Having just returned from a knee scan where every aspect of the experience exceeded my expectations, I am reminded just how good commercial interaction can feel.

It’s not always like that, of course. And 2023 looks set at macro and micro levels to challenge the propensity to behave at our best in the workplace. Global disharmony, corporate uncertainty, personal anxiety, pressure on already diminished resources, plus peri-COVID weariness all combine to encourage a distracted, inward-focused approach to the day job.

Now is the time then to dial up the quality of our conduct with colleagues. Because, with standards under threat, business etiquette will punch above its weight both as a practical facilitator of essential processes and for nurturing key relationships.

I recommend paying attention to three areas: Recognition, Respect and Response.

  • Recognition. When stressed, it’s easy to forget the niceties – introductions, noticing, acknowledgment. They cost nothing and they count. Do the homework on your co-workers and clients. Reflect this in your knowledge of them personally and professionally. To quote American writer Stephen R. Covey: ‘Seek first to understand. Then to be understood’. Use your emotional intelligence to personalise the dialogue.
  • Respect. Be on time. The tyranny of daily schedules is a constant reality. If there’s no room, create some. No one has dictated that meetings start on the hour/half-hour. If 10.05 allows a timely kick off, why not? Be open and accessible. Also, be focused, especially when meeting remotely. Avoid multi-tasking, listen intently, don’t interrupt. Select the appropriate medium for the conversation, whether it’s face to face, email or Zoom. Be aware of body language.
  • Response. Not getting back to people isn’t big or clever. The busiest, smartest people know that completing the loop, replying inside 48 hours with even a 10-word message, reflects best practice (and can take about 30 seconds) regardless of the eventual outcome. No commitment need be made but we all hate being ignored; and we don’t forget. Communication is fundamental in business – clear, candid, and regular.

When we show we care, by evidencing these three behaviours, we enable our commercial contacts to feel valued. When people feel valued, they are more productive and more loyal. Clients who feel valued want to give us more business, are less price sensitive and forgive the odd mistake.

Best of all, the reward comes with thought but very little effort. Not so much ROI but RONI (Return On No Investment). A perfect business proposition for the current environment.