Do You Know These Workplace Etiquette Essentials? writer

mannersEver been caught talking with your mouth full at a business luncheon? Have you ever shared an uncomfortable silence with a co-worker you don't know well? Ever been "caught with your pants down" on a business trip where you weren't fashionably prepared?

Such are three (of many) situations that present themselves in the working world. As professionals, we face many a moment when we're caught unprepared with nowhere to turn.

Dana Persia, owner of DP Image Consulting in Philadelphia, offers these pointers on some of the few aspects of business:


"Dining etiquette can be critical to your career growth," Persia says. "Employers want to see you in social situations to see how you conduct yourself, particularly if the job you want requires a certain standard of conduct with clients and superiors." Persia offers a few dos and don'ts for business lunches, dinners and cocktail parties:

  • NEVER talk with your mouth full and NEVER point at anyone with your utensils.
  • Always wait for your host to sit down first before taking your seat.
  • No grooming of any kind should be done at the table. Excuse yourself.
  • Sit up straight and keep your feet flat on the floor or cross your legs at the ankle. Crossing your legs during the meal causes you to slouch and looks too sloppy and casual.
  • NEVER drink too much. You'll lose your tact, sharpness and ability to conduct yourself in a businesslike manner.
  • When eating soup, dip your spoon away from yourself to fill your spoon with soup. Rest your spoon periodically.


Your interaction with colleagues can make or break a business relationship. Follow Persia's tips on listening, small talk and social taboos to keep you ahead of the game:

1. Body language

Our body language says a lot about our emotions, whether we mean them to or not, Persia says.

"When a person is overly excited when telling a story, he may purposely wave his hands in the air or point for emphasis," she says. "If that same person is telling a story and stretching the facts, he may look away from his audience or shift his eyes ... indicating the storyteller is lying."

Here are some signals to look for and what they could mean.

Gesture: Hands on hips

Emotion: Readiness, aggression

Gesture: Hand to cheek

Emotion: Evaluation thinking

: Hands clasped behind head, legs crossed

Emotion: Confidence, superiority

Gesture: Pulling or tugging at ear

Emotion: Indecision

Gesture: Rubbing the eye

Emotion: Doubt, disbelief

: Tapping or drumming fingers

Emotion: Impatience

2. Listening

There's nothing more rude or disrespectful than not paying attention to someone when they're talking to you. Make sure you're following Persia's five listening rules:

  • Always give full attention to the person who is speaking.
  • Don't look overhead at a television, another person, at the door or out the window.
  • Don't let your mind wander. Concentrate on the speaker's words.
  • Don't interrupt.
  • Finish listening and don't be worrying about what you are going to say next.

3. Surviving small talk

At business functions (or any other function where you don't know everyone well), remember it's in poor taste to talk about religion, political views or sex. It is OK to talk about:

  • General politics
  • Current events
  • Weather
  • Family
  • Vacation plans

People love to talk about themselves, so ask questions, Persia says. A few favorites to have on hand:

  • Where did you grow up?
  • Where did you go to school?
  • How do you know the host?

4. Social taboos

There are some tried and true taboos in our society, as well as several that have become socially unacceptable over time, Persia says.

Taboos include:

  • Smoking
  • Drug use
  • Obnoxious cell phone usage
  • Taking off your shoes in public
  • Foul language
  • Flatulence
  • Nose and/or teeth picking

Next: Restroom Etiquette for the Office >>

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