Archive for the ‘Business Etiquette’ Category

Service of How to Annoy Others

Thursday, July 27th, 2023

Who wants to open a corn you’ve torn open??

There are many ways a person can irritate others. Here are a few that deserve to be recognized:

  • Peel open fresh corn cobs to check the kernels and toss the rejected ones back in the pile even if the farmer or store ask you not to. Last week at the Union Square Farmers Market I watched a woman open six, [at $2.00 each], and leave the stall without buying one.
  • Waiting for the public bus can seem interminable if you’re running late or are boiling, freezing or wet. A passenger who has plenty of time to find Metrocard or smartphone and elbows her way to the front and then blocks the door as she searches for hers so she can pay gets a star for annoying.
  • Friends or colleagues who congregate in the middle of a sidewalk to chat, say goodbye, or individuals who stop abruptly in a narrow place to read texts and emails when there’s room nearby to stand next to a building are also in line for a prize for annoying others..
  • Take days to respond to a business email and you’ll infuriate someone.
  • Caregivers who let young children cry and scream incessantly in restaurants and houses of worship. No matter how precious, cute or beloved the little ones are, they make it uncomfortable for others who are trying to relax or listen to the clergyman or woman speak.
  • Bus drivers who don’t stop at a stop, [happened to me on Sunday], or who pull a few feet away from a stop, so they won’t accept additional passengers, when the traffic light in front of them is red. I see it almost daily.
  • Bicyclists who miss pedestrians by a thread when they zoom down a sidewalk or in the wrong direction on the street.

Can you share favorite instances where people annoy others [but don’t have to]?

Hey, folks–mind leaving a lane for other pedestrians?

Service of Where are Mentors for Students When You Need Them?

Monday, April 17th, 2023


Image by Nikolay Georgiev from Pixabay

Where do young people learn business etiquette these days?

I just finished reading scholarship applications of college and graduate school students and interviewing some of the semifinalists. Those I spoke with were in different classes—the youngest heading into their junior years and a few moving to grad school–and they represented a range of ages.

To keep a level playing field, volunteer interviewers are given prescribed questions. One was “do you have any questions for me?” With one exception their responses were about housekeeping such as “when will I hear if I will be invited for the final interview?” One asked me “What is your favorite part about being involved in the organization?” She got points for that.

The interviews last around half an hour. Although two of the applicants asked how they should prepare for the interview—an excellent question–and I answered, “As you would for any business interview,” not one jotted an email after we spoke to thank me for my time. How long does it take to write: “Tx for speaking with me.” Five words are worth points that might propel the applicant to finalist level. Is thanks out of fashion?

When I joined the scholarship committee over a decade ago half of the students did thank after an interview. As for this year’s applicants, each had my email address as I’d written three times: The first to congratulate them and advise them I’d be calling to find a mutually convenient time to speak; the second to confirm the appointment and the last to reconfirm the appointment the day before.

One knew nothing about the organization. Is this how she would expect to get a job—knowing nothing about the company or the industry?

To give them credit on responding to the first email, with one exception, they thanked for being selected for a call. Maybe they felt they’d used up their gratitude quota.

These students need mentors to suggest how best to prepare for interviews. I’d recommend: Always have a good question in mind, not the equivalent of “when may I take my first vacation?” –to show that you’ve thought about the position or in our case, the scholarship or organization.

A mentor can help a student well beyond a resume review. When I was a mentor, I was asked about what to wear to an interview–even what style thank you notecard to buy. The shame is that the school where I volunteered and directed a program has deep-sixed the mentor initiative.

Are my expectations about business etiquette for college age students unrealistic and off-trend? Aren’t hiring decisionmakers generally much older than the students with varying expectations? Have HR managers lowered their expectations regarding those they hire?


Image by Prawny from Pixabay

Service of Power Misunderstood

Thursday, March 30th, 2023


Image by Gundula Vogel from Pixabay 

The way some people assume postures that they think make them seem powerful often backfires as it irritates and doesn’t impress others.

This dialog might be familiar. Phone rings. The person on the line asks to meet with you so that you can advise them [for free] about your industry, your job, company or clients –you name it. You’re a good soul and you like to help people so you agree. But at the end of the conversation the milk of human kindness sours when the caller says: “Send me a calendar invite please.” Huh? You’re busy and doing a favor and now the caller, who wants something from you, gives you a job. Faux pas.

It happened the other day to a friend.

