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Have you ever been in a situation at work where you said something and knew right away that you made a major faux pas? While it can be tough to be on your absolute best behavior 24 hours a day, there are some major etiquette blunders that you must avoid if you want to achieve professional success. Jodi R.R. Smith, president and founder of the etiquette consulting firm Mannersmith, tells us the biggest slip-ups that happen at work and how to avoid them: 1. Being late. Showing up late for appointments not only makes you look bad, but it can also have a negative impact on your success. Smith says she knew a service provider who was late to two separate meetings with the same client. What was the consequence? They lost an $80 million account. "You have to be very respectful of people's time, especially your clients," she says. While you may occasionally run into circumstances beyond your control, you can avoid this costly blunder by always giving yourself more than enough extra time to make the trip. Remember, it's better to be 30 minutes early than 5 minutes late. 2. E-mailing the wrong person the wrong message. E-mail has given us a whole new set of etiquette guidelines. And with such an immediate communication tool, it is easy to make a mistake with the push of a button. If you mistakenly push "reply" or "reply all" instead of "forward," your note to a friend reading, "Can you believe this joker sent me this?" in response to a boss' e-mail could wind up back in your boss' inbox instead. To ensure that your complaints don't end up in the wrong place, be extremely cautious about what you put in writing. "If you don't have anything nice to say, say it face to face," Smith says. Or don't say it at all. 3. Inadvertently sharing others' e-mail addresses. How many times have you had your e-mail shared with complete strangers because a friend sent a mass e-mail with 50 e-mail addresses in the "To" or "Cc" column? While some people don't mind, others are extremely sensitive about sharing their e-mail addresses. If you are sending a mass e-mail, Smith suggests putting all addresses in the blind carbon copy, or "Bcc" field. This will get your message to the right people without sharing private information with the entire distribution list. 4. Having a wimpy handshake. According to Smith, most of us tend to generalize people's competence based on first impressions, and your handshake is an extremely important part of your overall image. "People really underestimate the power of the handshake," she notes. If you meet someone for the first time and have a handshake that is weak, you run the risk of being labeled as lacking self confidence. Practice your handshake with someone who will give you honest feedback. 5. Dressing inappropriately. In today's business environment, it can be hard to figure out how professionally or casually you should dress. Doing your homework can save you from making a major gaffe. "It is always better to be overdressed than underdressed," Smith says. She suggests that when you are meeting with clients, check out their attire policy in advance and dress one notch higher. 6. Forgetting that business social events are still business. In every company, there are stories of individuals who attend company social functions and take the partying too far. Yes, it might be a happy hour, but that does not give you the green light to overindulge. Smith warns that you must remember that business social events are still business. She suggests asking yourself this question: Is what I'm doing, wearing or saying going to enhance or distract from my professional image? If your answer is not positive, you need to alter your behavior before you make a major mistake.
Last Updated: 05/10/2009 - 11:40 PM
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