Posted April 17, 2008 by

When In Rome (Or Tokyo, Or Sydney, Or Munich) …

Executives, Administrative Professionals Seek International Etiquette Training
Should you shake hands, give a kiss on the cheek or bow when greeting an overseas colleague? What kind of gift (if any) should you bring a business prospect from another country? As an increasing number of companies expand globally, the answers to these types of questions are becoming more important. In fact, six out of 10 executives (62 percent) polled said they would benefit from an international etiquette course. But company leaders aren’t the only ones interested in minding their global manners. An even greater number of administrative professionals surveyed — eight out of 10 (82 percent) — expressed interest in this type of training.
Two hundred fifty senior executives and more than 340 administrative professionals in the United States and Canada took part in the study, which was released to coincide with Administrative Professionals Week (APW), April 20-26. The full survey results are reported in Changing Places, Changing Faces, a research guide developed by OfficeTeam and the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). The complimentary guide can be downloaded at
Executives and administrative professionals were asked, “How much do you feel you could benefit from taking a course on international business etiquette?” Their responses:

  Executives Administrative professionals
Benefit greatly 16% 42%
Benefit somewhat 46% 40%
Not benefit very much 19% 11%
Not benefit at all 18% 7%
  99%* 100%

*Responses do not add up to 100 percent due to rounding.

“A growing number of companies train their executives on the professional protocol of the countries in which they are doing business,” said Dave Willmer, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Administrative staff can similarly benefit from this type of learning because they are often a first point of contact for international colleagues and business partners.”
Willmer added, “Cultural gaffes can get a new business relationship off to a rocky start. If an employer does not provide training, there are many etiquette books and online guides that can help professionals learn about the business practices of other cultures.”
OfficeTeam offers the following tips for interacting with colleagues and business contacts around the world:

  • Prepare. Research business and etiquette rules in advance to learn about cultural differences in a particular country.
  • Make the right introduction. Improperly addressing a person is a common but serious blunder. Learn the appropriate use of first name, last name and title in each country where your company conducts business.
  • Go the extra mile. By learning a key phrase or two of the language, or demonstrating some knowledge of a country’s current business environment, you’ll show that you’re trying to bridge the communication gap.
  • Acknowledge efforts. Remember that your own ways of doing business may be just as unfamiliar to colleagues in other countries as theirs are to you. Show appreciation for their efforts to meet you halfway.
  • Relax and have fun. Perfectionism may be the greatest barrier to effective business communication. Don’t dwell on errors — your own or a colleague’s.

About OfficeTeam and IAAP

OfficeTeam provides businesses with the highly skilled administrative talent they need to maximize productivity, achieve cost efficiency and support full-time staff. The company has more than 300 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at
The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) is the world’s largest association for administrative support staff, with more than 550 chapters and approximately 40,000 members and affiliates worldwide. For more information, visit
About the Study
Both surveys were developed by OfficeTeam and IAAP. The employer survey was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with 150 randomly selected senior executives at the 1,000 largest U.S. companies and 100 senior executives in Canada. The views of administrative staff are based on a web survey of more than 340 administrative professionals employed in the U.S. and Canada.
Courtesy of OfficeTeam

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