Respect other’s workspaces. That could be offices, cubicles or any sort of personal workspace. Even as a manager, you need to be cautious of another’s space. Don’t just barge in like you own the place, even if you, in fact, do. Remember, workers view their workspace as an extension of their personal space. Treat it accordingly.
Address work on work time and leave private time private. This rule won’t work for every business situation. Some professions realize that invasion of privacy comes with the territory, but if you work in a situation where It Can Wait, let it wait. Don’t sacrifice their privacy on the altar of your lack of patience.
When planning an event, don’t use code words. To this day, no one really knows what “business casual” really means. Be specific. If it’s okay to wear jeans or Hawaiian shirts, let people know. Likewise, if black tie means Black Tie and not “some kind of suit” then be clear. Use specific examples.
Here’s one that seems to mystify many people: greetings. Some people go for the instant handshake, others are more standoffish. Some cultures have very specific, rigid greeting guidelines. If you don’t know going in, let someone who does know take the lead. When shaking hands, apply similar pressure as the other person and – this is most important – look the other person in the eye and SMILE when you say their name.
Finally, if you are in the position of firing someone – and, if you are in management, you will be – be sure to be firm, concise and specific. If they are getting the ax due to behavior, have it in writing. If it’s a matter of downsizing, be polite but not insincere. No fake empathy is going to stop them from having a very bad day. If you can sincerely say you are sorry, and you will miss them, let them know, but don’t draw it out. If you are happy to see them leaving, wish them the best and close the conversation.
Will these behaviors work in every situation? In a word: no. Different business and socio-political cultures exist with different cultural norms. These basics will help, but more important is your understanding that cultural norms do exist, as do the expectations that you abide by them … even if you don’t know what they are.
Jonah Engler is a financial expert from NYC.