High Five

5 business etiquette resolutions to make for 2019
Illustration by Tony Healey
Melanie Warner Spencer is editor of New Orleans Bride and New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and managing editor of Louisiana Life and Acadiana Profile. Spencer’s ever-expanding library of etiquette books is rivaled only by her ever-ready stash of blank thank-you notes.


In 2018, I spoke about everything from how etiquette can combat harassment in the workplace and foster authentic leadership, to attire (general and when working out at work), the art of rescheduling meetings, networking and navigating conferences and even dealing with new jobs, new hires, and compulsive liars.

While deep dives are always interesting (and sometimes even fun) and can uncover the history and philosophies behind a lot of the principles of etiquette, it’s always a good idea to revisit (or learn) the basics from time-to-time. Even etiquette writers need a refresher now and then and what better time than the beginning of the year, when so many of us are committing to new goals or re-committing to old ones and otherwise reveling in everything that the new year will bring? It’s in that spirit that I offer five business etiquette resolutions to commit to in 2019.


Non-negotiables: Be on time, prepared and express respect and appreciation by saying please, you’re welcome and thank you. Better yet, get into the habit of saying thank you, then following up with a handwritten thank you note. This is a long-used strategy employed by the business world’s most successful CEOs.



Introduction to introductions: Not only is it important to learn to correctly and confidently introduce yourself, a truly polished professional also knows how to make introductions. For yourself, extend your hand, give a firm, but not crushing handshake, and offer both your first and last name, while making good eye contact. When introducing others, begin by offering the name of the most senior person. For example, when introducing your supervisor to a new team member, say “Jill Franklin, I would like to introduce Harris Rogers.” Always use the first and last name and avoid nicknames.



Focus, focus, focus: Turn away from the computer screen and stop typing (I’m guilty of this one), silence and put away your cell phone and give the person in front of you your full attention. It shows respect and presence and, frankly, helps you avoid repeating conversations down the line.



Clothing makes the man and woman: Your work attire (and grooming) need not be expensive to be appropriate. No matter where you are in your career (or salary range), dress for success and, most importantly, in the attire suited to your job. Be sure that clothing is in clean and good condition so that the people around you can focus on you, your work and what you are saying. It is also a sign of respect to dress appropriately for every occasion.



The buck stops with you: We all relish it when we are recognized for our successes, but it’s equally important to be a person known for taking responsibility for his or her mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes at some point, but true pros know how to handle it when it happens — apologize and offer a solution to the problem. This is the behavior of people with integrity and strength of character.

While it sounds simple, implementing even just these five principles can push you above the fray and help you stand out in the best possible way in your office or industry. Start by working on one per week, and then challenge yourself to use all of them in the fifth week. Keep practicing, especially the ones that seem awkward at first (introductions and thank you cards seem to give most people the most pause) and they will become a habit.

Thank you for reading this column each month and for your emails and questions. May the coming year bring along with it much success, both in your professional and personal life.

Submit business etiquette questions to Melanie@MyNewOrleans.com.