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Workplace Etiquette

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Submitted By erday
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Running head: Workplace Etiquette

Workplace Etiquette: Is our system broken

The lack of workplace and office etiquette has plagued organizations of various sizes for several decades now. In fact, rude and inappropriate behavior has become a common problem in today’s business environment. I believe much of our problems have come from the fast-paced high-technology age we now live in, which has become a gift and a curse. This paper will attempt to examine the term workplace etiquette and the many social and official levels which the term encompasses.

Workplace Etiquette: Is our system broken Workplace etiquette covers a wide range of topics in today’s business environment. Business leaders are expected to fully understand office and business etiquette, email etiquette, international etiquette, etiquette utilized in dining, etiquette utilized in business meeting and etiquette used with contacts outside of an office setting, just to name a few. Additionally business leaders must comprehend the value of diversity and understand cultural differences. Workplace etiquette can range from how to conduct yourself in the workplace, to how early to arrive for a business appointment, to the appropriate way to utilize email. First, I would like to take a closer look at office etiquette. Office Etiquette is basically minding your manners in the workplace. It can also be defined as the “showing of respect to others who share the same workspace as well as being respectful to others as they work and perform their tasks” (Schmidle 2008). According to Sabath (1993), there are several areas that fall under office etiquette umbrella. These include “guest etiquette which governs how guests should be treated when they have been invited to your office. It also includes everything from how to conduct a meeting to how to conduct yourself in the work cafeteria.” Since every person's background and tolerance in the workplace are different, many businesses have opted to publish office etiquette guidelines to avoid any confusion and to make sure that everyone is on the same page when it come to office do’s and don’ts. Another area is business etiquette. “Business Etiquette is defined as the correct and proper way to conduct business in today’s corporate world. It can also be defined as the conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be observed in social or official life” (Etiquette, 2008). Sabath (2007) notes that there are “12 surefire strategies for mastering the unwritten rules of business success. They are as follows:
1. Don’t be on time – Be early!
2. Underpromise, then overdeliver
3. Be greeting – Savvy
4. Think before you speak
5. Make the connection
6. Dress for the position you want, not for the one you have
7. Know when to choose traditional business attire
8. Make your accessories count
9. Follow proper meeting protocol
10. Make voice mail work for you
11. Follow e-mail etiquette
12. Put your best foot forward” (p. 53-58) In the above rules, Sabath (2007) notes such things as, “if you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, you’re often out of luck; also slang is distracting and detracts from the message being conveyed; in addition, dress for success and how to conduct yourself in a meeting” (p.53) . Sabath (2007) further highlights “two ways to grow client relationships by focusing first on the person and then the matter at hand. One of the most powerful ways for displaying your sincere interest in clients is to ask more questions than you share about yourself. Next, the second way to establishing rapport with clients is to begin a meeting by posing a question related to a topic of interest that the person mentioned to you during your last conversation” (p. 54). This sort of attention to detail shows you are focused on the client’s needs and will go a long way to building a strong business relationship. As technology has advanced, email has become the main form of communication in many business organizations. Email Etiquette is a key element of business etiquette and it is “defined as the correct and proper way to send email in the business environment” (Stanley, 2008, p. 17). It can also be defined as the appropriate way to utilize email. In fact, today “email interactions are more common in many organizations than face to face or telephone interaction” (Stanley, 2008, p. 16). But I would actually like to take that one step further and say, that in today’s business environment email is probably more common than face to face and telephone interaction combined. Especially since the addition of the text message which is simply another form of email communication. You cannot walk down the street of any major city and not see at least 50% of the population emailing or texting someone. But there are several do’s and don’ts when sending email in the business environment. When sending an email “first, open with a warm greeting; next, make sure internal email messages are as professional as the ones sent to clients because you never know when one will be forwarded to an individual outside of the organization; next, put your best message forward (grammar check and spell check do wonders to professionalize an email message, never use uppercase unless you are yelling and remember quality and tone in your email are essential elements); and last but not least, less in more (always