Business Etiquette Tips: 5 “Old-School” Habits That Still Matter

Business Etiquette Tips

Have you ever waited an important email reply to move a project forward that never came? Have you experienced the anxiety, uncertainty, that come with the wait?

Have you had a meeting re-scheduled at the last minute, after you spend many hours preparing for it?

I am sure you all experienced these frustrations at one point in your career. We are more connected than ever and yet we seem to forget about basic business etiquette.

“Lack of time” has become the overarching excuse for superficiality. We arm ourselves with the latest gadgets that gives us the illusion of accomplishing more in less time. We can easily multitask, but are not able to have a face-to-face meeting without checking our gadgets one hundred times.

In fact, what we really need is to go back to the fundamentals of doing business and interacting with people.

Below are five business etiquette tips I believe still make the difference in the business world.

Be Punctual

This is number one business etiquette tip on my list. Being late for appointments has almost become a norm, a badge of honor. It stopped being a sign of disrespect for the other people’s time-it just shows how busy we are.

It’s so easy to find excuses for being late these days: traffic, a last minute call that dragged longer then expected, an urgent e-mail that had to be dealt with. Appointments can be delayed or canceled with a touch of a button.

The reality is that being punctual is a sign of respect for the person you’re meeting with. I am not saying being late should not happen. Just make sure it doesn’t become a habit. Everybody’s time is valuable as we all need to get a lot of things done.

I am always stressed out about being late so I give myself a lot of time to get to my appointments. I would rather arrive early, even if I have to wait at the door.

Focus on the Conversation

Have you ever delivered a presentation that meant a lot to you to an audience that’s constantly checking their mobile devices? It can be argued that if your presentation is captivating, people will pay attention.

In most cases this is not a valid argument. Checking the e-mail, Twitter and Facebook feeds has become second nature for many, regardless of quality of information being delivered.

Some call it multitasking. I call it lack of respect.

Nobody has to be that connected, unless you work in an emergency service. So turn off your cell-phone, cancel your push notification and create a distraction-free environment for the meeting.

I realize this business etiquette tip is the hardest to commit to. But trust me, by doing so will be more productive and make better use of your time.

Take Some Meaningful Time Off

Here in North America vacation time is at a premium. Even people who have decent vacation time, waste it by taking one day here and there, instead of one or two weeks at the time.

Moreover, if they happen to be away for more than one day they still feel the need to regularly check what’s happening at the office.

There are many proven benefits vacation time brings: it improves creativity, reliefs stress, strengthens family bonds, and promotes the person’s overall well being.

So if you want to be more productive take a real vacation, see something new, get into a new hobby, and be as disconnected from everyday reality as possible.

You will feel recharged, more creative and have a better perspective on life.

Dress Professionally

I am a big believer in that first impression counts. People are judged by their physical appearance, including the way they dress.

The way we dress for a specific occasion tell a lot about our personality,  attitude, and the respect (or lack of) you are showing others.

The business world has become more “casual” in recent years. People choose to wear clothes that highlights their unique personality and beliefs, rather than outfits that  project a professional image.

However a business is about making money and our professionalism is what we get paid for.

I am not promoting the “suit and tie” image in all situations and professions. It’s all about knowing how to dress appropriately for your specific work environment.

And remember that overdressing, just like under dressing can be embarrassing.

Keep your Commitments

We all make commitments, big or small. When you commit to something, you create an expectation.

A promise to call your child from your business trip will have little impact to your schedule, but it means the world to your child.

When you make a promise, do everything in your power to keep it.

An excellent article in New York Times addresses the issue of people not replying to e-mails from co-workers and even best friends. The constant waiting for an answer leads to frustration, uncertainty, and questions about the appropriateness of the message being sent (did I say anything that might offend him?)

Here is the author Alina Tugend’s advice for those who habitually don’t respond to e-mails:

“…try sending a quick e-mail just to say you can’t answer now. And if you really mean no, say no. Most of us can handle rejection. We just can’t handle not knowing.”

We want to be trusted, recognized and admired. We want to be perceived as specialists in our field.

In our quest to become more socially recognizable we tend to forget one small detail: people prefer to deal with people, not virtual profiles.

A LinkedIn picture will never have the same impact as a face to face conversation.

A handshake is more valuable than a non disclosure agreement.

These business etiquette tips are in fact a reflection of good manners we learned as children. Applying them in the business world doesn’t require learning, just a lot of practice.


  1. Michael says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I am glad you liked the article. We are all inundated with information on the latest technological tools that make doing business easier, and yet the fundamentals stay the same.

  2. Andrew LINNELL says:

    I love this article – I imagine many of us recognise these poor behaviours in our every day business lives. Just wish I could post on Facebook as many users there need to read, understand…and change how they behave!!

  3. reni Wereta-gargiulo says:

    Great post, yes these habits are what build good business and should be instilled in all young people joining the workforce.

  4. Michael says:

    Thank you for your comment Mike.

  5. Great tips Michael!!! You have not missed anything to discuss about business etiquette. I hate people coming late for meetings. Since market is hot with competition nowadays so it has become very important to be in etiquette while dealing people from variable business backgrounds.

  6. Diana Davidson says:

    Courtesy is at the core of most of these business tips.
    As they wisely say at Winchester College and New College Oxford, ‘Manners Maketh Man.’

  7. Hi Christine,

    Correction made. What kind of job are you looking for?

  8. Christine says:

    Hi Michael,
    Recheck you first sentence…when you wrote email “replay” did you really mean “reply”? Sound advice and now you could add #6 Recheck your spelling! And if you need someone I am currently networking to join a new team. All in good fun!

  9. Thank you for your comment Emily.

  10. Bravo! This article should be required reading.


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