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Business Etiquette: Readers’ Top 3 FAQ

I have really enjoyed blogging each month on an aspect of business etiquette and exploring some of the social nuances and modern interpretations of classic etiquette expectations in a business setting. I hope these blogs have helped you gain more confidence in your professional interactions and improved your professional relationships.    

I have received many questions and suggested topics along the way, so this month I thought it would be beneficial to collect a few of the most frequently asked questions to address. Here are the top 3 business etiquette questions I received:

Question 1: What is the best way to quit a job?

Remember, you will likely come across your former supervising Partner(s) and colleagues again for years to come, so the act of resigning must be conducted with respect and dignity. Ask for an in-person meeting with your most direct supervising partner, the one who will be most impacted by your departure. You can begin with a statement like “This is a difficult conversation" or " I have had a tough decision to make…” Explain briefly that you found another opportunity better suited to your goals. Express gratitude and the positives of your time at the firm, send a written letter to that person and human resources, if applicable, then share the news with colleagues  - all the while staying positive. Give two weeks’ notice and plan your departure, finishing tasks or letting people know where things stand so someone can take over without mishap.

Question 2: How do I respond to an exit interview if there are serious problems that management should be aware of?

Be Factual: If there are issues you want to bring up, use facts to illustrate your points. Telling your boss that you are underpaid can easily come off as entitled. On the other hand, if you state that other firms  are offering significantly more money at your experience level, and your offer became too difficult to pass up, then that sounds very different. It provides context without sounding entitled and gives the firm useful feedback that they will be glad to know. 

Most importantly, stay positive. Mention ways you’ve grown and important things you’ve learned. Remember to use the “compliment sandwich” – in which constructive criticism is sandwiched between two compliments. When you do provide criticism, do so in a way that is constructive rather than personal.

Question 3: I just got a new job.  Should I send a friend request to my new boss and coworkers on Facebook? When should I connect with my new boss and colleagues on Linkedin?

Facebook is primarily a social platform for personal use, in both what you post and who you add as a friend. It’s acceptable to decline a business contact’s friend request and send a LinkedIn request instead. Check your privacy settings regularly and know that it is perfectly acceptable to untag a photo of yourself.  

LinkedIn is a platform created for making professional connections. As a best practice rule, wait until one interaction with someone, or a few weeks into the new job. Connect with your immediate team, manager and those with whom you have regular contact at your company or firm. Don’t connect to the managing partner, CEO and all 50 coworkers on the first day of your new job.

Note: use a professional photo or headshot of yourself on LinkedIn. Think about how your photo looks to someone who doesn’t know you… what image does it create in their mind about you?  No bare shoulders, kids in the background, or an obviously cropped image.  At the least, have someone take a photo of you in front of a white or muted color wall in professional business clothes. When you write your bio, remember to keep it centered on your professional achievements, interests and pursuits.

Observation: Keep things confidential in all surroundings

While this isn’t necessarily a question, I felt it was important to share one reader’s story in our last piece of the year together:

I was recently travelling, and we had a long layover at Heathrow at the beginning of our trip. There was a gentleman (who was obviously a lawyer) talking so loudly in the airline lounge that everyone heard him. His disregard clearly annoyed the travelers around him because several people commented on the rude behavior when he walked away. He kept saying, “I’m a lawyer”…. Seriously, like 10 times. I had Bose noise canceling headphones on and still heard this! One of the kids in the lounge was wearing a shirt with a statement about “inside voices” --- the entire lounge was laughing and joking after the lawyer left because he obviously didn’t use his inside voice.

All of this got me thinking about the number of lawyers who commute by train or subway, especially in the northeast. Or lawyers nationwide who spend time in an airport lounge or boarding a plane- if they were to talk that loudly about client matters, everyone would hear confidential information! There’s definitely a legal risk—not to mention just poor manners. It’s a good reminder to make sure that as you move into the new year, you’re observing a golden rule in business etiquette- be respectful of confidential information, and be aware of your behavior in public places.

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