People generally decide how they feel about you within the first few seconds of meeting. This is an evolutionary auto-response that is generated in the most primitive part of our brains due to a time in the distant past when humans had to make quick decisions about friend vs. foe in order to survive.

In business, as in other social situations, first impressions are very important. While giving a good first impression can be beneficial for your career, a negative impression can be extremely difficult to overcome with prospective employers, customers or clients. When two people with comparable level of education and skill are competing for a job or a client, what separates them when it comes to professional success is their social skills in business. The person who can demonstrate the best business etiquette – the ability to engage in conversation and connect with others in ways that build trust and mutual respect – will inevitably win the job.

The digital age is rapidly changing all aspects of our world, including the work environment. New communication platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and GoToMeeting have blurred the lines of social etiquette and many are left wondering how best to navigate uncharted social territory at work. Proper office etiquette can be confusing with today’s informal digital communication and open-plan workspaces. In this blog, we will discuss some modern-day trends that can be counterproductive to your professional success by serving to create a poor first impression.

Workplace Etiquette Faux Pas

The new generation of young professionals moving into today’s labor force often overlook the importance of business etiquette skills. The concept of business etiquette is seen as too rigid, out-of-date and not relevant to modern life. The reality, however, is that demonstrating respect for your co-workers and/or clients through practicing good workplace etiquette never goes out of style. From this perspective, business etiquette is simply a matter of being considerate towards others and demonstrating good common sense.

Whether you are meeting people face-to-face in a cubicle or conference room, or exchanging emails while working from a local café, there are a number of modern trends that are best avoided if you aim to build strong professional relationships:

Showing Up Late for a Video or Tele-Conference. Most people have no trouble being on time for an in-person meeting, yet showing up late for a video or tele-conference is surprisingly common. Don’t be the person who waits until the last minute to try to connect, only to be late to the meeting due to difficulty logging into the conference correctly. Plan to be at your desk at least 5 minutes early in order to deal with any technical issues ahead of the meeting time.

Multi-tasking During Meetings. In the age of smartphones, getting distracted during meetings is an all too common occurrence. Unless you need it to access relevant information, you’ll want to turn your smartphone off during a meeting, or better yet, don’t even bring it with you. It’s especially easy to get distracted when a meeting is being conducted remotely via video or tele-conference, but don’t let yourself go there – turn off your cell phone, close the laptop, turn off email notifications. It’s important to give meetings your full attention, because there is nothing more disrespectful to the other participants than not being present during a meeting.

CC’ing Too Many People in Your Emails. It’s a rare person these days who does not feel that they get too many emails – both personal and professional. This is especially true for those in management positions. As such, it’s important to resist the urge to CC everyone connected with you on a work email. No one likes to have their inbox loaded up with emails that are not within their sphere of concern, responsibilities and/or interest. Good workplace etiquette is to only CC people on your emails that have a “need to know.”

Talking More Than Listening. When you are really present and listening intently to a co-worker or a client, you are subtly communicating that you respect them, value what they have to say, and are willing to learn. Instead of coming across as a know-it-all by constantly talking, demonstrate that you are interested in the other person and what they have to say by taking the time to ask questions and listen. You’ll build better professional relationships and rapport if you practice listening more than you talk in most situations. This is especially true for new employees when interacting with company elders.

Making Demands Instead of Requests. When new to an organization, it’s best to turn demands into requests when voicing your opinion. Requests communicate respect towards your co-workers and/or the company, whereas demands may signal a lack of willingness to accommodate the needs of others or the company. The longer you remain with a particular company, the more demanding you can afford to be.

Preferring Digital Over Face-To-Face Conversations. Having grown up in the digital age, many up and coming professionals have come to prefer digital over face-to-face communication. Sticking to digital-only communication, however, might make others feel like you are avoiding them. When it comes to building a relationship, there is no substitute for having an in-person conversation where you are able to witness someone’s body language, gestures and facial expressions. Digital communication is certainly easy, comfortable and convenient, but it’s important to know when it’s time to have a face-to-face meeting in order to build rapport.

Being Too Open and/or Divisive in Your Social Media. Communicating too much too fast can be off-putting in any relationship. Social media makes it a little too easy to communicate personal information, as you are just typing into a computer screen instead of communicating in-person. A good rule of thumb is that if you would not feel comfortable mentioning something in a job interview or in a first meeting with a client, it probably should not be posted on your social media. Assume that whatever you post on social media will be viewed by anyone you have a professional relationship with either now or in the future and act accordingly.

Requiring Excessive Feedback. While the desire to know how you are performing in your job is a good thing, requiring constant feedback about what you are doing right and wrong can be annoying and exhausting for managers. Make sure you learn about your company’s employee review process, and practice the patience required to work within those constraints.

Poor Posture or Closed Body Language. Your body language is one of the first things a person notices when they meet you. If your posture is slouched and closed in the presence of another person, you subtly communicate that you are not interested in engaging with them. When communicating with someone, it is best to maintain eye contact and face them with your shoulder’s back and squared to theirs – this demonstrates that you are focused on them and interested in connecting.

Ignoring Dress Code Guidelines. Unless you have the good fortune of working from home, your workplace probably has some dress code guidelines. Instead of just blowing them off and showing up in whatever you think you should be able to wear, it’s wise to demonstrate respect for the social norms of the environment that you are in. A good way to know if you’re dressing appropriately at work is to check with the human resources department about the standards.

Being Buried in Your Gadgets. With the ever-growing list of digital gadgets available, too many people are spending much of their personal time immersed in cyberspace. Instead of wearing your earplugs or playing video games on a work break, step out of your cocoon and connect with your co-workers. Places like elevators and hallways are prime spaces to have open and friendly communications with your colleagues. Being buried in your gadgets at work is like wearing a giant Do Not Disturb sign, and does not bode well for your professional success.


Proper etiquette at work or in your personal life never goes out of style.  It demonstrates respect for others and an interest in connecting. Making a conscious effort to practice good manners can help you slow down the pace of your life and focus on what’s really important – your relationship with other human beings. This practice will help you have more satisfying and fulfilling relationships, and also serve to dramatically improve your chances for professional success.

About the Author

Chelsey Rodier has nearly ten years of experience in Staffing and Recruiting and has been a part of Astrix for the past six years. As a Recruiting Manager, she leads a team in the fulfillment of client’s needs across a variety of industries including pharmaceutical, biotechnology, chemical, environmental, and medical device. She has a unique specialty in supporting pharmacology and toxicology roles and managing the risk and compliance associated with these positions. Prior to working with Astrix, Chelsey was an Office Manager for J&J Staffing where she focused in the clerical and light industrial realms. She brings a Bachelor’s degree from Rowan University