You Can (or Cannot) Leave Your Hat On, Vol. 14, Issue 30

Even Etiquetteer needs to check on what is Perfectly Proper or not, and one mystifyingly foggy aspect of etiquette has always been when and where a gentleman may wear his hat indoors. Movies are never really a reliable guide to How to Behave Properly, and yet there are so many old films in which men are seen wearing hats indoors (around poker tables, in hotel lobbies, etc.) that the practice must have had some wider acceptance. But one gag in Auntie Mame (1958) is about a man with his hands full needing to take his hat off in an elevator. What is the final word on this? To Etiquetteer's delight, the key to unlock the mystery was found in a gem of a book called Male Manners: The Young Man's Guide to: dating, good looks, making friends, getting into schools, clubs, activities, talking easily, job hunting, traveling, cars, and more, by Kay Corinth and Mary Sargent (1969). The key is whether or not a space is public or private. In someone's home or office, hats are removed when you enter. If it's an office building, and therefore public, your hat may remain on. If you're riding on a public bus, subway, or streetcar, it's Perfectly Proper to remain hatted. Gentlemen may leave their hats on in a public elevator (for instance, in an office building or a college campus), but not if it's an elevator for a residence (like one of those tall residential towers so fashionable in New York and elsewhere these days). This was Etiquetteer's big surprise, having always thought that a gentleman removed his hat in any elevator.

Two important exceptions exist where hats are always removed on entry: churches and restaurants. Of course this relates only to secular headgear.* Etiquetteer gets enraged when seeing hipsters or other men wearing those fashionable narrow-brimmed hats - or worse, baseball caps - inside churches. Stop it at once! Several years ago, Etiquetteer joined the audience of a New Year's Eve evening concert in a church and was put off by the usher barking "Hats off!" as soon as the door opened, not even giving Etiquetteer a chance to take it off first before being disciplined. Later, seeing the rest of the audience, Etiquetteer understood, but still felt rather abused.

To summarize, a gentleman may wear his hat inside in these places: public buildings (e.g. hotel lobbies, office buildings, and their elevators). A gentleman removes his hat when he enters these places: private homes (and their elevators), restaurants, churches and other houses of worship (unless religious headgear).

Etiquetteer is relieved that the "Bad Hair Day" excuse to remain hatted seems to have been capped. After all, if people think you can't manage your hair, do you think they'll think you can manage something more important, like your career?


* Once upon a time, it would not be necessary to state this, but with wider, and Perfectly Proper, acceptance of other cultures, it's important to specify.

Urinal Etiquette, Vol. 13, Issue 57

Dear Etiquetteer: The men's room in my office was designed with too few urinals, which means sometimes having to use a stall instead. I'd rather use a urinal than a stall, but standing around in the men's room waiting for a vacancy feels awkward, and I also worry about making "active users" uncomfortable when they realize that someone is waiting for them to finish? What do you recommend?

Dear Waiting:

Etiquetteer has never found a public restroom a place to linger, and indeed, Those Who Linger are often looked on with suspicion. And one doesn't want to be looked on with suspicion in the workplace. If you simply cannot bring yourself to use a stall, it's probably best to leave and return in a couple minutes.

If you do decide to use a stall, please close the door. It doesn't matter if you're using the stall standing up, stall doors were made to be closed.

Modern Technology, Vol. 13, Issue 28

Dear Etiquetteer: If Etiquetteer would do away with one aspect of modern technology, what would it be?

Dear Teched:

It would be the way people give precedence to people interacting with them via modern technology over people interacting with them in person. (Etiquetteer supposes this is really an aspect of the usage of modern technology rather than an aspect of technology itself, but will leave that to the hair-splitters.)

How many times have any of us been out and about with others only to have them actively engaged on their devices communicating with Those Dear and Far Away as opposed to us, the Near and Dear?

How many friends have we tried to talk with while they fail at surreptitiously glancing in their laps to read and send text messages?

How many dinner companions have we watched not just photograph their dinner (a relatively harmless trend borne of digital photography), but then post the photo to social media, and then wait for and interact with those commenting on the photo?

