Business Etiquette, Ethics and You

By Elizabeth Graichen

Honesty, integrity and loyalty never go out of style.

Somehow, you cannot talk about manners without including ethics, especially in the business world. They are the proverbial “peas in the pod.” Manners, or etiquette, is about more than knowing which fork to use or how to shake hands, and business ethics goes much further than simply reading a company's handbook on policy and procedure.

One way or another, our behavior and moral values define us, positively or negatively. Everything starts with manners and ethics. They are the measure of how others will evaluate you, and both are essential for you and your business. Manners come into play every day, all day, and in every area of life. We will never know how many business deals have been won or lost because of one's social skills. Knowing the ins and outs of business practices plays an important role in your success, yet it is only part of the overall picture.

How do these things play out in the workplace and fit into your life? One definition of etiquette: “A code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class or group.” Ethics is defined as “that branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.” I feel these two definitions go hand in hand. Most of us were taught manners and ethics as children, and what was taught in the home reflects greatly on the ethics someone will bring into the work environment.

Good manners and ethics do not come and go, change with the times, or vary from generation to generation. They are what they are, and they can be adopted by anyone. In this case, you can “teach an old dog new tricks,” if you are willing to apply them to your life. Without them, it is difficult to develop trust in the workplace and in the business world.

While covering a Monday Night Football game last year, Bob Costas made the comment: “We grow more stupid and graceless as a nation.” Though he was talking about the antics of unsportsmanlike conduct by football players in the end zone and the costly penalties that entails, a world of relativism cannot be tolerated on the field or in the business world without consequences.

In business, you cannot have two sets of standards. We have seen this play out in recent years, and many large corporations have fallen like a house of cards, wrecking the lives of those who depended on them. Many people were left with nothing, not even the retirement packages promised them. Sadly, some have taken their own lives because of unscrupulous business practices.

Honesty, integrity and loyalty never go out of style. They create a cohesion among others and are essential for a healthy business. When we take on a “me-first” attitude, it creates distrust and discord in those around us. To be well-liked and become a successful professional, one should stick to a code of ethics in the workplace. Make your “yes” mean yes and your “no" mean no, so your coworkers know that you are a person of your word and can be trusted.

You should never have one set of manners for someone in a position of authority and another for everyone else. One should show the same respect to the boss as he or she does to the maintenance worker or the person that cleans the office. As a leader, one should never ask a subordinate to follow a rule that you are not willing to obey yourself or to do something unethical that will put them in a compromising position. This is equally important to all levels of staff. Never compromise anyone's integrity. Whatever your position, consideration for others will win you respect, trust and loyalty.

Manners, ethics, loyalty, integrity and honesty—these things never go out of style. They stand the test of time and will help you sleep better at night. Cultivating these practices is always in good taste and will always reflect well on the company and yourself. iBi

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