The 21 Golden Rules of Business Etiquette: Your Cheat Sheet to Dealing With Others

business man practicing proper business etiquette

If you’re starting your first job, or even if you’ve been in business for years, the best way to stay professional is to know what’s appropriate and what’s not.

Business etiquette can be a tricky thing to navigate sometimes but it can help to make your interactions with other coworkers more successful.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss 21 basic rules of business etiquette that everyone should know about!

Proper Etiquette for Professional Settings 101

1. Remember the names of your coworkers

A simple way to show your colleagues respect is by remembering their names.

This can be something that takes time with new people, but it’s definitely worth the effort to avoid confusion or looking unprofessional when you call someone else by name without thinking.

It may seem like a small thing, but this is an important aspect of building a good relationship with your coworkers.

2. Give credit where it’s due!

A big part of business etiquette is giving credit to others when they’ve done something good or contributed well, and letting them know how much you appreciate their work.

You don’t want to take all the glory for yourself; this will make people feel like they’re not important, and it’s unprofessional.

Instead, find a way to share the credit with others in your office when you can!

3. Don’t gossip about coworkers behind their backs

This is another common mistake people make in professional environments.

Even if it might seem like everyone else is doing it; however, this will seriously damage relationships within your workplace and make people feel like they can’t trust you.

Put a stop to gossiping about coworkers in the office; this will help your company run more efficiently, and it’s just better for everyone involved!

4. Don’t be too reserved or too open either

In the professional environment, you want to find a balance between being open and reserved at work.

It’s important not to be too quiet; this will make it hard for people in your office to interact with or engage with you on any level.

However, if you’re constantly talking about personal things like family gatherings, you might come across as unprofessional, too!

Make sure to find a good balance between being open and closed off at work.

5. Be mindful of others’ feelings

It’s important not to forget that other people have feelings in the workplace just like anyone else.

This means avoiding saying anything about coworkers or your company that could be opening you up to criticism, or might come across as upsetting.

When in doubt about whether your comment is appropriate for the workplace or not, just avoid it!

6. Dress appropriately for the business world

When you’re at work, it’s important to have a professional look that matches the company culture and dress code.

Although it’s totally fine to wear business casual or street clothes at work, you should make sure that the clothing you choose is appropriate for your industry.

Business attire has evolved and these days it’s much more relaxed than formal, but some common sense rules still apply.

To make a good impression don’t wear clothing that is ripped, filthy, or discolored. Slogans or racial epithets on T-shirts and jackets should also be avoided. Avoid flip flops, sandals, and dirty sneakers.

In addition to simply looking appropriate, it’s also important to make sure that your clothing fits properly.

7. Take responsibility for your mistakes at work

If you’re going above and beyond for your employer, it’s not likely that they will become aware of every mistake or slip-up you have at work – but sometimes people do get unlucky!

When this happens, accept responsibility, never lie, and don’t worry too much. Just apologize and try to do better next time.

8. Try to be on time

One of the most important business etiquette rules is to be on time.

This means arriving at work on time or at least no more than 10 minutes late on your worst days. And always arriving early enough to your business meetings so that you don’t look frazzled or like you’re rushing through the door.

Even if your boss doesn’t seem like they care too much about punctuality; this is something good to get into the habit of.

It makes you look professional, and it’s just better for everyone!

9. Good manners go a long way. Be polite at all times.

In the office, you’ll quickly learn that “please” and “thank you” can go a long way! These are simple words that can make a big difference in the workplace.

Be sure to always show your appreciation and gratitude even for the small things.

It’s also important to be polite and respectful with everyone you work with, even if they don’t seem as though they deserve it.

This is true even for situations outside of work; it’s important to uphold your good business etiquette anywhere you go!

10. Pay attention to the way you talk

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the way you talk can come across as unprofessional in a business environment.

For example, if someone asks you for something and you answer loudly; this could be taken the wrong way. It might sound like you are being plain rude when in reality, you were just answering politely.

It’s important to stay courteous and empathetic while chatting, make your counterpart feel at ease, and maintain a pleasant demeanor.

Of course, watching your language for any cursing or disrespectful words is also part of following business etiquette rules.

Pro tip: Don’t forget about business etiquette when talking with clients over the phone! Think no chewing gum, limited personal chit chat, keep smiling, and remember that everything you say will reflect on your business.

11. Keep your phone on silent mode during a business meeting

Basic business etiquette is to keep your phone away or at least on silent during business meetings or in-person conversations with clients/coworkers.

First, don’t bring your phone out at all unless there is an emergency.

Second, if you’re using your phone for personal reasons during a meeting, always apologize beforehand and ask permission to use it. Better safe than sorry.

12. Proofread your messages and emails

Electronic communication is here to stay, and now more than ever since many companies have implemented remote working. You don’t want to look unprofessional by making inadvertent errors or mistakes while sending a message to your co-workers, customers, or external clients outside your organization.

A simple way to prevent business etiquette faux pas is to pay close attention to who you’re sending your message to. Proofread your emails before hitting send to avoid making a bad first impression to people in or outside your organization.

It should also go without saying, never send an email in the heat of a moment. Don’t let emotions cloud your better judgment. Take some time, give a difficult business situation some space before hitting send.   

13. Table manners for lunch

When you’re at lunch with a client or co-worker for business purposes, always mind your table manners.

Don’t talk with food in your mouth, don’t be messy when eating (fingers included), and try to limit personal conversations during this time because it can come across as unprofessional. Business lunches are meant to be just that, business.

business man holding business card with two hands
In some cultures, presenting your business card with both hands is a sign of respect.

14. Business cards are still important!

Don’t leave home without yours and always give one when appropriate. It’s the best way to make a good first impression with anyone you meet for business purposes so be sure to keep them on hand at all times!

It should go without saying but handwritten personal notes on your business cards are a nice touch that can help you stand out from the crowd!

15. Business etiquette is as much about nonverbal communication as it is verbal

Nonverbal cues such as eye contact, hand gestures, and posture play an important role in conveying confidence and interest during any situation or conversation.

For example: If you’re nervous and can’t find the words to answer a question, avoiding eye contact with your counterpart will only make you appear more uncomfortable. Business etiquette is about everyone feeling comfortable no matter what situation or environment they are in!

Remember that good business etiquette always starts at home, so be conscious of how you conduct yourself in casual situations outside work hours too.

16.  Business etiquette is about following unwritten rules

Business etiquette can be a tricky subject to navigate since there are many grey areas and not everyone follows all these ‘unwritten’ norms. It’s important to know who you’re dealing with, what their business culture is like, and pay attention during introductions.

For example, business cultures in Asia tend to be more formal than in Western cultures, so if you’re working with business partners from the East it’s best to keep this difference in mind.

Business etiquette is about showing respect for your counterpart and their culture by following their etiquette rules.

Pro tip: If you are to meet people from other cultures, have a look at the way you should greet them respectfully so that they don’t feel uncomfortable or offended.

17. One of the most important business etiquette skills: Respect others

Show empathy, value your colleague’s time, their beliefs, opinions,  religion, and your differences.

Acknowledge people’s presence, make eye contact, and don’t interrupt.  Business etiquette is about showing respect for everyone you meet, whether they’re a customer or co-worker!

18. Keep your desk and office clean and tidy

No one wants to see a messy desk at work, so keep your area clean and organized. Business etiquette is about being able to maintain an appropriate workspace for yourself!

And keep good hygiene, odors, clean clothes, clean nails, etc.  Business etiquette is about being presentable in all aspects!

19. Greet everyone in a proper manner

Firm handshake for formal encounters. Say ‘hi’ to your teammates, introduce yourself if you don’t know them yet, be friendly, ask questions about their lives. Etiquette is about making an effort to get to know the people you work with!

20. Pay attention to your body language

Be mindful of your body language and the messages you’re sending out by crossing arms or brushing off a question. Business etiquette is about paying attention to all aspects of communication!

21. Manage your time well

Some people wait until the last minute to do things so be sure not to fall into this category yourself. Business etiquette is about planning ahead and thinking carefully before you act!

How to Follow Proper Business Etiquette: Quick Fire FAQ

What is meant by business etiquette?

Business etiquette is the set of norms within a professional environment and you and your employees need to know these norms if you want to be taken seriously in today’s world.

Business etiquette is more than just knowing not to walk into someone’s office unannounced; it includes understanding your manners as well as those around you.

What’s good business etiquette?

Good business etiquette is always answering your emails promptly, greeting everyone with kindness, speaking clearly so they can understand you, and following up on projects promptly.

The most important thing about business etiquette or any type of etiquette for that matter is being aware!

What are the key characteristics of business etiquette?

Key characteristics of business etiquette are being able to maintain an appropriate workspace for yourself, showing empathy, and doing your job well!


Business challenges will always arise, so managing your manners is important!

Businesses, both small or large, should always be mindful of how they act towards others in the workplace.

Business Etiquette can vary depending on where you are located so it’s important to learn about what this means before meeting someone new.

The most important thing to remember when working with other cultures is that everyone deserves respect no matter who they are!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post. We appreciate you and have a wonderful day.

Your friends at Woyago.