Office Etiquette I, Vol. 4, Issue 14

Dear Etiquetteer: I hate when people hit reply to all when someone has e-mailed the office to say that they are going to be out of the office and then you get sucked into a warp of e-mails that have nothing to do with you. Dear Communicated: Etiquetteer could not agree with you more that people should pay more attention to whom they are e-mailing, and will illustrate with a true story – reported as part of a story on e-mail in court cases reported by the Boston Globe in 1997 – that involves video messaging, carelessness, and adultery. It seems two mid-level managers at a Great Big Company were having an affair, and had also been given laptops with built-in video cameras (along with all the other mid-level managers). Well, the female of the couple checked into a hotel for a conference, set up her laptop and, shall we say, made a very explicit invitation to her lover. She then sent it to 400 people employed by the Great Big Company, including her boss, her employees, and total strangers.This little story ought to prove that one should ALWAYS check the To: line of one's e-mail when replying to be sure one isn’t talking to the Whole Entire World. Your workplace may have a particular policy about communicating when you will be out of the office, but Etiquetteer continues to believe that the best way is to set an automatic e-mail response and to update your voicemail message

Dear Etiquetteer: Is it ok to be grumpy in the office? Let's face it, we are humans and have bad days, but how can we deal with people who are consistently grumpy, negative, stressed or difficult in which to interact? Dear Grumpy: One of Etiquetteer’s guiding principles about everyday manners is that no one cares about how you feel or what you want. They just don’t care. And yes, we all have bad days. But bad days come in degrees. You can have a bad day because the bus was late and overcrowded, because you lost a six-figure contract, or because a family emergency brought you to the hospital at 2:00 AM. The more we can realize that no one else cares about our troubles, the more we can keep them in perspective. This doesn’t mean we all have to be perky little Stepford wives, but it does mean we need to be professionally conscious of the emotions and atmosphere we project at the office.Dealing with grumpy colleagues – well, brevity is the soul of productivity. As much as possible, transact your business in the shortest amount of time. In meetings, you might neutralize someone’s Black Cloud of Need by brainstorming positive aspects or solutions to the issues at hand, or directing the conversation to other, more upbeat colleagues.

Dear Etiquetteer: When working at my desk, nice, amiable co-workers often approach me to stop by to chat for a few minutes. Normally this wouldn't seem like a problem; after all I love a good chat. However, because my desk is in a high-traffic zone this happens multiple times a day, and pretty soon those five-minute chats add up to some serious time that I could have used to get my work done. How can I politely let people know that although I enjoy a good chat I don't have the band-width to chat so frequently, and that it's not just them stopping by – it’s everyone?Dear Chatted:Always apologize that you don’t have the time to talk – not because your slave-driver boss is monitoring your workplace activities for slacking, but that you simply must complete your task at hand in a short period of time. Then turn back to your computer or pick up the phone. Thinking colleagues will realize that it’s not about them.

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