How many dinner parties have been derailed by focusing on a "phonestack" while everyone waits for (and perhaps bets on) a guest to weaken and respond to one's device?

How many quiet moments on public transportation have been shattered by fellow passengers with Music Loud Enough to Distinguish Lyrics blasting from earbuds firmly lodged in their ears?

How many times has one's view been blocked at a concert or performance by someone holding up their smartphone to record the whole thing, regardless of those seated in back?

How many checkout lines have been delayed by a customer calling a friend or family member to confirm something hasn't been forgotten - or just by being on the phone?

To all this, Etiquetteer can only say, stop it at once! Be with the people you're with! Show them the consideration of your attention and engagement. Not just your friends, family, and companions, but also the working people you interact with during the day: bus drivers, waiters and waitresses, cashiers, receptionists, ushers, bakers, clerks, salespeople, missionaries, tourists, law enforcement, house cleaners - everyone!

In other words, HANG UP AND LIVE! And don't make Etiquetteer come after you . . .

Introductions for the Absent-Minded, Vol. 11, Issue 15

Awhile back, on Etiquetteer's Facebook page (did you know Etiquetteer had a presence on Facebook? Etiquetteer uses it mostly to post relevant media articles about manners, or the lack of them, and the occasional one-line etiquette tip. Please stop by.) Etiquetteer posted a handy tip on social introductions: "When out in public with friends or acquaintances and encountering other friends or acquaintances, always introduce everyone to everyone else. No one likes to be overlooked." To which a reader replied "I would love a suggestion on what to do when I can't recall someone's name and I need to introduce them." And which led another reader to query "A problem arises when the friends you meet know you and you cannot remember ever having seen them before! Etiquetteer, what does one do then? I am quite serious."

This column endeavors to answer these questions. As Ellen Maury Slayden once said (about another situation entirely, but it still applies here): "Keep cool. This is a test of breeding."

Naturally it's very embarrassing to realize that you can't remember someone's name, or even whether or not you know them, or how. Three courses are open to you, once the flames of panic have been suppressed: introduce the other person first (though this may be out of precedence*, Etiquetteer will give you a dispensation), buy time by drawing the out the conversation hoping that a clue will jog your memory, or frankly admit that your memory has failed you. Believe it or not, the latter course is often the better one. A simple "My goodness, this is so embarrassing. I have completely forgotten your name! Please forgive me." ought to win everyone over to your side. It's such a direct appeal for sympathy, and you'll underscore it by maintaining eye contact with that person, and not looking away shamefacedly. You must then, if you can, follow it up with the memory of some kindness that person did for you, to prove that your temporary mental lapse was only the person's name, and not their value to you.

On a more comic note, you could also try the Scarlett O'Hara Approach -- "Every time I have on a new bonnet all the names I ever knew go right slap out of my head!" -- or the Tallulah Bankhead Approach -- "I don't really care what your name is, I just want to call you all Dahling, especially when you come to make love to me at five o'clock. If I'm late, start without me." The latter should startle everyone enough that you can make a clean getaway swooping off to the bar.

Whatever you do, don't try to con them into saying their own names by saying "And I've had so much trouble pronouncing your name you'd better introduce yourself." The name you've had "so much trouble pronouncing" might be "Joe Smith."

When you can't even remember who those people are, much less their names, often the best course is to ask "My goodness, I can't even remember the last time I saw you! Where was it? And what have you been up to since?" This puts the onus of the conversation on them, which should lead to many clues.

The real test of breeding is, when you discover that your own name has been forgotten by someone else, passing it off lightly and not taking it to heart. This sort of lapse happens to everyone.

*Precedence for social introductions used to be much more complicated than it is today. Etiquetteer boils it down to these:

  • Gentlemen are introduced to ladies. "Mrs. Oldwitch, may I present Mr. Randy Wicket."
  • Younger people are introduced to older people. "Miss Dewy Freshness, may I introduce you to Mrs. Raddled Oldwitch?"
  • Junior employees are introduced to senior employees or executives, regardless of gender. "Mr. Chairman, I'd like you to meet Jeremy Filing, from the Accounting Department. Jeremy, this is Gerald Chairman."
  • Everyone is introduced to elected officials, regardless of gender, age, or rank. "Mr. President, may I present Mrs. Raddled Oldwitch."

