The proliferation of technology throughout the office has created a work force that needs some brushing up on its P's and Q's.
Pamela Eyring, president of the Protocol School of Washington, said data shows that today's employees are more committed to their gadgets than they are to each other. Recent research found that mobile device etiquette breaches at work are up by 51 percent from three years ago, while nearly 70 percent of Americans say they witness poor cellphone etiquette at least once every day.
It's people, not iPads, that workers need to get along with to succeed in business, Eyring said.
"Our industry is in a growth mode because people realize the best investment of time and money is in people – not machines," she said. "Machines are necessary and valuable, but we have to be smart about how we use them."
As part of this week's National Business Etiquette Week, the Protocol School of Washington offers several tips for improving business etiquette around the office.
- Be all in: Employees should pay attention in business settings and not place their smartphone or tablet on the table. In addition, the phone should be turned off before going into a meeting, dining room or networking event. For those expecting an important call, make sure the phone is on vibrate, alert people beforehand and then excuse yourself when you get the call.
- Don't text and talk: Texting while talking to someone says you're not interested in the other person and that can be a deal-breaker, resulting in the loss of a potential client or valued vendor. If texting is a must, excuse yourself and find an isolated spot to work.
- Email etiquette: Busy people get upward of 200 work emails a day and need time to respond. Allow 24 to 48 hours for a reply and give people the benefit of the doubt. If they don't respond, perhaps the email inadvertently went to the person's junk mail box. It's also time-consuming to open and read unnecessary emails. Don't hit "reply all" unless it's absolutely necessary everyone listed needs to read the reply.
- Keep voice messages short: Good communicators get to the point quickly. Aim for a voice mail message that is no longer than 30 seconds. It is important to state your name clearly and confirm the phone number you prefer they call.
- Choose the right communication: E-mail is the preferred method of communication because it's easily accessible, but don't be afraid to ask someone if they prefer texting. Of course, a difficult conversation requires picking up the phone or, better yet, talking in person.
- Keep private conversations private: Don't talk on the phone while in the restroom or hallway – you never know who may overhear you. Additionally, since you never know who may be within earshot, don't talk about sensitive work issues when eating out with friends or family.
Founded in 1988, the Protocol School of Washington provides business etiquette and international protocol consulting.