Few things shout professionalism louder than clear, effective communication, both oral and written. Excelling at both is a requirement for impressive office etiquette.
Oral communication is more than remembering to speak clearly and correctly; it also includes good phone manners, which require you to remember three main things.
Record a pleasant, efficient, personalized outgoing message for your voicemail. No rap songs in the background, no children, and nothing too casual are acceptable if you want to project professionalism.
Answer calls within 24 hours, even if just to say you’ll get back to the person soon.
Ask before putting someone on speakerphone. Not doing so could be a recipe for disaster if someone else is within earshot.
Now let’s talk the basics of written communication: Be clear by being correct. Here are a few pointers in that department.
Beware spell check. Modern technology has made many things easier, but with communication, technology can be a double-edged sword. The spell checker that saves you in some cases can burn you in others; a computer can’t always tell the difference between there, they’re and their or its and it’s. They’re small words, but used incorrectly, their potential for professional damage is there. It’s too easy to get them right to settle for slapdash spelling and grammar.
Punctuation makes a point about the writer: Random (or missing) commas and apostrophes may be rampant today, but few things say more clearly that you slept through – or failed – Freshman Comp.
Emails and texts deserve care, too. Proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling are imperative for any formal writing (reports, presentations, etc.), but don’t be a slouch in the email or texting department either. Your boss or customers might not LOL at your abbreviations.
Speaking of email, though it may seem somewhat informal, email etiquette requires adherence to rules of its own:
Answer incoming email promptly. That doesn’t mean immediately, but don’t let unanswered emails linger in your inbox.
Answer professionally and politely. Never say something in an email that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. And don’t Reply All when only one person needs a response – that’s a sure way to annoy busy people.
Use the subject box to state clearly what the purpose of the email is. Not doing so is a good way to have your email languishing unopened. And it’s rude.
Consider the email to be a modernized letter. Properly address the recipient and use a closure. And remember, emails don’t leave a paper trail (unless someone prints them), but they do leave a trail. They’re subject to FOI requests and may show up in print – and they can be forwarded to anyone.
Never email (or text) during a meeting. In fact, put your phone away.
The last point about emails brings us to the last topic on office etiquette: how to handle meetings. Chances are, you’ll attend plenty in your professional life. How you handle them can determine how long that professional life is.
Don’t arrive more than five minutes early. Being too early can be almost as rude as being late.
Never be late. Period.
Don’t interrupt people. Bad habits die hard, so don’t even start this one. Or nip it now if you know you’re prone to impulsivity.
Don’t act confrontationally. Even if you’re angry, a meeting is not the place to show it.
Politely explain why you must leave if a meeting runs long and you have to be somewhere else. Make sure what you say is true – and understand that the value of where you need to be will likely be judged.
These office etiquette tips may serve as reminders of things you already know – I hope so. If they’re news to you, read and heed so you can succeed.
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