Language and the channels we use to share thoughts and ideas have evolved significantly over time—and the rate of change has accelerated in the past few decades. As our methods of communication change, so do the rules around proper etiquette.

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The impact of maintaining proper business etiquette

Proper etiquette in business is about more than merely acting “proper.” It involves honing your emotional intelligence to be more aware and respectful of the people around you.

Maintaining proper business communication etiquette does the following:

  • Fosters employee loyalty and overall positive brand perception
  • Improves company culture and team morale
  • Encourages internal engagement
  • Prevents frustration, confusion, and mishaps due to misunderstandings
  • Promotes productivity and harmonious collaboration
  • Helps you build and maintain positive business relationships and make helpful connections

Educating your team about proper business communication etiquette can improve employee retention by up to 50% [link to Grammarly infographic] and potentially save your business millions of dollars in delays or failures typically caused by poor communication.

What is proper business communication etiquette?

Pinpointing the exact rules you and your team should follow can be a complex process, as certain expectations can vary by location and culture. This is especially true if your company operates globally or if your team includes remote members working from disparate locations.

For example, Grammarly’s research has found that users in Costa Rica, India, Ireland, Malaysia, Mexico, and Vietnam are more likely to maintain the right tone in their written communications than users in other countries. Technical correctness is more universally prioritized, but the rules governing correctness vary by language and country. Even similar countries that share a language, like the US and the UK, may differ on the finer points of vocabulary, spelling, and grammar.

An essential element of good etiquette is recognizing and respecting these differences and adapting accordingly. Active listening skills are key to learning what is expected of you and your team in different geographical and cultural contexts.

Learning these nuances will take time and patience. In the meantime, there are a few broadly applicable rules of good business communication etiquette you and your team can adopt now to move in the right direction:

  • Be punctual. Arrive on time to meetings (set the alarm on your watch or phone if you need a reminder) and be ready to make and accept pre-scheduled phone and video calls. This shows you respect other attendees’ time and schedules. When scheduling a meeting with global colleagues, be cognizant of time-zone differences and select a time accordingly. 
  • Avoid rambling and tangents. Being concise helps keep things moving and prevents unnecessary delays and frustrations. When looking at business communication on a global scale, it also avoids misunderstandings when using regionally based colloquial language. When writing, Grammarly can quickly scan content and provide suggestions for improving clarity and conciseness.
  • Keep communication professional. Being a respectful, professional communicator isn’t just smart—it’s vital to your business. Avoid vulgarities, language that may be offensive to others, and overly personal or forward comments or gestures. Maintain an amicable, polite attitude whenever possible. Always refer back to your brand style guide—and if there isn’t one, consider creating one. With Grammarly Business, managers can create a built-in custom style guide that the tool can then reference when scanning company-wide content, improving consistency and educating users on company best practices. 
  • Avoid and discourage gossip. As in any social setting, gossip in the workplace can quickly undermine morale and erode positive team dynamics. Lead by example and avoid indulging in it, and (politely) discourage others from doing so should it come up in conversation.
  • Encourage discourse. Communication should be a two-way street. Urge team members to ask questions whenever necessary, give feedback, and volunteer their thoughts and ideas. Pay close attention when they do, carefully considering their responses before providing your own.
  • Know your audience. Whenever possible, tailor what you want to say to the person (or people) you’re saying it to. The closer your message aligns with their interests and priorities, the more effectively it will achieve the desired result.
  • Choose the right communication channel. It can be difficult to know which communication channel is best for which message. In some cases, this will be obvious; a personal conversation, for example, should not be the subject of a company-wide presentation. But recognizing when a conversation warrants an email versus a video call, for example, can help ensure your message is positively received.

Maintaining professional etiquette across communication channels

When communicating in person, let the other person know you’re listening and engaged by maintaining eye contact and avoiding multitasking during your conversation. If you expect your conversation to take more than a couple of minutes, consider scheduling a meeting ahead of time to give your audience time to adjust their workflow accordingly.

  • If you’re preparing for a presentation, it may help to write your ideas down—or even write a rough draft—in advance. 

When communicating via phone or video calls, take extra care and, for video calls, try to look into the camera rather than at your screen. When receiving a call, answer promptly, and be sure to keep your cell phone muted or on vibrate during meetings to avoid being interrupted.

  • When possible, it can be helpful to “practice” conversations ahead of time. Thinking about or writing out what you want to say before a meeting can help solidify your main point and help you avoid unnecessary tangents.

When communicating in writing, whether you’re penning a quick email to a colleague or drafting a formal report to share at an upcoming meeting, pay special attention to tone. Tone can be more challenging to pick up on—and convey—in writing, so be sure to always reread your work and assess whether your tone is appropriate for the situation. 

All of these tips will help you and your team employ better business etiquette on an individual level. But how do you go about implementing these changes?

How to improve your team’s business communication etiquette

The first and most important thing you can do to help your team improve is to lead by example. Interacting with you and observing how well you conduct yourself in the workplace will help your team members pick up on the subtler points of business communication etiquette and adjust their behavior accordingly.

Here are some other ways to help your team move forward together:

  • Scheduling a few training sessions to review the principles of proper etiquette
  • Sharing educational materials, such as videos (or even articles like this one), for team members to review on their own time
  • Maintaining an open-door policy and letting your team know they can come to you with any questions or concerns they may have
  • Using employee and customer feedback around communications to identify areas for improvement and strategize accordingly
  • Implementing a business communication tool like Grammarly that can instantly review spelling, grammar, word choice, and tone in written documents and make suggestions for improvement as necessary

It can be difficult to navigate the changing landscape of language and etiquette in a world that is constantly—and ever more rapidly—evolving. But by taking a few steps in the right direction today, you and your team can reach your communication goals sooner than later.

Grammarly’s digital communication assistant is an ideal tool for helping teams improve written business communication etiquette. To learn more, reach out to our team today or get started with Grammarly Business right away.

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