Office Etiquette – F-you

In this week’s grab bag we have a question about office etiquette and cursing from L.R. in Texas. She writes,

There is a no cursing policy where I work.  However, people who I work with, specifically men, who are very comfortable working with me and they trust me as a coworker, use curse words during our conversation we have at work, even if some of these conversations are not work-related.  This is an infrequent occurrence but it bothers me.  While I am grateful that my coworkers feel comfortable with me, I still don’t think that using curse words is ok at work, period.  How can I tell my coworkers casually that they need to stop?  Sometimes they happen to be my boss…  I don’t want to “scare them off” per say by being up tight all of a sudden, but I need to let them know.  Please help.

When is enough, enough? Lighting up the verbal atmosphere at the office is a sure fire way to catch heat from your superiors, but what do you do if it IS your superior? L.R. is in a common situation. How many times has a co-worker or boss said something that makes you uncomfortable? If you’re human, it’s probably happened within the past month. Curse words, racial slurs, dirty jokes all fall under the domain of poor taste.

There are a few things working against you L.R. First, words, even curse words, can’t actually kill anyone – an extreme statement, but the point is, you can’t simply say to the offender, “You’re killing me.” There’s no criminal reason to stop someone from using curse words. Second, officially you are supposed to report infractions to HR . . . and that is a big buzz kill.

But, you can let the offender know how uncomfortable you are in a subtle yet direct way . . . watch out though because this is a slippery slope straight to passive aggressive behavior on your part – not a good way for you to be perceived.

Phrases like, “Wow, that is really vulgar,” or “What would your daughter think about that?” Those allow you to be direct without saying, “Hey dude, you are gross.” You want to reflect on how offensive the WORDS are, not the person. Careful. Careful.

Plan B is to come straight out and say it – “Hey, Name of Person, I’m so glad you feel comfortable with me. Your language is harsh and distracting. Do you mind toning it down a bit?”

To this you may get one of three responses:

1. A shocked stare and then possible avoidance.

2. A Yes, I do mind reaction, at which point you have a small problem on your hands.

3. Or you may get a No, I don’t mind, and the offender will tone it down moving forward.

Many people using profanity in the workplace are unaware they are using profanity because the words are so common these days. There’s no sense getting upset about it until you have come clean with the offender to let him/her/them know that you find such language offensive. It is offensive, but most of us no longer notice it because profanity has permeated everyday life.

Stand up for yourself and your ears. If profanity bothers you, let the offender know that his words are problematic – again, focus on his words, not him.

Good luck L.R., let us know how it goes!

-Miss Mentor

A fun look at office etiquette and more

It’s a regular work day, and everything seems normal in the office.

John walks out of the kitchen, but something looks different in his eyes. What is that emotion? Is it anger? Revenge? He sits down in his cubicle, eyes slitted and watchful, staring at the kitchen entrance. Ryan walks through. John’s interest is perked.

Some time passes,
and out Ryan walks,
looking satisfied and full.

He’s even wiping a crumb from his mouth. And then John sees it – a Schlotzsky’s wrapper – in his hand. Ryan walks by the bin and casually throws the wrapper in. John ‘s face reddens with anger. That was his sandwich!! What will come next?

For those of us who have or are working in a corporate environment, we know there are unspoken rules when it comes to the break room and lunch. There are a few things we all must do in terms of office etiquette in the kitchen that helps everything run just a little smoother. Wash dishes after you use them, wait your turn to use the microwave, appropriate work conversations, and so forth.

But the biggest rule of kitchen office ettiquette – Don’t eat other people’s lunches.

It’s a big don’t.  And when the mighty rule is broken, what avails?  Passive aggressive behavior of course. It seems in most cases, passive aggressive behavior in the office amounts to a lot of awkward moments and funny notes. So, what else is there do but enjoy them.

Office Prank (*from

Here’s a gallery of office notes from, and yes, they are all authentic.

Here’s the link:

And, if  that didn’t satisfy your  funny bone. Maybe this will. Unnecessary quotation marks. Oh,  how those two little lines muddle meaning and put a bit of existentialism into any situation. Such a pleasure to think about.

Unnecessary Quotations Marks:

Have fun!

Office Etiquette – Making Introductions

A little old fashioned office etiquette for making introductions, particularly outside the office. Be careful in making introductions. It is easier to evade than to cause disagreeable complications. It is unpardonable to introduce one party to another after having been warned not to do so. Board Members can be particularly tricky about remaining anonymous with employees of the organization, be aware.

Forgetting a person’s name when about to introduce is awkward; when it does happen, apologize and ask for the name. It is also acceptable to request the other to, “Remind me of your full name.” In some circles this implies you remember the person’s name, but need help with the full name . . . few people are fooled by this, but it is polite. If you have had to ask the same person for his or her “full name” at more than one occasion in the past year, you have failed yourself with poor form. Get a course to remember names and study it. Daily. Until you get it.

If a person fails to hear the name, it is proper to inform the one to whom you are introduced and to say: “Pardon me, but I failed to hear your name.” In making introductions one should distinctly pronounce the names.

Men should always be introduced to women, the younger to an elder person, and if a purely social situation, unmarried persons to the married.

When an introduction occurs, future recognition is not warranted. For this reason great care should be exercised at entertainments that only those who are congenial to each other should be brought together. At small gatherings it is more appropriate to introduce. When many are present, it is not necessary to do so.

