SDA advances management and administrative professionals in the A/E/C industry.

Business Etiquette


By Sher Prince, SDA San Diego Chapter Society of Design Administration

It seems like we are becoming inundated with incivility, bad manners and poor etiquette. Good etiquette never goes out of style and is the foundation for good business relationships. There is no replacement for courteous attentiveness. Your clients want to feel like they are important to you. Are you tired of rude and unprofessional people? Have you ever been to a store or restaurant and had the clerk carry on a conversation on the phone while they check you out? Don’t you want to say, ‘Can you put down the phone long enough to help me?’ It is time to call attention to the rules of civilized business behavior.


Your job is to represent the company. You are the first impression. How you look, sound and act has a direct impact on everyone who comes to your office. You set the tone for the office. Remember the old rule your mother taught you: ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” · If you’re having a bad day, don’t let it show. No one visiting or calling your office should ever be able to tell that you are not in a good mood. “Fake it until you make it” applies! · regardless of what the dress code is in your office—your dress code should be professional at all times. · You should be able to recognize regular callers by their voice and know who they usually speak to. This makes them feel important. Isn’t it nice to call one of your consultants & have the receptionist say “Hello Mr. Smith” before you’ve even said your name. · Never carry on a personal conversation in front of any one visiting your office (even delivery people). · Never make some wait at your desk while you finish a personal conversation (this one applies to all of us). · Do not answer one line and ignore all the others. Ask the first caller if they can hold, then answer the second line, ask caller two to hold, and then go back to caller one and forward them on to the person they wish to speak to. · Don’t transfer the caller to voicemail without asking them if they want voicemail, they may wish to speak to someone else if their first choice isn’t available.

Phone/Voicemail Systems

We all hate to get caught in a voicemail hell! The first contact at your company should be a person. If you have a voicemail system, always have a ‘0’ option available. We all use it. You get stuck & push ‘0’ to reach a person. Another thing is those never ending menus, you should not have to go through more than two menus to reach your party. We’ve all been in those, press 1 for this, press 2 for that. Then you are at another menu, press 1 for this, 2 for that, or 3 for the other. Then you get to another menu. Don’t you just want to hang up and forget it? Think about how a new client might feel. If you are that hard to reach, maybe you are not the right company for the job! There are too many companies out there competing for that client, don’t give them a reason to go somewhere else.


Do not use a speakerphone if you are the only person in the room. Speakerphones are meant for group interaction. Also do not use speakerphones in an open work area where it could be distracting for people around you trying to work.

Phone Calls and Computers

If you are on a call, focus on the telephone conversation. Don’t try to read your email while you are trying to carry on a conversation. Believe it or not, people can tell that you are not interested in the conversation!

Cell Phones

There are many don’ts to this one! Turn off the cell phone during a meeting. If you must leave it on, at least set it to vibrate so that you do not disturb everyone else in the meeting. Then excuse yourself before answering the call. Do not ever leave your phone on if you are speaking in front of a group of people. Don’t leave it on in a ‘quiet’ area, such as a library or church.

On Time Starts

Punctuality is important. Be on time. It is rude to make someone else wait because you couldn’t leave 5 minutes earlier to arrive on time. Again, ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”


If you’re going to use Power Point presentations, learn how to design and use them. Always have a back up plan in case you run into computer problems.


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