Business Etiquette Advice

Business etiquette advice for the professional woman.

Should You Say No to Sports at Work?

sports-at-workYour office is planning an athletic event, and you want to stay far, far away. Even if you’re worried about feeling awkward, should you go anyway to take advantage of the networking opportunities? How can you say NO to work-related sporting events, like golf and tennis outings, and what are you missing out on if you do? Reader B wonders…

Your recent post about dressing for summer events led me to an older post about how to dress as a golf newbie… and boy, the comments struck a chord with me. Or maybe a nerve. I’d love to see a post, and more discussion, on how to deal with outings of all types — particularly when they’re for expensive and time-consuming sports that you don’t play and don’t want to pick up.

A lesson (or even a few lessons) are absolutely NOT enough to get me through a golf scramble. Can I swing and miss 18 times while joking gracefully? Can I pull off an outright refusal? Is it a bad idea to drive the beer cart (this always sounds like it should come with a costume), or just show up for drinks/dinner afterwards? And what do I do after 17 miserable holes, when my division manager is standing at the 18th with his arms folded to judge my golf game?

For reference, I’m in engineering, not law, with 15+ years of experience.

Interesting question, Reader B! In the past, Kat has recommended participating in athletic work events, even if you don’t think your skills are so hot, but we thought we’d get another opinion as well. We talked to Women on Course founder Donna Hoffman (who also advised us on our recent post on proper golf wear) to get her take on this situation. “Golf is so much more than getting the ball in the hole,” she says. “There are so many more benefits” — including the camaraderie, and the opportunity to build relationships.

Here’s what Hoffman recommends for Reader B:

[Read more…]

Being Confident at Work vs. Being Arrogant

confidence vs. arrogance What’s the difference between being confident and being arrogant? How can you tell if you’ve crossed that line at work? Reader A wonders…

I’ve got a sensitive subject that I haven’t seen discussed about discipline at work. I was recently hired at a law office where I’ve summered the last two summers doing litigation.

At work I was called into the hiring managers office and told the following. Hiring Manager is one of my biggest supporters. He thinks my career can take me far beyond where most people go in their careers into the top division. However, a couple of my evaluations from supervisors from the summer thought I sometimes acted arrogant. He said he didn’t think I was arrogant but that some things I said at my interview danced the line between confident and arrogant and raised red flags. He said he only brought it up because he didn’t want to not say something in case it became an issue in the future.

Any insight on responding beyond thanking him for telling me and thanking him for supporting me?

Interesting question, reader A. We’ve talked about how to be professional without looking like you think you’re in charge, as well as stressed the importance of being humble and grateful when you’re networking with older people — but we haven’t talked about what to do when you’re told you’re arrogant. (On the flip side, we’ve talked about how to take a compliment, as well as a lot about a lack of confidence; we had a discussion about the book The Confidence Code and we’ve shared posts on facing fear and low self-esteem, imposter syndrome, and doing work you feel unprepared for.) I have a few thoughts, but I’m curious what readers will say.

[Read more…]

Left Behind By a Male Colleague While Wearing Heels

left behind at train stationIf you’re running for the train in high heels and find yourself getting left behind by a male colleague (or a woman, for that matter) as you struggle to keep the pace, is that coworker simply being rude? What should you do next time?

Reader L wonders:

I am from Germany and I love your Blog. Some topics are differently handled here but still most of the tips and advice can be applied here as well. I have experienced some male behaviour which I just find to be rude but I wanted to know if other women have experienced it as well and how they dealt with it. I was travelling with my former boss and and we went to meetings with potential partners etc. I usually wore heels. After the meeting we really had to hurry to catch a train. Meaning he walked extremely fast and did not look after me where I was. I really had trouble keeping up with him. The other time I was prepared and wore flats but then we actually had to run to get to the train. A couple of weeks ago I was travelling with a sort of male CEO and the train was a bit late, but we still had more than enough time to get to our appointment. I was also pacing, almost running, just seeing that he did not bump into others.

I’ve seen situations like this unfold — and I definitely have Opinions. I’m curious to hear what the readers say. To recap, we’ve talked about comfortable heels, the best commuting shoeshow to walk quietly in heels, how to look professional in flats, and traveling with coworkers — but I haven’t stated my pretty stark opinion on heel height for work in a while…. so here goes:

[Read more…]

Faxes from Older Colleagues: Should You Reply by Email?

replying to faxes with emailDoes a faxed letter from a colleague require another fax in reply, or is it acceptable to respond with an email message? What if the differences in communication are due to an age difference between you?

Reader M wonders:

I’ve got a question about professional correspondence. I work in a boutique transactional law firm that rarely handles any matters in court, and if so, it is uncontested and just needs to proved up. I find that when older attorneys need to communicate with me on something, they tend to prepare actual letters and then send it via fax. Is it unprofessional for me to respond with an e-mail? Our office is mostly paperless and even the courts have gone to an e-filing system, so printing a hard copy of a letter just seems unnecessary. If I keep the language in my e-mail formal, is that enough?

Interesting question, M!  We’ve talked a lot about correspondence, including when to use last names, the best way to send thank you notes after interviews (and when to send follow-up emails), hyphenated names and email addresses, and conveying tone in emails. I’m really curious to hear what the readers say about this dilemma.  For my $.02:

[Read more…]

Should You Friend Your Boss On Facebook?

friend-your-bossShould you friend your boss on Facebook or other social media sites? What about colleagues? What do you do when your superior sends you a request?  We haven’t talked about Facebook and bosses for a long time, so I thought we’d revisit. While there are still a ton of amusing stories of people getting fired when their boss saw stupid stuff on Facebook (Buzzfeed, HappyPlace), a recentish (2014) study says that adding your boss to your social networks can have advantages (Time).

For my $.02, I agree with most of the experts: privacy controls are HUGE here. I keep a variety of different friend lists anyway — one very small one for my BFFs, a general one for my friends, one for parent-friends (so I don’t annoy my single/childless friends with a bunch of baby questions), and one for Brooklyn friends (so I don’t annoy friends elsewhere if I see a good deal somewhere local).  To be honest, I’d probably keep my boss off all of them but the general one for my friends.  Personally I hate that FB makes them so confusing — so I dug up some recent articles for further reading. [Read more…]

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:

[Read more…]