Project Management Etiquette – Why Manners Matter

In project management, results are what really matter. However, this doesn’t mean you can afford to be completely focused on output and ignore the individual people who make it all possible. In fact, it’s the human component that will make or break a project faster than any other factor. Forgoing the social niceties may seem expedient when you have a lot on your plate; but ignoring the emotional response others have when they interact with you is sure to backfire. It doesn’t matter if everyone thinks you are a dedicated manager who “gets things done no matter what” if people hate working with you. Sometimes, a lack of cooperation and motivation can have the same negative result as outright sabotage.

Here are several areas where practicing good business etiquette can have a real impact on your ability to get things done:

Give Orders…Nicely

Every interaction with your subordinates provides an opportunity for you to practice excellent etiquette. When you are assigning tasks, giving instructions, offering guidance, or providing constructive feedback, couch your communication in positive reinforcement. For example “Jared, I know you like to stay on top of your team’s deliverables so you’ve got a good handle on what’s been done so far and the work that’s still pending. Would you take a look at the current work package and send in your status report by 3 PM today? Thanks.”

Take Turns in Meetings

Even when you are “chairing” a project management meeting, you shouldn’t monopolize the conversation. If you are the only person who is allowed to talk, there’s no reason to have a meeting at all – you could just send a memo. Establish ground rules such as going around the table to ensure everyone has a turn to speak and no one is interrupted. Then, make sure you observe the rules just like everyone else to demonstrate that each person deserves to be respectfully heard. Above all, keep your meetings brief and don’t talk just to listen to the sound of your own voice.

Keep Email Short and Sweet

Email is a form of communication that is intended to save everyone time. If it will take longer for the recipient to read and answer your email than it would for you to simply put in a quick phone call, use the phone instead. Always start your emails with a short salutation (the appropriate level of formality will depend on your relationship to the recipient), then cut to the chase. Close with an acknowledgement that you appreciate the recipient taking the time to read and respond to your email. Keep any personal remarks about others out of your business emails. Any necessary discussion of the shortcomings of a team member should be done in a private, face to face meeting if possible. This will help ensure your words don’t come back to haunt you later.


If your parents ever told you it’s politeness that makes the world go around, they were right. Good manners have a very high ROI in project management because they cost virtually nothing to implement and have a long lasting impact on your relationship with project stakeholders. Being consistently pleasant and professional even when you are feeling rushed or frustrated isn’t about being inauthentic. It’s simply about treating others with the same respect and consideration you appreciate having shown to you. We all have to deal with unpleasant people and situations from day to day. You want to be remembered as someone who makes life easier – not more difficult.

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  1. a)Give orders nicely: true, but really varies from person to person. If you’re very straightforward, well is good to have a nicier approach, but in normal professional conduct, I think that can happen (and sometime is positive) to give instructions in a more direct way

    b) Take turns in meeting: true and very difficult to do if you have a less than collaborative client

    c)Keep mail short and sweet: this is good every time, but in pm is one of the keys.

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