Can Business Etiquette Boost Your Bottom Line?

Polite Workplace
Remember Michael Scott from “The Office?” How could we forget him?

Steve Carell’s flawless portrayal of Scott, the bumbling, oblivious manager of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company was hilarious — but also taught us a lesson. Scott’s bad behavior set the tone for an utterly dysfunctional workplace. Unfortunately, these types of environments aren’t nearly as entertaining in real life. 

In reality, having a manager who is well mannered, truly cares for employees, adheres to appropriate office etiquette and promotes courteous workplace behavior matters tremendously. In a world where, according to Gallup, only 13 percent of employees report being highly engaged, understanding the “human experience” in our workplaces and the role etiquette plays is more critical than ever.

Just what constitutes good office etiquette? Harvard Review editor Amy Bernstein sees etiquette as “a code of conduct that allows us to live and work together with relative ease, fosters good relationships and reduces the social frictions that impede our happiness and even our professional success.” 

In recognition of National Business Etiquette Week, we’ve come up with some tips to nurture good manners, from the cubicle to the copy machine — and everywhere in between.

1. Say “good morning” 
This one should be obvious. But some of us simply aren’t morning people. We’re groggy and grumpy when we first arrive at work, and we lock ourselves in our offices until after we’ve had several cups of Joe. 

But consider the impact. Ignoring your team first thing in the morning can cast a pall that lasts all day, implying that interacting with them isn’t important to you. How do you want your employees to feel? And how can you support them? “Good morning” is more than a greeting. It’s a positive personal connection you make with staff from the moment you walk in the door, and it can leave a feeling that ripples throughout the workday.

So make it a habit to greet your team members pleasantly. It makes more of a difference than you might think.

2. Be on time for meetings with your staff
You expect punctuality from your employees. Set a good example by being on time for team meetings and one-on-one conferences. This demonstrates that you value their time as well as your own and models the behavior you want to see.

Writing for Infusionsoft, Jamillah Warner points out that being late for meetings with your employees has negative ramifications for both momentum and money. 

When you’re late, says Warner, “the ideas your team was anxious to share may turn into a quiet storm and a sense of under-appreciation. They may never say anything to you — after all, you’re the boss — but the atmosphere and the motivation shifts.” 

Then of course there’s the old adage: Time equals money.  

“Six employees waiting 20 minutes for your arrival is two hours’ worth of work that you paid for but didn’t receive the best results from,” says Warner.

3. Get to know your employees
Make a point of knowing the names and roles of the people who work for you. If you aren’t sure, ask.
“Knowing all the people who work hard to make your company run is invaluable,” says Sharon Galler, executive director of American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management

When it comes to direct reports, knowing names and job titles isn’t sufficient. Take time to learn about your employees’ family lives, hobbies and interests by sharing lunch or coffee, or making small talk before diving into meeting agendas. Invest the time to deepen your relationships with your staff and you’ll likely find it creates a positive impact you both benefit from. Not only does being familiar with employees make them feel appreciated and important, as Galler puts it, “Someone’s assistant today could be the boss tomorrow.”

4. Smile and say “thank you”
Again, this one may seem obvious. Yet, you’d be surprised how many of us forget to do this. 

Maybe we assume employees know we’re appreciative, or perhaps we feel we don’t have time to acknowledge the work of our team members. But saying thanks means something. It also does wonders for your own reputation with the team. 

A recent New York Times article by Christine Porath points out that it’s often the simplest gestures that win over others. 

“In one unpublished experiment I conducted,” says Porath, “a smile and simple thanks [as compared with not doing this] resulted in people being viewed as 27 percent warmer, 13 percent more competent and 22 percent more civil.”

Skipping the pleasantries can have seriously negative implications, too. 

Case in point, the Harvard Business Review cited a poll of thousands of workers and reached the conclusion that incivility in the workplace makes employees less creative, causes performance and team spirit to deteriorate and turns off customers.

5. Be a good listener
Sure, you’re busy. But when one of your employees steps into your office to ask a question or give you a progress report, take your eyes off your computer screen to offer your full attention. That goes for other distractions, too. Put. The. Phone. Down. 

Multi-tasking while your employees are sharing information or seeking advice gives employees the sense that you aren’t interested in what they have to say and don’t value their contributions.

6. Keep it positive
There is never a reason to mock, ridicule or raise your voice to an employee, colleague, customer or anyone else who happens to be in the office. Such conduct sets a poor example, hurts the recipient of the abuse and intimidates everyone in the office who witnesses it. 

From morning greetings to genuine thoughtfulness and punctuality, you have the ability to positively impact your office environment. Sometimes, it only starts with a smile.

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