Category Archives: Etiquette

Where do I put my name tag and lapel pin?

conference-organizers-suck-at-name-tagsDear Ms. Corporate Manners,
I wear a lapel pin and then put a name tag on at networking events. I never know which side to wear them. Any advice?
Signed,
Don’t Have a Clue

 

Ms.MannersDear Clueless,
Place your name tag above the pocket on the right side of your shirt, blouse or blazer. That way people can make direct eye contact with you and your name will be in their direct line of sight when you shake hands. The theory is the eye travels up the right arm and focuses on the name tag attached to the right shoulder. Wear your lapel pin on the left side of your jacket. According to the United States Flag Code, an American flag pin represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, it is worn near the heart. Happy mingling!
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

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.

Related articles

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

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.

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