Brush Up on Business Etiquette

By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

My more experienced clients sometimes confide in me how shocked they are by their junior designers’ lack of proper business etiquette. You could chalk it up to differences in age or generational values. It has occurred to me, though, that there might be more to it than that. If this is their first job in a design firm, they may not know any better. In that case, you need to explain to them the facts of business life.

Part of becoming a professional is learning how to conduct oneself in various business situations. The young designers I meet understand the importance of social etiquette. They have learned from an early age how to get along and tend to be friendly and respectful. While you need social skills to succeed in any profession, business etiquette has its own set of rules that must be learned and mastered. Even in today’s more casual business environment, a certain amount of formality and propriety is still required.

When onboarding new hires, take time to review with them your expectations regarding business etiquette. At minimum, you should discuss your firm’s policies on the following:

  • Punctuality – Arriving to work, meetings, installations, etc. on time is an essential trait of professionalism. Tardiness is not only disrespectful; it is a waste of others’ valuable time.
  • Dress – Clothing should be suitable to the workplace, not sports or leisure wear nor too revealing. For business meetings, dress should be more formal, in keeping with the client’s or business associate’s norms.
  • Communications – External emails and other forms of communication should be clear, coherent, contain sufficient detail to solicit or provide the needed response, and be free of informal slang, abbreviations, misspellings, grammatical errors, etc.
  • Technology – Maintain separate accounts for business and personal communications, data sharing, social networking, etc. Adhere to the firm’s policy on use of devices during meetings. Never put in writing something you would not want another coworker, client or business associate to see.
  • Meetings – Arrive on time and come prepared to contribute. Stay engaged and show respect when others are speaking and for differences of opinion. Participate but do not dominate the conversation.

Whether an inexperienced designer or a frazzled professional, it pays to be mindful of proper business etiquette. Like all good manners, it is most noticed when it’s not followed.

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