Business Communication: The Five Zones of Professional Etiquette

Etiquette in today’s business environment can be a confusing subject, with differing expectations and evolving norms of behavior. This video will help you make positive choices in five distinct areas:

– In the workplace
– Online
– On the phone
– In social settings
– And while using mobile devices

You might be asking yourself if etiquette is worth your time and attention. After all, etiquette sounds a bit fussy, like which fork to use at the dinner table, and maybe even old-fashioned in today’s fast-paced business world.

However, professional etiquette is really just another way of saying respect—that you respect the people around you and respect the culture in which you work.

Poor etiquette is a barrier to successful communication and can undermine business relationships.

How others view you as a professional depends to a large degree on your attention to etiquette. No matter how talented or innovative you are, the impression you leave behind depends on how well you treat others.

No one wants to work with rude or embarrassing people, and poor etiquette can destroy the morale of any workplace.

Digital devices and constant connectivity can make matters worse by depersonalizing communication, so etiquette is more important than ever.

Respect other people’s time, such as showing up for work and meetings on time.

During meetings and conversations, don’t interrupt, even if you need to correct someone.

Coarse language and profanity have become more common on social media, but articulate professionals don’t need profanity to make a point.

Dress appropriately and practice good personal hygiene. Office cultures vary from formal to casual; when in doubt, dress a little more formally or modestly.

Respect personal space. Knock before entering offices, and don’t barge into someone’s cubicle without being invited.

Don’t gossip. It’s a waste of time and often disrespectful to others.

Be mindful of noise levels, particularly in open-plan offices.

Lastly, keep politics and other volatile topics out of the workplace.

When you connect online with colleagues or customers, or whenever you represent your company online in social media, take care to overcome the limitations and risks of digital media.

Avoid personal attacks. Don’t write anything online that you wouldn’t say to someone in person.

On social media and in email or other communication, don’t hijack threads by taking over a conversation someone else started.

To avoid confusion, follow the basic expectations of spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.

Practice safe digital hygiene to avoid infecting your company’s systems with malware. Keep virus protection and operating systems up to date, and don’t click on suspicious links or open files from unknown senders.

Don’t share inappropriate material, whether it’s jokes, photos, or anything else that doesn’t belong in the workplace.

And finally, remember that digital is forever. Anything you write or post can be sent far beyond your original audience and will likely be saved in an archive somewhere.

Learn about the remaining three zones by watching this video.

Note: A student version of this video is available:

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