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Corporate Etiquette

Corporate Communication

Communication is the process of sending and receiving information. It is a vehicle through which we develop, maintain and improve human relationships. The need for communication is as strong and as basic as the need to eat, sleep and love.

Communication is of two types:

Verbal – This mode of communication is organized by language. Words play a very important role here. There are two types of verbal communication:
Oral and written.

Non-verbal – In this type of communication, spoken words are replaced by body gestures, visual signals or tone of voice. It conveys the state of our mind, interpersonal feelings and emotions. Learned shortly after birth, non-verbal communication plays a very important role in the corporate world, especially at a meeting or in an interview.

A combination of both verbal and nonverbal communication is required in effective communication. You can improve your spoken communication by using nonverbal signals and gestures that reinforce and support what you are saying.

Verbal communication

E-mail etiquette

In today's corporate world emails are the most important means of communication. It is therefore very important that we are clued in to the do's and don't of effective e-mail writing.

Read over these tips on how to make a better impression with your emails.

Always reply to emails especially those specifically addressed to you. The sender most probably is waiting to hear from you.
Do not write an e-mail while you are in a bad mood. It will reflect on the style and tone of your writing.
Have a simple and clear subject line.The subject line is the first thing your recipient sees even before reading your mail. A concise, to-the point subject line will give him a good idea about the purpose of the mail. Single words like "Hi" or "Hello" or an empty "Re:" fail to signify the importance of your message.
Address the recipients properly. While writing to someone for the first time, it is acceptable to address him/her by name instead of using Sir/Madam - this is if you know their name. Pay attention to spell their name right.
Good things come in small packages. Keep your email message short and to the point. Leave flowery, long winded language to writing fiction and snail mails. Avoid abbreviations and all caps for business e-mails. Using all caps creates a rough and rude tone. Avoid unless situation demands it.
If the issue is complicated and needs more than half a screen of text, it is better to just pick up the phone and explain things in detail.

Email Do's and Don'ts

Do get the point right away

Do have only one message/ one topic per mail

Do provide a summary when you forward an "FYI" email.

Don't forget the rules of grammer and punctuation.

Don't escalate a conflict by sending an emotionally charged response

Zip bulky attachments. If you have to email large attachments, zip or winrar them. Doing so would ensure that your friend doesn't miss downloading any file. Waiting for heavy images to get downloaded can be very patience testing! It is recommended to mention in your email what type of file it is (PDF, excel, etc.).  If the recipient needs to have a specific version of software to be able to read the file properly, mention this in your email.
Look before you leap. In this case, it means you need to do a spell and grammar check before you hit the "Send" button. An e-mail with spelling mistakes or grammatical errors conveys complacence and may leave the reader with a not-so good impression about you. Always run through the message at least once before broadcasting it to the world. To avoid accidental mailing, address the message only when you are ready to send.
Everyone likes a happy ending.Applies to e-mails as in movies! An effective e-mail is a complete e-mail, with a good beginning and a good signoff. Remember to end your mail with your name (and contact information if necessary). Keep the signature simple and avoid garish colors, especially for the official mails. You may want to remove your personal mobile number and the home number from the e-mail signature if you are participating in a big mailing list. You never know the kind of people who have subscribed to that list.
Email Ids are personal. When you are sending personal e-mails or forwards to multiple people, remember to put the recipients' e-mail addresses in the "BCC" field and your own e-mail address in the "To" field. Most people don't like their private e-mail address put on public display.

Telephone etiquette

From E-mail etiquette, we now move to a more personal and impressionable medium - Telephone. The phone by facilitating a verbal exchange between individuals is personal and tactile. A phone conversation, therefore, has to be handled very competently without letting emotions or mood affect the tone of conversation. As you get ready to make that important business call, here are some pointers that you can keep in mind to ensure it's smooth and successful.

Receiving business calls

When you receive a phone call, stop all other activity like searching through folders, reading or writing mails, chewing, drinking or yawning. Pay complete attention to the person on the other side. Ensure that there is no noise in the background.

Answer the caller in a pleasant and professional manner. The tone you use while answering a call casts a HUGE impression on the listener. First, identify yourself and your company. If the business call is from within the organization, you could mention your department /division name too.  The point is to sound cordial and welcome. A curt and rude tone may result in a not-very amused client or colleague and even a failed business deal!

However, if you get a call while you are in the middle of something important, offer to call back. Give the caller a definitive timeframe and make sure you call back within that time.

Making business calls

When the call is answered by the operator or receptionist, identify yourself, your company and include the name of the person you're trying to reach. Arm yourself with a brief explanation of the purpose for your call. Do not assume that the receptionist will communicate the message verbatim. So, when you speak directly with the person, repeat your message in your own words.

