Have you ever submitted a written proposal upon the request of a prospective client only to have that person go silent and not respond to your follow-up attempts?
Have you ever discovered that a client has decided to work with a competitor without mentioning it to you?
What about unreturned emails or voice messages? Do you sometimes feel like you are being ignored by your networking contacts and business associates?
Unfortunately these situations and antisocial behavior has in some ways become “standard operating procedure” in businesses today. Unreturned phone calls and emails, radio silence from potential or existing clients, and all manner of sleights are dished out each day such that we have forgotten this is bad business etiquette.
Being on the receiving end of bad business etiquette doesn’t mean that we haven’t been guilty of it ourselves. Admittedly, I’ve used time-sensitive deadlines and a busy work schedule as an excuse to be unresponsive at times. But there is really no good excuse, because business manners matter!
Consider these suggestions for how to rectify bad business etiquette:
When you have complex or sensitive matters to discuss, and there is an important message to convey, pick up the phone and have a conversation. Don’t rely on email to communicate your message. Most of us don’t have the business writing skills to execute these types of messages without causing unnecessary confusion. No one prefers an extensive email chain either.
Text messages are efficient for short, one-off communiqués, such as letting a person know you will be late to a meeting. However, use text messaging judiciously, as they may be seen as abrupt and thoughtless.
Be responsive. Return your missed calls and emails in a timely manner. Do not let them linger for more than 48 hours. If you know that you will be under major time constraints, or if you are unable to provide a sufficient response without more thought, create a voice mail message or email autoreply that will alert people to the likelihood of a delay in your response.
Be mindful that someone put in time and effort to create that proposal for you. You may have awarded the job to someone else, or may have decided against the project entirely, but it is still your responsibility to acknowledge the work submitted. Keeping someone in the dark by ignoring phone calls and emails is unprofessional.
It takes just a little added time and energy to be responsive and display common business courtesies. Treat others as you would like to be treated and you may find that your good behavior is returned in kind.
Symmetry. Because printing isn’t always black and white.