Can You Pass the Business Etiquette Test?

Paula Klee Parish
Posted: 07/11/2010
What’s the difference between the rising star and the counterpart who can’t seem to get out of their own way? Behavior is a critical part of mastering that all important first impression, along with dress, personal hygiene and a positive regard for others. And it goes well beyond that first impression…
Do you have the business savvy to pass the test?
This is a touchy one, so let’s start here…

1. Is the following a proper introduction?:

"I would like you to meet my boss, Mr. Strong. Mr. Strong, this is Ms. Young, our new client?"

Answer: This is incorrect. The client is the person of most importance. They should be "introduced" first. "Mr. Strong, this is our new client, Ms. Young. Ms. Young, this is my boss, Mr. Strong." Mentioning Mr. Strong’s name first is not an introduction but a courtesy to your client. This also gives the client two opportunities to hear his/her name.

2. When shaking hands, should a man wait for a woman to extend her hand first or should he extend his hand without waiting?

Answer: The shaking of hands has become gender neutral. Either can extend their hand.

3. When entering a room, who enters first…the host or the visitor?

Answer: The host enters the room first. This allows the host to direct the visitor as they enter.

4. If you have not been introduced, do you introduce yourself?

Answer: Yes. It is appropriate to introduce yourself by saying something like: "I don’t believe we have met. My name is Tom. I’m Paula’s husband." If the person does not say their name, ask them by saying… "and you are?" or, "I’m sorry, I did not hear your name…" (I am guilty of this. My husband has gotten very good at introducing himself.)

5. If you have forgotten someone’s name, is it okay to approach them, start talking and not ask?

Answer: No. There are several approaches here. You can say your name when approaching. This will prompt them to say their name, and it will also help them in the event they have forgotten your name. Or, simply say: "My mind has just gone blank, your name is? Of course; and repeat their name." This will help you to remember it as well. The rule is, say a name three times while looking at the person and you should remember it the next time you meet.
6. Is holding private conversations in office bathrooms, elevators and other public spaces while at work okay?

Answer: No. Walls are thin. You never know who could hear details of your private life or business transactions. Note: It is also unacceptable to speak in a foreign language to a colleague while in the company of others.
7. Person to person conversations are conveyed in three ways, vocal, visual and verbal, according to professor of psychology Albert Mehrabian of UCLA. Which of the three elements has the greatest impact?

Answer: Visual, according to the professor. Your visual appearance, your wardrobe, body language and posture convey the strongest message. And don’t forget to smile.
8. When communicating in a business environment, should you stand 1.5 feet, 3 feet, or 6 feet apart?

Answer: Three feet. Any further you would be yelling; any closer you will be invading personal space. Note: Distance does vary depending on culture. Be aware of cultural differences before conducting business in a foreign country.
9. Do you tell a business associate that their zipper is open?

Answer: Yes. This applies to any potentially embarrassing situation such as: food, lipstick on teeth, or crawling creatures. Take the person aside and gently advise of the situation.
10. Here’s a good one…who pays for the lunch, the host or the invitee?

Answer: The host, the one who did the invite pays for the lunch. Check policy before inviting a client to lunch and check the prices too.
11. Should you announce all present when using a speaker phone before a conversation begins?

Answer: Yes, announce all present. If someone comes in late, at the first opportune moment simply say, "Mike Smith from Engineering just joined us." Prompt Mike to extend a greeting to whomever you are speaking with.
12. Is it important to change your voice mail message to advise callers that you will be out of the office?

Answer: Yes. Same goes with e-mail. Simply inform when you will return to the office and, if needed, who they should contact in your absence. This is a courtesy to people who are trying to reach you. It is also good business sense.
13. Should confidential information and large attachments be sent via e-mail?

Answer: No. There is no such thing as confidential e-mail. If you read my last article I said, "It’s like being a little bit pregnant." Also, large attachments can take time to load. Do not send without asking first.
14. Should you call out comments while overhearing a conversation?

Answer: No. Use discretion. If this is a generally accepted practice, then fine. However, eavesdropping on your colleagues can be considered rude and indulgent.

Finally, you would think we should all know this one…
15. Should cell phones be turned off during a meeting even if you are expecting a call?

Answer: YES. Put your phone on silent mode. Inform your colleagues that you are expecting a call, if you must. If at a conference, be respectful of the speaker and fellow attendees.

Do you have other questions you think should be on the test, or business etiquette questions you'd like answered? Post them in the comments section below.
Paula Klee Parish
Posted: 07/11/2010

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