When you are connected with the person, ask if you are calling them at a convenient time. Once you've ascertained his availability, state the purpose of your call. Let the person know the purpose of the call right at the start of the conversation.

It is important to speak clearly. Make sure you enunciate you words clearly and precisely. It is embarrassing to be asked to repeat what you are saying. Your voice reflects your courtesy. Since the person on the other end of the line cannot see your facial expressions the tone of your voice will need to express this.

Putting someone on hold

If the situation requires you to put the call on hold, ask the caller if he/she is ok with it. If someone expresses reservation about being put on hold, calmly explain why it is necessary. Keep the reasoning simple, without giving away too much information. The acceptable hold-on time is three minutes. Any longer and it's best to ask the caller to leave a message and contact number.

When you are asked to leave a message

Make it short and to the point. Leave your name, phone number and a brief message. Speak clearly and slowly while doing so. When it's a voicemail, remember to state your contact number at the beginning and the end of the message, especially if you don't know the person you're calling.

If you have received messages, be prompt in returning them. It's customary to return telephone calls within 24 hours. If you cannot attend to the caller's needs within that time, briefly call the person to say when you will be available.

Taking messages

If you answer someone else's phone or answer for someone who is not around, you may offer to take a message. If someone leaves a message, be sure to write down the name, phone number, time of call and the message. Most importantly, remember to pass the message on!

Hands - free telephone etiquette

If you are using a hands-free telephone be careful not to bring your conversation into parts of the office where it does not belong. Be sensitive to the acoustics of the area in which you are conducting business and to your coworkers' work spaces.

A warm sign off

At the end of each call, thank your caller or the person you called, for his or her time and hang up with a pleasant goodbye.

Oops wrong number!

If you dial a number that is wrong, don't just disconnect. Apologize and promptly hang-up.

VCON etiquette

From tackling teleconferences, we move to video conferences. Videoconferencing is a technology, which allows people at two or more locations to see and hear each other at the same time. A mode of business communication that is fast becoming popular in the corporate world, it is time we know the accepted norms to conduct an effective v-con.

Get set before the Go. It is important to set up audio and video equipments beforehand so that there is enough time to test the system and resolve issues, if any, before the meeting.

It's advised to have a "self view" window (atleast prior to the call). This lets you see how you appear to the remote end. You should try to fill the screen as much as possible with people rather than with inanimate things like table, chairs, walls or the floor. You should test and adjust the audio as well prior to or at the start of a call. Once all adjustments have been made at each end to produce optimal call conditions, commence the conference. Once the call is on, don't continue to twiddle with the audio or the video.

Presentation matters. In a multi–point conference (simultaneous videoconferencing among three or more remote points), have an introductory session where all participants identify their names and location. It is imperative that you present yourself appropriately for a v-con. While choosing your attire, avoid loud, flashy clothes. Light pastels and muted colors look best on the screen. Daylight can conflict with interior room lighting, so if the conference room has windows, make sure to draw the blinds or drapes.

While speaking, use crisp, conversational tone. Speak in your normal voice, without shouting. When someone else is speaking, pay close attention to the speaker. It helps to lean a bit toward the camera. It lends the impression that you are interested in what is being said.

Watch your body language. Maintain eye contact with the remote viewers and live participants. Avoid staring at the screen constantly or gazing away frequently.  Be careful not to frown, slouch, touch your face, scratch your head, shuffle papers, drum fingers or fidget with things around you. Such behavior is more noticeable on camera and can distract and disturb the remote participants.

Wait for your turn to speak. Be aware that there is a delay when using video over network connections. Give each attendee adequate time to answer questions or to make a comment. Allow at least two seconds for a speaker to finish before butting in. You may even ask, "Are you done?" before continuing.

Finger on the mute button, please! Microphones and speakers that send/receive audio are highly sensitive. So, try to eliminate all sources of background noise from your room. Keep all the microphones in your room muted unless you are speaking. Limit side conversation and try not to shuffle papers, drum fingers or tap pens while a microphone is on.

Corporate Dressing

As a business professional, the way you dress and the way you carry yourself matter a lot. Before you even speak a word, most people form an opinion about you by the way you appear. The sense of persona is very much related to the professional success attained by a person. So, it's imperative to consider your wardrobe. Do you look like a leader with whom people would want to do business or do you pass off as a lousy, non-doer? Remember, your dress speaks. So let it speak with elegance! Dress flawlessly, be confident and create the right impression.

Formal wear for women 

Business suits are still considered as an international standard of clothing for women in the corporate milieu. It can be skirt suits or trouser suits. While trousers should be well fitted, they shouldn't be so tight that the contours of your inner garments are visible. In skirts, formal 'A' line and Pencil skirts are preferred, but take care that they are loose enough to allow you to sit down comfortably. Go in for well fitted jackets. Make sure there are no gaps between the buttonholes. In India, formal wear includes saris and salwar kameez.

