Top Tips for Professional Etiquette

So much has changed in the multifamily workplace over the past few years. Necessity has caused us to relax some of the previously rigid standards of leasing to accommodate virtual leasing and a rise in self-guided tours. Technology has allowed us to interact with our prospects and coworkers in new and sometimes more casual ways than before, yet professional etiquette remains an essential component.

So where does that put us in terms of workplace behavior and etiquette? Here we share some top tips for professional etiquette.

Have we created such a casual environment that it might be okay for us to use a well-placed expletive now and then? Sorry, folks. Professional etiquette experts still say no. There is one infamous expletive that most of us have probably used at one time or another – the F-word.

This may be one of our most versatile words! It can be a noun, verb, or adjective, or adverb and can be used in any range of emotional situations, both positive and negative. It can be used for emphasis, to make an important point or to let out frustration, but guess what? The F-word is completely, totally, and absolutely unnecessary in the work environment. Abstaining from using the F-word will cause you to be more verbally creative and will add more interest to what you have to say.

Use of the F-word is not considered to be anywhere in the realm of professional etiquette, even when you try using an abbreviation or substitution such as ‘frickin’. You’ll invariably offend someone and try as you may, you can’t avoid its underlying offensive meaning. Eliminating the F-word from our vocabulary just makes life and work more pleasant!

This isn’t the only rule when it comes to professional etiquette. Etiquette refers to the rules and conventions governing correct or polite behavior in society in general or in a particular social or professional group or situation, and it typically involves using common sense. Maintaining proper and professional etiquette really boils down to respect within relationships. Good business manners convey regard, friendliness, and a shared sense of purpose. Applying good etiquette is evaluating a situation and responding in a way that moves things in the desired direction.

Believe it or not, the handshake is the quintessential gesture of civility. The habit of shaking hands has gone into a bit of hibernation because of Covid, but it’s making a comeback. Offering a handshake is a great way to convey respect while refusing one can be perceived as a clear form of rejection. And when you shake hands, don’t forget eye contact! But did you know there are three levels of eye contact signals?

  • Business: Eyes to mid-forehead
  • Social: Eyes to lips or chin
  • Intimate: Lips and below

In a business setting, professional etiquette dictates eye contact should never go below the face! Here are six situations where a handshake should always be offered:

  1. When meeting someone and when saying goodbye.
  2. When renewing an acquaintance.
  3. When someone enters your office.
  4. When greeting a host and being introduced to people.
  5. When meeting someone you already know outside your work or home.
  6. When ending a transaction or leaving a business or social event.

A good handshake involves the following three F’s:

  • Firm
  • Fast
  • Free of perspiration

When you’re in a situation where you’d rather not shake hands, but someone offers, go ahead and shake their hand and then a moment later you can excuse yourself and wash your hands.

There are also passive handshakes that you should avoid if you want to convey professionalism:

  • The Wet Fish or the Dead Fish: A limp handshake without any real participation.
  • The Fingerella: This is a handshake where only the tips of the fingers are offered in a perfunctory shake.
  • The Hipster: This isn’t a handshake at all, but a fist bump or something similar.
  • The Shakey-Shakey: This is a handshake that goes on way too long.
  • The Tea-Cupper: A handshake with a cupped hand avoiding any contact of the palms.

Differing from the passive handshakes, but also equally unprofessional are the aggressive handshakes:

  • The Politician: Shaking the other person’s hand using both of yours.
  • The Bone Crusher: Gripping the other person’s hand so aggressively that it feels like the bones of their hand are crunching together.
  • The Finger Vice: This is an overly aggressive response to the Wet Fish handshake.
  • The Top-Hander: Gripping the other person’s hand from the top in an attempt to convey dominance.
  • The Mason: Wrapping your fingers around the other person’s wrist.

Another quality to be aware of is the way you dress. Clothing is one of the first things people notice about you! Remember, no one ever got ignored, denied a promotion or refused a raise because they looked too professional or wore a sports coat or suit to work. Does your personal style get in the way of professional etiquette and doing business? If so, it’s not appropriate. Ultimately, be aware of your appearance. Stay well groomed, clean and tidy in dress.

The way you practice professional etiquette tells everyone a lot about who you are as a business professional. Think about what message you want to convey as you evaluate your own workplace behavior.

Presented by:


Rick Ellis