Monday, November 9, 2009

Always Ride the Elevator

I’ve written before about what class I’d like to take over again if I could recapture my college days, but now I’d like to muse on what class should be taught before they hand out a business degree.

Business Etiquette 101. A pre-requisite Business Management.

I never fancied myself to be the Emily Post of the business world. But over the years, I’ve witnessed some major gaffes that had serious impacts on morale and business relationships, which in turn, ended up hurting the bottom line.

To follow, my six section course on Business Etiquette. Thank you for enrolling.

1. Always Ride the Elevator. In my most recent corporate job, focus on health was paramount. There was a fitness center on campus and we were encouraged to exercise regularly and eat healthy. Given this scenario, and if you were a manager at said-corporation, would you a) take the stairs daily, or b) ride the elevator? Answer: You should always ride the elevator. We’d like to believe that all managers are leaders, but that’s just not the case. Leaders are born. Managers, well, sometimes they are promoted because they were really good at the job they were doing at the time. A tip for all the managers out there: walk the halls and talk to your employees. It’s not a time waster. It’s a business mandatory. You are the barometer for success. You have the power to instill motivation and confidence. There is nothing worse than being inaccessible. Small talk goes a long way, so please, ride the elevator.

2. Be on Time. No matter what. No excuses. And, especially for meetings that you arranged. Period.

3. A Girls’ Gotta Eat. I steal this line shamelessly from my sister-in-law, who from time-to-time has accepted dinner dates from less than interesting suitors. Sometimes she goes when she knows there is no future. But does anyone really know on first glance? Although it has a greedy slant, doesn’t it make a lot of sense? You never know when “the one” is going to walk through the door- or when the next business partner, influencer or connector is going to walk across your professional path. And by all means, if the person who has invited you to a business meal offers to pay (and if there are no guidelines against this in your contract), let them pay! Not only are you being a gracious guest, but you may end up being able to return the favor when you realize you have a lot more in common with this person than you originally thought.

4. What Not to Wear. I’m a fan of the TLC show of the same name. Style gurus Stacy London and Clinton Kelly convert fashion-challenged folks into fashionistas. Now, I’m not saying you must be a fashionista at work. However, I am saying stretching “business casual” dress code to the limit by wearing an outfit to the office that should be reserved for walking your dog is another thing. Do you think we don't notice? We do. Even if you work from home, it’s important to put yourself in the work mindset. Don those kitten heels, sit up straight at your desk and wow them!

5. Tomato, Tomah to. Does pronunciation matter? Maybe not for tomato, but please, make every effort to learn how to pronunciate the name of your business associates. I myself have had numerous creative takes on my last name. Some quite humorous. I even built my company’s name around a nickname I had during my agency years which helped me get clients on board with how to say Schlesier (like SleeveShirt). For me, now I have a conversation starter in business situations. For you, don’t be embarrassed to ask a person for assistance with their name, especially at that all important first meeting. Everyone will be glad that you did.

6. Thank you. Gracias. Danke. Merci. Arigatô. Grazie. Manners are manners in any language. If you’ve received a great lead or some helpful information from a colleague, take it to the next level and break out a handwritten thank you note. My favorite tactful thank you is an email message to the person with a: cc to their boss. Not only are you thanking the person directly and quickly, but you are also shining a light on them which could be a favorable addition to their annual review. I bet when you do a few of these, your colleagues will return the favor. You’ll thank me.

How did you score on the final exam? If you have other business etiquette topics you feel I should add to my syllabus, feel free to submit them. I’d love to hear from you.


  1. As an addendum to #1, if someone (a Director say) does decide to ride the elevator, it is a VERY good idea to actual RIDE it instead of upon seeing who is in it, back away slowly while mumbling something about, "really should take the stairs".