While solid colors like red, navy, gray and black go well with a professional image, of late, some feminine colors like lilac, ice blue, soft pink and ivory are also becoming popular in the corporate world. However, colors like hot pink, florescent and wild prints are little dicey and better avoided at office.

Formal wear for men 

A neatly ironed shirt in solid color, a pair of well cut trousers, a good tie and a smart business jacket make up a formal wear for men. Go in for buttoned down shirts with a simple collar and cuffs. For a formal shirt, commonly accepted colors are shades of white, pale blue, cream, pinstripe or light gray.

Gray, fawn and black are the most accepted colors for trousers. Avoid fabrics that have a noticeable sheen. Make sure that the trouser legs reach the top of your shoes. When selecting a business suit, you need to be careful. Suits are judged by their rich color, perfect fits, standard and contemporary styles. A proper fit is considered the most important decision when buying and wearing a suit. Also important is the length of the the jacket sleeve. Make sure it ends at the middle of your wrist bone, with the shirt sleeve extending three eighths of an inch beyond. While blue and black are the standard accepted colors, one could also go for different tones like plum, berry, and wine, which give a rich appeal to business suits. A well starched, traditional business shirt, preferably white, goes very well with a suit.

Dress down Fridays 

The concept of 'Casual Friday' was initiated in the late 1950s and is still followed by many companies around the world. On this day, employees are allowed to wear casuals; however Friday dressing does not mean sloppy or flashy dressing. For men, blazers, suit pants, ties, stiff collared shirts give way to collared T-shirts, polo necks or short sleeve shirts and casual trousers. Jackets can add on to the style.

For women, knee-length skirts, corduroy trousers with T-shirts and jackets are the safest bet. Colorful kurtis worn over churidars and patiala also give a trendy and stylish look. For sari lovers, chiffon, georgette and silk are the best options.


Hair plays a very important role in dressing. Hair should always be clean and neatly trimmed. Untidy and uncombed hair gives an unprofessional look.

For men, a proper haircut is a must. Mustaches and sideburns should be carefully trimmed and combed. Long hair has to be tied-up.

For women, more than half of beauty and smartness is judged by hair style. Sprucely combed hair with a proper style gives a more professional look than hair that is messily left open. In place of fancy and sparkly bands opt for solid colored bands and clips as they look more professional.


Accessories play a very important role in dressing up. They need not be flashy or expensive but should add on to your neat and an elegant look. They should accessorize or complement the rest of your wardrobe.

For men: Tie is a business essential. Silk ties are the best, any time of the year. Reds, navy, dark blue, gold, yellow and mauves are among the popular colors for ties but make sure that the shade you choose matches the skin tones. The length of a tie is also very important. It should reach the middle of your belt buckle.

A black leather belt, 1' to 1 1/4th wide, is the most accepted one in a formal set up.

For women: Jewellery is an important part of accessories. While selecting accessories, remember the golden rule: less is more. Jewellery that jangles is disturbing. Go for limited and light jewellery rather than chunky danglers and stacks of bangles. Slouchy handbags look casual. Choose a handbag that is stylish but not loud and has a structured style. Wear a natural makeup.

Perfume is a must. Smelling good makes you feel confident and attractive. A nice scent, in a subtle way describes your personality.


For men, leather black lace-up shoes add to the attire. Dark colours like black, dark brown and reddish brown are the most suitable. Avoid wearing sneakers, flip flops or open-toed shoes to office. Always be sure to have your shoes made of leather, polished and shined. Avoid suede and light fabrics, they attract dust.

For women, shoes with 1 1/2 - inch heel are standard. Black, brown, burgundy or navy colored shoes are always preferred. Avoid open-toe shoes, high boots, stiletto heels and white shoes at office. It's very important to check the soles of your shoes.
Nothing ruins the look of a great outfit faster than scuffed or worn shoes. It leaves the impression that you fail to pay attention to details. Put as much thought into your shoes as you do the rest of your outfit.

Analyze yourself 

Mirror never lies. Before setting off to the office, if you are unsure about what you are wearing, ask yourself:
'Can I meet a CEO today without being embarrassed about what I'm wearing?' If the answer is a YES then you are ready to go.
This simple test would help you select your attire for an important event at your office. Ask yourself:
What's appropriate for this audience/this event?
What image do I want to project of my organization/myself?
You answers should tell you what to wear.


Always look professional.
Synthetic garments must be avoided. They shine and give a cheap look.
Cottons are always preferred during summers but beware of the wrinkle factor!
In watches, avoid cheap brands, sporty look and cartoon characters.
Do not wear ankle socks or light colored socks with dark suits.
Do not overpower your appearance with heavy perfume or cologne.
Busy, flowery, gaudy prints must be avoided.
Overly revealing clothes must be avoided
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