Many executives knowingly or unknowingly make faux pas in their day-to-day social or business life. Some do not take these social gaffes seriously. But make no mistake, such faux pas cannot only negatively affect your professional image but believe it or not, can also make or break your career.

Here are our picks for the top 6 business etiquette faux pas:

Business Etiquette Faux Pas

Staying glued to the phone during meetings: Nothing irks people more than a half-hearted presence. People texting, checking emails or talking on the phone in the middle of a meeting or conversation, is simply rude and insulting for others present.

  • Switch off your phone or put it on vibrate mode when entering into a meeting. This will give you less opportunities to be distracted.
  • If you are expecting an important call, inform the concerned person(s) beforehand, excuse yourself and find a private place to take the call.
  • Respect others and value their time.

Bad mouthing others: Criticizing others is a sure way of losing business. You might think that by bad mouthing your competition, ex-boss or employees, you are degrading them. Really, you are only discrediting yourself and your business.

  • Only talk about how good your product or service is and how it is better than others.
  • Never enter into a conversation where you are expected to criticize or degrade others.

Failure to really listen: Constantly talking without giving others the opportunity to present their views or constantly interrupting them is another faux pas that you should avoid.

  • Remember, communication is a two-way process. It should be a mutually beneficial exchange of ideas and stories.
  • Fight the urge to share a similar story or let the other person know you know as much or more than them. Humble yourself. It can have a very positive impact on how the other party opens up and shares with you.
  • Give your undivided attention to the talker. Do not be occupied by thinking about what you will say next.

Making up excuses: Making up excuses for being late for a meeting or for not being able to honour your commitments can lead people to distrust you.

  • Always be punctual. Being late tells people that you don’t value their time and energy. It’s certainly not an impression that you would want to give to your supervisors or customers. Set reminders on your calendar or smartphone so that you can stay on schedule. At Cegos Asia Pacific, we offer a course on Time Management that lets executives/managers manage time strategically and focus on their key priorities.
  • If you are running late, call ahead to apologise and offer to reschedule the meeting if the other party would prefer.
  • Always assess your ability to complete a task before you promise to deliver. A lot rides on your words; your company’s and your reputation are at stake. You wouldn’t want to compromise it by failing to keep your commitments and be a source of embarrassment for all parties concerned.

Overbooking yourself: In the race to climb (or stay at the top of) the corporate ladder, do you take on more than you can deliver? Is your calendar overbooked or tightly packed just because you can’t say no? Do you race against time to keep your commitments only to lose your efficiency and sanity?

  • Learn to say ‘no’. Do not add things to your schedule just because people ask you to.
  • Doing a few things efficiently is far more professional (not to mention productive), than doing too much and being ineffective.

Not being presentable: You may argue that working efficiently is more important than being presentable. However, the bottom line is that it pays to look good. Arriving at work unclean, unshaven or smelly is not acceptable. It could hamper your chances of getting that long-coveted promotion or project.

  • Maintain basic hygiene.
  • Make sure your clothes are presentable and in accordance with your organisation’s dress culture.

What are some of the business etiquette faux pas you’ve come across?

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