Professional Etiquette

Purpose of Course  showclose

What images come to mind when you think of the term professional?  Do you picture an executive in a fancy suit strutting into a boardroom?  Or, perhaps you envision a supervisor walking among cubicles and issuing orders to employees.  While it is true that professionalism encompasses how we present ourselves outwardly, the meaning of the term goes far beyond appearances.  Professionalism also encompasses inward characteristics and attitudes that affect how others in the workplace perceive us.  The professional world can be full of challenging situations, including conflicting personalities, miscommunication, and cultural differences.  In this course, you will learn about typical workplace etiquette protocols, communication standards, and cultural awareness strategies in order to navigate these common obstacles as smoothly as possible.

By this point in Saylor’s Job Search Skills courses in the Professional Development Program, you have started the process of honing your professional image by producing a tailored résumé and cultivating important interviewing skills.  This course will guide you through additional strategies for establishing and maintaining your professional image in the workplace.  Whether you are working on a construction site or in a medical facility, practicing professional etiquette will help ensure that your occupational environment is a positive and productive one.  You will focus on integrating internal attitudes with external behaviors so that your personal attributes work together to enhance your professional image.

You will begin this course with an introduction to professional manners and common courtesy.  Then, you will learn how to communicate effectively and courteously via common workplace communication modes – verbal communication, nonverbal communication, and virtual communication – paying particular attention to how technology affects these forms of workplace communication.  In the last unit of this course, you will investigate the topic of workplace diversity in order to gain an awareness of differences and how to respond to and respect them.

Course Information  showclose

Welcome to PRDV104.  General information on this course and its requirements can be found below.

Course Designer: Professor Abby Sharp

Primary Resources: This course is composed of a range of different free, online materials.  However, the course makes primary use of the following materials: Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials.  You must also complete the Final Exam.

Please note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam.  However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, please work through the resources assigned in each unit.

In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam.  Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of approximately 3.75 hours to complete.  Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit.  It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and determine how much time you have to complete each unit and to then set goals for yourself based on your available time.

Tips/Suggestions: Prior to beginning this course, we suggest that you interview a few professionals from different fields regarding business etiquette.  Take notes on any office-place “do’s” and “don’ts” that are mentioned in the interviews, as well as any tips your interviewees suggest for creating a pleasant and respectful work environment.  In doing so, you will gain a real-world basis for understanding professional etiquette concepts that will aid you throughout this course.

As you progress through PRDV104, please make sure to take comprehensive notes as you work through each resource.  These notes will serve as a useful review as you study for your Final Exam.

A version of this course is also available in iTunes U.
Preview the course in your browser or view all our iTunes U courses.  

Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  • Summarize the principles of proper courtesy as they are practiced in the workplace.
  • Describe ways to apply proper courtesy in different professional situations.
  • Identify and describe the qualities of a desirable employee from an employer’s perspective.
  • Distinguish among and describe the three common forms of workplace communication and how each may be used to handle a variety of situations.
  • Discuss the effects that improper communication and poor listening may have on the work environment.
  • Identify examples of the proper and improper use of technology in the workplace.
  • Evaluate how technology affects communication in the workplace.
  • Define the phrase diversity in the workplace.
  • Explain how cultural diversity affects the workplace.
  • Identify common cultural differences, taboos, and customs that may be practiced in the workplace, and discuss ways to navigate and honor such differences.

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Have competency in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed the following courses as prerequisites: PRDV101: Job Search Skills, PRDV102: Interviewing Skills, and PRDV103: Resume Writing.

Unit Outline show close

  • Unit 1: Workplace Courtesy  

    Everyday courteous behaviors such as holding the door for the person behind you, saying “please” and “thank you” at the dinner table, and smiling when you catch the eye of someone walking by you may be optional responses to situations outside the workplace.  However, such courtesies are not optional in the workplace.  Exercising proper courtesy in any workplace situation is important, and neglecting to do so may lead to unfavorable results, such as miscommunication.  To help you understand the standards of appropriate workplace attitudes and behaviors, the first unit of this course introduces you to basic workplace manners and the positive behavioral qualities an employer typically looks for in an employee.  By studying these concepts, you will learn the appropriate way to handle yourself in many job-related situations.

    Unit 1 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 1 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 1.1 Practicing Common Courtesy and Manners in the Workplace  
  • 1.1.1 Applying the Golden Rule  
    • Reading: WikiBooks’ Business English: “American Business Culture”

      Link: WikiBooks’ Business English“American Business Culture” (PDF)

      Instructions: While this quick online guide is aimed at non-Americans, it provides a basic overview of business etiquette in the American culture.  This article demonstrates that the Golden Rule (treat other professionals as you want to be treated) is the easiest and most effective way to handle most business situations that you are unfamiliar with.  Click on the link above, and read the brief article about American business culture.  As you read the article, pay special attention to the values and guidelines listed and consider how they match up with your own work experiences.  Although every work environment is different, there are some common workplace policies that everyone should be aware of, such as respecting your elders.

      Reading this article should take approximately 10 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: Houston Chronicle: Eric Feigenbaum’s “Golden Rule in Business Etiquette”

      Link: Houston Chronicle: Eric Feigenbaum’s “Golden Rule in Business Etiquette” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the entire article.  These simple guidelines will help you establish a professional image in the workplace and avoid behaviors that others will find offensive or distracting.  Treating others the way you wish to be treated (i.e., the Golden Rule) is a good rule of thumb for workplace behavior, but you may discover a few courtesies in this reading that you may not previously have considered.

      Reading this article should take approximately 10 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.1.2 Etiquette at Work-Related Functions Both in and out of the Office  
    • Reading: Covering Business Credit: Joanne Dunn and Michael C. Dennis’ “Office Etiquette”

      Link: Covering Business Credit: Joanne Dunn and Michael C. Dennis’ “Office Etiquette” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the entire article.  You will find that this article mostly focuses on behavior in the office, but it also provides a few suggestions for luncheons and company events.  This list of “do’s” and “don’ts” of office etiquette will serve you well in any type of workplace situation, whether in your office cubicle or at a business luncheon.  Overall, the important guideline to consider is that professionals treat others with courtesy no matter where they are or what type of event they are attending.

      Reading this article should take approximately 10 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Assessment: GradView: “Test Your Business Etiquette”

      Link: GradView: “Test Your Business Etiquette” (HTML)

      Instructions: Click on the link above to access an online quiz about business etiquette.  Get out a scrap sheet of paper, and write down your response to each quiz question.  At the bottom of the page, you will find a link to click for the quiz answers and explanations.  Check your answers after completing the quiz.  Note that there may be more than one correct answer for each scenario.  Use this quiz to discover your current understanding of various business etiquette scenarios.

      Completing this assessment should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.2 The Attractive Qualities in a Professional from an Employer’s Perspective  
    • Reading: Mind Tools: “Professionalism: Developing this Vital Characteristic”

      Link: Mind Tools: “Professionalism: Developing this Vital Characteristic” (HTML)

      Instructions: Before you read this article, take out a scrap sheet of paper and write down some of the qualities you might look for if you were an employer.  Then, click on the link above and read the entire article.  In this article, you will discover some of the key traits that define a professional in any field.  See how your list matches up to the traits found in this article.  First, professionals are competent, because they are educated and trained in their specialty.  Second, professionals are honest and garner respect from their colleagues in addition to giving respect to others.  Third, professionals are accountable for their actions, because they have a strong work ethic and discipline themselves.

      Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 1 Assessment  
  • Unit 2: Workplace Communication  

    Have you ever worked for an organization where there was little to no communication about important tasks?  Employees are expected to interpret information correctly and to communicate with their colleagues and superiors on a regular basis.  Effective communication can foster increased motivation and a more positive work environment, yet one of the leading causes of conflict in the workplace is a lack of adequate or clear communication.  Miscommunication can arise from a number of sources, including employees’ poor listening skills, the misinterpretation of verbal messages or physical gestures, and other issues.  These potential pitfalls can be avoided with some extra effort on your behalf.  In the second unit of this course, you will explore the three main types of workplace communication: verbal, nonverbal, and virtual.  You will discover how to use these forms of communication appropriately and how to employ active listening in order to decrease the likelihood of workplace miscommunication.  Finally, you will evaluate how workplace technology can affect the communication process.

    Unit 2 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 2 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 2.1 Verbal Communication in the Workplace  
  • 2.1.1 Avoiding Slang, Being Clear, and Using Correct Punctuation, Grammar, and Spelling  
  • 2.2 Nonverbal Communication in the Workplace  
  • 2.2.1 Eye Contact and Handshakes  
  • 2.2.2 Facial Expressions and Body Language  
  • 2.2.3 Active Listening  
    • Reading:’s “Are You a Good Listener?”

      Link:’s “Are You a Good Listener?” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the points to consider in determining whether you are a good listener.  You do not need a separate piece of paper for this reading; simply look at each of the six suggestions to become a better listener and ask yourself if you currently follow these ideas.  If not, identify any specific issues you may have with active listening so that you can focus on improving those shortcomings while maintaining the aspects of active listening that you already perform well.

      Completing this assessment should take approximately 10 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.3 Virtual Communication in the Workplace  
  • 2.3.1 The Use of Technology  
    • Reading: Stanford University: Dr. Eric Roberts’ “Technology in the Workplace”

      Link: Stanford University: Dr. Eric Roberts’ “Technology in the Workplace” (HTML)

      Instructions: Click on the link above to access the online presentation on technology in the workplace.  This is your introduction to the use of technology in the workplace and how it has changed the way we do business.  There is an arrow at the bottom of the screen; continue to click the right arrow until you have read all 4 pages of content.  Pay close attention to the last section, titled “Effect on Nature of Jobs.”  It is important to consider how new technologies have changed your own work environment and the way you perform your job.

      Reviewing this presentation should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.3.2 The Appropriate Use of Work Email  
  • 2.3.3 The Use of the Office Phone  
    • Reading:’s “Telephone Etiquette”

      Link:’s “Telephone Etiquette” (HTML)

      Instructions: Although this source is intended for a receptionist position, the insight given about how to take and make phone calls can be applied to any position.  Please click on the link above and read the entire article. As you read, take note of any of the phone etiquette rules you have broken in the past and consider why it would be helpful to follow these tips from the perspective of the professional on the other end of the line.

      Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 2 Assessment  
  • Unit 3: Diversity in the Workplace  

    The workplace is made up of unique individuals who embody various cultures, attitudes, and philosophies.  You may have heard the phrase, “two heads are better than one,” and diversity can indeed add value to a company due to the benefits gained from additional perspectives and talents.  In recent years, diversity in the workplace has grown to be an important and valued issue within corporate culture.  However, diversity is not without its challenges, because the relationship between individual values and workplace culture can be complex.  Miscommunication and insensitivity may occur when employees are unaware of colleagues’ or clients’ customs.  Mastering professional etiquette includes gaining an understanding of the various cultural norms in your own work environment.  In the third and final unit of this course, you will discover the impact of diversity in the workplace and study the importance of practicing cultural awareness.  You also will identify resources for learning about different cultural practices and taboos in order to avoid any insensitivity.

    Unit 3 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 3 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 3.1 Diversity and Cultural Awareness in the Workplace  
  • 3.2 The Impact of Diversity in the Workplace  
  • 3.2.1 Awareness of International and Other Customs  
  • 3.2.2 Resources for Learning about Cultural Taboos and Practices  
  • Unit 3 Assessment  
  • Final Exam