Business Etiquette 101: 9 Essentials to Help You Succeed

In a post-pandemic world, you might feel like anything goes at the office (or when working from home), but that’s far from the case. You might be the smartest person in the room, but if your manners are lacking, it will be noticed, and it will hold you back. Keep these nine essential pieces of business etiquette in mind to make a good impression.


1. Dress appropriately.

Whether it’s your first interview, your first day, or just another Tuesday working from home, you should dress appropriately for the occasion. Sometimes that means a suit, and sometimes that means a nice shirt so your appearance is professional on Zoom. When everyone is dressed appropriately, all attendees will feel more comfortable.

2. Know how to make proper introductions.

Whether it’s a business lunch or a video meeting, if you’re the common thread, take the lead and make introductions. Explain how each person fits in to the puzzle and share something complimentary about their role and contributions. Shake new acquaintances’ hands quickly and firmly.

3. Pay attention to how people want to be addressed.

In most situations, when you’re reaching out to someone for the first time, it’s appropriate to use formal terms of address (Mr., Ms., Dr., etc.). It’s best to err on the side of formality. It’s also a good idea to research people before you contact them. That way you can figure out if someone has an advanced degree or if they’ve specified their preferred pronouns. Then, as you continue communicating, follow the other person’s cues. If they ask you to call them by their first name, then do so. If they have specified pronouns, use them.

4. Knock before entering a space.

Even if someone’s calendar appears clear, they may be in the middle of a task that requires significant concentration. It’s polite to ask ahead if they have time to talk—in remote/hybrid work situations, “knocking” might be a simple chat message asking if they have some time to discuss XYZ.

5. Write thank-you notes.

Taking the time to write a thank-you note is a polite act that can’t be matched—and you don’t have to stop writing thank-you notes after you’ve gotten the job. Thank colleagues who have gone the extra mile to help you with a project, or thank outside contributors who have assisted with articles or presentations.

6. Use email appropriately.

Email etiquette is tricky, but start by paying attention to whom you list in the TO field and whose address you put on the CC line. Think of the CC line as an “FYI”—if you copy someone on an email, you want them to be aware of the contents, but only those in the TO line are expected to take action. Another tip: Make good use of the BCC field. If you’re emailing a large group of people who don’t know one another, use BCC to keep their email addresses private (and to avoid a huge reply-all chain).

7. Give your full attention to meetings.

Meetings are not a time to catch up on email or make lunch plans over text. If you’re at an in-person meeting, your device use should be limited to taking notes, following an electronic agenda, or looking up resources as needed. The same goes with video meetings. Everyone can tell if you’re reading and replying to other emails.

8.  Mind your manners at the table.

There’s a reason your mom nagged at you to keep your mouth closed while you were chewing, keep your elbows off the table, and not take the last piece of bread: Someday, you’ll have to attend a business lunch. Eat like your mama is watching your every move.

9. Keep swearing in check.

Different workplaces have different cultures when it comes to profane language, but in general, most offices are not like “Succession.” Talk like your grandma is within earshot.

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