Business Etiquette Advice

Business etiquette advice for the professional woman.

Answering Work Email at Home

Answering Work Email at Home | CorporetteDoes your boss send you emails at all hours? Are you expected to respond immediately to answer work email at home — either in a clear “policy” way or in an unspoken, pissy-but-won’t-tell-you-why way? Do you try to draw a line in the sand and purposely not reply during certain hours, even if you get the email? If you’re a supervisor or boss, do you make an intentional effort to not send email during nights and weekends? I’ve seen a lot of friends and readers bringing up this issue lately, so I thought we’d discuss.

Looking back — the BlackBerry hit the market when I was a second or third year in BigLaw. It was a sea change — before that you had to be sitting at a computer to log in to check your email.  I remember feeling like a rebel by setting my BlackBerry to turn off automatically every weeknight from 12am to 6 am, and (gasp!) 10 PM to 8 AM on weekends.  (I mostly did this because — without fail! — we’d get what amounted to a spam digest alert every single morning at 4 AM. My BB would vibrate loudly on the table in the tiny studio apartment I lived in then, waking me up and causing stress.)  Now that everyone has an iPhone, though, I feel like it’s every industry — no longer just lawyers, and no longer just high level employees.  For a while you could refuse to have work email on your phone, but I don’t even think that’s an option any more, at least for most workers. Of course, a lot of this comes down to “know your office” — as well as “know your boss.”

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What to Do if a Colleague Takes Credit for Your Work

How to Deal When a Colleague Takes Credit For Your Work | CorporetteHow should you respond when a coworker takes credit for your work? Reader N writes in with this great question:

Surprised I can’t find this in the archives: How do you deal with a colleague (usually male) stealing your ideas, passing them off as his own in meetings with clients and/or repeating what you’ve said as though its his original idea? The phrase “I just said that” comes to mind, but it seems unprofessional to bicker in front of colleagues. What’s a gal to do?

Great question, N — I can’t wait to hear what the readers say. It’s worth noting that this sort of thing has become more recognized in recent years, almost to the point of being a punchline: woman in meeting says, “Hey, how about we do X?” and is ignored; two seconds later a man is called on who says “Hey, how about we do X?” and is lauded for his great, original idea. (Readers who can remember actual instances of this, please share — Pantene commercials? SNL? I feel like I’ve seen it all over the place.) A few notes about the different ways this can occur:

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How to Handle Being Called the Wrong Name at Work

How to Handle Being Called the Wrong Name at Work | CorporetteBeing called the wrong name at work can be embarrassing, frustrating, and — eventually — infuriating. We haven’t talked about the wrong name problem in quite a while, so let’s have a discussion today. (By the way, we’ve also addressed changing your name (or not) when you get married (and divorced), gender-neutral name problems, and hyphenated names in email addresses.)

First of all, as someone with the name Katina (often misread as “Katrina”) and the nickname Kate (sometimes mistaken for “Katie”), as well as an “ethnic” last name: I can certainly relate (and so can Kat, as she pointed out in the original post). I’m guessing that for most of you who’ve dealt with this problem, being called the wrong name is simply due to coworkers’ innocent mistakes, and not passive-aggressive behavior from, perhaps, a difficult boss — although we’ll address that too. We’ve gathered some advice from Corporette readers, and here are seven tips:

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Pregnancy Worries and Your Job

Pregnancy Worries and Your Job | CorporettePregnancy worries can run the gamut from childbirth to health issues to being able to conceive in the first place. Add in concerns about how your job will be affected by your pregnancy (to say nothing of parenthood), and you’re dealing with a TON of worry.  But is it as bad as future moms might think — and is there any point to worrying about it before it happens (or is that similar to Sheryl Sandberg’s thoughts on “leaving before you leave“)? We’ve talked about many aspects of being pregnant — negotiating future maternity leavehandling frequent doctors’ appointments, working through first trimester exhaustion, and how to announce your pregnancy at work — but we haven’t touched too much on the worries that can loom large when you’re thinking about getting pregnant.  Reader B’s pregnancy worries involve handling her future pregnancy at work, as well as postpartum body changes:

I have a question that I have been looking everywhere to find answers to but have been unsuccessful, probably because the subject matter is TMI for most people and also very personal. I do not have kids yet but my husband and I plan to try in the next 3 years or so. Honestly, there is only one thing holding me back right now and that is my job. I absolutely love my job and plan to return after having a baby (I realize I could change my mind after having a baby), but the problem is that right now I share an office, with a male colleague. (I also realize that my office situation could change in 3 years, but I see no evidence of that happening.) My concern is with figuring out how to deal with bodily changes both while pregnant and after the baby comes and I return to work. I know that women deal with frequent bathroom trips, nausea, bladder accidents, milk leakage. How do I handle that while I office with a male coworker?