try to respond to answer all questions in one email)” (Sabath, 2007, p. 56-57). “Another problem area with email is redundancy. From time to time, the redundancy plague infects even the best writers. It seems all of us want to make our point so badly that we repeat ourselves frequently” (Stanley, 2008, p. 16). In fact, “redundancy can lead to another problem area, long, drawn-out email. User of email should keep emails short and concise. They should avoid long complex sentences as they can be misunderstood sometimes” (Stanley, 2008, p. 17) “I realized after reading all of these email protocol rules it may seem that using email is bad, however, the answer is just the opposite” (Stanley, 2008, p. 18). “When used properly, email provides a quick response mechanism essential in today’s fast-paced business environment. But just like with virtually everything, there are rules and standards that must be followed” (Stanley, 2008, p. 16). With the expansion of global market over the last few decades, business etiquette has had to adjust to the international marketplace. What’s appropriate in one culture maybe absolutely inappropriate in another. Knowing how to conduct oneself in an international business environment is probably more important than domestically and speaking the language is essential. As someone who has lived abroad five of the last six years, I can tell you from experience, overcoming the language barrier can be very frustrating. But as I have traveled the world, I have learned that English is basically spoken everywhere. I have found myself lost in mainland Japan and been able to find someone who spoke English very well, try being lost in the United States and find someone who speaks Japanese. I would venture to say, you would most likely be lost for a very long time. But in order to be successful in a global environment business leaders as well as their employees must have at least a basic knowledge of other languages and be culturally sensitive. Understanding and valuing diversity goes a long way to accomplishing this task. So just what is diversity? Diversity is defined as “the inclusion of diverse people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization” (Merriam-Webster, 2010). “Workplace diversity is viewed as a people issue, focused on the differences and similarities that people bring to an organization” (Schmidle, 2008). It is also “learning from others who are not the same, about dignity and respect for all, and about creating workplace environments and practices that encourage learning from others and capture the advantage of diverse perspectives” (Schmidle, 2008) “It can also be referred to as the variety of differences between people in an organization which encompasses race, gender, ethnic group, age, personality, cognitive style, tenure, organizational function, education and background. I believe diversity in the workplace is a very good thing. However, remember, “new names, new faces and new leaders can immediately change the entire dynamic of any office environment so it is important for office managers to pay close attention” (Schmidle, 2008). “Problems arise because many leaders believe workplace diversity is simply race or gender based, however, it goes well beyond that. Workplace diversity must focus on inclusion of all people; regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and disabilities” (Sabath, 2007). In fact, “valuing diversity in the business world today mean creating a workplace that respects differences, recognizes individual contributions and creates a work environment that maximizes the potential of all employees” (Kent, 2008). As a result, “many companies are now linking workplace diversity to their strategic goals and objectives and holding management accountable for results” (Sabath, 2007). Thus, “workplace diversity is now seen as a necessary resource to gain a competitive advantage. This competitive advantage allows companies to sell their goods and services to diverse consumers all around the world” (Sabath, 2007). “But the bottom line for any profitable company is still money and as the business environment continues to expand and become more diverse, successful companies interested in maximizing profits will continue to adjust their workforce to reflect the diverse background of their consumers and of society as a whole” (Kent, 2008). In the world of workplace etiquette there are several areas that must be observed and as you can see, etiquette in all its forms is an ever changing process that encompasses many different topics. In order to be successful, leaders must understand workplace and business etiquette in all its forms to ensure they do not offend their clients, employees and potential customers.


Sabath, A.M. (1993) Business etiquette in brief: The competitive edge for today’s professional. Holbrook, Massachusetts: Bob Adams Publishers.

Sabath, Ann Marie (2007) Workplace Etiquette: The unwritten Rules of Business Success. Wiley InterScience, p. 53-59. Retrieved from

Stanley, T. L. (2008) Email Etiquette, p. 16-18. Retrieved from e32b-4327-8b5c-ef177dfc6aab%40sessionmgr108

Schmidle, Deborah, (2008) Workplace Diversity, Catherwood Library, p. 1. Retrieved from

Kent, Phil (2008) Diversity is the Real Change. Vol. 138, Issue 36, p. 36. Retrieved from &db=bth&AN=34691431&site=bsi-live

Diversity. (2008). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved from

Etiquette. (2008). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved from

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