In another instance, a friend responded to a request for clothing made on an online neighborhood group site. The writer said she had lost everything in a fire. When my friend responded that she had some blouses to give, the person told her where to drop them off. The donor who already juggles too many things daily, had expected that the person would send someone to pick them up or do so herself. I wonder if the blouses will reach the woman in need.

I’ve written before about a peeve of similar stripe. You have a scheduled call, you make it on the dot and the person says “Can you call me back in 20 minutes?” If they are cancelling or moving the time of the call, shouldn’t it be they who calls you when they’ve finished a chore or a meeting or another phone call?

Even if I’m the one in charge of a business relationship, I find that skipping the irritating, superficial power image stuff and being respectful lubricates the dynamics between me and the other person. The result? Usually the best effort. When people feel put down, taken advantage of or simply annoyed they aren’t working at their best for you nor are they feeling cooperative if you’ve asked a favor of them. Your thoughts?

Image by G.C. from Pixabay

Service of Apology V

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

I first addressed the subject of apology in 2010 when I covered one by the editor of a student newspaper for publishing an inappropriate cartoon and subsequently when a high school sports coach apologized for a tantrum and later by Whole Foods for overcharging. Then there was a post about those who didn’t or don’t apologize: Donald Trump, Quentin Tarantino and a department store customer service staffer.

I have the opposite problem: I apologize too much. One friend attributes it to my sex, age and maybe upbringing. In his experience women apologize more than men, especially older women. “I’m sorry” pops out of my mouth as automatically as “God bless you” and “thank you.” I need to snap a rubber band on my wrist to stop me. Just today I almost collided with a man coming around a blind corner on the street. Me: “Sorry.” He: silence. Culpability: equal.

I cannot pinpoint the date at which businesses big and small and the people who work for them stopped apologizing–maybe 30 years ago? No apology, never my fault traveled from C-suites to NYC delis at that time. I was once yelled at when I told the cashier I’d not ordered OJ and she insisted that I had while holding out her hand for the additional money. I’d been going there every morning for months and had never ordered juice. Reminding her didn’t elicit an apology.

There is dissent among lawyers as to whether or not to apologize if you’re in an accident. To some it might imply culpability that will be reflected in a crushing settlement. Some insurance lawyers  negotiating settlements find that an apology has impact: the injured person often agrees to a lower settlement. A friend was crossing a Manhattan street with the light when a taxi ran into him. One of the first things he told me was that the driver never once apologized. His lawyer is still negotiating the settlement. If I remember the no apology he also does–as well as the pain in his hip.

Has a stranger apologized to you lately? A business associate or colleague? A friend, family member, spouse or companion? Under what circumstances, if any, do you apologize?

Service of Business Cards

Monday, March 9th, 2020

You may remember that I posted previously about something I overheard at a craft fair in New Paltz a few years ago. A little girl around six chided another child who’d grabbed a stack of business cards from one of the exhibitors. She said: “Put those back! He may be looking for a job and will need them.” She may well have been similarly admonished at home.

Such cards have been around a long time. “Calling cards, also called visiting cards, visiting tickets, or compliments cards, originated in their paper and ink form in France in the 18th century and their popularity quickly spread across Europe and the United Kingdom,” according to Claire Green on hobancards.com.

Does anyone use them today? According to Te-Ping Chen the carte de visite “can be used as fire starters or toothpicks, folded into origami or just cherished as ‘a little slice of time.’” Most of his Wall Street Journal article is actually about what people do with cards that no longer apply though the subhead I just quoted leads a reader to think otherwise.

I keep a few in my wallet but I’ve met a few people recently who don’t have a card on them which I find strange. The other day I met a chef/restaurant owner, a guest on a Sunday morning TV news show, who said he’d given away his last card. Nuts. I am not good at remembering names so he and his eatery are lost to me and my friends.

I’m grateful for a card if I visit a new doctor, vet’s office or restaurant. I input the vitals to my phone’s address book when I have a minute. I don’t keep the cards. When I was selling my house I resented it if a real estate agent didn’t leave behind a card to prove he/she had been there. This happened more times than not.

Vistaprint told Chen that sales are growing and that it prints almost six billion/year. Another company, MOO, claims it sells 250 million+ a year.

Do you still hand out and/or take cards from others? Do you save other people’s cards or your old ones? Are there certain businesses–and people–that should continue to use them for the foreseeable future even though some may think that they are old school? Should retired people have business cards?

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