Munching During Meetings

meeting snacksReader S has a business etiquette question about eating during business meetings…

I have an business etiquette question. I have low blood sugar and have to eat every couple of hours. Is it rude to eat something that can’t be shared, like a piece of fruit, during a meeting? In today’s example, we didn’t have a break, and the senior person passed around a tin of cookies, so I assumed it was OK to snack. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to pay attention….

Hmmn. I’m a big believer in the importance of keeping your blood sugar level steady for energy, brain power, and mood purposes, but I’m not sure about Reader S’s question.   I guess the answer here depends on the kind of meeting. If everyone is eating (or it’s a BYO kind of lunch meeting), I think its fine to bring something of your own, whether it’s shareable or not. I would, however, pay mind to whether or not your snack might be disruptive — if it is loud (crunchy apple? crinkly wrapper?), smelly, or involved (such as if you need to set up a staging area to spread cheese or peanut butter on top of something), I would strongly suggest you reconsider bringing it to a meeting, even if people are eating.  (Pictured: Food for the trail, originally uploaded to Flickr by trekkyandy.)

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Dear Sir: The Problem with Gender Neutral Names

How to Deal with a New Business Acquaintance With a Gender Neutral Name | CorporetteReader M has a question about gender-neutral names…

I am a new practicing attorney with a gender-neutral name. I’ve been in practice since October (4 months) and have already received at least 10 correspondences addressed to “Mr. Last Name.” Aside from making a phone call to the offending party and changing the footer in my email to all pink, is there a way to politely correct individuals about my gender?

Excellent question! I think you have a few options. (Pictured:  It’s a girl!… originally uploaded to Flickr by duncan.) The obvious one, sadly, is to not care so much — after all, the issue will be resolved if the correspondence continues, and the egg is really on the other party’s face right now. But you can do a few things to improve the odds of getting a properly-addressed correspondence, particularly if the other party cares about these things:

First, make sure you have a picture on your company’s website (if it isn’t already mandatory). Check out some of our previous advice on how to take a good corporate headshot here. If you don’t have a photo, but have a bio, do your best to use feminine pronounces. “Ms. ____ recently wrote these three articles.” [Read more…]

Do You Shake Hands When You’re Sick?

Shaking Hands, originally uploaded to Flickr by Aidan Jones

2016 Update: Check out our latest discussion on 6 Things to Have on Hand When You’re Sick at Work.

Today’s poll is inspired by reader V’s question:

I work in Big Law and throughout the recruiting season, I shake a lot of hands. Now and then I encounter someone who says, I’m sorry, I don’t shake your hand I’m sick. While I respect that and appreciate that it’s considerate, frankly I find the little spiel about “not shaking your hand because I’m sick” a bit off putting and it sure as hell makes for awkward introductions.

Interesting… I’ve always thought it’s common courtesy to *not* shake someone’s hand if you know you’re sick.  The only caveat I can think of is one outside the recruiting context — where, say, you’re sick and in a situation where you’re the most junior person in the room — and your boss barks out to the VIP some half-introduction and you’re expected to dive forward, shake VIP’s hand (with a firm, competent handshake!), and then recede back into the shadows to do all the work.  In that situation, it would break the flow of the half-second transaction for the sickee to inform the VIP and boss that s/he is sick, and really, at that point they deserve whatever they catch from you.*  (Pictured: Shaking Hands, originally uploaded to Flickr by Aidan Jones.)

But, like I said, that is usually not what happens in the recruiting context.  I agree, being on the receiving end can be a little awkward — but I usually just say “oh, thank you! feel better” and move on with the conversation.  If I really feel the need to make some sort of movement (because I’ve held my hand out too enthusiastically or whatever) I might do a slight bow, perhaps with both hands pressed together in front. But that’s just my $.02 — let’s hear from the readers.  First, we’ll take a poll from the sickee side of things:


How have you guys handled the situation from the other side of things?

* Apologies in advance if this attempt at humor has gone awry: I’m having an off day.

Which Co-Workers Get a Holiday Card?

2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on which co-workers get a holiday card, but you may also want to check out all of our posts on holiday business etiquette.

Reader J writes in with a request for help on holiday cards, specifically wondering which co-workers get a holiday card? Here’s her question:

I wonder whether you could post a very timely comment thread. I sat down, as I do every year, to address and send my holiday cards – only to realize that as a first-year attorney at a rather large firm that I had no idea who I should include on my mailing list. Likewise, I’ve accepted a clerkship in the relatively near future – would it be appropriate to send a card to the judge or to the chambers? I’m very curious to hear others’ thoughts on whom they include on their lists and why. When is it thoughtful to send a card to a higher-up, and when is it just kissing behind? :) How does one cull the list – it can’t be that one sends a card to every person one has ever worked with!

which co-workers get a holiday card

We sympathize — office politics are incredibly difficult to navigate come holiday-time.  First, we stand by our advice last year on how to send holiday cards to coworkers, from how to address the letters, what kind of letters to pick, and so forth.  (Pictured:  New Year’s Fireworks, no longer available at for $17.95.) [Read more…]

Emergency Mailbag: Should she “Friend” her boss on Facebook?

Friending boss on facebookShould you “friend” your boss on Facebook? We just got this request in from a reader, and we thought we’d post it for the group to weigh in:

new problem:
an 8th year i.e. someone very much the boss of me (isn’t everyone?) just found me on facebook and wants to be added. i took a look at his profile and he’s friends with most of the senior associates and about half of the partners in our group. we are friendly and he’s a nice guy, but we are not actually friends. [Read more…]