Mind your manners in the office
If women can break through the glass ceiling, then surely they can open doors for themselves. Same goes for donning coats and pulling out chairs at restaurants.
That’s why gender-neutral etiquette is the norm these days in work settings. Even among those who decry the demise of chivalry, “there is kind of a distinct separation in business because women today want to be equal,” says certified etiquette consultant Patricia O’Brien of Manners, Please in Skokie, Ill.
For example, while it used to be expected that a man would let a woman go ahead of him when entering or exiting an elevator, in an office building “there’s no hard and fast rule,” she says.
But there is a gender-neutral rule regarding elevators, adds O’Brien: “Always wait until people exit before getting on.”
A man and woman on their first date might have a tough time figuring out whether and how chivalrous behavior is appropriate. But men and women who work together should set that concern aside and practice mannerly conventions based on mutual respect as opposed to gender.
Some gender-neutral etiquette rules for business settings:
Men don’t necessarily open doors for women; people open doors for people. As a woman, “If someone opens a door for you, you shouldn’t protest this act of politeness” but offer your thanks, says Marjorie Brody, president and chief executive officer of Brody Professional Development, Jenkintown, Pa.
Shake hands with everyone the same way, regardless of sex, using a “one-hand, straight-up-and-down handshake,” Brody says. Bone-crushingly firm handshakes are just rude.
Women should always stand when introduced, as men do, in a one-on-one encounter or in a group. Introduce people in business based on rank, not gender, stating the higher-ranking person’s name first. In business, a client outranks even the CEO.
The host of a business lunch (the one who extended the invitation) pays for the meal regardless of sex.
Nothing belongs on the dining table except food and eating utensils. “That means no cell phones,” Brody says. Wait until the plates have been cleared away and coffee is served before bringing up business and pulling out papers and electronics.
Don’t cut up meat all at once. Cut it one piece at a time.
If you excuse yourself from the table and are returning, place your napkin to the left side of your plate, not in your chair. You don’t want to transfer food from your soiled napkin to the chair and then onto the seat of your slacks, Brody points out.
If someone proposes a toast in your honor, “stay seated and don’t drink the toast to yourself,” Brody says. After the group has toasted, offer some remarks in return.