Author Archive: Ms. Corporate Manners

Surviving the cubicle

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners,
I work in an open office environment next to a loud co-worker. When will people ever learn to be quiet in their cubes?
Signed,
Tired of Bad Behavior

Dear Bad,
True confession. My voice carries, and I often become so caught up in work, I forget to tone it down. I’m just hoping you aren’t MY co-worker! But that won’t stop me from offering advice anyway.

There’s nothing wrong with reminding someone like me to be quiet or retreating to the conference room for a private meeting or conversation. You’ll be less frustrated and find it easier to concentrate.

Speaking of concentrating, the best employees get into a flow at work, becoming productive and engaged. Challenge yourself to tune out distractions and have a razor focus on your work.

Nix the speakerphone and don’t forget, because there isn’t a door to close, to ask if it’s a convenient time before you walk into someone’s cubicle unannounced or talk over the wall. Also, in an open office, it’s easy to eavesdrop unintentionally on conversations, but if you learn to tune them out, you’ll be a more popular co-worker.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate (and somewhat loud) Manners

Join me tomorrow evening at the AMA Networking Event

Ms.MannersThe Memphis chapter of the American Marketing Association is having a networking event from
5:30 – 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 27, at the Doubletree Hotel, 5369 Sanderlin Ave. I’ll be talking about “The Hidden (and some not so hidden) Rules at Work.” Go to http://www.memphisama.org to register.

Do you know how to behave if you happen to meet a member of the Royal Family?

Ms.MannersWe Memphians are known for our hospitality. If you happen to meet someone from the Royal Family, please respect his or her privacy so our royal guests can relax and enjoy the South. Just be relaxed and comfortable – not like you’re putting on airs or trying to imitate your guests. Be yourself – with a few minor changes.

Greeting a member of the Royal Family:
When meeting anyone from the Royal Family, Americans aren’t expected to curtsy or bow, but a slight nod is a nice sign of respect. Do not initiate a handshake until the member of the Royal Family has extended his or her hand. If/when that happens, many people become excited and shake too hard. Be gentle.

According to Robert Hickey, deputy director of The Protocol School of Washington, when speaking to a male member of the Royal Family, refer to him as “Your Royal Highness” on first reference and “sir” on all following references. When addressing a female member of the Royal Family, on first reference, refer to her as “Your Royal Highness” and as “Ma’am” on all following references. Hickey says it’s considered rude to refer to Prince Charles, Prince Philip, or Princess Anne; instead, you should opt for The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Edinburgh, and The Princess Royal. “His Royal Highness” or “Her Royal Highness” may also be used, though be sure to qualify whom exactly you are referring to.

Body space:
In the South, we are “huggers.” In Royal Protocol, do not touch or invade upon the family member’s space without a clear invitation. As mentioned, no gripping or pumping handshakes. Do not hug, kiss on the cheek or touch the shoulder. Even in photographs, keep a little space between and your hands to your sides unless the Royals indicate otherwise. In England, you would never turn your back on the Queen or even take her elbow to direct her.

Conversation:
Let the member of the royal family start the conversation. Don’t try to change the subject, and ask only the politest of questions. For instance, you may ask, “How are you enjoying Memphis?” not “How is the baby doing?”

Royal Households:
Each member of the royal family travels with his or her own “household,” so If you are unsure about something, a member of the royal household is of great help and will answer any questions. Be thoughtful and considerate when approaching one of the royal households: try to have your questions ready in advance.

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2014.

Why is communication so poor in my company?

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners,
What can I do about the poor communication in my company? We are a very traditional sales organization. It’s my perspective that management seems to withhold important information from employees, and employees are scared to communicate with managers. I usually find out things through the company grapevine, and that feels like the classic game of “telephone,” with my co-workers putting their own spin on the information I receive. I don’t want to step on toes, but better communication would make my job easier. Any advice?
Signed,
In the Dark

Dear Dark,
You are not alone. Studies show seven of 10 employees believe communication is poor between different levels of management at their companies. Middle managers in many organizations feel senior managers and employees would have a better understanding of each other if they only spoke directly with each other. Ironically, these middle managers usually get in the way of that communication. Add to that the fear factor – managers are human and may not feel comfortable communicating if they don’t know the answers or fear they will make a mistake.

You can’t change the people you work with, but you can polish your own skills. First, manage your expectation on what information should be provided to you by differentiating between “nice to know” and “need to know.” If something impacts the real work you do, your future or the future of the organization, you DO need to know.  In that case, reduce the water cooler discussion and go directly and respectfully to your manager and ask. Organize your thoughts before you have the conversation, be brief and to the point. Remember, good communicators listen more than they talk.

You may not be able to change your organization or the communication skills of the managers above you, but by modeling your own leadership communications skills, you may move the bar a bit.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

Why don’t people RSVP?

Ms.MannersDear Readers:
I receive frequent emails from frustrated hosts who put thought and effort into planning lovely events and are stunned when they don’t receive responses to their invitations. This is problematic when planning food and beverage quantities, especially if the host has hired a caterer who charges by the number of guests who are expected to attend. Does that mean people are more impolite than they were in past years?

I choose to assume people don’t understand what the term R.S.V.P. means.  It stands for the French phrase, “répondez, s’il vous plaît,” which means “please reply.” If R.S.V.P. is written on an invitation, invited guests are expected to tell the host whether or not they plan to attend the party. If the invitation says, “Regrets only,” guests only need to respond if they cannot attend. So the next time you see R.S.V.P. on an invitation, please call your host and respond promptly, hopefully within a 48-hour time frame.

Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

Right or left? Which way do you pass food at the table?

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners,
This may sound like a silly question, but I’m going to ask it anyway. In which direction are we supposed to pass food? My grandmother always taught us to pass to the left, but I have a friend who insists we should pass to the right. Which way is the right way?
Signed,
Directionally Impaired Diner 

Dear Directionally Impaired,
As a guest at any table, the important thing to remember is to keep all food going in the same direction at the beginning of a meal. The “which-way-to-pass rule” is only meant to provide some type of order and avoid having a guest end up with two dishes at once. Old etiquette books taught us to pass to the left, but today we are taught to pass counter-clockwise to the right. This is because most people are right-handed. (Sorry, left-handed readers.) Also a guest of honor is seated to the right of the host, and if the meal is served family-style, the host always offers the first platter to the guest of honor.

If you need a food item to be passed to you after the initial pass, simply ask the person closest to the platter.  Second helpings may be passed in whatever direction is most convenient and practical – right, left or even across the table.

Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

Holiday decor: How much is TOO MUCH at work?

Ms.MannersHello Ms. Corporate Manners,
Employees at our company have recently been told to cease all holiday decorating.  I’m very sad about this because I think our company is becoming so impersonal. Customers love it when we decorate or dress up for holidays, and it makes for a very enjoyable and happy work environment. Shouldn’t the customers and employees have a say in this? 
Signed, 
Holiday Blues

Dear Upset,
Many people (except Scrooge) love holidays, but your bosses also are responsible for maintaining a certain professionalism in the office. Going along with management can be YOUR holiday gift. I imagine your customers appreciate your caring and fun spirit as much or more than the decorations.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

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When is it too tight at work?

Dear Ms Corporate Manners,
My fellow employee could use a lesson in clothing size. The person isn’t small, but she’s not large either. She has a tendency to wear clothes that are skin tight (pants and shirts), and they show every curve on her body. In fact, this week she wore pants that looked like it could cut her in half around the waist and a top that showed just how tight the waist was. A few customers have brought this up as well. We’re not sure how to bring up the dress code without it being obviously directed toward this person. Please help!!!
Sincerely,
Next Size Up

Dear Next Size Up,
Your human resource manager should be able to discuss this delicate issue with the employee, especially since customers have commented on it. A too-tight look is never flattering and usually too revealing. There are very few legitimate jobs where wearing clingy clothing is a good career move, and your workplace is not one of them.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

Dear Ms. Manners,
My coworker sometimes wears clothes that are way too tight. This is especially noticeable when she wears an outfit with buttons on it. This person is very committed to her job and wants to advance in the company. I am trying to find a way to approach her without hurting her feelings. Please help!
Signed,
Sensitive Subject

Dear Sensitive,
It’s nice that you want to help, but if you aren’t a very close friend or her manager, please don’t. Since this is a sensitive subject, so it might be wise to keep your opinion to yourself this time.
Thanks,
Ms. Corporate Manners

P.S. It would be a kindness to compliment your coworker when she wears outfits that have a more flattering fit.

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

Should you text late at night?

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners,
What is the etiquette for hours that people text you? I think that no one should text after 9 p.m., since texting is the same as a phone call. Thoughts?
Thanks,
Need My Sleep

Dear Sleep-Deprived,
You are absolutely right. In business, it’s polite to text during “calling hours,” which usually are 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. In business, only text in two situations – first, if your colleague specifically requests text messages as his or her preferred form of communication, and second, to respond to a message sent to you.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

Tattoos and piercings in the workplace

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners:
What is the etiquette on tattoos and facial, tongue and ear piercings? I thought tattoos should not be seen in the workplace, but I’m seeing more and more of them exposed. And I thought earrings were the only piercings allowed, and only for women. What do you think? 

Signed, 
Just Wondering 

Dear Wondering,
Although about one in five American adults sport at least one tattoo, opinions on its appropriateness in the workplace often vary according with age. A 2012 survey by Captivate, a digital media firm, found that participants over the age of 50 were far more likely to find tattoos distracting than those in the 35-49 age range. I HATE most tattoos and body piercings (except ears) and prefer body ink be concealed under clothing in the workplace. That said, I’m over 50 and come from a conservative office environment. Many companies don’t want to limit piercings and tattoos because it would impact their ability to recruit the current generation.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

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