It's almost October, which means that the Perfectly Proper are already thinking about their address lists for Christmas, New Year's, or other seasonal greeting cards. Should you have queries on this or other subjects, don't hesitate to reach out to Etiquetteer at queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com!

Layoffs and Colleagues, Vol. 11, Issue 10

Dear Etiquetteer: I was recently catching up with an acquaintance and asked “How’s work?” and got the reply “Well, I was laid off.” I’m not sure what to say beyond “I’m so sorry to hear this.” How does one respond supportively, but not obtrusively? It’s a little easier with a closer friend as you can be a bit more intimate.  If it’s someone you don’t know so well, it can be tricky.

Dear Properly Concerned:

How Very Delicate of you to consider how best to respond without Unnecessary Prying. More often than not those in Unwilling Professional Transition are pestered with coded queries such as:

Question: "What happened?" (Meaning: "Were you fired?")

Question: "Were you downsized?" (Meaning: "Were you fired?")

Question: "Did they let a lot of other people go, too?"  (Meaning: "Were you fired?")

Question: "What are you doing?" (Meaning: "Were you fired?")

Question: "Are you OK?" (Meaning: "Were you fired?")

Question: "I suppose you'll take some time to yourself now." (Meaning: "Did you get a good severance package when they fired you?")

People react differently to being unemployed. Some go into complete tailspins. Others express anger, take a philosophical attitude, proactively begin networking by making the job search their Topic Number One, or decline to talk about it altogether. Gauge your response by that of your acquaintance. For the reluctant, drop the topic. For the angry and the depressed, listen and make Noncommittal Sounds of Sympathy. For the philosophical, speculate with them on ideal or fantasy careers.

The sentence "I'm so sorry this happened to you" is often the best response. Etiquetteer advises care with "If there's anything I can do to help, please let me know." Only say this if you truly intend to help out when asked! Few things are as embarrassing for those in Unwilling Professional Transition than asking for help from those who have said  "If there's anything I can do to help, please let me know" -- whether it's for a professional introduction, review of a resume or correspondence, or even grocery money -- and then not getting it.

Dear Etiquetteer:

I need your help. My male colleague in the next cubicle wears the most annoying cologne. I think this is a fairly new habit because I have never noticed it until today. I have been sitting next to him for the last five months but we have never really talked so I can't just tell him "whatever you're wearing must stop". But I guess I have to. Is there a kind way to do this?

Dear Asphyxiated:

Someone once decreed that one's perfume should not be noticed in a room where one is not, in fact, present. Which is the problem with cubicles -- they're all in the same room!

Questions of Hygiene in the Workplace must be approached sensitively. And questions of cologne are especially sensitive, since scent is used to enhance one's Personal Appeal. (Please note: Etiquetteer did not say Sex Appeal since the setting for this query is the workplace. Those looking to enhance their Sex Appeal in the workplace . . . well, all Etiquetteer can say is, they'd better watch out, or they could find themselves laid off [see above].) It must be a jolt to find out that something one thought of as a positive has turned out to be such a negative that it's created a problem for a colleague.

Your concerns must be approached with sensitivity, too. Many people have olfactory health issues that are exacerbated by heavy or pungent scent, leading them to lobby for Fragrance Free Zones in their workplaces. Whether or not your own reaction to this is medical or just annoyed, Etiquetteer imagines it impacts your productivity. No one can type well while holding a handkerchief to one's nose.

Etiquetteer believes most people who apply their scent heavily don't realize the impact it has. You can bring up the topic casually ("Did you just get some new cologne?") and then segue into the heart of the matter ("Actually, it's quite overpowering.") If the idea of raising this issue creates too much anxiety, talk to your supervisor about it. That's what supervisors are for, after all! Your supervisor can address this issue anonymously on your behalf with your Highly Scented Colleague, or can arrange for a Fragrance Free Zone for you by moving your cubicle.