Hmmmn. I’ll agree that there are definitely body-related changes both during pregnancy and postpartum — but I worry that Reader B may be putting the cart before the horse here (and, you know, packing the cart with a lot of unnecessary anxiety!). A few thoughts:

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Five Grammar Rules You Absolutely, Seriously Have to Know

Grammar RulesIf you want to be taken seriously as a professional, good grammar matters! Particularly for lawyers, where you get major points for knowing your Bluebook and local style conventions, there can be some serious grammar nerds around — and they will judge you if you use “none” as a plural or confuse further and farther. Even those of us not working with grammar nerds need to get at least SOME grammar rules straight, though! This is my list of the five grammar rules you must know if you want to be taken seriously:

  1. Your/You’re
  2. They’re/Their/There
  3. Its/It’s — and other general apostrophe problems.
  4. Proper use of commas. This a huge topic, but it’s one worth knowing well because so many things can go wrong with commas. Whether it’s an error like “eats, shoots & leaves” or an error like “I’m coming to eat Grandfather,” they drive me batty. This Grammarly page looks like a good overview.
  5. Word choice — specifically as it applies to your industry. This is a pretty open ended suggestion, but in some ways it matters the most! For example, you wouldn’t want to work with a First Amendment lawyer who used “slander” and “libel” interchangeably… or a wedding planner who misspelled “stationery.” You should be absolutely sure you understand the meaning and proper usage of any words you use often at work, as well as any terms of art.

Ladies, what does your list of “must know” grammar rules include? Which grammar mistakes bug you the most? (Here’s our last discussion on grammar annoyances.)  

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Open Thread: Vacation Time

Vacation Time | CorporetteAs the close of 2015 is almost upon us, here’s a question: did you use your vacation time? If you did (congratulations), please regale us with stories — wheredja go, whadja do, how’d you find the time to plan/schedule it, which app/service would you recommend, etc. — but if you DIDN’T (which historically was me), why not? Did you just have too much work? Did you not feel comfortable scheduling something with your work calendar? Was it a budget/priority thing? For everyone — do you have any big plans for 2016?

For my $.02 — I almost never used all of my vacation time, and looking back it was largely because I worried it would reflect poorly on me at work. I also was worried that I would spend all this time/energy/money researching a vacation only to have it cancelled at the last minute due to work. I felt pretty comfortable in BigLaw scheduling trips to see my parents, both because we had religious reasons (Christmas, Easter) for the trips, as well as because I knew my parents had good Internet service and would understand if I had to turn it into a working vacation. And of course I would tack on a day or two here or there if I was traveling for a friend’s weekend wedding or whatnot.

But in terms of fun vacations, particularly in places without reliable Internet access? The stress usually stopped me from going. For example, my now husband took me to Paris a few months after we started dating, and I was terrified the trip would be cancelled, that there would somehow be a disaster ON the 5-day trip (I had nightmares of having to find an “Internet cafe” to work in for hours, paying in 15-minute increments with a dial-up modem). I worried that when I left I would be working without sleep to get all the work done — and I worried that when I returned there would be a mountain of work waiting for me. The trip turned out fine, of course. (Ok, I got food poisoning, which was less than awesome for a romantic vacation, and we totally failed to make it to Reims because I misunderstood the train schedule, but workwise it was fine.)

Another reason I didn’t travel much while working in BigLaw: I could never get the timing right to travel with friends, and I never dated anyone seriously enough to even ponder a vacation together (until I met my husband) — and I was hesitant to travel by myself as a single woman. In my non-profit job, I didn’t have nearly as much vacation time, I didn’t have seniority to choose when to take it, and we didn’t have the budget anyway to take vacation without some serious sacrifices. [Read more…]