Master Millennial Business Etiquette

From Elizabeth: In today’s brave new “digital native” world, it’s easy to forget that great business etiquette remains a must when it comes to our success and progress at work. Indeed, no one I’ve worked with embodies this better than Ivanka herself—she is relentlessly on her game when it comes to business etiquette and, as a result, is a pleasure to work with.

Master Millennial Business Etiquette
The same can be true for you. Here are five musts that every millennial client I work with needs to master to get ahead.

1. Remember that face-to-face communication still matters, especially for important conversations

Given that so much of our communication these days takes place over text and email, it’s easy to forget that sometimes there’s no substitute for a good face-to-face talk. This is particularly true when it comes to high-stakes workplace communication.

If you’re working on an important project for your boss and you’re confused about an aspect of the assignment, walk down the hall to discuss it rather than typing up an email. Similarly, if you need mentoring advice on your career path, meet your mentor for coffee or lunch rather than sending her a text. And if you need to resign from a job, it goes without saying that your impending departure should always be communicated in person.

Pay attention in all high-stakes conversations to body language and facial expressions as well, as they allow you to respond appropriately and avoid the miscommunication that can sometimes occur in online communication.

When you do communicate electronically at work, draft each and every email as if everyone in the company will read it, because they might. Remember, it only takes one mistaken click for your entire workplace to read that snarky email about your boss.

2. Treat everyone in your office with respect

It doesn’t matter if you graduated from a top university while the fellow in the mailroom didn’t graduate from high school—he still deserves your kindness, your gratitude and your respect.

My many years on Wall Street also taught me this critical lesson: it is often the folks in the service positions of your company that have the most control over your success or failure. After all, if you can’t get your mail sent out, get your phone answered when you’re on the other line, or get your trash picked up at the end of the day, you won’t be able to get your job done at all.

Moreover, others will judge you instantly based on how you treat those who work to serve you. I know of junior executives who lost jobs that they should have been shoo-ins for, simply by insulting the waiter at a job interview lunch, or by refusing to tip the cab driver taking them back to the office with a networking contact who offered to recommend them for a new position. I’ve also known senior executives who routinely ask their secretaries how a job prospect treated the staff during the interview process as a means of evaluating whether that prospect would be a good member of their team.

Treat everyone you work with and encounter as though he or she could make or break your career, because whether you know it or not, they might be able to do exactly that.

3. Meet your deadlines and keep your promises

There is no faster way to ruin your chances of success on the job than to be unreliable with your word. Particularly with millennials I’ve coached, I’ve found it necessary to reiterate that deadlines given to you by a boss should be considered non-negotiable, hard and fast, and that promises to complete work need to be kept 100%.

Keeping your promises and meeting your deadlines is a critical part of business etiquette because it shows respect for those you work with and for their needs and schedules. Lackadaisical response times and neglect of commitments is not only impolite, it shows a fundamental lack of understanding that every workplace is a team, and you are a critical part of it.

If you find yourself struggling to meet deadlines or keep up with tasks due to organizational or time management concerns, invest in a course, a book or a coach to help you master these critical workplace skills. Your career can’t advance without them.

4. Keep your boundaries solid

Even in workplaces that are extremely casual, one of the most critical aspects of business etiquette involves maintaining good personal boundaries. In practice, this means a few important things.

First, don’t get drunk at the office party. For women in particular, there is still a high degree of judgment about alcohol consumption at work. Even if your boss has one too many every time, do yourself a favor and stick to one drink per office event to prevent a possible backlash as you move up the corporate ladder. You’ll end up with no regrets the next day, and you won’t inadvertently tank your career.

Second, keep your romantic life separate from your work life. Only in the rarest of circumstances have I seen an office affair that didn’t end in an awkward or outright damaging break-up that impacted one or both parties’ professional trajectories. Your career is not worth the risk, no matter how tempting that fling might be.

Third, don’t gossip. Gossiping reflects poorly on women in particular, and results in us being taken less seriously on the job. Focus on your work and leave the water cooler discussion to others.

5. Say thank you, always

Nothing beats an expression of gratitude when it comes to business etiquette. Sending a thank you note after a job interview is a must. So are appropriate holiday gifts for everyone on your team and your staff. And it never hurts to take a colleague out to lunch to thank her for the referral of a new client or for backing your latest initiative.

Master these critical etiquette skills, and you’ll be well on the way to success both interpersonally and professionally.

For more from Elizabeth, read her recent posts on our site—and visit her online at and

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