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5 Scenarios Where Proper Workplace Decorum is Essential

WorkingWhile workplaces have become increasingly less formal and more business transactions are taking place outside traditional office settings, the line that separates business from personal can blur. It is important to maintain a certain level of workplace decorum, whether you are in the office or out at an office mixer. Be sure to observe the following pointers, which address a variety of scenarios:

  • In-person meetings. How you conduct yourself during an in-person meeting will leave a lasting impression on your boss and colleagues.
    • Be considerate of others’ time and communicate the purpose, duration and the items for discussion in advance. Thank attendees for their participation, and demonstrate your appreciation by promptly circulating a recap or minutes that document their contribution.
    • Don’t monopolize the conversation. Ensure that everyone has had a chance to speak their mind before ending the meeting.
    • Never assign an action item to someone not present until you have had an opportunity to negotiate it with them.
    • If you are attending another person's meeting, be respectful and resist the urge to multi-task. If you are waiting for an important phone call, turn your phone to vibrate or silent, and excuse yourself before answering. Otherwise, turn your devices off.
  • On the phone. While the cell phone has allowed us to take calls anywhere and at any time, there is still an art to proper phone etiquette.
    • Answer the phone with warmth and enthusiasm, and identify yourself and your department.
    • When initiating a call, be sure to introduce yourself and explain why you are calling. This will help ensure that you are reaching the right person or department, and allow a secretary or receptionist to assist you better if the person you are trying to contact is out of the office.
    • Always return calls within 24 hours. If you don’t have an answer for someone, tell the caller what you are doing to address their need rather than screen the call. If someone else would better serve them, point them in the right direction.
  • In email. Email can be an extremely efficient communication tool, but it is not always the best choice. Know when it is appropriate to email, and when it is better to pick-up the phone.
    • If a topic is so complex that you cannot sum it up in three paragraphs or less, it probably warrants a phone call. Email communications should be concise, with a subject line that adequately describes the content of the message.
    • When replying to an email, don’t default to “Reply All.” Weigh whether or not you really need to copy all recipients of the original distribution.
    • When composing emails, be sure that your name and contact information is included in a signature line.
    • Use complete sentences and avoid slang, abbreviations or emoticons, unless you are certain the person receiving the email will appreciate them. The brief, to-the-point nature of email can often be misinterpreted, so steer away from sarcasm or offbeat humor.
    • When emailing a boss, executive or someone else in leadership, let someone else read the message before sending it. They might catch something that you overlooked. If no one is around to help, read your email aloud and listen carefully to the tone to ensure that you are not leaving room for misinterpretation.
  • Dress and appearance. Showing a lack of concern for your personal appearance can be interpreted as a sign of disrespect to clients or co-workers and managers.
    • Clothing that is wrinkled or worn, an unshaven face or greasy or unkempt hair conveys that you lack professionalism.
    • Always err on the conservative side. In general, business casual requires men to wear dress shoes, slacks and a collared shirt, and for women, dress shoes, a nice blouse, dress pants or a skirt.
  • Social functions. Impressions made during a cocktail party, dinner or reception can make or break a business deal.
    • Always bring business cards, and be sure to arrive on time.
    • Do some work ahead of time to familiarize yourself with attendees, and provide introductions where appropriate. If you forget or are unaware of someone’s name, introduce the person you know first, and the unknown person may introduce themselves. If not, excuse yourself, and admit you are having a mental block, rather than fumble around.
  • Practicing proper workplace decorum in the office and at social functions is just one step to master in reaching your career goals. The AICPA’s E.D.G.E. Conference, August 6 to 8 in New Orleans, has a number of sessions that cover additional steps to maximizing your career potential, including networking tips, effective leadership strategies and much more. What other tips do you have to practice proper workplace decorum?

    AICPA Young CPA Network. The Young CPA Network is a vital community in which young and aspiring CPAs can seek answers and advice regarding career challenges and opportunities, while building the supportive network of professional relationships they need to be successful in the CPA profession.


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