While we are all keenly aware of how civility has declined in the political realm, I am addressing here a perceived decline in etiquette in business. We are all (hopefully) spending more time working than following politics, so having a more civil workplace might actually benefit us more directly.

A simple Google search shows why I favor improved business etiquette. Googling “Business Etiquette Training” produces 46,000 results, while “social media training” yields many times more – 2,500,000.

Businessdirectory.com defines business etiquette as “Within a place of business…treating coworkers and employer with respect and courtesy in a way that creates a pleasant work environment for everyone.”

To me, etiquette comes down to a basic rule: treating others as you want to be treated.

Sure, there are excuses for poor etiquette, including some good ones:

  • Email requests go into Spam, Trash or folders that we check on occasion, if at all.
  • We all receive so many requests from many directions, so how can we possibly respond to each and every person?
  • Successful public and business figures are often rude, so why should we behave any better, especially when the recipient of poor etiquette is not an important contact? 

Since I’ve been a business owner for nine years now, I’m going to focus the rest of my tips on Business Etiquette for solo business owners and how they treat each another. Here are four guidelines:

  1. SIGNAL. Sometimes one explores a partnership with a fellow business owner and decides to pull back. But that is no excuse for going completely silent. From time to time, I put effort into a relationship and then get “crickets.” I would prefer an evasive acknowledgment, so that I can take the hint.
  2. RESPOND. Try to be responsive to other collaborators. Some people believe in responding to email only twice a day, but in reality that can inconvenience others. If you are setting up multiple meetings, you may really need to hear from one person before confirming a meeting with other players (obviously, if you are truly tied up, that’s okay).
  3. COMMUNICATE CAREFULLY. The words that you chose really matter. Many of us spend much of the day on email, so overly curt emails can create a cold, unfriendly environment for the solo business owner. I like a suggestion that @ChrisColvin made: Before pressing “send” on an email, re-read it as if you were the recipient and change your tone accordingly.
  4. MARKET RESPECTFULLY – The most successful solo business owners promote themselves consistently, both on and offline, through a mix of techniques. In contrast, some business owners rely on a single marketing technique and use it too often, in my opinion. For example, I had participated in a trial session of an online training group. Despite indicating my clear lack of interest a few months back, I continue to receive two emails a day (including summer weekends!)


As a LinkedIn expert, I’m concluding with two pointers involving this ubiquitous channel for business owners. LinkedIn Shares are a great way to market yourself respectfully, as they are non-intrusive and visible to people who choose to scan their LinkedIn Home page feed. But one should not overdo these. One of my Connections shared 90 times during a recent holiday week! Last please, resist service offerings that automatically send LinkedIn invites on your behalf. These degrade the channel for all LinkedIn users.

As we enter 2020, let’s hope that more of us consider business etiquette. I believe that a bit more consideration will make the workplace more pleasant for all of us