Category Archives: 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

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.

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

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.

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.

How do you feel about perfume and after-shave at work?

LogoDear Ms. Corporate Manners, 
I am amazed by the people in my office who consistently wear strong fragrances. I am very sensitive to fragrances. They cause my eyes to water and give me headaches. I have to use paper towels to open doors so that I won’t get cologne on my hands. Many times I am not able to concentrate on my work. Are there any corporate policies against wearing strong fragrances? There have been times when I have to find another work station or request to work the rest of the day at home due to a co-worker’s insensitivity. I have brought the issue directly to my co-worker, and it caused a strain with our relationship. I told my manager and our human resource representative with no resolution. Please help!
Signed, 
Waiting to Exhale

Dear Waiting,
In a business setting, it’s appropriate to wear little or no fragrance. A woman who wears perfume or a man who wears aftershave should choose a light, fresh scent and apply it in moderation. If you haven’t had success talking to your co-worker directly, you could try going back to your human resource representative to let him or her know that this is a health issue that is affecting your work, or you could just show the strong-smelling co-worker this column.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

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

Rude, loud, gum-chomping toilet texters.

LogoDearest readers,
Manners are a two-way street. If we expect politeness and patience from others, we must practice them ourselves. Working with others means overlooking small flaws and minor irritations.

Remember the serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff.

The email-writers below may have good points, but in most cases there are no practical solutions. To those faced with gum smackers, food stinkers or toilet texters, my answer is simple – we can’t control other people’s behavior, only our own. Mind your manners. Be kind. Work hard and have fun. And remember, earplugs cover a multitude of sins.
Signed,
Ms. Corporate Manners

Here are the emails:

Chomping gum

Dear Ms. Corporate Manners,
I work in an office atmosphere with a great bunch of people but unfortunately a few of them chew gum at work and – let’s just say – it can get pretty noisy with all of snapping / cracking / smacking of gum – even when speaking on the phone. I am of the school of thought that it is OK but in a professional atmosphere it does not belong. What makes it bad is that when you approach some of these individuals they actually get upset and that it is their right. Personally, to me, it is like listening to someone dragging finger nails across a black board. I try my best to ignore but my nerves are on edge at the end of the day. What is the policy on this subject?
Signed,
Nerves on Edge

Texting on the toilet

Dear Ms. Corp. Manners,
It seems like every time I go into the bathroom now, someone is in the other stall texting on a cell phone (or on occasion TALKING!) I find this to be disturbing and unsanitary to say the least. Aren’t bathrooms considered part of the workplace environment, where cell phones are not allowed?

Signed,
Potty in Peace 

Training deadlines

Dear Ms. C. M.
I like to voice my opinion on datelines for mandatory e-training sessions. Officially a course may have a two-week deadline, but in reality our leaders, being persuaded by their leaders, move the deadline up by one week and announce “you have to do it today.”

Let’s get real. We are working doing the job for more than one person and have to carefully plan when to get into compliance by taking these training sessions. Some days, or even weeks are out of the question. I wish our management, from the top down, would extend the courtesy to give ample time for any and all training sessions. And by the way, a quote of “it takes 30 minutes” may turn into 1.30 hours if the material is way out of the work area of the employees. A deadline good for 2 weeks should just mean that. Let’s work on that, I am sure I am not the only one having issues with this discourteous practice. 

Signed,
Calendar is Booked

Loudmouths I

Dear Ms. Corporate Manners,
There is a co-worker in my area who puts the phone on speaker to participate in conference calls. I find this to be not only annoying and distracting, but also very inconsiderate. I feel uncomfortable saying anything because this person has a significantly higher position in the bank’s hierarchy than I. What do you suggest?
Thanks in advance,
Put-out peon

Loudmouths II

Dear Ms. C. M.,
When employees are in an open office should individual conference calls be placed on speaker phone? I fine this so disturbing when trying to work on other things or help service customers.  

Being rude to others

Dear Ms. Corporate Manners,
I am a teller at a large branch and wait on fellow employees from different departments on a daily basis. I find it very disturbing that these fellow employees tend to treat me and the other tellers like we are incompetent on a regular basis. Aside from the typical, i.e. arguing with me that their check does not need to be endorsed, etc., they also are just out and out rude. They do not wait to be called up to the window, which is exasperating because we can be on the phone with a customer or finishing up on something and no regard is paid to that fact. It is also disheartening to ask someone how they are doing and they simply grunt or mutter something inaudible. And, not to nit pick, but it is the most frustrating to have to look up an employee account number and have the employee huffing and puffing because it is taking so long. I expect this treatment from customers as a part of being in a customer service role, but shouldn’t fellow employees have a better understanding of how things work, and don’t work? What can I do to tactfully address this situation?
Thank you in advance for your assistance in this matter.
Signed,
Fed Up 

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

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