Equality in Workplace Coverage, Vol. 8, Issue 5

Dear Etiquetteer: I am constantly confronted with co-workers who feel like they get a pass on helping with special events, working late, or covering shifts because they have family obligations (kids). Meanwhile, I (the only queer) become the default go-to person. In my mind, their kids, wives, etc., are not my problem and irrelevant. Their lives are no more important than mine. Whether I go home to a house full of kids or a bar full of fun friends or some late night tricks, it is of no concern. 

My question is, how do you tactfully express that? Having a big diva tantrum isn't going to help the situation, but the breeders need to know that my life is just as important as theirs and we all need to either take turns or as a group cover the undesirable hours.

Dear Working Girlfriend:

First, let's cast this question in such a way that it's free of sexual orientation. Gay parents are far from unheard of in the workplace, and so are single straight people. And considering the after-work activities you mention, Etiquetteer is obliged to point out that licentiousness knows no distinctions.

Assuming that these special events and other shifts are scheduled in advance, Etiquetteer recommends that you make yourself unavailable first, before your other colleagues do. No need to say why (and in fact, it would be none of their business), but set an expectation that you are not automatically free to be the default cover. When Entitled Mommy or Entitled Daddy respond, "But I can't that night! I always have to pick up Precious Snowflake at day care" or something, apologize and say you're still not available and that your plans are unbreakable. Refrain from getting on edge with a snappy comeback like "Too bad, I have a [Insert Profane Expletive Here] life, too!" Professional colleagues always have knives. 

Data becomes your best back-up in such situations. When you can point out that, of an office of six people you've been responsible for over 75% of overtime coverage, everyone must recognize that a more equitable solution is needed.

You need to speak with your supervisor about availability, specifically that yours is NOT determined by the fact that you don't have family waiting at home. Ultimately these after-hours assignments are his or her responsibility and if further advance scheduling is needed to assure that coverage is fair, so be it.

Etiquetteer has a new e-mail address for all your questions about Perfect Propriety, queries_at_etiquetteer_dot_com. Etiquetteer hopes to hear from you soon!

Office Etiquette, Vol. 4, Issue 41

Dear Etiquetteer:This past week a co-worker was out sick from the office. As I was sitting at my desk I heard his telephone ring and normally I wouldn't think anything of it, except following the ring came a voice of another co-worker (who does not assist or supervise this individual) answering his telephone. This individual answered the phone to let the person calling know that he was out sick and took a message. This person could not assist or provide any information to the caller because this person is a separate entity from him. I thought first that this was out of line and inappropriate to answer a colleague's phone; second, this hindered his ability to check voicemail from home and forward along any impertinent time-sensitive information to other co-workers in the office. In this situation was it appropriate for this person to answer a co-worker's phone when they are out sick and what would your response be (besides that of bewilderment) to the co-worker you witnessed answering the phone? I look forward to hearing your thoughts! Dear Perturbed: Well, you’re not going to like this, but Etiquetteer’s first thought about this is that you need to learn the difference between "pertinent" and "impertinent." The former means "relevant to the situation" and the latter is really a dressy way to say "sassy."Someone once said something like "Never attribute to malice what you can put down to incompetence." Unless you know this colleague to be a wicked, back-biting and evil person eager to take every advantage against other colleagues, Etiquetteer encourages you to attribute this person’s actions as an absent-minded desire to help the caller. After all, one can never assume that colleagues writhing in pain on a sickbed have remembered to change their voicemail.As a general rule, however, if it’s not your phone, it’s not your business.

