Business Etiquette Advice

Business etiquette advice for the professional woman.

When Your Colleague Offers Your Firstborn to Sweeten the Deal

Reader N wrote in with an interesting problem: her colleague offered to throw in her firstborn to sweeten the deal. HiLARIOUS, right? Here’s her question:

Here’s an interesting dilemma, recently a senior male colleague and a new client were haggling over price when my colleague said jokingly, “to sweeten the deal we will throw in [my name]’s first born” (I am in my 20s and have no kids), they all laughed. It has since become a running joke, to refer to my first born in all pricing discussions with this client. I feel uncomfortable whenever it happens, but don’t want to seem high-maintenance. Should I raise it with my colleague?

 

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Etiquette Tips for the Office Gym and the Gym Near the Office

gym near the office etiquette (and office gym etiquette tips)Here’s a topic we haven’t talked about in forever: what are your best tips office gym etiquette? Whether your workplace has a gym for employees, there’s a gym near the office so you always see coworkers there before, after, or during work — or you’re traveling with coworkers and see them at the hotel gym — what are the dos and don’ts? (ARE there any in 2018?) We’ve talked about a lot of office to gym issues in the past, including how to fit in mid-day workoutswhat to wear to workout in front of your coworkers, and how to handle workouts near the office — and we kind of discussed whether leggings with “daring” mesh cutouts were appropriate in our recent conversation on comfortable workwear for late nights.

So let’s discuss! Various questions:

  • do you really care about how much “cooldown” time you’ve got as a buffer between your gym time, or are you cool to go to a meeting with your cheeks flushed and some sweat still in your hair?
  • If you exercise at a gym before work, is wet hair at work ever acceptable?
  • Are there certain things you won’t wear to the office gym (e.g., bra tops, short shorts, leggings with mesh cutouts, graphic t-shirts, 80s-inspired workout headbands)?
  • Are there any workouts you won’t do in the office gym, like preferring not to do a bouncy aerobics class in a windowed room?
  • Similar to our discussion of the dos and don’ts for salons near the office — do you try to avoid dumping a lot of work on your subordinates and then working out in a more public spot like something viewed from the windows (or being seen in the office hallways with workout gear on)?

For my $.02, I’ve seen more men make gaffes with “gym near the office etiquette” — I remember one older partner regularly coming into work at like 9 AM straight from his shower at the gym up the street with his shirt completely unbuttoned so his bare chest was on full view… and while I’m not sure it’s a gaffe or not, I do remember one more junior partner who would dump a bunch of work on me and my team members and then loudly announce he had a 4 PM spin class to get to. (Good for him for fitting exercise into his busy day… just maybe keep it more vague?)

All right, ladies, let’s hear from you — what are your thoughts on corporate gym and gym near the office etiquette?

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How to End Your Emails (And: Do You Think It Matters?)

How to End Your Emails (Fun with Business Etiquette!)Here’s a fun business etiquette question: Reader S wonders about the best way to end your emails in a professional setting. Do you vary your email sign-off by situation, or do you just use one across the board?

I am a long time reader — your website was incredibly helpful while I was in law school and now as an attorney. I have a question about “closing a letter.” I personally use “Regards,” and a more friendly/warm “Best regards,” when I’m closing a letter or email. I’ve always thought it was odd to see “Sincerely yours,” in a professional email as that closing seems overly familiar — but I just saw a letter from a judge, and he closed it “Sincerely yours.”

Wow, interesting question — but one that I admit I’ve pondered also, especially since I seem to recall seeing that my own preferred closing (“best,”) was deemed “cold and antiquated.” (Sadly, I don’t remember where I saw that — maybe in this Slate article?) I remember years ago getting an email from a fellow lawyer at work who signed her email “xoxo.” This struck me as super odd at the time because she had always seemed like such a cool chick and this seemed to be the email equivalent of dotting her letter i with a heart — but I just brushed it off and assumed she was either being ironic or she was just cool enough to get away with such things.

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The Best Places to Meet Up with Prospective Clients (Other than Your Office or Theirs)

The Best Places for Informal Business Meetings for WomenYears ago I had a meeting with a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur, and he made an interesting comment I still find myself thinking about: his preferred place for informal business meetings was hotel lobbies. (Looking back he probably got the idea from this NYT article!) There are obvious advantages to this — they’re nice, public spaces; they usually have food and drink available, as well as bathrooms, free WiFi (or WiFi you may be able to get if, say, you stay one night) — and they also generally don’t mind if you linger or talk. But at the time, I wondered: was that really the best place for informal business meetings for women? Could I steal that trick for myself?

