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To students and professionals alike, the rules of business etiquette can seem both complicated and fussy. Unfortunately, important issues that hurt relationships and hobble careers can get lost in worries over making sure one's cravat is properly starched or whether one is using all seven dinner forks in the proper order.

With tongue planted only slightly in cheek here, it dawns on us that a vast swath of business etiquette can be covered by one simple rule: Stop being so annoying. Establishing this rule as a foundation for workplace behavior would help curtail a host of unwelcome habits. For example, you've probably been put off by companies or colleagues who exhibit these behaviors:

  • Maintaining zombie communication channels, including email and voicemail accounts that appear to be active and alive but are in fact ignored by their supposed owners. Individual messages sometimes fall through the cracks, of course. We're talking here of the people who fail to respond to one or more messages and eventually explain that "Oh, I never check voicemail" or "I don't use that email account anymore." Owners of these zombie channels could save colleagues and customers a lot of grief if they would simply delete the accounts or at the very least indicate via outgoing message or auto-response that the account is not monitored.
  • Using weak passwords that make email and Twitter accounts easy to hack, resulting in streams of spams and scams for everyone on the contact list—and as a lovely bonus, a fresh batch of verified active email addresses for spammers to reuse and resell.
  • Publishing individual or corporate Twitter and Facebook streams that are 90 percent ads and look-at-me posts, with very little value-added content. Of course, no one is forced to subscribe to any content stream, but annoyance sets in when a person or organization promises to have a social media dialogue and then acts like an infomercial.
  • Failing to exercise enough self-containment to keep personal problems, emotional meltdowns, schedule disasters, and other issues from spewing all over everyone within physical or digital range.
  • Not making the effort to write or speak clearly. Communication skills vary widely from person to person, to be sure, but there's a big difference between being lightly skilled and being careless or thoughtless.

Not to discount the niceties of etiquette, but removing the negatives seems more critical to healthy business relationships than adding the positives—worrying more about the "don'ts" than the "dos," in other words.

Would emphasizing this angle make etiquette a more relevant and reachable topic for your students? Please let us know what you think.

 

Image credit: MirellaST