Business Etiquette


In 2016, @ETIQhour will concentrate on the top 15 Business Etiquette Essentials every future leader will want to know. Each fortnight a new Essential has been released: Essential #9: Don’t eavesdrop.

In business, everyone holds confidential conversations and are entitled to them as part of their everyday business. This also goes for emails; don’t stand over someone’s shoulder and read their emails, regardless of personal or business, unless they invite you to.

In today’s office environments it’s on-trend for open planned, pod style offices, so be considerate of another person’s physical space. Proximity can breed contempt rather than teamwork when you persist in invading your cubicle neighbours. Give your fellow pod buddies a sense of control over their space, knock on the wall and ask permission to enter rather than just assuming you have the right to walk in, and interrupt their business. Just because it’s an open-plan environment it doesn’t give you the right to disturb others when they are working or worse, on the phone. Hovering and waiting your turn while your colleague is on the telephone displays good etiquette and respect.

Sounds amplify after bouncing off cubicle walls. Your conversation, laughter and music can interfere with others. Background noise, especially not business-related, presents unprofessionalism to anyone calling or visiting your office. It’s best to use an ‘indoor’ voice. Keep conversations and laughter muted or take them to another place where you won’t interrupt others. Try to keep your personal conversations to a minimum, and watch what you say, because, foul, racist or inappropriate language and remarks are unacceptable in any work environment.

It’s always recommended to hold confidential conversations in private, although sometimes it’s imperative to hold those conversations out in the open, just be aware of any visitors that might be visiting, or people on the phone to clients, competitors or suppliers.

Don’t use speaker phone in an open planned office. Move into a closed office if you must. Turn off your mobile phone if you don’t need them. Otherwise, keep them within easy reach on silent. If you must listen to the radio or music, plug in one earphone so you can keep one ear on your workplace.

Don’t eavesdrop. – Practice selective hearing. Just because you were able to hear a conversation pods away does not mean you have a right to comment on it.