Office Etiquette II, Vol. 4, Issue 15

Dear Etiquetteer: We have a small conference room in our office suite. When having a meeting in the conference room, should the door be closed for every type of meeting or event? Dear Roomy: That depends on how much you want to asphyxiate the people attending the meeting; after all, hot air needs an outlet. Etiquetteer really recommends keeping the door shut as long as your office ventilation system permits, not only so that a meeting doesn’t disturb those working nearby, but so that the proceedings remain as confidential as possible.Dear Etiquetteer:With over 80% of people in our office in open cubicles, when is it appropriate to ask others to quiet down or talk elsewhere? What is TOO loud for an office? Dear Overheard:When you bleed from the ears, that’s a sign something is too loud. Rattling windows are usually a dead giveaway, too.And unfortunately, Etiquetteer will confess to being one of the worst offenders. Etiquetteer must tell you that he has been approached in office environments with the urgent but respectful request to keep it down because Etiquetteer’s personal volume has inhibited teleconferences, small meetings, and the concentration of others. If you can pretend embarrassment when making the request, you will give the impression that there’s no personal rancor.Speaking on behalf of Those of Us Who Are Too Loud – and you know who you are, and believe Etiquetteer, so does everyone else – we are really not trying to disrupt the World Order, we just forget how loud we are.

Dear Etiquetteer: When talking with a colleague in my own work space, how can I tactfully say, "Can you stop talking now so I can get to my meeting on time?" or "Can you cut it short and get to the point, I've got to get back to work?" Dear Intruded: All of us are busy people and should not be embarrassed about keeping to our schedules during the work day. If you’re going to be late to a meeting, grab your notebook and stand up and say "I wish I could talk longer but I can’t be late for my meeting. Could we schedule a time to discuss this later?" This should make it your colleague’s responsibility to schedule an appointment.If you plan to stay in your office to continue work, the best way to end the conversation is still to stand up. Then apologize, always with a tone of Infinite Regret, that you have a deadline to fulfill but that you would love to chat later.

Dear Etiquetteer:Is there a kind way to ignore or address someone who keeps tooting their own horn or sounding like a broken record on something whether a complaint or positive thing?Dear, oh dear:It’s best not to go for the obvious "Oh yes, you mentioned that before, every day for the last month." Some noncommittal pleasantry – "Great!" "That’s too bad" – and then a hasty change of topic should get the message across.Dear Etiquetteer:Is it ok to listen to music in the office?Dear Musical:If you can listen to your music without anyone else having to listen to it, and you can still hear your phone when it rings, go right ahead. Etiquetteer promises not to inflict The Brazilian Recordings of Carmen Miranda on you if you promise not to inflict whatever that head-banging thrasher music is you favor on Etiquetteer.Dear Etiquetteer:What is the best way to answer the phone? Is it appropriate just to say, "[Insert Company Name Here.]" Shouldn't we all use our names so no matter who is calling, they know with whom they are speaking?Dear Phoned:Etiquetteer always answers the phone "[Insert Company Name Here], Etiquetteer." It’s brief, concise, and specific. And Etiquetteer answers the phone this way even when recognizing the phone number of the incoming caller. Nothing is so embarrassing as answering the phone with a big "Hello darling!" and finding out that, instead of the person you expected, it’s really the Company President or a Humorless Bigwig.

Dear Etiquetteer:What should we say, or not say, in public spaces? Our clients, volunteers, temp workers, etc. are everywhere and some conversations are better left not discussed in the reception area or in offices where folks are known to pop in.Dear Discreet:The late William Shakespeare used to say "Discretion is the better part of valor." And yet we all grow so safe in our office environments that we can occasionally let loose with a "Well, we’ve got to keep the old farts happy" without realizing that a meeting of old farts is taking place in the nearby conference room with the door open. Or you could, perhaps, use hair-curling profanity without knowing who’s around the corner. And it could be anyone, from the Chairman of the Board to your Most Conniving Colleague. As a general rule, if you find yourself dropping your voice to say something, you shouldn’t be saying it where you are.

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