The way that business happens has changed, especially in recent years. Global connectivity, video conferencing tools, and remote work options have moved many in-person interactions to the digital realm.
But the need for good manners continues. Below, we will discuss the evolution of etiquette in a digital world. You will learn the importance of respecting your coworkers, digital meeting etiquette, smiling, saying thank you, dressing appropriately, and how to turn down a job offer but keep the door open.
Manners and Etiquette – What Are They?
By definition, “etiquette is a set of rules dealing with exterior form” while “manners are an expression of inner character.” In other words, manners are how you behave toward others, and etiquette is the generally accepted framework or guiding principles that help you develop good manners.
Understanding office etiquette—and in turn practicing good manners—is important to making a good impression and advancing in your career.
Of course, the “rules” of etiquette have changed over time. You won’t be expected to behave as Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Below, we’ll discuss the types of manners relevant to the modern, connected world.
Respect Your Coworkers
Respect is the foundation of good relations at the workplace. You can show respect to your coworkers by not interrupting when they speak and being mindful of their time when scheduling meetings or having conversations. Don’t participate in gossip or disparaging others. And if you didn’t bring that yummy-looking lunch in the fridge, leave it alone.
Good Behavior at Digital Meetings
Many memes record the slip in etiquette that accompanied the rise of Zoom meetings, and the inevitable embarrassing situations that followed. Even if you believe your camera and microphone will be turned off, you should always do the following:
- Dress and groom yourself as if you were attending the meeting in person.
- Use an appropriate meeting space. You’re background doesn’t have to be a blank wall, but make sure it looks professional. Take steps to keep other household members, including children and pets, off-camera and from making noise.
- Don’t interrupt others when they are speaking, and mute your microphone when you are not speaking. This will prevent distracting background noises and potentially embarrassing personal comments.
- Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in the meeting room, like eating or performing household chores. Never take your device to the restroom with you.
Say Thank You
At certain times, a brief thank-you email is expected, and it can set you apart from others who do not fulfill this expectation. Always send thanks after a job interview or after asking for a recommendation letter.
And guess what? Even if you don’t get the job, your thanks may make you a happier person. Experts agree that a focus on gratitude can help you obtain contentment in your personal life.
Lend a Smile
Smiling is a form of nonverbal communication. It can be a friendly greeting, a source of encouragement to your coworkers, or, along with a nod, a signal of acknowledgment and understanding. On the other hand, refusal to smile can hinder workplace relationships.
Interestingly, smiling can be good for you, too, even if you don’t particularly feel like smiling. The physical contraction of the muscles sets off a chain reaction of brain chemicals that make us feel at ease.
Dress to Impress
Whether you’re making your first impression at an interview or it’s Casual Friday at the office, it is important to dress appropriately.
A good rule of thumb is to “dress for the job you want to have.” This mindset will help you avoid overly casual or sloppy attire. Make sure your clothes are clean and odor-free, even if your mode of work results in frequent stains.
Additionally, you always want to keep it professional, whether your career calls for coveralls, scrubs, a uniform, a suit, or something in between. Avoid clothes that are too tight, provocative, or revealing, as well as those that draw undue attention to yourself.
Say No Graciously
If offered a job you do not plan on accepting, don’t leave the employer hanging. Instead, send them a letter of rejection via email. Cite the job in question, and give a brief explanation such as “After considering all of my options, I’ve decided to accept a position with another firm” or “I have decided to stay with my current employer for the time being.”
Thank them for any time, consideration, or effort expended, and end the letter on a positive note. You never know when that networking connection may be useful in the future.
Business interchanges are taking place less often in person, moving to virtual meetings and emails. But good manners are still important for making a good impression and maintaining good relationships.
Be respectful of your coworkers, and treat virtual meetings as if you were there in person. Say thank you, smile, and dress appropriately. When you have to say no, do so graciously so as to leave the door open for positive future interactions.
Don’t forget – manners aren’t just for the benefit of others. Kind gestures such as smiling and saying thank you have positive health and social benefits for you, too!