While most workplaces have adapted more casual practices toward acceptable behavior and rules, impeccable manners still matter, especially for those professionals whom focus on upward mobility and promotion.
Regardless if you are at the beginning of a career or have clocked years in the professional world, it can still be challenging to recognize what the acceptable dress code is – and, it is not t-shirts, shorts and flip flops, by any stretch of the imagination. How you present yourself, your clothes, your posture, your nonverbal communications (facial gestures, eye contact, what you do with your hands, etc.), how you style your hair…it all really does matter to employers and directly impacts how you are perceived and ultimately, how your professional reputation is formed, positively or negatively.
Below I’ve outlined just a few key communication skills, which dramatically affect business etiquette behavior.
First Things First
Professional etiquette is quite simple. The first step is to understand the innate difference between business and social etiquette – business etiquette is genderless. Today, for example, holding the door open for a woman is no longer necessary in the workplace. In fact, it could even be construed as offensive to your female co-workers. The key is remembering that in the workplace, men and women are equals, peers.
What Are You Saying?
As we all know, first impressions are lasting and there is not a second chance to elicit a first favorable impression. And, you never need to open your mouth.
What does how you stand say about you? Some women make themselves “smaller” in conversation with men, according to some studies. They do this by crossing their ankles when standing, drawing in their shoulders … essentially “shrinking” their space.
Ladies, check the amount of personal space you take the next time you engage with your practice group leader or someone on your firm’s management team. A healthy personal “space” is your feet standing parallel to your hips. This stance exudes confidence and is often referred to as the “power pose”.
The Eyes Have It
People want to feel special. They want you to speak directly to them. During a conversation, they want to feel like in that moment they are the most important person in the room.
How many times have you engaged someone only for him/her to look around you (behind you, beside you, around you) but never settle on maintaining eye contact? You don’t want to be that person whom is creating that same feeling for someone else. It takes practice and confidence, but the power of establishing and maintaining eye contact is like similar to connecting with someone’s soul. Very powerful.
Mother Was Right – aka Stand Up Straight
I am often astonished at how many millennials slouch and have rounded shoulders. Of all the non-verbal communications skills, presenting a confident appearance and image hinges upon standing up straight. To do otherwise conveys a negative message that “I don’t matter”; “I really don’t want to be here”; “I’m not interested in what you are saying”.
Develop the positive habit to check your posture each time you pass by a mirror. You may be shocked at what you see. Stand up straight, already.
My Personal Favorite – the Mumbling Moe
Maybe it’s a function of the digital age, but I have noticed a lack of proper enunciation and/or the tendency to drift off toward the end of a sentence. This demonstrates that either (1) you don’t care about what you are saying or (2) you don’t care about the person with whom you are speaking. Either way, this behavior does not make a positive impression. Be mindful not only of what you are saying, but of HOW you are speaking. Speak to be heard.
Each of these business communications etiquette skills require a conscious effort to pay attention to how you present yourself. You’ve worked hard to arrive at your specific professional station. Take pride in the professional reputation you are developing by minding your manners to mine your career.