Nobody ever sat me down to give me a class in business etiquette. Maybe along the way one of my bosses would give me some tips to help guide me, but otherwise I was the one responsible for observing and picking up the rest.
The landscape of business etiquette is deep and nuanced, so I can understand if not everyone understands it all. But there’s one area I think everyone should be clear on: business-meeting etiquette.
There are two standard etiquette principles for meeting requests. I start with the one I would have thought to be the most obvious: If you ask for a meeting with someone, it is your responsibility to find a mutually agreeable time, weighted toward what’s convenient for the person you asked to meet with.
That makes sense, doesn’t it? But now many people use scheduling services to set up the time for meetings, which offer the other person a web-based view of their personal calendar and ask you to find a time that works.
I see the value of these services, but if you asked me for a meeting, I find it rude to then ask me to do the work to find a time on your calendar. You should take the extra step to offer a few times that could work.
That being said, I find the new AI scheduling assistants to be a fair compromise because they at least provide a semblance of effort on your part. They are an acceptable middle ground for working together to find a time.
This leads me to the second issue I have with business meeting etiquette. If I ask you for a meeting, I should be more than willing to come and meet wherever is best for you. That could be your office or a place close to where you will be.
I find it utterly fascinating that people will reach out and ask for a meeting with me, and once we come to an agreeable time, they offer to have me come to their offices.
I think it’s safe to say that none of us are sitting around all day looking for things to do. Everyone is very busy, and time is a precious commodity. If you ask for a meeting, especially one that’s a sales or learning opportunity for you, then offer to go wherever is most convenient for the other person. They may be generous and offer to come to you, but that offer needs to come from them.
I bring up these two etiquette points because I was also taught that, within reason, you should always take meetings with people, since you can learn something from everyone. I take many meetings without them having a clear and present value, solely because I like to learn.
All that being said, there are definitely times when taking a meeting doesn’t feel right. Sometimes people use meetings to fill quotas or sell their services without regard for your needs. A dead giveaway about the value of a meeting is whether the requestor is putting the onus of inconvenience on you, or not.
When you are looking to meet with someone, practice the correct etiquette. It’s an immediate red flag if you do the opposite, and you are likely to have an uphill battle from that point forward.