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The Top Ten Business Etiquette Faux Pas

September 17, 2005
In the world of business, it's not what you do but how you do it. With one small gesture you can impress, insult, appear cultured and educated, or simply become a social outcast. In a competitive business environment whether you're looking for a job, a raise, negotiating a major deal, interacting with peers, or knocking on doors for customers you will be ultimately judged on how you conduct yourself.

Here's the top ten business etiquette faux pas that will keep you out of the executive suite and will land you on the "bush league" list. See how you stack up.

10) Wearing a digital or oversized watch with business attire.

9) Shaking hands without removing gloves.

8) If sitting, not getting up when introduced to, or shaking hands with a business associate.

7) Sending a FAX without a cover sheet.

6) Accepting someone's business card but not offering yours in exchange.

5) Offering a client an inexpensive plastic pen (under $20) to sign a deal worth thousands. If you're worried about losing, or someone accidentally pocketing your favourite pen, have your initials or name engraved on it. Engraved pens seem to stay with their owner longer!

4) Not responding to e-mail messages within 24 - 36 hours.

3) Calling people whose telephone numbers you obtained from your "Caller ID" service that didn't leave a voice mail message.

2) Having your mobile telephone ring during a meeting and making matters worse by taking the call.

1) Not leaving your telephone number on a voice mail message because you "know" the person has it.

Another sixteen fatal mistakes worthy of note are:

1) Men wearing lapel pins that have no significance if asked about them, how do you explain these things without appearing a bit green around the edges?

2) Wearing excessive jewelry (more than three rings, more than one lapel pin, a large chain and medallion, etc.) with business attire.

3) Wearing extra strong cologne or perfume with business attire.

4) Leaving long voice mail messages (lasting over 180 seconds).

5) Ladies wearing skirts or dresses that go well above the knee in a business environment.

6) When asking for the name of a person on the telephone or in person, using the phrase "What was the name?" This is a definite cultural faux pas and an indirect insult to the person you're speaking with.

7) Calling a business or sales meeting without providing each attendee with a meeting agenda at least 24 hours in advance.

8) When charging a business lunch or dinner, not leaving a cash tip but putting the tip on the credit card charge.

9) Sending FAXes of more than six pages without informing the recipient beforehand.

10) Putting the person you called on hold. If you initiate a telephone call, you are obligated to complete it without interruption.

11) Sending a three page or less text document as an attached file to an e-mail message instead of pasting it in the body of the message. Maximize productivity & efficiency by minimizing effort! It will get read and handled faster in less time, and the recipient won't have to worry about whether they can open it.

12) Putting people on your e-mail distribution list without asking them first. You may e-mail them a request to be put on your list with a first edition of the material you're distributing, but they must respond to be placed on the list to receive further mass e-mail.

13) Leaving more than two consecutive voice mail messages. If you didn't get a call back on your first message, or have to update it, leave a second message. However, if you haven't received a call back from your second message, put at least 24 hours distance between your second and third message.

14) Leaving a voicemail message that tells the recipient to call you but not giving any hint of the purpose or general subject of the call. By doing this you can be assured that your call will not be handled as a priority and when you finally do get a call back, your caller will not have the necessary files or information on hand to make the call productive.

15) If you are a man, not letting women enter or exit the elevator first.

16) If you are a chauffeur, going around the back of the car to open the door. Professional chauffeurs to diplomats and royalty always walk around the front of the vehicle it's a traditional sign of respect indicating you are not hiding something.

What Are You Thinking!

So by now you probably think that I’m some stuffed shirt old guy that is completely out of tune with the times. But before you dismiss the “old school” tried and true logic, consider how many people you have to compete with every day to get that job, that client, that raise, that level of respect and yes, even that special someone you dream about. You have to stand out. You have to make them remember you. You have to be different in a sane way.

The people you see in videos and films are bad examples on how to dress and act, if unlike them, you have to get up each morning and earn a living or negotiate with those who do. Use these etiquette tips as a tool to improve your chances of getting where you want to be and improve your life.

About the Author

Dr. Robert Ing is a forensic intelligence specialist and has appeared on North American news networks on the issues of technology crime, computer security, privacy and identity theft.
For more articles by Dr. Robert Ing please visit

Copyright © 2005-2006 Dr. Robert Ing,

Permission is granted to publish this article electronically or in print, free of charge, as long as the article appears in its entirety, full credit is given to the author and a link or reference to the author's webpage is provided.

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