Looking back in the early days of my career, there are several things I wish I’d known. Now that I’m the CMO of Leyard’s international business and vice president of marketing and product strategy at Planar, I’m sharing lessons that would have been helpful when I started my career, in hopes they will help recent graduates as they enter the professional workforce.

In most professional environments, email is the most commonly used communication tool. While you have likely used personal email for many years, there are different protocols in the work place.  These 10 guidelines will help ensure you are communicating what you want to communicate and how your message is being received.

1. Never use email to criticise or gossip

Never say something on email that you don’t want printed and put on the company bulletin board.  Never gossip or take a harsh tone in email. Assume every email will be read by more than the recipient – before you hit send, would you be comfortable sending it to everyone in the company?

2. Never use email to discuss a heated or controversial topic.

Because you can’t read an email and determine the intended tone, it is not a good medium for discussing sensitive things, being sarcastic or delivering feedback. A good rule of thumb is that if there are more than 3 replies in the thread, it is best to take the conversation off-line to a meeting (in person or at least on the phone).  You can reply to the thread saying, “It looks like this topic is a good one for us to discuss further.  I suggest that we don’t continue in email, but rather schedule a call or meeting.  How would tomorrow at 3 PM look for you?”  Plus, a measured response demonstrates maturity and self-control, which are always good in the workplace.

3. Use proper language and full sentences

Do not use text slang (do not use LOL, BRB or the number 2 in place of “to” or “too”). In some offices, using this shorthand in messaging applications (like Lync or Skype or WeChat) is okay, but not in email.  By using proper grammar and spelling, you are showing that you are professional, intelligent and do not take unnecessary shortcuts.

4. Respond to every email

Unless it says that no response is necessary, reply to all emails addressed to you.  It can be with an answer or with more questions.  It can be with a simple “thank you” or a message of completion to a project request.  If you want to acknowledge the email, but don’t yet have the answer or have anything to report, reply back saying when you will respond.   “I wanted to say that I got this request and have begun work on it.  I expect to be done on Tuesday and will let you know when it is complete.”  Keeping it short is fine, and often preferred.  Responding to emails is a way to make and keep commitments while building trust.

5. Set your out of office when you are away

When you are on vacation, travelling for business, or even away from your desk in meetings (if they last longer than when people would expect a reply from you, which varies by job and person), set your out of office message.  Most email programs allow you to set your out of office for a particular time and deliver different messages to internal and external parties.  Keep it short and professional.  Say how long you will be out of the office.  Tell them you will get to their message as soon as you can, but they should expect delays.  Offer them an alternative contact for immediate assistance, if one is available. Never disclose personal information in an out-of-office intended for external parties (i.e., “I’ll be partying on the beach in Miami for Spring Break”).

6. How to use the To: line: strategically

If you want someone to take action or the email is addressed to them, put them in the TO line.  Most emails should be to one person or to a small group where all of the roles are clear and be sure to clarify who you need to respond to which aspects. For example: “Kevin, I am copying you so that you can help me estimate the costs. Gary, can you help me greet our guests at 2 PM tomorrow?”

7. How to use the CC: line: judiciously

Include people in the CC if they need to be aware of the discussion, but are not active participants.  If you are sharing good news or a compliment, feel free to copy in that person’s manager.  Avoid the temptation to copy the world in on emails, especially if the content is bad or difficult. (And remember it’s often better to handle difficult news in person rather than over email.)

8. How to use the BCC line: carefully

Blind carbon copies are often used to complain or as a way to “cover your tracks”.  My advice is to be honest and do not use it to be sneaky. In general, I don’t think it is a good form of communication and I don’t use it.  The times BCC is acceptable is sending company-wide email to avoid unnecessary reply-alls, or if someone introduces to you to someone else via email. For example, a good use of BCC would be if Bill thinks you should know Sue and sends an email suggesting you have coffee sometime with Sue. You can move Bill to BCC to thank him for the introduction (telling him you are moving him to the BCC), then remove him from the conversation you and Sue as you figure out when to schedule the coffee.

9. How to use “reply to all”: rarely

Replying to all is rarely a good idea.  It clogs up emails and makes people look like amateur communicators. The exception to this is when someone is trying to schedule a meeting or brainstorming to build upon each other’s ideas. But even then there are better ways, such as using the busy/available tool in the calendar.

10. Don’t forget how to write a letter

I like to send hand-written notes.  It is bit old-fashioned, I know, but because it is rare, the gesture is genuinely appreciated.   I have gotten thank you calls and emails from folks who received a thank you note and felt compelled to respond.  It is a great way to build relationships.

 

Jennifer Davis is a senior executive, industry presenter, business leader, mentor and volunteer. She is the vice president of marketing and product strategy for Planar Systems, a global leader in display and digital signage technology. More information about Jennifer is available at her website: http://atjenniferdavis.com/#homeinfo


Many employees and entrepreneurs overlook the importance of business etiquette skills in today’s business world.

These people often imagine business etiquette skills are out-of-date, stuffy, too traditional, and not applicable to modern life.

Yet, how often do you hear people complain they don’t know how to start or continue a conversation? How often do you hear people complain they always forget names? How often do you search for information on how to appear more confident?

After diving deep into this field for the last few years, and complementing it with research from psychology, behavioural science, and leadership, I’ve realised that beyond education and beyond experience, it’s a solid grasp of business etiquette skills that increases the level of success you reach in life.

