Business development 19 February 2018

Nine business etiquette mistakes you don’t know you are making

Even if you’re using the phone for work, you risk making it look as though you are distracted

Navigating social etiquette is part of everyday life. But in business, avoiding faux pas can be even more important. Here, BlueGlass’s Irma Hunkeler highlights the business etiquette mistakes you could be guilty of making.

In the world of business, etiquette is crucial. Knowing how to behave in an important meeting ensures you don’t put any noses out of joint and make yourself look more than a little foolish. But an etiquette faux pas can have much more serious implications.

Significant social slips that unwittingly cause offence can have big knock-on effects: the failure to close a deal, say, or the diminishing of a previously strong business relationship.

We are often told that manners cost nothing, yet time and time again even the most experienced of businesspeople trip up when it comes to etiquette – from something that’s banal to something that could cause gross offence.

To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, here are nine business etiquette mistakes you don’t know you are making that you can quickly remedy.

  1. Being good at broad-brush, but bad at detail

If you think going into a meeting with a couple of headline statements will suffice, think again. According to this global etiquette guide from travel experts Expedia, not being able to back-up any claims with facts and figures is often a big no-no.

Ensure you’re primed with all the information you need, so if you do get tested on the nitty-gritty, you’ll know exactly what to say.

  1. Expecting everything to run on time

In an ideal world, we’d always get up for work on time, our train wouldn’t be late and we wouldn’t trip up on a banana skin on the way in. Sadly real life isn’t like that.

And, while we’d all like it if meetings started and finished as planned, some things can’t be helped – employees might be off sick or late, prior meetings might be running over, someone might have even double-booked. It happens, and your reaction is important. Make contingency plans and react graciously to hurdles and changes in circumstance.

  1. Getting straight down to business

The etiquette guide from Expedia shows that, in many countries, it’s perfectly normal for business meetings to start off talking about everything but business. Small talk is often seen as a natural conversation starter and the common precursor to more serious negotiations. So don’t go in thinking you need to launch into your pitch – take your time and relax. 



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  1. Not following up

After a meeting is finished, do you just go back to your desk and forget about it? If so, you’re making a big etiquette mistake. Manners cost nothing, so failing to send something as simple as a thank-you message can make you look rude.

Post-meeting, take a few minutes to send a quick note thanking attendees for their time – as well as any action points from the meeting.

  1. Too much, too soon

But by the same token, don’t go overboard! In the desire to clinch a deal or produce a successful outcome, it can be tempting to launch into a series of follow-up emails soon after a meeting finishes. But do too much and you risk looking pushy – a move that could scupper that all-important deal. Strike a balance instead.

  1. Failing to introduce people

If you’re sat in a meeting and there are two people in both parties who don’t know each other’s name, a big etiquette faux pas has occurred.

It’s crucial that everyone from one party is introduced to the other – it’s common courtesy and makes everyone feel included. Failing to do so risks making you look rude and unprofessional.

  1. Using your phone – even if it’s for work

Smartphones are pretty much a day-to-day essential. But having phones out on the table and even using them during the course of a meeting is something that’s started to creep into the business world, and it doesn’t seed a good message.

Browsing social media is plain rude and, even if you’re using the phone for work, it risks making it look as though you don’t care about the meeting you’re in. Put it away – it’s only for an hour. Of course, if you need your phone to hand in case of emergency, simply let everyone know from the outset.

  1. Having a “side convo”

If you’ve ever been speaking only to notice two people having their own “side conversation” you’ll know how annoying, disrespectful and downright distracting it can be. What’s worse, it risks giving the impression that you’re not taking things seriously and that you’ve got better things to be doing. If you need to talk to someone, do it after the meeting.

  1. Eating lunch

Our working lives are getting busier and busier, meaning it can be hard to find time to eat a proper lunch. But eating your lunch in a meeting? A big no-no. Unless everyone else is eating, wait until after it’s finished. Your belly might not thank you, but your employer will.

Irma Hunkeler works for, a digital marketing agency. Her experience includes working for various clients in the travel industry.

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