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By: Michael Griffiths
Surviving in business is not simply a matter of being good in business. You need to follow rules that will directly affect how you are perceived by associates. Reputation is your foundation, and it affects how well clients, as well as other business owners, trust you.

In order to give a good first (and lasting) impression, one must learn the proper business etiquette - or the set of written and unwritten rules of conduct that make social interactions run more smoothly. This includes knowing how to deal with people, how to act in awkward situations, and how to save one's self from embarrassment in adversity. Here are some guidelines in ensuring that you always have your best foot forward in any business:

All people need respect. They don't need to demand for it. It is not only the business owner which makes up the entire workforce - there are subordinates who are just as important (and sensitive) as the ones higher in the hierarchy. Treat secretaries and even janitors with respect. They help the boss get things done. How often have we heard horror stories of un-relayed information because the information was delivered by a very rude and overbearing big shot? Isn't it great to get action because people respect you - and not because they fear you?

When meeting people, keep mental notes. Nothing is more awkward than forgetting someone's name - or worse, calling someone by some other name! Try to remember if they even mentioned in past meetings if they love golf, or have twin children. Depth of information is important in business.

Also, there are some cultures which put a premium on titles and rank. Unless someone introduces himself by his first name, don't take liberties calling him "John." Call him "Mr.Yamaguchi," to be safe. It's up to him to mention to you if he prefers to be called otherwise. Asians, most especially want to be called "Doctor" or "Attorney."

Bottonline is - respect people. Make them feel important. Remember things about them that make them feel important (especially birthdays, etc.).

Respect among peers. This is a touchy subject, since it is much easier to be nice and respectful to people who are higher in rank. The safest recommendation is to be courteous to everyone - whether they be a boss, superior, a subordinate or assistant. A lot of businesses fail in terms of inter-personal relationships among staff, because employees don't treat all people in the company equally. Remember that word of your "nastiness" goes around the circle too.

Superiors. It's much easier to be nice to your boss, because your career lies on your relationship with him. But remember that you are only required to keep him abreast of all relevant developments in the company within your responsibility. You are not expected to be friends with him, nor update him about petty things happening in the workplace. But DO keep him updated on developments about your responsibilities - whether good or bad. Never ever surprise your boss, or pin him down to a corner. Try to filter out damaging information before it reaches your superior. Be discerning… and always speak well of your boss. It not only makes you feel good, you will look good, too in the eyes of your associates.

International Etiquette. Especially when dealing with people outside your country, research about customs, traditions, basic etiquette, holidays, language and most especially religion. Don't keep on referring to God, when you are speaking with someone who believes in Allah. Don't require contacts to respond to your email id you know it's a National non-working Holiday in the country where your respondent is. Don't insist that visitors from Asian countries eat with a fork and knife, when you should know that they use either spoon or chopsticks. All of these factors help leave a negative impression so avoid them at all costs - or risk losing business with them.

Be conscious of your attire. If you're going out to a business lunch, leave the cocktail dress with the plunging neckline and thigh-high skirt at home. Your manner of dressing reflects your character. You must be the best advertisement for your company. Iron your clothes, shave the 5-oclock shadow, keep your hair neat and wear clean and appropriate footwear. Also, pay attention to how you smell, because all the best clothes cannot mask an unpleasant odor. It is human nature to want to deal with the man in a coat and tie, as opposed to the knowledgeable but scruffy man dressed in a t-shirt and jeans.

Meetings, phone calls, emails. Always arrive early for meetings. You will have time to brush up on your presentation, plus you also have time to relax before stating your proposals. Be ready with the proper collaterals like business cards, hand-outs, reference materials.

Always be courteous on the phone. No matter how neck-deep you are in work, remember that the phone is one of the ways the outside world and some interested clients can have access to your company. Your tone must always be pleasant yet business-like. That 1 minute call has the power to turn a potential profit into nothing.

On emails, don't be demanding. Try to avoid forwarding a long letter to 20 or more respondents. It makes the entire message appear like a tagging game or a spam, and that sending the mail to the receiver is just an afterthought. Never ever USE ALL CAPS WHEN EAMILING BECAUSE IT MAKES MESSAGE APPEAR HARSH. Right?

Give credit where credit is due. Never forget to thank everyone for their efforts. There is nothing more disheartening than being a loyal worker who is never thanked enough for the success he brings to the company. Even if you are grateful, if you don't express it, your gratitude is useless. Thanking people encourages them to do better. This is another way you can get loyalty and concern from your employees.

It doesn't really hurt to apply business ethics around the workplace. It's your capital on your reputation. Human nature dictates that 10 successes can be nullified by one bad error in judgment - it damages your character and how you are perceived by the people around you. So always be at your best. People will appreciate you immensely for it.


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