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Etiquette Through the Generations

Posted on July 28, 2006

By Colleen A. Rickenbacher, CMP, CSEP

Etiquette is making a comeback but it is a little slow. In about the 1960’s etiquette was beginning to take a backseat and kept getting further and further back in the 70’s and 80’s. But now corporations are seeing the importance of business protocol. This includes the appearance of their employees, the way they close a deal over a business meal by not talking with their mouth full of food, and if they are properly conducting a business meeting. Are you also providing the best customer service and retaining your customers and clients? It all comes down to civility and just plain day-to-day etiquette. But what about our younger generations and their style of work? The look in the office place has changed, the equipment to get the work done has changed, the level of education has changed and their style of work has changed. Change is good and it will continue to change year after year after year. But with the change are we forgetting about etiquette? Rarely is it taught any more in the public schools but some colleges are now offering etiquette classes. For some it could be a challenge by the time they reach graduation. They could be totally lost when they enter the workforce or confronted with their first meetings or first corporate dinner that has more than one fork and one knife. 

Just some helpful hints. But remember this is not limited to the younger generations:

  1. Dress appropriately: If it calls for business or business casual then be safe and pull out that coat and tie, a sports jacket or a nice pair of slacks and shirt for the business casual. Always better to be overdressed than underdressed. To the women open toed shoes definitely present a less formal look, but can be dressed up with a higher heel, leather and straps. Low and rubber just don’t make it.
  2. Punctuality and preparedness: Come on time and be ready. Do your research, check the Web site, know your audience and be prepared. Never apologize for being late or not prepared. First impressions will last forever. 
  3. A good handshake and a smile. Doesn’t really get too much easier than this but a wimpy, wet or limp handshake could turn someone off instantly. They will not even hear anything you may say to them because they are just trying to recover from another bad first impression. Use good eye contact.
  4. Follow-through on all projects. If you say you are going to do something, send something, research something or get them an answer, then do it. 
  5. Follow-up with a thank-you note. As soon as you finish that meeting or dinner meal, drop that person a brief but effective thank-you note. It makes a statement and shows you are completing the process.

Get into a good habit and look and act professionally. You will be remembered and will advance.

Colleen A. Rickenbacher, CMP, CSEP

Author of Be On Your Best Business Behavior



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