Business Etiquette Advice

Business etiquette advice for the professional woman.

Office Holiday Party Etiquette

Office Holiday Party Etiquette | CorporetteI’m working on a monster post about what to wear to your office holiday party, and in the meantime found all these great articles about office holiday party etiquette, which we haven’t discussed in forever — so I thought we should discuss today, as a bit of a precursor to the “what to wear to your office holiday party” post. (Although of course feel free to share what you plan to wear to your party this year!)

For my $.02, it comes down to some simple rules:

  • If it’s your first holiday party, don’t assume — talk to others so you know what to expect, because there can be a huge variation in office holiday parties. Some offices have a midday Santa hat+suit kind of luncheon; others have a Friday night affair at a hotel ballroom.  (One of my old offices did the hotel ballroom for the low key affair, and another black tie ball in January just for attorneys.) If you can’t ask anyone, look for clues — if it’s a Friday night after work, odds are good that people are going to be still wearing their office clothes (with one small tweak like a party blazer or statement necklace).  If it starts at 5, it may be over by 7.  Another way to gauge the formality: where the event is held.  If it’s chosen for locality (the closest hotel ballroom, the closest restaurant, etc), odds are it’s going to be more low key than an event a bit further from the office.
  • Do not get tipsy, let alone drunk.  Save it for the office after party or when you’re at an event that isn’t affiliated with work. (Many moons ago, we also talked about what your drink says about you at the office cocktail party.)
  • Make it about the people, not the food or drink.  That’s a good hallmark of any party attendee, but it goes doubly here.
  • Talk to everyone.  Fight the urge to huddle in the corner with your friends, or only try to network with the VIPs.  It’s a great time to smile and laugh with your subordinates, as well as support staff.  A corrollary:
  • Don’t just talk about work.  If your boss comes over and needs to discuss a project, that’s one thing — but assume that people want to talk about anything but that.  Politics and religion are still dicey topics, of course, but there are a ton of other party-appropriate conversation topics.
  • If the next day is a work day, it’s business as usual. 

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Cute Office Supplies: When To Use Them

Cute Office Supplies | CorporetteOur post the other day about the cute file folders got me thinking: When should a professional woman actually use cute office supplies? Should you use them only in a home office? Only for presentations? As part of a cohesive system for all of your office work? (Pictured: Smiley Face Binder Clips, $4 for 40 at Amazon.)

For my $.02, I’ve always loved cute office supplies — something about going to Staples or Kate’s Paperie or the like takes me back to the happy feelings of back-to-school shopping. (Yeah, I was that kid.) But once I got to my law firm, this is how I actually used them: for personal things in my office only. I had a nice folder for keeping track of my CLE credits, and a nice folder for holding my old timesheets and the like — things that I filed myself and didn’t need to hand off to someone else. They sat on my desk (as part of my organized office system) and made me happy — but they were but a small pop of color amidst the seas of red Redwelds, brown Bankers Boxes, and beige manila folders. It was still worth it to me to seek out pretty things and buy them, but it was just for a bit of silliness to cheer me up at the office.

Ladies, when do you use cute office supplies? Do you have a place for them in your life?


N.B. These substantive posts are intended to be a source of community comment on a particular topic, which readers can browse through without having to sift out a lot of unrelated comments. And so, although of course we highly value all comments by our readers, we’re going to ask you to please keep your comments on topic; threadjacks will be deleted at our sole discretion and convenience. Thank you for your understanding!

Do You Send Holiday Cards to Friends and Colleagues?

MoMA Evergreen Doves Holiday Cards | CorporetteHoliday cards: do you send them? To friends or colleagues or both? What kind of cards do you send, and do you have any rules about it? It’s been eons since we last discussed holiday cards! (Pictured: MoMA Evergreen Doves holiday cards, $18.45 at Amazon.)

For my $.02, I think there are two kinds of people: those who send cards, and those who really don’t. I’m definitely in the first camp, although I’ll admit that the kinds of cards I’ve sent to friends and family have definitely changed since I’ve had kids. While I used to send pretty cards from museum stores and so forth, now I go to Shutterfly, Minted, or the like to get custom photo cards. But I don’t send those cards to people I know through the business (and because business is e-based, sending a physical card seems weird anyway!) — and I can’t see myself sending them to coworkers in my law school days unless I counted them a friend first, colleague second. (Over at CorporetteMoms we’ve talked about how to avoid sending what some of my single friends have joked about as “smug holiday cards.”)

As far as rules go, I can’t think of a time when I haven’t gone with a fairly neutral greeting like “Season’s Greetings!” or “Merry and bright!” just for efficiency’s sake. I always order a few extra in case someone sends me a card who for whatever reason didn’t get a card in the first round I sent them.

So I’m curious, ladies: Do you send cards to friends? To colleagues? What do you think about receiving them? Have you ever received one from a coworker that made you raise an eyebrow? 


N.B. These substantive posts are intended to be a source of community comment on a particular topic, which readers can browse through without having to sift out a lot of unrelated comments. And so, although of course we highly value all comments by our readers, we’re going to ask you to please keep your comments on topic; threadjacks will be deleted at our sole discretion and convenience. Thank you for your understanding!

Dressing Professionally But Comfortably: What to Wear for a Long Flight

Vince Camuto Ponte Knit Ankle PantsWhat should you wear on a long flight with colleagues if you want to be comfortable but still look professional? Reader N wonders…

Could you do a post on comfortable, but professional attire for international or long flights? I have an upcoming business trip where my boss and two colleagues will be on a long flight with me. I want to look presentable but still be comfortable for the long flight. Thanks!

I’m curious to hear what people say here; this reminds me a bit about our discussion about what to wear when you’re out of town and working late all the time. (Here’s a fun question, readers — do the answers change if you’re sitting with your boss/colleagues on the long flight? Every time I’ve traveled with colleagues we were sitting apart, and I was so thankful to freely relax/sleep/read brain candy on the flight.) Some thoughts, in no particular order:

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Networking In Your Niche — But Outside Your Company

Networking in Your Niche - But Outside Your Company | CorporetteWhat’s the best way to network in your niche and with experts in your field — but outside your company?  How can you find these experienced professionals, and how should you reach out? Can you find a mentor outside your own company? Reader M wonders:

I just landed a job in a field I’m excited to be in, and am looking to make the most out of it. However, I am the only one in my office who is responsible for this specific subject matter. While my managers help me out whenever they can, the only other person who has similar exposure to this type of work is based at our overseas office. There are a number of professionals based in my city who are experts on this particular subject matter, and I would love to meet them and perhaps find a mentor in this field. However, since my office is based a bit outside of the city and I work long hours, I’m not exactly in the position to meet up with someone for a weekday lunch or coffee. How can I start to form relationships with experienced professionals in my field when my only free time is on nights and weekends? There are only a very limited number of conferences and events that I know of, so I thought it might be worthwhile to reach out to someone directly. Thoughts?

What a great idea, Reader M — networking with other people in your niche is going to allow you to accelerate your learning, have someone else to bounce ideas off of, and even give you some visibility in the field and hopefully the means to move to other companies if and when the time is right. Networking when you’re junior takes some finesse, and maybe I’m overcomplicating your particular situation — you can always just call the local experts you know of and ask to take them to breakfast, of course! — but my concern is that a cold call would seem either like you’re job searching, or possibly (depending on the field) like you’re trying to get intel on how Company X does its work so you can copy it for your own company. However it’s interpreted, it might raise eyebrows with the expert you’re calling as well as with your company.  (One option that might bypass this: ask your overseas colleague if they have any local-to-you contacts in your field who you should know, or what local groups they recommend joining and who is in charge of them — and then ask if you may reach out using your colleague’s name.)  So, instead, my approach would be to focus on getting involved in associations and clubs within your field — this will put you in the right position to meet the experts at an association event.  If there are no local events, your involvement in the association still gives you a good reason to reach out to the experts — interview them for the association’s newsletter, or set up a local event yourself.  (It also gives you a good reason to leave work early, within reason — having an industry meeting once a month or once a quarter is generally accepted and encouraged by employers. I’ve also mentioned my love of breakfast meetings for networking — it’s often more acceptable to come an hour late to work rather than leave two hours early, but obviously, you have to know your own office here.) SO: Some ideas on how to get involved:

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Handling Business Lunches as the Only Vegetarian

work - dietary restrictionsWhat if you’re at a lunch meeting or other work event and there’s nothing you can eat as a vegetarian? What should you do, and how can you take steps to ensure you don’t find yourself in the same awkward situation again? In general, how should anyone with dietary restrictions handle a business lunch? Reader M wonders…

I went to a meeting today with a catered lunch. The options were turkey or chicken sandwiches. I am a vegetarian. This put me in the awkward position of not eating when the other four people in the room (all males of varying ages) were eating lunch. My question is: How should one deal with dietary restrictions at work or at events with work colleagues? Should I have contacted the assistant in charge of the lunch? My dietary restriction is voluntary, but there are many people out there who will literally become ill if they don’t follow certain dietary guidelines. I can usually find something, but there are the occasional times when I cannot. I also hate being an inconvenience. When I was interviewing for jobs, I actually ate dishes with meat a couple times to avoid an awkward situation or risking coming across as a picky eater.

Yikes — I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been put in such a tough situation. We sort of discussed this when we talked about how to stick to your gluten-free diet at a business lunch or how to diet while working a corporate gig, but that was a while ago. What is the best way for anyone with a dietary restriction to handle a business lunch? I can’t wait to hear what the readers have to say.

I have a few ideas for how to deal with this:

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