MBA Students and Proper Online Business Etiquette

Two of my recent articles, “MBA Students Do You See Yourself as Your MBA Peers See You” and “MBA Program No Asshole Rule” addressed MBA student behavior while enrolled in an MBA program. A behavior related area that appears to be gaining interest is online business etiquette, a topic that is certainly something MBA students need to keep in mind as they use multiple forms of social media to advance their careers and interact with their MBA classmates, faculty, staff, and other professionals. One online misstep can have an adverse impact on one’s career advancement.

Minding Manners in the Digital Age,” a CPA2Biz article contributed by Robert Half International poses the following question for CPAs, “Are You Following Proper Business Etiquette While Online?” I think the same question is relevant for MBA students, particularly when Robert Half International polling data indicates that, “Three out of four (76 percent) human resources managers say technology etiquette breaches can affect a person’s career prospects.” The article provides some key tips from “Business Etiquette: New Rules in a Digital Age,” a free publication recently released by Robert Half. The article expands on the following tips:

  • Share selectively
  • Don’t limit yourself to social sites
  • Be choosy about connections
  • Avoid jargon and acronyms
  • Don’t expect instant responses
  • Watch your words

While all six tips are important, I want to focus on the last tip, “Watch your words,” and broaden the scope to include civility and profanity. As social media and other forms of communication usage increased, I think civility decreased and profanity increased. The following quotes illustrate my point:

  • September 22, 2011 Twitter post by an MBA student from a well-known MBA program (Two hashtag references modified to protect program identity): “damn homie, in high school you was the man homie, what the f__k happened to you #___ #MBA #___
  • October 27, 2011 Response to a comment to a Wall Street Journal Article: “You, sir, are an ignorant, populist m0ron. And it is the rampant and increaing [sic] ignorance of uneducated populist m0rons such as yourselt [sic] that makes me concerned for the future of the USA”

These quotes are noteworthy for two reasons:

  1. It is easy to identify the author of each quote.
  2. The two quotes have the potential of creating a negative perception, and as such influencing decisions regarding either author.

While it is very easy to tweet something or comment on an article or a post, there is the potential for unintended consequences. While MBA programs encourage risk taking and debate, emotions sometimes will drive the content included in tweets and comments. Therefore, it may be wise to stop and think about how others could perceive or react to the content.

Perhaps I am overstating the issue. What do you think? Is online business etiquette something about which MBA students should be concerned? Is social media contributing to a decrease in civility and an increase in profanity? Respond by adding a comment below.

Personal Note: Some places of business discourage the use of profanity. While dining at Poole’s, a downtown diner in Raleigh NC this past weekend I noticed a sign behind the counter that says, “If you don’t use profanity you will not offend anyone.” Furthermore, the sign is part of Poole’s homepage. Oh yes, the food is great!

An article in the Wall Street Journal (April 15, 2015) addresses email etiquette, another issue that is relevant to the topic of business etiquette.

Rodney G. Alsup, D.B.A., CPA, CITP
Professor of Accounting
Founder of

[Image by FreeDigitalPhotos.Net member digitalart/In accordance with terms of use]

1 comment for “MBA Students and Proper Online Business Etiquette

  1. David
    December 9, 2011 at 12:25 am

    I think we should all be concerned about social media as it;s now the most powerful media for marketing.

    online programs career development

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