In their book, 50 Things Every Young Gentleman Should Know, John Bridges and Bryan Curtis simply writes in chapter 27 (Walking in Front of Other People): “If other people must move down the row where a gentleman is seated, he makes it easier for them by rising from his seat.”

The above essential act of decorum is straightforward and is displayed by a majority of young and older persons alike. What about office decorum and showing proper etiquette on a daily basis? I hereby provide guidance in this area. Here are recommendations for professional behavior in business, and in the general workplace, in no order of importance:

Treat everyone with respect, regardless of position, title, and employment longevity. Show respect and graciousness; whether you know that person or not.

Be attentive in meetings, sitting in a coworker’s office, on the phone, breakroom conversations, walking in a group. It’s not good to allow your mind to wander or check your phone messages. Contribute to the discussion in a meaningful, civil, and thought-provoking way.

Return calls, reply to an email, and text messages in a timely manner. Preferably within 24 hours. This makes for superb business and social practices. Consequently, it is a sign of respect, as denoted in the first recommendation.

Admit responsibility for your mistakes. This involves sincerely apologizing and stating a solution for the situation, and offer your regret. In this instance, you are seen as a problem solver with the other person’s best interest in mind.

Give colleagues their space and respect their privacy. Refrain from peeping into your fellow worker’s desk drawers or borrowing something from his/her office without their knowledge. And do not read emails on their computer while they are away. This gets into the area of confidentiality, including clients, patients, and personal information and correspondences. Moreover, be mindful of your associates’ time. They won’t always have time for walk-ins, especially not for non-work related conversation. Always ask them if they have time to talk. Ask them via email, text, phone call, or casually walk by their door and ask. The point is, ask first.

Host a client/customer or colleague at a restaurant. Choose a high-quality establishment and arrive before your guest(s). As the host, initiate a firm but neither hard nor limp handshake and welcome your guests warmly. Be kind to the wait staff, and never speak with food in your mouth. Review the menu before your guests arrive and offer food item suggestions after everyone is seated. It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway – turn off your phone and keep it off the table while dining; the focus of your attention should be on your dining partner(s). Regarding tipping, the standard gratuity is 20% for excellent service. You may leave a more significant amount if the server goes beyond the call of duty. Consequently, leave a smaller tip for sub-par service.

Have a positive attitude. Sit erect while meeting with others. Do not slouch. Show interest in the conversation by having good eye-contact, being attentive, and engaging. Contribute to the discussion by asking curious questions. Then follow-up with positive statements and a few more (not many) insightful questions.

How do others see you – your appearance? And what whiff are you giving off to those in close proximity to you? Wrinkled clothes do nothing for your image. Make use of an iron or let your dry cleaners help you. If wearing a tie, be mindful of the length, not too long, and not too short (boyish). Ladies – your mindfulness is attention to dress and skirt lengths, and overall fit.
For both sexes: Walk at a moderately brisk pace with shoulders back and a sense of purpose. Have a clean, fresh, pleasant body odor. The same goes for breath. By the way, pleasant scents should not be over-powering – not abusively strong.

Small gestures of kindness and respect. In this category are simple acts of decorum. A shortlist includes:

  • Holding open the door for a person coming behind you. If you are the recipient, a “thank you” is appropriate.
  • Gentlemen, remove your headgear upon entering a dining establishment, house of worship, private home, office environment, any medical or dental related business. Ladies, women’s hats are okay. A baseball cap? Please remove it, as the above situations.
  • Take care not to belittle others, verbally and nonverbally.
  • Be sensitive when using jargon; it might exclude others.
  • If you need to take a call, ask if it’s okay. Or say, “excuse me, I am expecting this call.”
  • Respond to invitations. Even when there’s no way you will attend, always respond.
  • Eating at your desk – the food smells good, but it shouldn’t be over-powering, and you still must display good dining manners. If you have a front-desk at your job, please – eat noting at your desk.
  • Show empathy and sympathy to associates who are in a difficult situation, have a loved one seriously sick, or have passed — volunteer to help in some way.

Exhibiting Remarkable Decorum is essential and helps to unclutter and deal with various relationships both in business and in our personal lives, By displaying decorum, forms of etiquette, and adhering to acceptable protocols, we become a better, more gracious, and distinguished human being.

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