Temenos Journal II

August 27, 2012

Business Etiquette 101: What’s Inappropriate?

During the business day, the name of the game is to focus on achieving the company’s goals. Anything that distracts from achieving the company’s goals is probably inappropriate.

If one of the company’s goals is to help foster goodwill and camaraderie among employees, then occasional chit-chat about family activities and how the Browns did last night is certainly appropriate.

How do you know if your chit-chat is inappropriate… or over the line? The easy way to determine whether a topic is appropriate or not is to ask, “Does this kind of talk make anyone uncomfortable?”

Chances are that if your topic is anything about sex or politics…. at least 50% of the people will want to edge away from the conversation.

If you want to talk about what you did with your spouse or date last night… after the lights were out…  chances are pretty good that some people will feel uneasy about participating in the discussion. “Too much information” is one polite way to tell someone, “Dude… I don’t even want to envision that.”

Another thing that makes a whole lot of people uncomfortable is politics. Especially emotionally-laden partisan exclamations by a person in authority. Our nation is pretty evenly divided 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans. So if you proclaim a partisan political opinion, at least 50% of the room is likely to disagree. It’s best to keep business as non-partisan as possible.

If one of the company’s goals is to further the success of one particular political party… then that’s another story. In that case, it’s necessary to talk politics in order to further the company’s agreed-upon goals.

When in doubt… just don’t talk about sex or politics at work.

As far as appropriate business attire… in general, don’t wear flip-flops and don’t dress provocatively or sloppily or too casually. Dress appropriate for your industry, i.e., fashionably if you’re a hairdresser; pocket protector if you’re an engineer.

Keep your eye on the company’s (or the community’s) goals, and everyone wins.