Business Relationship Etiquette

Most working people spend more waking hours at the office than at home with the family, so establishing and maintaining solid business relationships is critical. You must develop trust in each other, or the work will be more difficult, and you’ll be miserable. This takes hard work, but it can pay off in the future, making the difference between career success and failure.


Companies typically expect their employees to be good team workers and to do their jobs to the betterment of the whole. This means that you must accept your position in the overall order of the corporation. Remember that every job is important, or the company wouldn’t spend the money on salaries, benefits, and training.

All employees, regardless of position should feel free to greet each other in passing. Don’t be afraid to say good morning or good afternoon in the hallway. If you are in the restroom at the same time, keep the greeting short and allow the other person his or her privacy.

Supervisors and Subordinates

Supervisors were once called bosses, but that has fallen by the wayside with many companies that prefer the term “leader,” “director,” or “facilitator.” Courtesy works in both directions. The supervisors typically set the tone for the department and determine whether the environment is formal or more relaxed.

If you are uncertain, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Address your supervisor by his or her surname, such as Mr. or Ms. Blake, unless you are asked to do otherwise.
  • Let the supervisor take the lead on invitations.
  • Never air complaints about your job, coworkers, or the company during personal time with your supervisor. Schedule an appointment during business hours to keep it on a professional level.
  • Supervisors should never discuss their professional problems with subordinates. Complaints should always go up in the chain of command.
  • In cases where the supervisor shows bad manners, maintain your dignity and proper etiquette.


If you are new at your job, take some time to observe. Avoid commenting on topics that you don’t fully understand. You may find yourself encroaching on sensibilities of others in your department. Once you have established yourself as a congenial team player, go ahead and let your personality shine through. As old fashioned as this may sound, first impressions count, and they’re often difficult to dissolve.

Some things you’ll need to learn from your coworkers include the following:

  • Their names and titles
  • Company acronyms that apply to your job or task
  • Reporting responsibilities

If someone asks for volunteers to assist on a project, be the one to step up and offer help. When you are the one needing others, you are more likely to have your coworkers’ cooperation. Everyone at all levels will appreciate your hard work and commitment, but avoid patting yourself on the back too often. This will come across as self-aggrandizement, and no one enjoys being around a braggart.

How to maintain a good relationship with coworkers:

  • Never repeat anything negative.
  • When handling cash, have another coworker present.
  • Never call a coworker “sweetie,” “honey,” or any other term of endearment, even in jest. It may come across as sexual harassment.
  • Never take credit for a coworker’s idea or work.
  • Always praise your coworkers for a job well done.
  • If you want something, remember to say, “Please,” and afterward, “Thank you.”
  • If you carpool with coworkers, set rules for the trip on the way to and from work.
  • Show respect for your coworkers during business meetings.

Dress Code and Other Policies

Every company has a dress code – some in a policy handbook and others unwritten. For example giant distracting watches are likely unacceptable but classic IWC watches would be approved. If you aren’t sure how to dress for work, ask someone. Also look around to see what others are wearing. Casual attire can run the gamut from denim to sport coats.

Many offices have adopted additional policies to accommodate issues that are specific to their needs. You may have to deal with tight security measures, allergies that require fragrance-free zones, and rules about eating or drinking at your desk. These policies have been put into place for a reason, so follow them or risk being reprimanded.

Clients and Guests

You are likely to find yourself in the position of interacting with clients or guests in your workplace. Smile, introduce yourself, ask if you can help them, and offer something to make them comfortable if they have to wait. This can be a seat, coffee, or a magazine. At that moment, you are the face of the company.

Adam Richards

About Adam Richards

Adam Richards is a semi-retired business professional originally from Bangor, Maine. He spent the majority of his career in sales and marketing where he rose to the marketing lead of a Fortune 1000 company. He then moved on to helping people as a career counselor that specifically helped bring families to self-sufficiency through finding them rewarding careers. He has now returned to Bangor for his retirement and spends his free time writing. This blog will be about everything he learned throughout his career. He'll write on career, workplace, education and technology issues as well as on trends, changes, and advice for the Maine job market and its employers.