How To Improve Your Business Etiquette

how to improve your business etiquette

Tips For A Healthy Workplace

How to improve your business etiquette is a key task in global business ventures where achieving your work goals is paramount. For instance, your goal may be to achieve success that enables an early retirement. Or your desire is to own multi-million shares of a blue-chip company.

Then at other times, a simple goal may be to avoid appearing foolish in front of your colleagues. In other words, the prospect of committing a blunder can be a career-long embarrassment. Especially when the blunder is a case of mixing up financial figures or giving a presentation with your front zipper down, unknowingly.

While these blunders may haunt you, at least you can live them down if restricted to your local office. On the other hand, the odds of making a social blunder increase during business trips to other countries. Because as you try to show respect for their culture, instead you may step on the toes of your hosts.  

How Does Etiquette Affect International Business?

How to improve your business etiquette teaches you how to present yourself professionally in different cultures. Simply put the secrets for making a good impression will include dining table manners, gift-giving, greeting style, and many other important elements. Therefore, how to improve your business etiquette is a must-read if you want to avoid mistakes that can put you on the spot.

Watch Out For Dining Table Rules

The dinner table is the perfect venue to commit an unintentional gaffe. The etiquette about whether to finish the food on your plate or not is different from one country to the other.  For instance, an African marketing director disclosed that he offended a Chinese business associate on his first trip to Beijing. The business associate invited him to dinner on the first night of the visit. His earlier investigation taught him that in China, the business should not be discussed early in his trip. So he went to dinner and kept the conversation personal, learning more about China and his host’s family.

However, as the evening progressed, the African politely ate every bit of food on his plate, even though he was full. When the evening ended, the host’s warmth had vanished and he gave the visitor a cold goodbye.

The next morning he found out from a co-worker that in China cleaning your plate means you were not given enough food. Similarly in Taiwan, you are expected to leave some rice in your bowl. But then again, in Africa and Denmark, leaving food on your plate is considered wasteful. Since you have to finish every morsel of food.

Be On Top Of Greeting Style

how to improve your business etiquette

Don’t get caught off guard with your greeting style. Some African travellers often find themselves in awkward situations through no fault of their own. Asking, “How are you?’ can get some surprising responses. Because Africans will normally respond to that question with something quick and cheerful, such as “Fine!” or “Good. How are you?”

But if you happen to be traveling to Eastern Europe, such an upbeat attitude would be out of place. For example, answers such as “Life could be better” or ‘Terrible’ are perfectly acceptable options.

Then again, in New Zealand, a common greeting between two people is to rub or touch noses. While in Middle Easter counties, you should not use your left hand for greetings or hand someone an object. This is because the left hand is seen as unclean.

But in Australia, Brazil, France, or Germany, it’s worth the extra effort to offer your hand in a firm handshake. It shows you’re polite, confident, and approachable, thus setting the tone for a potential professional relationship.

Be Aware Of Birthday Celebration Custom

If you’re going to work in Germany, be ready to initiate your birthday celebration. This is a fact an American learned shortly after she began working for a company. She did not expect to do any sort of celebration because she was a new employee. Hence she remained silent on the matter.

But surprised when the human resources manager wished her a happy birthday. Her colleagues immediately lined up to shake her hand and wish her a happy birthday. She soon grasped the gaffe after a few asked what goodies she brought in to celebrate her birthday.

Don’t Give Gifts That Offend

How to improve your business etiquette include rules about gifts your host may find peculiar. So don’t give gifts that offend your host. For example, you should not give a Chinese person a clock as a gift. This can be viewed as an unlucky action signaling someone’s death. Similarly, knives don’t make good gifts in Japan as they can be seen as symbolic of cutting ties with the recipient.

Don’t Be Late For Dinner Invitation

Cultural etiquette in Africa is even more diverse, but the common one is not to expect your African guest to be right on the dot for a dinner invitation. Hence if you agree to 7.00 pm, set your mind for 30 mins lateness. While you can get away with lateness in Africa, keeping your host waiting is a sign of disrespect and laxity in other places.

Always say “Please” and “Thank you.”

how to improve your business etiquette

This should go without saying. This basic form of courtesy is still important even in a very casual professional atmosphere. In today’s world of sending a thank you email, this is perfectly acceptable. But a handwritten thank you note is always a nice touch.

Don’t Interrupt

how to improve your business etiquette

Are you always so eager to offer your opinions or press your point that you often interrupt others mid-sentence? Admit it can be difficult to force yourself not to interrupt, particularly when the discussion is heated. But don’t.  It’s rude and shows disrespect for the opinions of others. Instead be assertive, not aggressive.

Avoid Discussions On Politics And Religion

how to improve your business etiquette

Although many of the personal and professional lines are blurred, the big two politics and religion are still off-limits. These two topics are highly charged minefields for a professional environment.  As such, dump them at the office door.


On the last note, how to improve your business etiquette are useful tips to know. Likewise, it’s useful to do your homework before you embark on an international business meeting. For example, buy some books about etiquette and search online for tips. You may also want to search out government-sponsored websites that inform you of what to expect. But then your best bet is first-hand tips, based on personal experiences, from friends or colleagues who have visited the country.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

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