#Social Etiquette in Business
Appropriate BoundariesAlthough the new millennium has seen a relaxing of general social interactions, it is important to know what is appropriate in business social situations and what is not. What is appropriate in one company may not be in another. Some businesses are more formal than others and require more formality in the workplace as well as at company social events. When you and your colleagues get together after-hours, you should behave in a fashion that does not make you the talk of the office the following morning.
It is also important to understand the business's hierarchy and follow its norms. Unless you know your boss quite well, it is best not to ask questions that she might regard as too personal even though a casual social situation may prompt them. However, in the same social situation, you may be able to ask a peer a personal question without your tact being called into question.
After-Hours FunctionsAfter-hours functions include the company holiday party, company picnics, company-sponsored trips to the ballgame or dinner with clients. Here your behavior can change somewhat depending on the locale. For example, good business social behavior at the holiday party or at client dinners means not over-drinking and making an effort to remember that the event is really a business event; your demeanor should, at all times, reflect that understanding. Similarly, the company picnic is more informal, so a more informal dress is appropriate, as is more informality in your interactions with co-workers. Just remember that it is still a business event nonetheless, and that you want to be remembered for your social graces.
Social Norms in Foreign CountriesIf you are doing business in a foreign country, it is wise to learn the culture first before attempting to do business as social norms may be entirely different from what you experience at home. If your Spanish business associates are taking you to dinner, expect to spend several or more hours and to eat late into the evening. You will also benefit if you make the effort to learn key phrases in your hosts' native language. It shows them you care about them and do not take their business for granted. In some countries, you are overstepping boundaries by touching people other than in a handshake. What is appropriate at home is not appropriate elsewhere.