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Business etiquette in a virtual environment > Wright-Patterson AFB > Article Display

Business etiquette in a virtual environment > Wright-Patterson AFB > Article Display

Commentary: As a Protocol officer, I have been asked many times to teach etiquette to our Airmen. Although many of these seminar attendees are new to military service, there are some valuable lessons that can be shared with all.  

As we shift to virtual operating environments, we rely more on electronic communication. Knowing basic business etiquette rules can improve communication and promote mutual respect between professionals.

Etiquette refers to the rules that guide polite behavior in society. Simply put, it is the practice and display of good manners. Business etiquette is the expectation of professional behavior and practices.

Telephone etiquette

It is becoming more common to conduct business over the phone in a virtual world, even if you don’t know the person. However, it is important to answer business telephones in a professional and pleasant manner.

Example: “Wright-Patterson Protocol, Jay Berry speaking, how may I help you?”

International or domestic calls should be made by the caller.

Example: “Good morning. Jay Berry is from the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. May I please speak with Mr. John Smith?” 

Civilians should never use the honorific “I am” when referring about themselves.  

  • Incorrect: “This is Mr. Jay Berry…”
  • Correct: “This is Jay Berry…”

However, military personnel should use their rank to identify themselves when conducting business over the telephone.

Remember that a conversation over a mobile phone in a public area or crowded place is not private. When attending business meetings, events, or ceremonies, turn off your mobile phone completely.

Email etiquette

Email business has been a popular method of conducting business for many years. Even though we’ve been using email for quite some time, these are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Know your audience. Start by using the correct courtesy title for your email. Avoid using acronyms and terms that may not be understood by everyone.
  • Before you send any communication, always review it.
  • Email doesn’t contain emotion. Therefore, make sure that your message is clear and concise. Inadvertently, punctuation or capitalized letters can make an innocent message offensive.
  • Negative interpretations are not allowed, just as when you send messages. If you are offended by an email, take a moment to think about it from the sender’s perspective before reacting. Bottom line, never reply immediately when emotional issues are involved…sometimes, no response is the best response.
  • Be sure you are not copying individuals you shouldn’t and not removing people from the email traffic who still need the information.
  • Answer all emails within 24 hours.

Video meeting platforms

Video meetings are a popular way for business to be conducted in a virtual setting. The newest form of electronic communication, video meetings, is still being developed.

  • Set your environment: 
    • System-check your equipment regularly to ensure that your microphone and video camera work properly.
    • If the area you are using is distracting or unattractive, blur it out or use virtual backgrounds. Pay attention to lighting. 
    • To minimize interruptions and distractions, close your office door.
  • You should be prepared
    • Dress appropriately. The rule of thumb is to dress as if you were attending a meeting in person.
    • Always be on time and ready for your contribution. Log in to a meeting five to ten minutes before the start time. Have all notes and briefing materials ready.
  • Conduct during the meeting
    • Turn on your camera when you are speaking — it’s all about staying connected.
    • To reduce unwanted background noise, turn off your microphone if you are not speaking.
    • Interrupt appropriately — raise your hand, unmute your mic or use the chat function.
    • Don’t eat or do other things you wouldn’t do in a face-to-face meeting.
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