Do political discussions give you “foot-in-mouth disease?”

Ms.MannersI am both fascinated and appalled by today’s politics. Like watching a train wreck, I am glued to news shows that upset me and political subjects I’ve formerly considered taboo. “Never discuss politics or religion” is great advice, but with today’s upcoming election, that suggestion has gone by the wayside. Talk politics, but keep it polite.

You do want to avoid expressing personal opinions on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. According to a recent Intel Mobile Etiquette study on mobile etiquette and digital sharing, 90 percent of U.S. adults think others share too much information online and 39 percent say they choose not to associate with people with whom they disagree on political opinions.

A polite political discussion is in a respectful, two-way conversation. Let the other person state his or her opinion without interrupting. Ask questions, listen to learn and understand, and you may find yourself actually enjoying another perspective. If the conversation starts to get heated, don’t resort to name calling or shaming. Maintain control by keeping your own voice low and your tone nonthreatening. If all else fails, smile and say, “Well, I enjoy your perspective, but we obviously don’t agree and are not going to change each others’ minds, so let’s change the subject instead.” 

Ms. Politically Incorrect Corporate Manners

Hats Off to Barrie Wurzburg and the Women’s Foundation

Ms.MannersGood things are rarely accomplished alone. Tonight Barrie Wurzburg kicked off the 2016 Modern Day Woman’s Conference at Joseph this evening.  The conference was orchestrated by the Women’s Foundation of Memphis and will continue tomorrow at Baptist Memphis Education Center, Garrett Auditorium. Barrie is a third-generation entrepreneur of a family-owned business that sells designer shoes, handbags and jewelry, and just one of the many women from diverse professional sectors that will share their wisdom on topics ranging from women’s health and wellness to career development and leadership. More importantly, other women like Barrie will share real-world experience with younger women, and hopefully, mentor-mentoee relationships will form. This is just one of many great things going on in Memphis.


Podcast with Career Coach Angela Copeland

My first podcast is now live. You can listen to it on iTunes here ( or Stitcher here (Ms.Manners

The best Thanksgiving gift

Ms.MannersDear Readers,

Why not send someone a thank you note this Thanksgiving?  In the hustle and bustle of the holiday weekend, what better way to reflect and show gratitude than by taking time to hand-write a note to people who make our lives better?

Tell someone how they have influenced your life, how much you love them, and things about them that make you want to laugh – or cry. A thank you note is a wonderful present when it’s warm and heartfelt. Write that thank you note right away, the sooner the better. But if time slips away, better late than never is the rule.

Naturally, you need to write a note anytime you receive a gift, even if you opened it in front of the gift-giver. You should send a thank you note for wedding, bridal or baby shower presents, when you’ve stayed over-night in someone’s home, after attending a dinner party, and, of course, as a follow-up to a job interview.

The best thank you notes are hand-written on wonderful stationery, convey genuine appreciation, and include a description of how good you felt when someone was particularly kind or when you received a gift. You could say how you’ll think of the gift-giver each time you see the gift; thank the hosts of a dinner party by describing how much you enjoyed a particular dish or how interesting you found the conversation.

William A. Ward said, “God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?”

With gratitude,
Ms. Corporate Manners

Register for a fall etiquette class

Register for a fall etiquette class.

Register for a fall etiquette class

Ms.MannersGood manners aren’t just for children. If you are interested in brushing up on business etiquette and international protocol skills, sign up for my evening class at the Rhodes College Meeman Center for Adult Learning. I’m teaching three, two-hour sessions from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. starting Wednesday, Oct. 29 and ending Nov. 12. Until then, behave yourself!

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?
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.
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 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.

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?
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.
Ms. Corporate Manners

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