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Etiquette at Work

Ethical behavior is just smart business

Emily Post once wrote, “Etiquette must, if it is to be of more than trifling use, include ethics as well as manners.”

Ethical behavior has a moral component to it, whereas manners in and of themselves do not. For instance, which fork to use is a manner with no moral component. But taking someone else’s lunch from the office refrigerator does.

The various roles people fill in business have ethical or moral aspects to them. For example, being an ethical customer can result in receiving exemplary service from a provider. The ethical customer always engages in business with a provider in an honest and forthright way. For instance, he doesn’t ask a vendor to provide a detailed presentation or a sample of work when he has no intention of hiring the vendor, or intends to use the spec work without paying for it. In addition the ethical customer:


■   Makes sure vendors receive payment on time.

■   Doesn’t accept any gifts or favors as inducements to work with a specific vendor.

■   Avoids conflicts of interest in choosing a vendor. The choice should be based on price and the ability of the vendor to deliver, not because the vendor is also a cousin.

■   Negotiates agreements and then expects the vendor to deliver only the agreed-upon services within the agreed-upon time frame.

■   Makes sure he or she delivers any expected information or materials within the contracted time frame so the vendor can meet deadlines.

Ranting on Twitter rarely ends well

Another senior executive, Paypal director of stategy Rakesh Agrawal, has lost his job because of a Twitter rant — in this case, for vilifying coworkers at 1 a.m. on May 4. A few hours after his rant, he tried to apologize: “Last night I was using a new phone that I bought because I wanted to test experiences on Android.”


Right. Even worse, Agrawal tried to excuse his egregious tweeting error by indicating: “Those tweets were meant for a colleague.”

Never, ever assume a tweet you compose is meant just for a select few people. Tweets can and will be seen by anyone and everyone. This tweeter lost his job. He’s not the first, and he won’t be the last.

E-mail questions about business etiquette to etiquetteatwork@emilypost.com.