Author Archive: Ms. Corporate Manners

Elevator etiquette on a cell phone

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners,
Can you talk about the etiquette of using cell phones in elevators?
Signed,
Fed Up in Chattanooga

Dear Fed Up,
When using your cell phone, be aware of your surroundings and be considerate of others. In a public space like an elevator, it’s just plain rude to yak loudly on your cell. If you have to take a call in the middle of a conversation or meeting, apologize, step out of the room, and make it quick. And that goes for texting, too.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

More cell phone etiquette

Dear Ms. Corporate Manners,
Our workplace has a “no cell phones at work” policy. The problem is that some people ignore that policy. We work with the public, and one of my co-workers almost always keeps her cell phone on, and it rings while we are helping clients. She answers the phone and then moves to an area where people can’t see her, but trust me, they can definitely still hear her. Besides being loud, she makes our clients have to wait while she carries on these “private” conversations. Our bosses are aware of this and yet it still continues to happen. I just feel bad for our clients who are getting less than professional service. And also for the employees who are picking up the slack. Is there anything we can do?
Signed,
Hoping for Help

Dear Hoping,
Overuse in public is inconsiderate and it’s best to turn cell phones off at the office, especially during meetings. If you work with a cell-phone user who deliberately ignores the rules and it’s impacting your customer service, you should talk to your co-worker, who may not realize how loud her calls are.  If that doesn’t work, talk with your manager or human resources representative about the problem.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

What to wear on casual Fridays?

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners,
When is it appropriate to wear blue jeans to work? What does business casual mean? Also, when is it proper to wear sundresses to work?
Thanks.
Prim and Proper in Memphis

Dear Prim and Proper,
When dressing for work, don’t dress for who you are but for who you want to be. That means dressing like the people do at the top of the ladder.  Business casual is a more relaxed look, but we ALWAYS need to project a professional image for our customers and co-workers. On casual Fridays and other times, study what the company leaders wear and use common sense.   Ladies, no mini-skirts, and no bare midriffs; clothing that reveals too much cleavage, too much back, too much shoulder or too much leg is not right for work.  If you wear a sundress, make sure it’s modest, and wear a light jacket or sweater to cover up in the office. Casual pants are fine for men and women, but not blue jeans. Men, you can forgo the tie, and wear a nice button down shirt with a sports jacket. No blue jeans, sweatpants, exercise pants or t-shirts displaying your alma mater’s logo.  On casual days, wear conservative athletic or walking shoes, loafers, boots, flats and leather deck-type shoes.  Athletic shoes, thongs, flip-flops and slippers are no-no’s. Given climate and fashion trends, we’re open to open-toed shoes for women, but please – if you show it to us be sure we want to see it.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

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

Do you cover your mouth when you sneeze?

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners, 
My co-worker doesn’t cover his mouth when he sneezes. We all sit in cubicles so we are close together. When this particular employee sneezes, he just turns around in his chair and sneezes in the open with no attempt at all to cover his mouth. I think this is disgusting and very unsanitary. Do you have a suggestion on how this can be handled? I know others have asked him to stop, but he continues. Thanks in advance for your advice.
Signed, 
Holding My Breath

Dear Holding,
Sometimes a cough or sneeze happens quickly, and people don’t have time to react. The next time your co-worker sneezes, quickly put your own hands over your face and turn away to avoid his germs. You may want to remind him in a gentle way that it’s his responsibility to cover his mouth and nose with a tissue or handkerchief so his germs don’t spread to other people. In a pinch, the crook of his elbow will do the trick. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to him, why don’t you place this column in his cubicle as a gentle hint?
Signed,
Ms. Corporate Manners

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

Four quick conference call tips

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners:
Sometimes there are so many background noises during my conference calls that I can’t hear what’s being said. Sometimes people forget to press the “mute” button, and I hear side conversations – and it’s really hard to focus on the one I’m supposed to be listening to. Do you have any advice about conference calls?
Signed,
I Prefer to Hear No Evil in Hattiesburg

Dear Hear No Evil:
Wow. Maybe we are on the same conference calls. Here are four quick tips:

  • Never place a conference call on hold during the call.
  • Use the mute button on your phone when possible to reduce background noises.
  • Shuffling papers near the phone or microphone distracts other people on the conference call and can, in fact, prevent others on the call from hearing.
  • Make sure any electronic devices, such as Blackberries and cell phones, are not near the phone being used for the conference call.

Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

etiquetteMore conference call etiquette
Dear Ms. Corporate Manners:
I was recently waiting for a conference call to begin when another participant placed his line on “hold” for some strange reason. When the line was finally taken off “hold” and the conference began it was impossible to hear anyone on the call because all our voices were echoing when we tried to speak. Ultimately, we had to reschedule our important conference call. Do you have any advice about placing phones on “hold” during a conference call?
Signed,
Echoing in East Tennessee

Dear Echoing:
Don’t worry; there could be an easy fix. Just make sure you disconnect the first conference call line before you dial the next call. Failing to do so may produce a disruptive echo effect.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

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

Thank you note etiquette – email or snail mail?

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corporate Manners, 
Is it appropriate to send thank you e-mails, or should I just send old-fashioned letters? 
Signed,
“E-Thank You!”

Dear “E-Thank You!”,
I do love an old-fashioned letter, but any thank you is nice – depending upon the occasion. Are  you thanking someone for a wedding gift, a favor or a job interview?  If you’re thanking someone for a wedding gift, send a personal letter on high-quality card stock. The type of paper you use for your written correspondence  reflects the type of event correlating to it.

If a co-worker does you a favor, an e-mail or face-to-face thank you works well. If you are showing appreciation for a job interview, consider the industry. Is it traditional or high-tech? It’s best to write a thank you note while you are still fresh in the interviewer’s mind, which is usually within 24 hours of the interview.  Emails are great because there’s a chance the interviewer might write back. In more traditional businesses, following up with a written thank you also is wise.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

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

Seven secrets for a great handshake

Ms.MannersDear Ms Corporate Manners,
Is it proper for a woman to have a terribly strong handshake? I recently met someone and we shook hands. Boy, did I regret that as soon as it happened. She squeezed my hand so hard that it still hurt even after she left. A few other women in my area met her as well and experienced the same thing. Should I have addressed my concern with the “new friend” or just let it go?
Thanks,
Ouch! Nice to meet you

Dear Ouch,
Some women have weak handshakes, and maybe she accidentally over-compensated, so I would “let it go.” I teach an entire class on how to shake hands because people judge us by our handshakes, and we unconsciously judge others by their handshakes.

Here are seven things to remember when you shake hands:

  1. The person who extends a hand first has the advantage of taking the initiative and establishing control.
  2.  Since you need to leave your right hand free for the shake, in a social situation, it’s a good idea to hold your beverage in your left hand to avoid shaking with a cold right hand.
  3. Stand up straight, smile, and make friendly, direct eye contact.
  4.  Extend your hand with the thumb up and fingers out. Meet the person’s grip web-to-web.
  5. Shake from the elbow, not the wrist or shoulder.
  6. Shake hands crisply, firmly, with two smooth pumps before releasing the hand.
  7. Remember to make sure every meeting, business or social, begins and ends with a handshake.

Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

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

Are stilettos appropriate for the office?

LogoMs. Manners put her foot AND her stilettos in her mouth when she wrote in this blog that high heels could dash high hopes when climbing the corporate ladder. Here are some comments from some unhappy readers with high heels and even higher career aspirations.

