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Center for Career Engagement and Internships

Business Etiquette Do's and Don'ts

Once you have started working, it is important to understand basic business etiquette. Companies vary in their 'unwritten rules,' but these suggestions are generally appropriate for most organizations:


Treat your superior with respect, but do not act submissive or afraid. Treat all people with respect, regardless of status, race, gender, ability, background, etc.

Show a positive attitude. Avoid complaining and gossiping, and be cheerful and constructive in your dealings with others.

Listen: When you are talking to people, look directly into their eyes from time to time. Show interest in the other person by using open-ended questions and acknowledging what you are hearing.

Be friendly and cooperative.

Dress for success - Dress neatly and appropriately for the job. Observe how other staff members dress and follow suit.

Watch your language - Learn the office jargon. Refrain from using profanity and slang. Concentrate on expressing yourself clearly in both verbal and written communications.

Be willing to learn new skills.

Whenever you are without an immediate assigned task, offer to assist others where needed. Personal business should be conducted on your own time, not company time.

Keep your supervisor informed of the status and completion of your work. Periodically ask your supervisor, 'How can I improve?' Make sure others become aware of your accomplishments, but don't boast

Follow organization rules - learn, follow and respect all organization rules, especially those dealing with ethics and confidentiality.

If you don't know, ask! However, respect the time and commitments of others and wait for an appropriate time to ask for assistance.

Network,- get to know the people you are working with


Don't bring up controversial topics (religion, politics)

Don't complain or be negative

Don't use crude language or slang

Don't interrupt people while they are speaking

Don't invade others' personal space; maintain a physical distance of 2-3 feet, coming too close to another person may be considered aggressive or rude. Standing too far away may be considered aloof.

Don't be late for work. Call if you must be late. Consistent lateness and even rescheduling of your work hours can be grounds for dismissal.

Don't talk about personal issues (boyfriend/girlfriend, parties, etc.) in the workplace.

Don't engage in excessive socializing, which would limit your productivity and that of your co-workers.

Don't have unrealistic expectations. Realize that if you are new to a job, you may need to be patient and prove yourself before you get higher responsibilities.

Avoid using your cell phone while at work!

You can consider yourself adequately prepared for a successful job search when you are ready to say the following with confidence:

  • I have prepared an effective resume and cover letter.
  • I have practiced and developed effective interviewing skills.
  • I have explored different job search strategies.
  • I have identified different industries and organizations that are good potential employers.
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