Dear Etiquetteer: Can you talk a bit about the pitfalls of deadpan humor in office situations - from co-workers, bosses or underlings? I sometimes wonder if I am inappropriate. Dear Dead Duck: The biggest pitfall there is is being taken seriously. Nothing is worse than realizing your snappy comeback was taken at face value as an insult. It’s sort of like realizing the woman whose due date you just asked about is not at all pregnant.What this really means is you have to know your audience. Too much wisecracking at a job interview or on your first day on the job, or with anyone you’re meeting for the first time in a professional setting – it’s like setting off a string of firecrackers. One of them could put someone’s eye out.Etiquetteer blames World War I for all this. Before the "war to end all wars" society knew how to pay a well-turned compliment. After the war, during the Roaring Twenties, the well-turned compliment fell to the well-aimed wisecrack. This evolved into the insult humor we know so well now, alas. Society has lost the art of creating a verbal posy, and more than a few people end up bruised without knowing how to say so.Now Etiquetteer doesn’t mean that humor has no place in the office – not so! Indeed, That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much laughs louder than anyone in the place does. But again, know your audience.Etiquetteer can make only one other comment here, which is never to joke aboutDilbert with employees who report to you or who are lower on the corporate ladder. They interpret it differently, and you could only come out looking like the Evil Pointy-Haired Boss with your observations.

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More Party Questions, Vol. 4, Issue 26

Dear Etiquetteer: While attending a recent public celebration/street party I was perplexed by the following situation. As I finished my beverage, I looked around for a proper recycling receptacle for my can. I spied one close by and noticed an elderly street person hovering over it. Nearby was her shopping cart, filled to the brim with cans. As I watched further, I noticed her occasionally bending over and poking through the trash looking for fresh five-cent gems. I thought, what is the appropriate thing to do? Do I walk over and hand the can to her? Do I wait for her to be distracted and throw the can in? Or, do I throw it into the receptacle while she is watching so that she is aware that a fresh gem is waiting to be added to her collection?Dear Canning:Etiquetteer certainly understands your reluctance to engage in face-to-face communications with street people. Many sane people have been forced from the security of a home onto the streets by tragic circumstances. But one frequently sees the more, uh, shall we say reality-challenged street person instead, anxious to ask you to write to the President about legislation to prevent drivers from honking their horns between 3:00 and 4:00 AM on residential streets where dyslexics live. While one pities their condition, of course, one usually doesn’t want to engage them individually.Ask yourself what sort of street person this "canner" is. If they pass your Impromptu Street Sanity Test, by all means smilingly hand him or her your can. Please do so frankly and pleasantly, without any hint of condescension. Remember, we are all Americans and are therefore created equal.Otherwise, if the street person appears to be "a few cans short of a twelve-pack," Etiquetteer would encourage you to a) find another receptacle, or b) dispose of it as surrepetiously as possible without that person noticing.

Dear Etiquetteer: I am another denizen of cubicles whose work group has seen fit to overcome the calf-pen atmosphere by throwing birthday soirees. These gatherings involve everyone getting up and joining the crowd in the center of the room, where the birthday person is summoned for a "meeting" and must feign surprise at the sight of cake and a communally signed card.The gesture is intended to be thoughtful, but I found myself on the receiving end of just such a party when I happened to be under the weather. I had made it plain earlier in the day to the person supplying the cake that everyone should enjoy without me, but found myself dragged out at cake time nonetheless. Because I was not partaking of cake, I stayed briefly, explaining that I didn't feel well and that people should help themselves. I then departed to my cubicle to complete some work tasks that needed my attention; the party went on without me.Was there some more gracious way of handling the situation? I do owe the cake-bringer an apology; she went to the trouble of bringing something in for me. But not feeling well aside, what is the statute of limitations on how much time one must spend gabbing to coworkers on the company dime, for the sake of team spirit?Love your column. May you be frequently linked and prosper. Dear Caked: The real question here is, how can a guest of honor at a surprise birthday party cut short one’s appearance without showing disrespect to fellow colleagues who only want to celebrate one’s special day? Etiquetteer’s answer, you will not be surprised to learn, is that it’s nearly impossible. Hearing you plead ill health, Etiquetteer’s first reaction is to ask what you were doing at the office that day anyway. At a work party such as the one you describe, Etiquetteer thinks that only a work excuse is appropriate. Your hasty retreat would have been more understandable had you pleaded the advancing deadlines of the projects you mentioned, of which surely some of your other colleagues would be aware – especially since everyone in a cube farm knows a lot more about everyone else’s business than they ought to. Otherwise, it’s best to grin and bear it, or at least stay home if you’re really sick.

