Thursday, June 12, 2008

Business Etiquette

This week my editor, Amanda Charney, and I attended the annual conference for the Society of National Association Publications. One of the featured speakers at the event was Peggy Post, great-granddaughter-in-law of Emily Post, the 20th century etiquette guru.

Though she is a well-documented expert in all forms of etiquette (which some would say is a dying—or dead—art), for her speech Tuesday Peggy focused specifically on etiquette at the workplace. Here are a few of her tips for building better relationships on the job:

—Be on time and meet your commitments
—Take responsibility for your mistakes: apologize and have a solution
—Be prepared
—Know your actions outside of work affect you and your organization

For that last one, Peggy told a story about a person who was cut off while driving to a business meeting. The person made a, er, rude gesture at the offending driver; but when the businessman reached his destination, he realized his meeting was actually with the rude driver. Ouch. That's an uncomfortable handshake (hmm, where have I seen that finger before …).

In 2005, Peggy and her husband, Peter Post, published a compendium entitled "The Etiquette Advantage in Business (Second Edition)." I picked up a copy at the conference and have been amazed at the breadth of tips contained within, and that's only after flipping through a few pages. It seems to cover every conceivable social situation relating to work—both inside and outside of the office. A quick glance reveals topics such as:

—Correct business attire and grooming
—Manners for the workspace (be it office or cubicle)
—Table manners and tips for surviving other business-related social gatherings
—How to behave when traveling (both en route and once you arrive)
—Proper electronic communication

That's just a small taste of a 350-page hardback volume that gets down to the tiniest details—like if it's appropriate to kiss a colleague on the cheek or whether it's OK to shave or put on makeup in the office restroom.

All in all, it seems like a fascinating reference book that I'll return to many times throughout my career, in hopes of avoiding awkward business situations in the future. I wonder if there's something in there for what to do when you lock yourself out of your Hong Kong hotel room at 7 in the morning wearing only what you slept in the night before and the housekeeper tells you you have to go all the way down to the gorgeous lobby and most likely run into colleagues in your bare feet … yeah, could have used that three summers ago …

Anyway, if you'd like more information on all things etiquette, visit the official Emily Post web site here. And here is more information about this book.

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