Business Communication Etiquette: Definition and Examples

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A businessperson using a tablet.

Technological advances have made it easier to connect with anyone at any time. This ease of communication helped organizations remain aligned, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. But one side effect has been a change in standards regarding professional communication as the workplace has become more casual. As communication becomes quicker and more commonplace, being mindful of basic business etiquette will help reinforce a positive perception of yourself.

Stakeholders who have a say in the formation of company culture should consider instituting business communication etiquette as an important business strategy. Not only does business etiquette create a more equitable work environment, but it can help an organization reach a new level of maturity. Earning an advanced degree, such as a Master of Business Administration, can help professionals develop a strong foundation in clear and respectful communication.

What Is Business Etiquette?

Business etiquette is an agreed-upon list of rules for communication that help create a healthy work environment; one that fosters respect for colleagues, vendors, and customers. A thorough understanding of business etiquette, and how to institute organizational changes, can help build trust among employees in your organization, as well as promote their professional growth.

Business Etiquette Examples

Professionals interested in business etiquette best practices should absorb as much on the subject matter as possible. Business Insider summarized some basic rules for modern communication etiquette taken from Barbara Pachter’s book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette. Below are some of Pachter’s best business etiquette examples and strategies.

Phone

  • Don’t answer your phone when meeting with others — it signifies that whoever is on the phone is more important.
  • Don’t place your phone on the table when meeting with others; otherwise, it will look like you’re more interested in connecting with someone else.
  • Let the other person know when you have them on speakerphone so they’re aware that the conversation may not be private.

Email

  • Use a professional email address, preferably one that includes your given name rather than a nickname that may be inappropriate for the workplace.
  • Think twice before hitting “Reply All.” Ask yourself, do you really want everyone on the list to receive your reply?
  • Be careful with humor. What you find funny, others might find offensive. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.

Instant Messaging

  • Remember that bad news is best communicated in person — or, if that’s not possible, then over email where you can explain fully.
  • Keep digital conversations brief. If the conversation is particularly involved or requires much thought, a phone call may be preferred.

Texting

  • Be careful with abbreviations and other shorthand. While common, you want your professional communications to remain professional regardless of the medium.

Videoconferencing

  • Look into your camera when you’re speaking, not at the person on your screen. It may feel more natural to look at the person on your screen directly, but this will mean they’ll see your eyes cast downward instead of forward.

Even the physical spaces where we work have changed over time. Where private offices or cubicles offered varying levels of privacy, today’s more open-concept designs can encourage interruption. However, being mindful and respectful of other people’s time means approaching your colleague within their sightlines, announcing your presence with an “excuse me,” and waiting for an invitation to engage them in conversation. Calling or emailing in advance to schedule a time to meet is never a bad idea, either.

The ubiquity of electronic devices and our always-connected culture offers many advantages for busy professionals. However, that makes it more important to conduct yourself professionally at all times and respect business communication etiquette.

Learn the Foundations of Business Communication

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Recommended Readings

Exploring Types of Corporate Social Responsibility in Business

How to Lead Effective Virtual Meetings: Resources for Managers and Business Leaders

Reasons to Get a Master of Business Administration

Sources:

Amazon.com, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success

Businessinsider.com, “15 Communication Etiquette Rules Every Professional Needs To Know”

Monster, Business Etiquette Is Changing—And You Need to Follow Suit

Office Depot, The Evolution of the Office Space