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Questions of Culinary Presentation, Vol. 4, Issue 17

Dear Etiquetteer: I recently hosted a meeting of my book group and provided refreshments that included Brie and crackers. I was astounded when one guest, the friend of a friend of one of our long-time members, used a cracker to slice/scoop up the soft Brie cheese instead of using the knife provided. Her fingers were covered with Brie after she repeated this act a few times and none of the other guests wanted to eat the cheese she had contaminated. I didn't know what to do. At the end of the evening I politely offered her the remaining Brie because she had enjoyed eating it all evening. She was delighted. Also, I had provided each guest with a small plate and napkin. This same guest chose not to use them and popped each Brie-covered cracker directly into her mouth. By the end of the evening her dark slacks were covered with white smears of Brie where she had wiped her hands and she left crumbs all over.I'd appreciate your advice on how I could have handled this situation more pro-actively. This guests' behavior was truly disgusting and distracting. In a few months I'll be asked to host the book group again. HELP! Dear Booked: Oh, beware the friends of friends! Take a tip from Rudyard Kipling, who told the tale in his story 'A Friend's Friend' of how a friend's acquaintance embarrassed himself (and everyone else) with a spectacular display of public drunkenness at a society ball. The Gentlemen had their revenge, however, by decorating his passed-out form with whipped cream, ham-frills, and other Victorian hors d'oeuvres before rolling him up into a carpet and throwing him onto a freight train. Don't you just love the English? They always know how to put one in one's place . . .Brie Woman already seems adept at decorating herself with food, more's the pity, so that approach is out. Really, Etiquetteer doesn't know why you bother; this sort of person is not the sort who understands what Polite Society means, and therefore should not be included. But, on to more practical solutions. Etiquetteer admires the way you finessed disposing of the pillaged Brie. It practically defines 'killing with kindness.' Next time your'e forced to entertain this person, you have Etiquetteer's full permission to say, 'Oh, here's the cheese knife, dear' when you see her aiming a cracker at the cheese; you may even offer to slice it for her. And when she begins wiping her hands on her slacks (ugh! just the thought makes Etiquetteer ill), go right ahead and hand her a napkin saying, 'Oh, don't muss your slacks! Here's a napkin, dear.' Her rejection of your care and attention will only redound on her. As a last resort, you might prepare individual plates of refreshments for each guest, so that everyone has their own delicate morsels to enjoy. It's more work, of course, but at least everyone would feel that their refreshments were safe from Brie Woman's cooties.

Dear Etiquetteer:

I work in a large office and hand out only wrapped candy. Why? Because there are coworkers who will run their hands through unwrapped candy, who will cough or sneeze on it ? in other words, they cannot help themselves from marking it with their germs. It seems almost unconscious.

The challenge is when someone else puts out unwrapped food. How do I politely suggest that it is a bad idea? Of course I either decide that my immune system is up to fighting off the germs or not eat them.

Dear Wrapped:

Etiquetteer applauds your thoughtfulness in providing wrapped treats for your colleagues and clients. And while acknowledging the purity of your movites, Etiquetteer really must advise that criticizing your colleagues is not going to make a positive impression. Continue to decline politely anything offered that you don't care to eat for whatever reason.

Dear Etiquetteer: When I entertain I sometimes want to keep the leftovers for future lunches. How do I handle the guest who either wants additional helpings at the time of the meal or to take some home with her? Last time one of the other guests offered her own leftovers to a hungry guest and suggested that she get seconds of the less expensive side dishes, which saved the day. Dear Pecked Hostess: Good heavens! Are you entertaining friends, family, or a plague of locusts?Asking for a doggie bag in a private home is just beyond the pale, if you ask Etiquetteer. Confronted with the request, however, Etiquetteer thinks it Perfectly Proper to decline with an apology that you need to make the pot roast, lobster bisque, macaroni, or whatever last to next Tuesday. You eliminate the problem altogether when you bring in prepared plates from the kitchen; this way your guests don't see that there's anything left over.

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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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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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