Want to make a good impact? Avoid the 10 business taboos

A survey has found limp-wristed handshakes, smelly foods and poor hygiene are the top office peeves, writes Kate Jones.

A survey has found limp-wristed handshakes, smelly foods and poor hygiene are the top office peeves, writes Kate Jones.

Bad habits could make or break your business. Whether it's a limp-wristed handshake or a cleavage-popping blouse, there are so many ways to ruin that first impression with a business contact.

You may be unaware of your bad business habits, but your associates know them only too well.

Business etiquette expert Danielle Di-Masi says lasting impressions are made in the first instants of meeting someone new and, in the business world, it's crucial to make a good first impression.

"If you're trying to connect with someone in a meeting and you can't make the impression that you want because of what you're doing or what your body is doing subconsciously, the story in someone else's mind is going against you," she says.

"If you want to make a good first impression, you have to narrate that story the way you want to."

Di-Masi, who specialises in building business relationships through connections and rapport, surveyed more than 400 business executives on their pet peeves. These are the top 10:

1. The "dead fish handshake"

More than 40 per cent of respondents said they would think less of someone professionally if they gave a limp-wristed handshake. Another 25 per cent went even further and said they would think less of the person personally.

"When you think you only have seven seconds to make a first impression, this is not the impression you want to leave," Di-Masi says. "A firm handshake is key to business and key to a first impression so practise, practise, practise."

2. Not RSVPing

Not contacting someone to say you can or can't attend an event is enough for some professionals to write you off completely. Even worse is saying you can go and then not turning up. Take the time to write a quick email or make a phone call.

3. Unmanned mobiles

Don't leave your mobile phone unattended on a desk where it either rings or vibrates, constantly, annoying every one in the vicinity. It gives the impression you are disorganised and insensitive to other people's working spaces.

4. Smelly foods in the office

What you eat is your business - just don't make it everyone else's. If it's fishy, spicy or got a lot of garlic in it, don't eat it al desko.

5. Not being punctual

"Some say it's generational, but everyone says it's rude," Di-Masi says.

Don't make being late a habit. But if you are running late and it's out of your control, phone ahead.

On the flipside of running late, don't be too early either. Aim to be three to five minutes early for a meeting. Anything before that and you may put pressure on others when they aren't ready. Not a great first impression.

6. Inappropriate work attire

Skirts that are way too short and suits circa 1972 all spell unprofessionalism. When it comes to business clothes, use your common sense, Di-Masi says. "Girls, just because the salesgirl at Cue says it's 'cute' does not mean your client will think so also," she says. "And guys, iron your entire shirt."

7. Disorganised meetings and interviews

Not preparing for meetings, which others have set time aside for, is a sure fire way to frustrate. Don't expect people to work with you again if you cannot get your act together and do your homework.

8. Phubbing

Phubbing (playing with your phone too much) at networking events or meetings is akin to yelling: "I don't care." "Although you may be tweeting great comments about the event to your wider network, some may still perceive this as not being interested and bratty," Di-Masi says.

9. Poor hygiene

Bad hygiene offenders are more common than you think. A clean appearance and well-mannered behaviours are essential to making a winning impression.

"Be mindful of playing with your hair too much, biting your fingernails or eating with your mouth open," Di-Masi says.

"Some people may not want to stand too close or shake your hand after watching these behaviours."

10. Coming to work sick

Go to bed. The world will go on without you. Your workmates don't want your germs, no matter how pressing their deadlines. Recover and return to work faster or work remotely if you must.

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