Etiquette, attitude at office help in career advancement

Etiquette, attitude at office help in career advancement

A proper etiquette and attitude at the workplace is important to advance your career. Conveying the wrong message can stall a talented professional, says Devashish Chakravarty.

It's that time of the year again when work performances have been appraised and judgements pronounced. Now, look around your office. Some of your colleagues might have been asked to move on, while others were rewarded with greater responsibilities.

Could you have predicted, with a reasonable degree of success, who among your colleagues would have been included in each category? If you had spent sufficient time with these people, your assessment would, probably, have been spot on.

How could you do that, especially appraise people not part of your team? Well, you judged them on their actions and conduct at office. So, unsurprisingly, one of the best predictors of corporate success (and failure) is behaviour at the workplace.

Social etiquette begins with appearance and grooming. The guiding principle here is to choose what makes it easier to work together. Thus, personal hygiene and understatement rank above individualism.

The guiding principle at the workplace is to choose what makes it easier to work together, be it your clothes or your attitude at work.
The basics of grooming start with proper hair, skin and nail care. Opt for apparel and colours that are not offensive to general sensibilities. Remember that if you attract excessive attention on account of your clothes (or lack of it), you are unlikely to be taken seriously as a professional capable of handling obligations. Similarly, strong perfumes and flashy jewellery are best confined to the weekends.

All of these choices, however, need to be made in the context of the situation and place. A smart shirt may be acceptable as Friday wear at a regional office, but might be out of place without a tie and a suit at the corporate office or at an interview. Have a range of formal and informal wear for appropriate occasions at the workplace. Clean, ironed clothes, pleasant colours, polished footwear and an overall sober demeanour will help build an image of someone who takes his career seriously and who can be trusted with responsibilities.

The next step is to perfect the right attitude. Skills and experience are required to get a job. Keeping the job and excelling requires results, individual and within a team. So, simply put, the attitude one brings to work in the morning makes a difference to the quality of results you deliver. Pride in the job and a passion for getting things done competently is invariably appreciated by colleagues, clients and bosses.

A whining, complaining employee lasts only until an enthusiastic replacement is found. A person who sticks his neck out to ask for work may risk short-term failure but always ends up with more opportunities to excel. Thereafter, the ability to take responsibility and accurately and politely put forward facts and opinions earns the trust of the team. Team members and managers also support someone who consistently acknowledges the team's contributions to your success. On the flip side, complaining about co-workers and bosses does not further anyone's career. Be a person who prefers resolving conflicts by tackling problems rather than targeting the individuals involved.

The confident professional is identified as one who loves to share knowledge and improve his team's and colleagues' performance. An insecure employee often tries to protect his turf and invariably fails when alienated team members find a way around to get things done. As a manager, be quick to take decisions and slow to change them rather than the other way round. The former method gets great output (provided the decision was correct) whereas the latter stalls productive work. Good communication is also necessary to maintain working relationships in the office, which goes a long way towards success in your career (How to Say it Right, May 2011). Communication is enhanced and empowered by non-verbal cues and body language.

Effective non-verbal communication complements and emphasises what is being said and, thus, increases the message's influence. Positive body language serves to foster trust and conveys attentiveness, which is important at work. Facial expressions and posture reflect emotional responses. Gestures accentuate what you are trying to get across. The tone of your voice conveys sincerity, intensity and energy (or the lack of it).

Finally, eye contact is a measure of attentiveness, assertiveness and affection. Touch or physical distance conveys a great deal of information including assertiveness, dominance, confidence, support or the reverse of all these. To learn to read and master non-verbal language, it is necessary to be completely present in the moment and focus on the other person and the communication itself. Listen to the words, but learn to observe with your eyes to read non-verbal cues.

Good grooming, attitude and communication make for a successful combination at the workplace. Note that none of these can substitute for competence, but a lack of these can definitely derail a skilled professional.

The writer is CEO, Quetzal Verify, an HR solutions company run by IIM-Ahmedabad alumni.


Pay Attention
Body, eyes and tone. Focus on what people are saying through eye contact, tone of their voice and gestures and posture. The more you observe, the better you recognise non-verbal cues. Now, try listening to your own non-verbal output to perfect communication.

Focus on Dissonance
Maximum information is conveyed when words and non-verbal signals are contradictory. Note that people almost always ignore words and prefer to communicate through the unsaid. Learn to use your body and voice to match your words and, thus, make your communication more powerful.

The Complete Picture
It is easy to go wrong in comprehending non-verbal messages. Do not read too much into one single event. Focus on the whole picture. Interpret non-verbal communication in multiple signals that are conveying the same message.

Within the Context
Decipher non-verbal cues within context. As in verbal, the occasion, emotional state, interpersonal relationships and past communication give different meanings to the same set of gestures.

Practice to Perfection
Practice, practice, practice! Notice and use non-verbal communication often and in different contexts to improve your abilities to convey your messages most effectively.