Although honing proper etiquettes has always remained a primary area of focus in the realm of education and training, business etiquette appears to have received less academic attention in traditional sense. However, this scenario started changing in the recent years. Today, many researchers are paying attention to business etiquette as a distinct academic phrase.
Yet, the sociology behind this change of academic and professional outlook towards business etiquette remains largely unexplored. Business etiquette is not an entirely professional pursuit or workplace specific issue. Etiquettes are in fact ways of building and maintaining social relationships. Researchers like Post (1922) have already explained this with relation to the rise of modern industry and commerce along with their deeper socio-economic effects. Consequently, business etiquette is a subject which should have more distinction in the academic world.
Business etiquette is critically important in the realm of business communication because it increases the scope of interaction between a business enterprise and the society at large.
How important is etiquette in the context ofsociai relations?
Importance of etiquette as well as its very practical meaning has evolved through a long course of time. In different countries and cultures, different parameters of etiquette and behaviour have been set as far as the context ofbuilding social relationships is concerned. In older days (for instance, in Medieval Europe or Victorian England), etiquette meant the way one must present oneself and interact with others. He or she was supposed to be demure, polite, and show exceptional manners typical to a gentleman or a fair lady. In fact, rules of etiquette used to be strongly enforced particularly among the noble people and royal families. (Hitchings 2013; Tinsely and Woloshin 1974)
Similar concepts were cultivated in 19th and 20th century America too. However, now etiquette was not being associated exclusively with the ruling class. Implications of and practices related to proper etiquette were now evolving in a more complex societal context after the industrial revolution. Hence, scholars like Post (1922) focussed on the issue ofhoning proper etiquette from a much wider framework. Post (1922) has meticulously explained the complexities of society and patterns of desired behaviours therein. Accordingly to her:
“Preaching is all very well in a text-book, schoolroom or pulpit, but it has no place in society. Society is supposed to be a pleasant place; telling people disagreeable things to their faces or behind their backs is not a pleasant occupation.” (Post 1922, pp. 56-57)
Post (1922) also noticed that etiquette was to be given distinct importance not only in the general context of society but also in more specific human activities like business and politics. And in most business and political situations, one of the key principles of etiquette is that an individual must not appear to be odd or misfit. According to Pendle (2013), “Manners now seem to be about fitting into crowd rather than standing out from it.”
Contextually, a business enterprise may be practically looked at from diverse points of view in different cultures. However, the fact that there are some common expectations regarding the relations between a business enterprise and the society at large cannot be negated; and the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) appears to best address this largely socio-economic issue (Schwartz 2011).
Further in this milieu, Schwartz (2011) states that in conducting CSR productively, optimum business communication is crucial. Experts like Bovee and Thill (2011) hold that importance of proper business communication is directly proportional to the chances of entrepreneurial success. Contextually, several scholars (e.g. Cardon and Scott 2003; Tinsely and Woloshin 1974, etc.) hold that proper manners are decisive in establishing meaningful business communication. According to Guffey and Loewy (2012, p. 336), appropriate business etiquettes “promote positive workplace conversations, both in the office and at work-related social functions”, which is crucial in effective business communication.
Business communication is a field which is largely based on human behaviour, soft skills, and linguistics. In general, business communication can also be regarded as the corporate edition of the basic rules of formal or official communication (Bovee and Thill 2011). But with the lapse of time, organisational environments have become more complicated giving rise to highly complex business communication systems and paradigms. Globalisation has led to the increase of cross-cultural interactions and given rise to vast and diverse workforces across the world. Likewise, CSR has also become more important since non government organisations and democratic establishments are becoming more powerful and preponderant than ever.
In such a state of affair, business etiquette is now emerging as a complex field of study. According to Schwartz (2011, pp. 34-35), “It may be that egoism has been the most dominant moral standard driving corporate and individual behaviour in the marketplace since the beginning of commerce.” The statement holds true in the contemporary world as well. This is why learning proper business etiquette has become critical for today’s managers, entrepreneurs, and executives. Simply put, adopting proper etiquette is the only way of avoiding egoistic clashes and establishing productive social as well as corporate relationships.