For two people with a comparable level of education and skill, what separates them when it comes to success is their ability to connect with others, engage in conversation and communicate their true potential to decision makers. In other words, what separates these two people and determines their success is their level of social skill in business.

I want to share with you five compelling reasons why business etiquette skills are the key to success.

  1. We still have to deal with people

In business, we still have to deal with people. Whether we spend our workday communicating via e-mail, social media or face-to-face, in every circumstance, we’re still dealing with people. Yes, there’s a real person opening your e-mails and reacting to your messages. Regardless of whether you’re meeting people face-to-face in a conference room or exchanging e-mails while working at your local cafe, it’s critical you nurture and look after your professional reputation, especially if you want to project the right impression and succeed in business. Business etiquette has changed with the times and skills in this area can help you manage your professional relationships both online and offline.

For two people with a comparable level of education and skill, what separates them when it comes to success is their ability to connect with others, engage in conversation and communicate their true potential to decision makers. In other words, what separates these two people and determines their success is their level of social skill in business.

  1. It helps you interact with others with predictability

When people work together in a team, they need to be able to trust one another and know what to expect from one another in order for them to work together efficiently and effectively. When all members of a team share the same expectations of each other and operate by the same code, it creates an environment of predictability. Business etiquette builds this common understanding, and hence, predictability. It provides a guideline for business interactions that every person in a team recognises and operates by. At the personal level, this allows people to understand each other and be understood. At the company level, this allows the team to work better together and ultimately produce better results for the organisation.

  1. It helps you build the know, like, and trust factor

The know, like, and trust factor is paramount to everything you do in business. People would rather work with somebody they know, like and trust rather than somebody they don’t. However, building the know, like and trust factor doesn’t come naturally. It requires a solid understanding of how people work. This is where skills in business etiquette become important. They will help you understand how people work so you can build better connections with your coworkers and boss, stronger relationships with your clients, and ultimately faster and greater business success.

business etiquette kara ronin

  1. It breeds confidence in business and social situations

Business etiquette and social skills guide you to know what to do and how to interact with others in business and social situations. You might be unsure of simple things such as where to put somebody’s business card when you receive it. Or it might be something more advanced, such as how to make somebody walk away from a conversation feeling like the most important person in the room. Whatever level of interpersonal skill you’re aiming for, business etiquette training can ease the uncertainty and replace it with decisiveness and direction.

  1. It enhances employability, productivity, and career success.

According to research conducted by Johnson & Johnson (1999), “social skills enhance employability, productivity, and career success”. How? Because these skills help you to lead people, approach complex situations in an intelligent manner, and solve work-related problems or misunderstandings. What employer wouldn’t want an employee who can do all of this?

Business etiquette is an area of expertise that I’m passionate about because it has helped me both in my career and in my business. If you’ve ever wondered why you’re not achieving the success you desire or think you deserve, perhaps it’s a lack of business etiquette or social skills that are hindering your success. I hope this article has convinced you that these skills are not out-of-date and they are in fact the key to your business success.

 

kara roninKara Ronin is the founder of Executive Impressions and an international business etiquette expert. Kara has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise support for an ambitious video course that aims to move overpriced and out-of-date business etiquette training to more affordable and modern online learning. Please find out more and support Kara in her Kickstarter campaign.

 

Offer: Kara is offering a 45% discount on the expected retail price of her upcoming video course, Business Etiquette 101: Social Skills for Professional Success, when you pledge through her Kickstarter campaign.

business etiquette kara ronin


Office politics despite its often negative reputation is an important part of company life. It’s all about being aware of various workplace relationships, methods of communication and how to be influential within the mix. Social networking is often necessary to be successful in your role.

The key is to be diplomatic and respectful at all times, maintain good ethics, try to avoid gossip and whatever you do , don’t get personal. No matter how close you become with certain colleagues, it’s important to remember you are still in a working environment. Use your knowledge of office politics to build relationships with those who can help you develop your career. Gain an understanding of how influential people work and what their motives are, this will help you to get on their good side.

Networking and social occasions – how to do it right

As so many of us are working increasingly longer hours, adding additional time to the end of a long week with social events can often feel like more of a burden than a benefit. However, work drinks and other social events can provide a great opportunity to network and get to know your colleagues outside your regular environment. This can help foster stronger professional relationships, and can help you work more efficiently through an increased understanding of the different personalities in the office.Maintain good ethics, try to avoid gossip and whatever you do – don’t get personal

It’s vital to remember your behaviour at these social gatherings doesn’t go unnoticed, so don’t act inappropriately as it can impact the way your manager and colleagues perceive you at the office the next day. Drunken behaviour will stir gossip and could impede your career progression, so it’s best to keep a good balance. Make the effort when you can to go along, have a laugh, meet new colleagues, but don’t go crazy!

Kellie Rigg

Kellie Rigg is the Operations Director of HR Consulting at Randstad. Randstad is a Global Fortune 500 Company and one of the world’s largest recruitment & HR services providers. The Randstad Group employs over 570,000 people with the aim of ‘shaping the world of work’. Randstad is passionate about matching people with organisations that will develop their potential and matching organisations with people that will take their business to the next level. Visit www.randstad.com.au for further information.

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