Five Essential Work Etiquette Rules

By Danielle Schlanger

In our hyper-connected, selfie-loving society, manners all too often take a backseat. We check our work emails at the tables of four-star restaurants. We have private phone conversations in doctors’ waiting rooms. We snap photos with abandon and overshare on social media.

Etiquette has arguably never been more important than in these times. But coinciding with changes in how we conduct our day-to-day lives, some of the rules have changed at work. We consulted with three of the nation’s top manners experts, Lisa Gaché, the founder and CEO of Beverly Hills Manners, Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, the founder and president of The Etiquette School of New York, and Lizzie Post, a great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and the co-author of Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition, on what every modern woman should know about work etiquette.

Keep work emails professional. While some people (ahem, millennials) may have started signing their work emails with xo, that’s definitely a no-no, according to Napier-Fitzpatrick. In fact, she says to treat every email like a business letter. “It’s better to be too formal rather than casual when you want to make a good impression,” she says. She also advises against using only lower-case letters, and says don’t forget to spell check and double-check grammar before you hit send.

Be careful with social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and now Snapchat are the new frontier, so everyone needs to tread carefully. “When it comes to social media manners, I always quote Ice Cube who so eloquently reminds us to ‘Check yo self before you wreck yo self,’” Gaché says. “Essentially, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want to come back and harm you.” This laundry list includes: controversial issues, political views, gossip, slander, insensitive remarks or off-color jokes. And be sure to set your privacy settings as high as possible, because, trust us — your employer (or potential future employer) will be watching.

“When it comes to social media manners, I always quote Ice Cube who so eloquently reminds us to ‘Check yo self before you wreck yo self,’” Gaché says.

Keep your phone stowed during meetings. While it can be hard to detach from your phone during meetings — especially if you’re waiting on an important call from a client or are a working mom who could get a call from your child’s school at any minute — it’s important to give your full attention to meetings. That doesn’t mean you can’t have your phone on you, just keep it hidden. “Any important incoming call may be glanced at from your lap in the vibration mode,” says Gaché. If you must take the call, “excuse yourself from the meeting, handle it and return quickly,” she adds.

Don’t be late for a meeting — but if you are… It is critical to communicate with whomever you’re meeting with that you are not going to make it on time. “You should call or text the person and absolutely let them know,” says Post. “Tell them I’m so sorry, and then give a realistic expectation of when you’re actually going to be there.” And the worst thing you can do is be even later than the new time you give them.

Do double duty on thank you notes. With the ultra-competitive job market, all our experts agree that it’s key to send a thank you email immediately after the interview and follow up with a handwritten note as well. “First of all, it demonstrates professionalism,” says Gaché. “Secondly, it will allow you to reiterate your interest in the job and convey any thoughts or ideas you may have missed during the interview. Most importantly, you’ll stand out because most applicants do not take the time to send a handwritten communication.”

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