Business etiquette – is something everyone needs to be aware of. Not only does it affect your personal image but that of your professional persona, and your business brand and identity.

We’ve all been on the receiving end at some stage in our business careers of bad business etiquette, and beyond annoyance – it can leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Why business etiquette is important

With the power of social media and the never-ending universe of the internet – we need to think carefully about how we treat others, and we can do that by simply showing appropriate manners and respect. The power of reviews and customer experiences lends more weight than ever before and does impact on whether someone will want to do business with you.

Don’t kid yourself for a second that bad reviews don’t matter or that no one really reads them! Customers, clients, potential business partners – they all do. Don’t become complacent – yes, being in business makes you a busy person, but so is everyone else.

No one wants a reputation tarnished by bad manners. Unfortunately, it can be quite commonplace for people to simply not use their manners or forget them.

Being late, impolite, using your phone at inappropriate times, and not following up are all some of the most common issues seen in businesses today.

Stop and consider for a minute…

How do you want to be perceived? How do you think people perceive you?

There may be a stark contrast between how you want to be perceived versus how you actually are perceived, and some of this may be down to one or more of these common business mistakes. Below we’ve put together seven of the most common etiquette mistakes people make in business.

If you want to improve your customer relationships, your professional or business identity, here are some common business etiquette issues you should really take note of.


Punctuality is extremely important in the world of business because it shows that you are respectful of other people’s time.

“Arriving late was a way of saying that your own time was more valuable than the time of the person who waited for you.” ― Karen Joy Fowler

Not everyone has the luxury to spend time waiting for people who are running late for meetings. We’ve all got things to do and people to see. So, ensuring you are on time for meetings or appointments, goes a long way in showing people who you are and what you deem important.

Tardiness, irrespective of whether you are really busy – can become part of an organisation’s culture. In effect you are telling people you are more important; therefore, they need to wait for you.

Punctuality shows you respect people and their time.

Be polite

Man shouting with megaphone

If you’re in business then you should know how and why good customer service should be one of your core values.

Don’t believe it?

Have a read of this article last year about New Zealand’s rudest café – it says it all!

Don’t be that person or that business. Be polite and professional.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Bill Gates

All it can take for a reputation to become tarnished is for one customer to have a bad experience with your business – and generally, that occurs when someone is impolite. They go on and tell other people who tell other people and so on and so forth.

With online reviews becoming the norm it is vital to take customer service seriously. The customer service index has been used to measure customer service experiences with businesses – you may want to check to see how your industry ranks.

Making introductions

First impressions in business count for a lot more than we may give credit for.

Whether it’s introductions between co-workers, employers, suppliers, customers or shareholders – a good introduction is going to do wonders for your personal reputation and business image.

You can tell the character of a person by their handshake.” —Kathy Magliato

Know what is appropriate and when during introductions. Make sure you give your attention to the person you are being introduced too. Try not to forget their name straight away, look them in the eye and shake hands with them. It’s an age-old sign of respect.

Cross-cultural communication can also fall into this category. If you are meeting someone in business from another culture – show your respect for them by doing your research first.

What is okay in one culture may not be so for another.

Getting straight down to business

This one can relate directly to bad introductions – waving off a proper introduction or speeding through one is disrespectful and inconsiderate. Ignoring the general rule of greeting people and getting straight down to business, is disrespectful of individuals.

Make sure you understand what it means to greet someone. Say hello, introduce yourself – it’s respectful and also considerate of the people or person you are meeting with. It shows others you care about them.

“Politeness and consideration for others is like investing pennies and getting dollars back” – Thomas Sowell

The way you treat and deal with other people in business is going to reflect on you personally and your business image.

Dress appropriately

The way you dress also has an effect on your personal and professional image. You know how important those first impressions are and how they create a lasting impression.

Showing your maturity by simply knowing how to dress appropriately for certain situations, goes hand in hand with your image and identity, either for yourself or your business.

It’s also a show of respect for where you are, whom you’re with, and what you’re talking about.

“To me, clothing is a form of self-expression – there are hints about who you are in what you wear.” Marc Jacobs

As comfortable as some of your casual clothing is, consider the appropriate time to wear it. It can be awkward and uncomfortable for other people, who may find your outfit offensive to the setting.

Be considerate of other cultures, and other people you are meeting with. This can be a tricky one to navigate. But do your research first and if you understand other cultural norms will prove you to be respectful and considerate.

Using your phone

This is becoming an increasing annoyance in this day and age when technology is everywhere. People forget when it’s inappropriate to be on their phones.

You simply cannot expect to be considered a polite and respectful person, if someone is trying to have a conversation with you and you are preoccupied with your phone.

people on their phones

If you’re having a business meeting – it’s simple: Turn your phone on silent – even better turn it off.

Not paying attention to people, while being on your phone, is downright inconsiderate and impolite.

“Civility costs nothing and buys everything” Mary Wortley Montagu

Following up

Imagine you’re having a conversation with someone; in the middle of that conversation, they get up and walk away. How would you feel? Annoyed, surprised, confused?

That’s exactly how your associates and customers feel when you don’t follow up with them. By not following up, you are indicating that the person is unimportant.

Is that really the signal you want to give them?

Effectively you are ignoring them.

It is unprofessional, impolite and it can be a big problem.

“Respect is how to treat everyone, not just those you want to impress” —Richard Branson

Effective ongoing communication is key in all areas of business, not only business but in everyone’s everyday lives. We can all give each other the common courtesy of communication.

Following up with people is a key way to build and improve the relationships between your business, yourself, and external parties involved.

The importance of the rules of business etiquette, while managing in a more technology-based world, remain the same.

Personal integrity is demonstrated by respecting the guidelines for business etiquette, it shows you care about others and people will more likely want to do business with you.

The way you conduct yourself and your business show you take your core values and customer service seriously.

 “It is nice to be important, but it is important to be nice” – US Businessman, John Templeton.

High Profile Enterprises is an award-winning SEO and content marketing agency from New Zealand. Their focus is on high level, ethical SEO strategies, and a commitment to exceptional content and performance. Over the past 10 years, HPE has worked on hundreds of projects in both Australia and New Zealand from Government projects to NGOs to businesses of all sizes to personal thought leadership projects and social media campaigns. If you need some guidance on how you can better communicate your brand with your clients and customers – then get in touch with us to have a chat about how we can help you.