Business Etiquette Advice

Business etiquette advice for the professional woman.

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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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…]