Business Etiquette in the Workplace: Tips for Leaders
Rules of etiquette govern virtually all social situations. Effective business leaders understand that they set the tone for “proper behavior” in the workplace. How well they do so can affect morale and productivity more than any other action.
Here are some tips for being a role model:
- Make yourself visible. Staying at your desk with your office door closed sends one message: “Leave me alone.” Instead, get out and about as much as possible. Talk with employees where they work. Make people comfortable with your presence. How well do you know the people who work for you? As part of your “visibility campaign,” take a few minutes to exchange small talk. It doesn’t matter what the topic is. Merely chatting about the weather, a family picnic, or the joys of coaching a Little League team connects you with your employees.
- Avoid gossip. Small talk does not mean sharing tidbits from your personal life. Nothing good comes from exchanging gossip about money or relationships or office politics. You’re not “one of the gang,” nor should you strive to be.
- Stick to your schedule. As busy as you are, it’s easy to put off a scheduled meeting with an employee until another time. Although things do come up unexpectedly, try to the best of your ability not to get into a “rescheduling loop” wherein the meeting keeps getting put off. This communicates a lack of respect for the people who work for you.
- Be truthful. Employees have a sixth sense for when the boss is being evasive or less than truthful. Be as honest as possible in all of your interactions, so that people will trust your word.
- Walk the walk. As the leader, you’re judged as much by what you do as by what you say. (In fact, if those behaviors are consistently at odds with one another, your leadership effectiveness will be seriously compromised.) Be engaged and fully committed to your actions every day. Model the qualities you want to see in others.
- Share your passion. Enthusiasm is contagious. When you display passion for the business, people respond in kind. They want to know that what they’re doing helps grow the business you feel so passionately about — particularly if you frequently show gratitude for their efforts.
- Don’t skimp on praise. It’s a simple equation: Praise employees for a job well done and they will likely feel compelled to do even better next time; hold back praise and employees will likely feel discouraged and unmotivated.
- Be positive, no matter what. Obstacles and challenges spring up all the time, but a true leader doesn’t let his or her mood reflect doubts or pessimism. Employees look to you for a positive, upbeat attitude. Even when you find it hardest to smile, demonstrate your optimism and excitement for the work ahead.
- Celebrate achievements and routine jobs. Recognize employees who go above and beyond the call of duty and whose outstanding contributions are helping to grow the business. At the same time, let people know you appreciate the everyday work they do, too. Celebrate closing a big sale or meeting a team deadline. No one should feel as if they’re stuck in a thankless job.
The bottom line: Pay attention to how you conduct yourself at your place of business. The people who work for you will follow your lead — and mirror the tone you set, for better or worse.
Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer specializing in the challenges and opportunities facing small business. He is former Senior Writer at Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs.