by Lori Prosio
Do you know the rules when it comes to business etiquette, especially in relation to technology?
I’ll admit that I’m just as guilty as the next busy businessperson. My phone is on all the time. I occasionally check email when I’m in a meeting, and there have even been times where I have had to step out of a meeting to take a call.
After all, I run a public relations firm, and what would my clients think if they couldn’t reach me, especially in a crisis?
So, while you may need to be available throughout the business day, there are still a few rules to consider when it comes to showcasing good business etiquette.
Turn off the cell
We’ve become accustomed to the immediacy provided by living in a digital world. We often feel the need to multitask to try to get more done in less time. However, paying attention to your phone (or iPad, laptop or anything other than the person or people you are meeting with) is nothing short of disrespectful. Provide the same respect you would hope to receive. That means turn off the phone and any other distractions, and keep the following things in mind:
Be present: Let calls go to voice mail and read text and email later. Better yet, silence your phone or turn it off. It’s easy to update your voice mail or email to let your contacts know you’ll be unavailable for a short time and how to reach you if it is a true emergency. Otherwise, it can wait.
Don’t yell: We’ve all heard the “cell yell.” When you’re in the office, or any public place, avoid yelling on your cellphone. If it’s too noisy, and you need to talk louder, return the call when and where it’s quieter and you can speak at a more appropriate volume level.
Keep it private: Engage in sensitive conversations in private. Your coworkers don’t want to hear about the fight you had with your spouse, your call with your financial adviser or your complaints to human resources.
No text speak
Email is the primary communication method in business today. However, that does not mean you can be lazy with your written communication. Grammar, spelling and sentence structure are still essential to all business communication — and remember, business communication is not the same as texting a friend or your children. There is a time and a place for abbreviations and “cool” misspellings, but it is not during your business communication.
I hear you, but I can’t see you
Even though conference calls aren’t considered a new technology, I feel the need to address them because I see so many examples of misconduct.
Just because the other caller can’t see you doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be paying close attention to what they are saying. That means no playing with your phone, typing emails, talking to others in the room while the phone is on mute, or conducting other personal business.
If you honestly believe you don’t need to be in the meeting, then don’t go. Avoid being a distraction to others in the room who do need to be there.
Now I can see you, too
Did you ever think you would be able to video conference like they did on “The Jetsons”? What seemed unattainable years ago is now a reality, and we need to behave professionally. In general, the same rules apply to video conferencing as meeting in person: Pay attention, be on time and don’t interrupt.
Maintaining professionalism should be a given; please remember to dress professionally, and take notice of what viewers will see behind you. If you take the video conference call at home, it would look very unprofessional to be in your pajamas or with your bed in view. Keep a professional composure – people can see you and what you’re doing, even when you’re not speaking.
Have you ever asked someone a question and they just sit there and stare at you? That’s how it feels when a phone call or email goes unanswered. If you don’t know the answer or don’t have time to address their question immediately, that’s OK — but be polite and reply anyway.
We’re all busy, and most people can empathize with the pressing demands of daily workloads. Communication goes a long way, so don’t just assume people know you aren’t replying because you’re busy.
The key here is respect through simple communication. Answer emails within 24 hours. Respond to phone calls within 48 hours unless the email or voice message has been marked urgent, or you have indicated in advance that you are unavailable during that time.
Recognizing how you can become a better business associate, team leader or business partner by altering just a few behaviors will make others feel valued and respected.
A version of this article originally appeared in the July 13, 2012 edition of the Sacramento Business Journal.