Etiquette at Work

Applicants must pay attention to the details

I was talking to a friend who cleans homes for a living. Over the past two years, she and her business partner have become successful enough that expansion is upon them. And therein lies her problem.

Several people have applied to work for her and, frankly, she is frustrated. The applicants have displayed a decided lack of professionalism. They don’t reply to e-mails or return phone calls in a timely manner. They make mistakes in spelling and grammar in their e-mails. They are late for appointments.

You might not think working for a cleaning service would require attention to these details, but you’d be wrong. Clients have to be able to rely on the people working in their homes to show up on time and to trust them to be careful in their work.


Interestingly, my friend added that applicants were often college educated, looking for a job to hold them over while they looked for a position in their chosen fields.

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She was appalled that they did not understand basic skills of communication and timeliness. “This is my business and my reputation on the line,” she told me.

It doesn’t matter what kind of company you work for, a two-person cleaning service or a Fortune 500 mega corporation, professionalism matters.

My friend’s business could just as easily be an advertising agency, a real estate office, or a cupcake shop. What’s important is that she started this business with her college friend and together they have worked hard to get established and develop a steady clientele and a great reputation.

They are proud of their business, and they want their clients to be pleased.


When her employees interact with clients, in essence, they represent her and her partner. Sloppiness in communications, tardiness, or failure to show up will come back to haunt my friend and the success of the business.

The applicants are hurting themselves twice with their lack of basic business etiquette. Ultimately, my friend can’t afford to keep on a person who represents her and her business poorly. In addition, applicants hurt their own chances for a reference as they move on. “If these applicants can’t be bothered to treat my business and my clients respectfully,” she said, “how do they expect to get a job in their fields?”

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