Dear Ms Corporate Manners,
We have a manager in our region that is fond of fancy footwear. The problem is that her footwear would be more appropriate for an, um, street corner business than a professional business. On Monday we were treated to the bright fuchsia satin heels with the black satin rosettes, and on Tuesday it was 4 ½ inch high candy apple red patent leather. Actually, I would not call these shoes high heels, they are straight up stilettos. In the event of an emergency I’m pretty sure they could be used as a deadly weapon. Sometimes her shoes are in stark contrast to her other attire, sometimes she pairs them with black satin mini-skirts. Surely this can’t be considered appropriate attire for a professional woman, right? And because she travels around from office to office, I am not sure who would address this dress code issue. What to do?
Sincerely,
Pumped in Pittsburg

Dear Pumped,
The shoes you choose to wear to work should be coordinated to your clothing, and they also should be comfortable. Extremely high heels are never recommended. We all need to be able to focus on our customers and not on how uncomfortable our feet are. Maybe your toe-tapping manager thinks her high-heeled shoes are perfectly appropriate, but sooner or later she’ll find out that she’ll never be taken seriously in those shoes. If you are really concerned, maybe a discreet word to her would bring results.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

mannersDear Ms Corporate Manners,
I was highly offended by your advice for “Pumped.” I have never had a problem being taken seriously in my high heeled shoes, and I would even dare to say that the vast majority of women who work for our company would feel the same way. I have found that feeling good about one’s appearance brings about a better attitude, and attitude is what people take seriously. Fashion has changed greatly since the 1950’s. In fact, I find it more frustrating that because I am a woman, I am not taken as seriously as a man would be, since men do not have to worry about the height of their heels. I was not aware that the color of our shoes was limited; we are not told that we can only wear brown, black, or gray shirts to the office, why should we do the same for our shoes? Shoes are meant to compliment an outfit. Fashion is an expression of the self, and if someone wishes to wear colorful clothing that is no different than someone who chooses to only wear black. In fact, I am more comfortable in heels than I am in flats. I would also like to point out that not everyone who wears heels looks like they are on “um, street corner business.” Maybe we should focus more on our work instead of what other people are wearing. 
Stiletto-ly yours,
Taken Seriously in My Sling Back Leopard Print Pumps

Dear Ms Corporate Manners: 
I feel that if the person is comfortable in wearing high heels, then why does it matter? If it does not affect her job performance, who are we to judge what a person wears? I didn’t feel your response was fair. Where I work, we have managers who wear high heels and are taken seriously.
Sincerely,
Mad in Heels

Dear Ms. Corporate Manners:
I just read your response to “Pumped,” and I find it a little ridiculous that you would broadcast to your readers that someone wouldn’t/shouldn’t be taken seriously because of their shoes; not to mention, assuming someone’s “comfort level” is a little ridiculous. A response that included the company’s dress code policy regarding shoes would have been much more appropriate, especially since heel height is specifically addressed with a specific height number listed. 

Signed, 
Taken Seriously in Stilettos 

Ms. Corporate Corporate Manners, 
Let me start off by saying I normally agree with you 100 percent, but when I read high heels could dash high hopes when climbing the career ladder, I strongly disagreed with your reply.  First, I think it is very inappropriate of someone to talk about a co-worker like “Pumped” did. To stereotype a person as someone who would work a street corner just because of the shoes she is wearing if very appalling and rude. I think it is great that people can express themselves through fashion and if it is not offending their customers, I don’t see the problem. We all have different styles and cultures. Isn’t that part of what makes our workforce so great – having “diverse” people? Also, who is to say that the heels are uncomfortable for the person wearing them? I own several pairs of heels and enjoy wearing them and never have any trouble from them. It actually helps my posture to wear them. I agree we should all look professional when servicing our customers, but the lady wearing them probably does think she looks professional. If employees are going to concentrate so much on what the other employee is wearing instead of concentrating on assisting our customers, then I say let’s pass out uniforms so that everyone can wear khaki pants, plain brown shoes, and a blue polo shirt. That sounds much better right?? I don’t think so. I also hate to think that your readers would focus so much on how a person looks instead of how well the employee actually did his/her job. Why can’t we just embrace that everyone is different and dresses differently? I think the world would be a pretty boring place if we all looked the same. Sign me,
Anonymous 

Ms. Corporate Manners, 
After reading the story about the high heels…. I see that the person in question is a manager. Why is her associates so worried about some shoe? We are all here for our clients, and with a better and nonjudgmental attitude, we all look better! 
Signed,
Team means more than shoes!