Cut to a week ago, when I had a phone conversation with a consultant I’m mentoring, and we were discussing whether she needed conference space of her own — and my mind came back to the conversation about hotel lobbies. My hesitation here has always been the one a lot of you are probably thinking right now: you don’t want any client to misunderstand you and think you’re propositioning them.

We’ve talked before about where to find new clients and general business development tips — how to network in a general way so you can meet new people who eventually become clients — but not where to physically meet up with prospective clients if you want an informal meeting place — so let’s discuss.

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Learn How to Become a Better Communicator with These Books

How to Become a Better CommunicatorCommunicating at work often requires women to walk a very fine line to avoid being seen as “aggressive,” “bitchy,” “pushy,” and so on (for exhibiting the same behavior as a typical male employee, of course). The double standard was perfectly captured by Sarah Cooper in last year’s “9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women” (which you can now buy as a poster!). Reader L recently sent us a question about how she can become a better communicator while counteracting years of being socialized as a woman to be easygoing and “go with the flow.”

She asks:

I am a new associate at a mid-size firm and am realizing that communicating strategically is a huge weakness for me. I think a lot of this is societal (it’s ingrained in me as a woman to be agreeable and not make a fuss), and based on my personality (I believe everyone is telling me the truth and I am conflict averse). I hope that I can build this skill with experience, but I’d rather learn from a book or mentor than by trial and error. What are the best books or other resources for this?

We recently reached out to three women who’ve thought about these issues a lot and asked them to recommend helpful resources to help you become a better communicator:

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Executive Presence for Women Leaders

Executive Presence and How to Get It (Or Fake It) | CorporetteHow would you define “executive presence,” particularly for women? Have you worked to build your executive presence? What are your best executive presence tips? Here are some qualities of women with executive presence that Corporette readers have mentioned during conversations that have taken place in the comments:

  • having a “cool, calm, and commanding” presence
  • being a skilled public speaker
  • appearing put-together (clothes fit well, hair is neatly styled, etc.)
  • seeming “knowledgeable but not a know-it-all”
  • staying cool in a crisis
  • showing confidence
  • having an attitude of “the buck stops with me”

Earlier this year, we discussed new research that showed that looking “put-together” and exhibiting “good grooming” can boost women’s salaries (even more so than being considered attractive), and a couple of years ago we talked about a study that stated wearing more makeup makes women look more competent. Today we’ll go beyond that to take a closer look at executive presence and what it means for women leaders at work. (In the past, we’ve shared posts on imposter syndrome, the difference between confidence and arrogancebeing taken seriously when you look young, and books and resources to help you become a leader and a better manager. We’ve also discussed the book The Confidence Code.)  

According to research from Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the founder and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, executive presence is composed of “how you act (otherwise known as gravitas, the most important quality), how you communicate, and how you look.” A 2013 Business Insider article describes it with 7 Cs: composure, connection, charisma, confidence, credibility, clarity, and conciseness. Hewlett (whose book we link to below) says that executive presence “accounts for as much as 28 percent of a woman’s success” (!).

These definitions sound straightforward enough, but cultivating executive presence requires women to walk a very fine line, thanks to the maddening contradictory messages we receive about how to act at work. You know: If you don’t ask for a raise, you’re blamed for the gender wage gap, but if you ask for a raise, you’re viewed as “greedy, demanding or just not very nice.” If you act with confidence and strength, you’re “too aggressive” or “a bitch”; if you don’t appear assertive enough, your behavior is interpreted as weakness. (As social psychologist Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson puts it, the typical dichotomy for women is “competent and cold — that’s the bitch — or warm and incompetent — the doormat who no one takes seriously.”) Of course, this predicament extends to physical appearances, too; research shows that women with “unkempt nails” lose executive-presence points but that those with “overly done” nails are also viewed negatively. Faced with this “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” minefield, some women are paying $2,000 to $5,000 to attend special workshops on executive presence.

Putting all of that aside for a moment, here are a few concrete tips on exhibiting executive presence at work:

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