Smart Business Owners Understand the Importance of Minding Their Ps & Qs

Editor’s Note: This essay originally ran in June 2014. We reprint it here today in recognition of Take Your Manners to Work Day. The advice is just as sound and important today as it was in 2014 because good manners never go out of style!

People often make fun of me because I’m a stickler for etiquette. Whether it’s using the right utensils at a meal or writing a thank you note for a gift. Sometimes people say to me, “Oh, no one pays attention to that stuff anymore.” Really?

Good manners simply make good business sense. Courtesy and respect will never go out-of-style. Just last week, a delivery service dropped off a box of scrumptious cookies with a handwritten thank you note from a business colleague for whom I’d done a favor. I was so impressed. Too many of us don’t take time to do those things anymore. Text or email isn’t the same as a handwritten note.

And don’t get me started on table manners. I try to help some of my young family members learn basic table manners such as to putting your napkin in your lap when you’re seated, how to choose the right bread plate, and how you don’t cut your roll in half and cram butter in the middle. Geez! Yet as I try to teach them, I see adults at business luncheons making as many, if not more of the same mistakes.

When I was Miss Missouri, I sat next to the editor of a newspaper who subsequently wrote a editorial piece about me. In his article he noted, “Even her table manners are impeccable.” People do notice.

By now you may be wondering why I’m on my soap box. Well this week is National Business Etiquette Week. So here are a few tips to help you navigate today’s sometimes blurry business etiquette rules.

  • Mobile Devices. Turn off your mobile devices when you’re dining with others or in a meeting. Unless there is a pending emergency, everything can wait until you’re through. Focus on the person you’re with, not your digital device.
  • Respect Time. One of my pet peeves is when someone is habitually late or cancels a meeting at the very last minute. There are always exceptions, but too often it is carelessness. I was working with a woman who canceled a scheduled meeting three times in a row less than 30 minutes before. As a result, I was left with a hole in my schedule that I could have used productively. Needless to say, we aren’t doing business any longer.
  • Brush Up On Your Manners. You don’t need to be Emily Post, but good table manners are important. Sloppy manners are an indicator of your character and professionalism. Many companies take job candidates to lunch to observe their behavior. Plus, bad manners make others feel uncomfortable.
  • Don’t be a Weiner. I’m talking about Anthony Weiner, the former Congressman who was caught Tweeting inappropriate pictures of himself to women. Social media, the Internet, email, text messages – nothing is private so don’t kid yourself. If you don’t want the world to know, don’t put it in a written communication. You never know who is watching. Even lenders monitor social media to get a sense of your character when considering loan applications.
  • Watch Your Tongue. Collaboration is important in today’s business world, but there are etiquette rules here too. Don’t dominate the conversation. Listening is a virtue. Additionally, don’t be the negative Nellie. If you see a red flag, try to point it out in a constructive way.
  • “Thank You” is Powerful. When someone does something nice, show your gratitude. Everyone is busy, but taking a few minutes to write a quick note will go along way in building a strong relationship. Such a simple thing speaks volumes about you as a professional and builds credibility.

There are many more topics I could cover, but I’ve preaches enough for one day. Rest assured, we all make mistakes. However, don’t let those mistakes become your mode of operation. Enhance your chances for success and learn to mind your Ps and Qs.

Image: Good Manners by Sharon Sinclair, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.