Denise wrote on Facebook: “If she can squat down while filing and get back up in them without falling over – sure, go for it!”

Wendy wrote on Facebook: “I see why you wrote what you did but I feel in todays society that if a woman is dressed professionally and acts professionally the size of her heels should not matter. Women are judged too harshly in the corporate world as it is. I think men should be criticized then for dressing too casually these days. I would rather see and engage with a smart woman in heels then a woman dressing what someone might think is corporate attire and not expressing herself in a minor creative way or “outside of the box”.”

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

Did you decorate your office this 4th of July?

LogoHello Ms. Corporate Manners, 
Where did patriotism go? Our office was told to cease and desist on all decorating. This meant we had no flags this 4th of July, and we won’t have heart window clings on Valentines Day, clovers on St. Paddies Day, pumpkins on Halloween or birthday decorations for our beloved co-workers’ special days. I’m very disappointed about this drab and sterile turn our company has taken. Customers loved it when we decorated or dressed up for holidays, and it made for a very enjoyable and joyful work environment. Shouldn’t the customers and employees have a say in this? 
Signed,  
Very Upset in Drab 

Dear Upset,
I imagine your customers appreciate your caring and fun spirit as much or more than the decorations. Now that the 4th of July is over, talk to your managers respectfully. If management continues to discourage decorations, maybe you and your co-workers could brainstorm some new ways to celebrate the holidays.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

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

Eating on a conference call and negative co-workers

LogoMs. Corporate Manners ponders conference call munchers and negative co-workers

Dear Ms. Corporate Manners,
I’m writing about something that is so gross and unprofessional. A woman was on a conference call with several of us, talking and eating at the same time.  While she was talking with a mouth full of food. I wanted to say, “Please stop eating and smacking in our ears.” What should I have done?
Signed,
Sickened

Dear Sickened,
You did the right thing by doing NOTHING.  Remember, there were other people on your conference call.  Since you couldn’t control her behavior, you took the high road by focusing on the purpose of the call and the other employees who were doing the right thing instead of making a big deal about the one who was doing something wrong.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

Dear Ms Corporate Manners,
The people I work with are lovely people, but they have a serious problem with being negative at work.  It is stressful to come into the office and already people are in a foul mood.  It radiates off them and makes life hard on everyone around them.  I understand that we all have our bad days, but in our office it seems as if these days occur nearly three out of five days a week.  What can help to make them leave their rude, negative attitudes at the door?
Thanks,
Drowning in Negativity  

Dear Drowning,
Negativity is a real downer because it sucks away positive energy. You can’t change the people around you, but you can stay focused on YOU and make the best of the situation. If you find yourself feeling negative, practice gratitude by intentionally spend a few minutes thinking of something positive in yourself and in others around you.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

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

How nice are you at work?

LogoDear Ms. Corporate Manners, 
Being the new guy at work, I notice some of the associates treat me like an outcast. It’s not all the time but time to time. Just recently a fellow associate approached me to let me know the group I worked with kept something from me so I would not let this person (fellow associate) know. This person and I are not very close and we do not talk everyday, but the group I work with knew we were acquaintances. I feel very outraged that people I work with would have such childlike behavior, especially since the one starting it is my manager. I understand if you may not like someone, but to go out of your way and get a group of people you work with to hide something like new pennies from a fellow associate is just childish. How do I cope with this? It really makes me feel like they are separating me from their group, even though some are nice to me, and I can’t believe all of them would go along with it. 
Thank You, 
Cooked Goose from Clarksdale

Dear Cooked,
I question why a fellow associate would tell you something so hurtful in the first place. It could be that he or she has made assumptions and passed them on to you, and now you also are making assumptions about your work group. Why don’t you set a great example by being the one in your group who always assumes higher intent and refuses to participate in gossip?
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

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

%d bloggers like this: