Business Etiquette Advice

Business etiquette advice for the professional woman.

Joining the Boys’ Club When You’re a Woman

Boys' club at work | CorporetteShould you join the office boys’ club if you’ll be the only woman? What if your male coworkers meet and talk shop outside of work while taking part in an activity — such as tennis or golf — that you don’t even like? Reader K, who works outside of the U.S., wonders:

I have a question regarding the ‘old boy’s club’ at work; my workplace is fairly conservative, with only 15% of the workforce women (although the number is increasing in the younger generation), but quite politically correct and thus nothing seriously sexist or misogynist. My male boss, in his mid-50s, has been fantastic to work with, and as a recruit (from a different company, relocating quite a distance), I’ve been happy with my position and also see potential in the company itself. BUT, after three years, I see that there is a ‘boy’s club’, where they get together and play tennis, have a beer, and get things done. My boss has even suggested that I join the tennis club (playing once a week or so) — but I’ll be the only female and really don’t like tennis. What would you do?

Tough question, K. We’ve talked about networking with older men, dealing with sexist coworkers, and whether or not to pick up the tab at lunch with a group of male partners, but not specifically about this topic. I’d ask myself a few questions first:

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What to Wear to a “Resort Casual” Business Event in Florida?

resort-business-casualWhat do you wear to an event that calls for “resort casual” business clothing? (Or: what do you wear for business at the beach?)  Key factors: You already look young for your age, you’re at least 20 years younger than any of your colleagues, and you’ll be meeting some of them for the first time. Oh, also: The meeting is in Florida, so to complicate matters further, you’ll probably encounter heat and high humidity outside and frigid air conditioning inside. Reader C wonders:

Can you help me with suggestions on “resort casual attire” for a marketing meeting in Florida? I’ve been on my traveling/remote team for 1.5 years but have yet to meet some of the team. I am not only a young looking 28-year-old but my entire team’s junior by 20-25 years. My first thought when we say “resort casual” is maxi skirts and tropical dresses which doesn’t exactly scream take-me-seriously. I have a few thoughts on do’s and dont’s and was wondering if you had any guidance or additional thoughts. Thank you for any help!

Do’s: Ankle length slacks, flow-y top, colorful scarfs, knit pencil skirts, flats, cardigans
Dont’s: Sandals, maxi skirts/dresses, tank tops, pumps, blazers, tights
On the fence: Jeans, white pants, wedges

Reader M has as similar question, although this one involves a party that’s part of a trade show:

Hi! I live in Roanoke, VA, and am attending a Vendor Show in Orlando, FL, next week. The second day of the show, there will be a “Dinner & Beach Bash.” What should I wear?

We talked about a slightly different dress code, “resort chic” (who makes these things up, anyway?) a few years ago, and also what to wear to an office pool party (cringe), but not this exactly. [Read more…]

Long Flights: How to Look Professional But Be Comfortable

dressing for long flightYou want to look professional during a long flight with colleagues, but you’re understandably not too eager to wear a suit for several hours of waking, sleeping, and eating. So, with your trusty flight outfit of a fleece + yoga pants staying in the closet at home, what can you choose that will be comfortable but still appropriate if you end up sitting next to your boss? We’ve talked about traveling internationally in comfort and style, what to pack for an extended business trip, and traveling with coworkers, but not this exactly. 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 can see this being a concern not only in this situation (traveling directly with coworkers) but in a situation I’ve been in, where there’s a conference that almost everyone in your industry attends, so even if you’re not traveling with direct coworkers, you end up seeing a million colleagues all over the airport, on flights, and via other travel hubs. A lot of sites have comfy-looking, wrinkle-free travel clothes (we just featured a washable top from Chadwicks’s line on CorporetteMoms’ Washable Wednesday) — but what is the chic alternative to the flowy pants-with-matching-loose-jacket look?  A few thoughts:

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Lunch with Partners: Who Picks up the Tab?

picking up the tab at lunchIf you’re out to lunch with partners, should you EVER pick up the tab? Oh, and also: you’re the youngest person present and the only woman. We’ve talked about summer associates paying for lunch, but Reader B has a slightly different situation.  Here’s her question:

I work in a small firm (12 attorneys) with a pretty casual atmosphere. There are 5 or so partners (“the guys”) and I am asked off and on to go to lunch with them; I am usually the only associate/only female asked to go. The guys are all about my dad’s age and can be somewhat old fashioned about manners with women. Most often we all just split the check, but from time to time one of the guys picks it up for the group. The lunches are casual and inexpensive. I am capable and fine with picking up the check for the group once in a while, but I’m not sure if that would come across awkwardly. What would you/the Corporette readers do? I think these lunches are good face time with the partners and are generally fun, I don’t want to be perceived as dead weight because I never reciprocate picking up the group check, but I also don’t want to create an awkward situation.

Here’s my $.02: there is no way these guys are going to let her pick up the tab because she’s the “kid” of the group — I don’t think it has anything to do with her being female. That isn’t to say Reader B shouldn’t try it, once — if she suggested the restaurant, or if she’s just had a nice bonus check, or if she’s celebrating something big (her first hearing or something) — go ahead, offer to pay in that magnaminous-I’m having such a great time and I want to treat you guys!-way — not an it’s-my-turn-dear-god-someone-help-me-figure-out-tip-math serious way. [Read more…]

What to Do When Your Boss Tells You to Smile

bitchfaceThere has been a LOT in the news lately about “bitchface” (when your resting face looks slightly angry/bitchy). A lot of women have poked fun at the problem, such as the Smile, Bitch! Training Camp or this great cartoon, but the policing of women’s facial expressions is also starting (finally!) to be more understood as a form of harassment — often on the street, as in one of the catcalls men feel entitled to make to women. But reader F has a different problem: her coworkers and superiors are the ones telling her to smile. Here’s her question:

I’m hoping you or the Corporette community could give me some advice. I am a recent university graduate who’s accepted a public sector position. I have my own office but we keep our doors open, and anyone who walks by can see my face as I work. A number of my coworkers and superiors have stopped while walking by to tell me that I look “too serious” or “angry” while I’m working. I do furrow my eyebrows when I concentrate, and often am reading very tiny print, which makes me squint a bit.

It seems silly to put mental energy into holding my face into a more pleasing expression while I work, but the comments are getting on my nerves and I’m unsure if there is any ‘talk.’ I haven’t found a good response to the comments yet. Do you have any ideas of something appropriately light-hearted I could reply that wouldn’t be rude if said to a superior?

MAN. Welcome to the club, Reader F! I also “suffer” from resting bitchface, and I can’t wait to hear what the readers say here. A few thoughts for you: [Read more…]

Summer Associate Series: Business Lunch Etiquette

The Best Business Lunch Etiquette Tips for Interns | CorporetteThis week, in our Summer Associate Series*: what are some of the best business lunch etiquette tips that interns should know about — for business lunches, office cocktail parties, and more?  Readers already working: what are the biggest dining etiquette tips you wish interns and SAs knew? Which are the biggest blunders you see (from both the guys and the gals)? Summer associates and interns: what are your biggest areas of confusion?

(*Name aside, we hope this series will be helpful to ANY intern, whether you’re a law student or another woman interning in a conservative office for the summer.) Check out our previous post on general summer associate style, what to wear for the creative summer associate events, and general business etiquette tips.

Here are some of the best dining etiquette questions we’ve covered in the past — readers, what have we missed?

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