a mishap occurs or you put your foot in your mouth despite good preparation, own up to it and apologise.
Another valued quality is helpfulness: be attentive to those around you and offer to help if you notice that someone might need it. However, this does not mean that you should force yourself on others or let others take advantage of you. Thus, make sure that you always get your own tasks done, as this shows reliability. Reliability is essential for your reputation and gaining people’s trust. Therefore, you should make sure to meet your deadlines, show up on time for meetings and be true to your word.
Nowadays, the mobile phone is mostly used for professional matters as well. However, this does not mean that you should pay constant attention to it. Especially when you are in a conversation or a meeting, your mobile phone belongs out of sight and is best put on silent. You should also only accept calls in very urgent cases, as this signals that the call is more important than the current conversation. If you know that you are expecting a very important call, it is best to inform the other person in advance.
- Make sure you choose a ringtone that is as unobtrusive as possible.
Be careful with compliments. While you can acknowledge professional achievements or strengths, a compliment that refers to the other person's appearance is inappropriate in a professional context.
When meeting clients, it is customary to meet them in person at the reception desk. Use a little small talk while you accompany the guest to the office or meeting room. Don't forget to offer them something to drink and, if possible, something to snack on. Also note that the guest should never be left alone, as this easily comes across as rude. After the meeting, always accompany the guest to the exit and bid them farewell.
If you are new to a company, find out in advance about the prevailing customs and the corporate culture. Pay attention to your environment, especially at the beginning, and ask if you are unsure about specific customs in the company.