22 May Business Etiquette Training – How to Avoid Causing Offence


Often behavior that is interpreted as rude or offensive is unintentional. What is perfectly reasonable to one culture can be highly inappropriate to another. So where does this leave us in Dubai – a city known as being a ‘melting pot of cultures’? Unarguably the coexistence of such a diverse range of cultures is what makes Dubai truly unique and culturally rich, but how well are we all really getting along?

Nowhere is the lack of culture awareness more evident or more problematic than in the world of business. Building trust and effective relationships is key to business success, yet it is hard to develop relationships when behavior is not understood or misinterpreted.

I have learnt it the hard way. Following a career working with Government officials in my home country I considered myself an expert on protocol, however I quickly discovered how little I knew about international business etiquette when commencing work in Dubai. I ignorantly managed to offend a countless number of people within weeks of arriving here. In business meetings I instigated handshakes with Muslim men and set cross legged exposing the sole of my shoe, (completely inappropriate – by the way). I put a Japanese woman’s business card in my back pocket and failed to bring gifts when invited to my Iraqi friend’s house for a meal. My behavior would have been appropriate, even expected, in my home country, yet here it caused those I was interacting with to feel uncomfortable and offended.

We often do not realize that our expectations of behavior are culturally based. As a Westerner, I expect a firm handshake and an exchange of business cards during my introduction. Arriving to one of my meetings late is hugely disrespectful, as is anything I deem to be wasting my time. I want an immediate response to an email, short and focused meetings, eye contact and ‘sugar coated’ news.

When expectations are not met, too often people are judged as being rude or incompetent, rather than questioning whether their expectations of business conduct may be different from our own. Could it be possible that the way we do business might not be the only or correct way?

This is not a problem that is unique to Dubai. Globalization has resulted in an increase of cultures being brought together to do business and negotiate deals. What is emerging is global business etiquette; a way to behave that is unlikely to offend the variety of cultures you encounter in the business world.

In response to this global trend there has been an increase demand in Business Etiquette training. Through this training, professionals learn the correct protocol and proper behavior, giving them a competitive edge and the confidence to interact and communicate positively in a business setting.
Every culture has different expectations regarding dress, business meeting conduct, negotiations, social settings, introductions, treatments of peers, subordinates and superiors, business correspondence and business cards – to name a few areas that are problematic. It is fortuitous to the person who makes an effort to understand these and adapts their own behavior and expectations accordingly.

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