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  • Writer's pictureSarah Butler

Business Etiquette For Communicating In The Workplace

When in the workplace, it is important to maintain proper communication etiquette in order to create a positive and professional environment and enhance your reputation.

According to Hubspot there are five types of etiquette in business:

  • Workplace/office

  • Meal/social

  • Communication

  • Professionalism

  • Meeting

Bear in mind that etiquette, manners or rules of conduct can be written or unwritten and may differ according to organisational culture. This article provides essential, universal etiquette tips to help you communicate professionally in any work setting.

Quick-fire communication etiquette tips

  • Always introduce yourself fully when making a call to someone new including your first and last name, position and organisation.

  • Be concise and get to the point whether it is an internal or external call.

  • Don't interrupt when the other person is talking. Wait for a pause before speaking up.

  • Know how to use the mute, hold and transfer functions of your phone.

  • Smile when talking on the phone. This makes your tome friendly and welcoming even though the receiver can't see you smiling, they will feel the positivity.

  • Be aware of background noise and what the receiver may inadvertently overhear.

  • Limit personal calls and if you do need to make or receive them move to a space that is away from your coworkers.

  • Check your volume - don't speak too loudly or quietly. If in doubt ask the receiver if the volume levels are OK.

  • Don't interact with your mobile while engaging with someone else - this is very rude. Leave your phone in your bag, pocket or face down on your desk.

  • If you are on a conference call, put yourself on mute when not speaking so your ambient noise doesn't intrude.

  • Never eat while on the phone.

  • Don't try to communicate with someone else who is on the phone - this is unbelievably distracting.

  • Try and avoid leaving voicemails - they can be infrequently checked and people generally dislike receiving them. If you can't reach someone use an alternative such as instant message or email.


  • Answer emails within an acceptable timeframe to your organisation. For example, your team may expect responses within 48 hours and your organisation to respond to client emails within 24 hours. If in doubt, check with your manager.

  • Check that the recipient's name is spelled correctly and you use the appropriate level of formality. If you would use their first name in a face-to-face conversation then it's OK to address them the same way in an email.

  • Use emojis sparingly and not at all for emails to external parties or seniors in your organisation. The same goes for exclamation marks.

  • Keep emails concise and ensure the main point is clearly identifiable. This shows respect for the recipient's time.

  • Avoid using abbreviations or other shorthand including jargon with external recipients.

  • Ensure subject lines are short, specific and relevant to the email contents.

  • Use salutations - never start off an email without a greeting.

  • Check your email tone - could it be misconstrued in any way? If in doubt have someone else read it before sending it. Don't say anything in an email that you wouldn't say in person.

  • Avoid emails for sensitive conversations - they are better done in person.

You can read more about common email mistakes and how to fix them here.


  • Shake hands when meeting (unless there is social distancing in place).

  • Avoid commenting on someone's physical appearance since this may make them feel uncomfortable and comes across as unprofessional.

  • Use eye contact with the other person between 60-70% of the time.

  • Mirror the volume at which the other person is speaking.

  • Show enthusiasm towards what they are saying by using active listening.

  • Stay concise and on topic.

  • Don't be too casual or overly familiar with your seniors or external stakeholders.

5 Universal etiquette tips for communicating at work

1. Respect the opinions of others

Communicating professionally means respecting the opinions of others, even if you don’t agree with them. While you shouldn’t feel obligated to agree with every viewpoint in the office, you should respect everyone’s right to have an opinion on a matter. Not only is it important to maintain a positive work atmosphere and a strong team bond, but it can also lead to better collaboration and creative solutions. When coworkers feel that their ideas are respected and valued, they are more likely to speak up and share their thoughts, which can lead to better ideas and more efficient work.

Respect also helps to build trust between coworkers. People who trust each other feel comfortable asking questions, giving feedback, and working together to come up with creative solutions. This can lead to critical breakthroughs in innovation and unlocks the potential of a team to achieve great things.

Respect for each other's opinions is also essential for conflict resolution. When coworkers feel that their ideas are respected and taken seriously, it's easier to come to a consensus and resolve any differences.

2. Use appropriate language

Communicating professionally means using appropriate language; avoiding profanity and other types of language that are considered inappropriate in the office and can create a negative reflection of you and damage your credibility.

While you should never feel pressured to change the way you speak just to fit in, you should avoid using language that could be seen as offensive or could create a poor impression.

If you use profanity or other inappropriate language in an email, be aware that some organisations have software that will automatically flag these emails as problematic. This software may even prevent these emails from being sent and may be brought to the attention of your supervisor for further action.

3. Respect confidentiality

In some situations, you may be required to keep certain information confidential. If so, you should make sure not to discuss this information outside of the appropriate settings. For example, you may be required to keep information about a project or business deal confidential until it is announced publicly. Even if you haven't explicitly been told to keep something confidential there may be a clause in your employment contract or an organisational policy addressing confidentiality, which will have consequences if breached. In the absence of all of this, professionals don't share sensitive organisational information as a matter of course and good conduct.

You should also respect the confidentiality of others. This means not sharing information that others have asked you to keep quiet. This will help you build positive relationships and show that you respect the privacy of others.

4. Understand and use a variety of communication styles

Communicating professionally means understanding and respecting different communication styles. Some people prefer to communicate using written messages, such as emails, while others prefer to communicate orally, such as through phone calls or face-to-face conversations or even a mix of methods as well. When communicating with others, pay attention to the communication methods that they prefer and try and use them. This will help them feel respected and valued and increase the likelihood that your message will be understood as you intend it. If you are unsure of someone’s communication preferences, you can ask them. This will help you create and strengthen relationships.

5. Manage your body language

Body language makes up about 55% of communication - even more than your words, which means that it is essential to manage your body language to ensure it is consistent with what you are saying. When your nonverbal signals match up with the words you're saying, they increase trust, clarity, and rapport. When they don't, they can generate confusion and mistrust.

If you are saying one thing but your body language is saying something else, it can be difficult for your listener to know what to believe. For example, if you were to say “I'm feeling fine” with a frown on your face, your listener may be more inclined to believe your body language rather than your words.

Therefore, it is important to be mindful of your body language and ensure that it is consistent with what you are saying. By being aware of your body language and making sure it matches your message, you can ensure that your audience is receiving the message that you intend to send.

Body language is a universal form of communication, however, it can vary greatly from culture to culture. For example, in some cultures, eye contact is seen as a sign of respect and attentiveness, while in others, it is seen as disrespectful or aggressive. A firm handshake can be a sign of confidence and respect or may be seen as aggressive.

By understanding the differences in body language between cultures, you can ensure that you are communicating effectively and avoiding misunderstandings when engaging with a diverse audience.


Professional communication is key to any successful workplace. Effective communication can help to create positive relationships, boost morale, and even improve productivity.

To ensure professional communication, follow these common rules of etiquette to ensure that you are always conveying the right message, and that your interactions are consistently professional.

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