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Business Etiquette: Before You Say 'I Don't Know'

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Starting a new job can be stressful, especially when you find yourself in those awkward situations where your standard answer seems to be, "I don't know." Don't fret. Everyone comes across moments at work when you have no idea what your boss or colleagues are talking about. Most people just nod while secretly wondering what to do next.

Here are a few tips to on how to handle those situations:

  1. Search the web. When in doubt and in need of an immediate answer, there are resources at your fingertips that can offer you an answer on the web. Everything from how to reprogram your new gadget to what to pack on your next business trip, your answer is one click away. Don't go to your boss with "I don't know" until you have exhausted all resources. Caution: Not everything you find online is from a credible outlet. Check your sources carefully before taking the next step.
  2. Review previous files. If you are new and looking for what was done in the past, take time to create a new contract, contact a former client, compare a fee from a prior year or research older computer files. Whether it's from last year, or several years back, you can usually find what you need by checking past or archived files.
  3. Use your telenav app. When asked to run an errand, rather than relying on directions from several different people, plug in the address to your car or iPhone app and get on your way. By the time you take a poll on which coworker can give you the best directions, you could be there and back.
  4. Don't be afraid to ask a coworker. Many new employees are hesitant to ask for help for fear they will look foolish. On the contrary, you will appear straightforward and invested by wanting to learn everything you can about what you don't currently know. Asking questions is a sign of a leader.
  5. Stay calm. Every office has at least one person whose default when feeling stressed or overwhelmed is to let the entire office know about it. If you are having trouble with something, train yourself to first relax, breath and slow down while you give yourself time to methodically figure things out. There is almost always an answer to every situation and you will find it quicker when you aren't over-anxious and emotionally-charged.
  6. Learn from your mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Use the experience as an opportunity to learn and grow. Take note of what you need to do moving forward and keep putting forth your best efforts. You aren't expected to know everything, just know how and where to find the proper resources.
  7. Follow through. Knowing the answer is only half of a successful plan. Successful execution with attention to detail is what sets you apart from someone less thorough. If you don't know, find out and then follow through to a job well done.
For more workplace etiquette tips, refer to the following article:

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