It is quite proper to introduce one group to another without formality at any sports function. Such introductions need not imply further acquaintance if undesirable.

Due Diligence for approaching Boss for Raise

Step 1: Consider your case.

What have you really done this past year? Did you drive more profit to the bottom line in a meaningful way? Did you suss-out a production inefficiency that has saved your company thousands/millions of dollars? Did you introduce your Boss or Boss’s boss to a premier customer with whom your company now does business? These are the kinds of things to consider. What have you REALLY done that goes beyond showing up for work sober. You DID show up for work sober, right?

Step 2: Begin to Prepare your case.

This is a finer comb activity. This is where years of experience playing chess may net you a nice bag-o-coin, but fret not, you navigate situations like this all the time. To wit, you navigate a freeway all the time (probably). This is just like that. On the freeway you have to avoid the crazy, angry drivers (my father) who cut you off/curse/slow/speed-up at whim, the half blind drivers (my grandfather, who is now no longer driving thankfully) who don’t mean to cause trouble, but can’t really comprehend (due to physical and visual limitations, not competence issues) moving at the speed of the rest of the traffic and aren’t really willing to try, and last but not least, the incompetent drivers – I don’t know what their motivations are, but avoid them. All this, plus you must move your body as quickly as possible to your destination safely. In some cases you dodge, others you may have to weave, but in all cases, you must keep going forward. Right?

Okay, so the destination is your raise/bonus. It is your responsibility to get everyone (all the drivers) to your destination. Which driver is your boss like? Who is in front of him? If your boss is an angry driver and his boss is a grandpa driver then you have a hot head stuck behind a slow poke. Yes? If you give the hot head room to maneuver around the slow poke, that will dissipate some of the angry driver’s energy and he’ll be kinder to you, the helpful driver.

This would be akin to you introducing your boss to a key customer that will give your boss a chance at a big promotion himself. Make sense? Since you’ve played the helpful driver, you can show your boss how you helped him meet “key customer” and that has opened up “door x” to “promotion y” for him. Do this subtly to avoid being tacky.

What if your boss is grandpa? Show him how you helped him stay safe by shielding him from the angry drivers. This would be along the lines of you taking on an extra assignment that his boss was throwing down the line of command; you working on and completing that job quickly, without need for supervision or direction from your boss so your boss’s boss is happy and your boss isn’t burdened with extra duties.

In essence, how have you worked WITH your boss (even if you think he’s a stinking rat fink) to make his/her life easier? Demonstrate that in your request for the raise. Do not expect your boss to remember every detail – to him, to her it was probably of very little consequence. Be succinct. Be clear. Tell the relevant details, get the memories going, make him feel good about how useful, helpful, productive you are and THEN ask for the raise.

Position yourself.

Step 3: Have a non-company mentor review your request.

Always put your request in writing so you can fully frame what you want to say and how you will say it, answer questions, respond to push-back. You may deliver orally, but be prepared in writing. Your boss may actually ask you to submit a paper request – sometimes as a stalling technique, sometimes for official documentation, sometimes just so she doesn’t forget you’ve made the request (me!). This request can be reviewed by your mentor for tactical opportunities, logic and relevance. If you have chosen a mentor in the same industry retired or with another company, she may know things about your company that can help you with your raise request (your Co. is about to win a big contract, your Co. President just lost 1/2 of this year’s earnings on a trip to Vegas, etc.). Do ask her to review your request.

Step 4: Practice, practice, practice.

Business is about presentation. We are constantly marketing ourselves, our product, our service, etc. just to keep the doors open. Embrace it. The better you do with fundamental activities, the higher you will rise. Practice how you will talk to your boss, your responses to questions, your tone of voice. Do it. Seriously. Make it natural. Confidence is earned through mastery of fundamentals – you cannot fake confidence.

If your boss sees you making a very natural request for a raise, he’s more inclined to give it to you.

Step 5: Go for it!

Ask your boss for a meeting time and then make your pitch. Be prepared. Good luck!

Office Party Etiquette – Who you bring

Office Etiquette – the office party . . . who you bring.

This may sound a bit prudish and perhaps even anal-retentive, but you really need to know this. Follow the office party invitation instructions precisely. That means, unless it states that guests are welcome . . . Guests are NOT welcome, even your spouse who knows everybody and is looking forward to seeing them.

There are many reasons the guest list may be limited and it really isn’t for you to figure out. Just play along nicely and no one gets hurt. Sure your spouse may get his feelings hurt, but you guys can always host your own party. This is an official company function and planning decisions have been made. Respect those decisions. The consequences for disrespecting the decision may not be immediately apparent, but you will no doubt leave an impression on the internal planner of the event – who may have more sway with upper management than you imagine.

It’s kind of like a wedding. Would you show up with a guest if you weren’t “and guest”ed on the invitation? (say no, please say no!!)

Exactly (you did say no, right??)

Office Party Etiquette – Be on Time

Few employees seem to grasp the importance of the Office Holiday Party. Of course you do . . . but those other employees…..

If the invitation states 7PM, get there before 7:30PM – even if you have to put your lipstick and mascara on once you arrive. Office parties really are an extension of your work environment. Punctuality is very important.

Let’s face it, if you’re not getting there on time during the week, well, you don’t have the fire in your belly to make much out of your career and I’m not really writing this column for you. For those of you who do get there on time during the week, keep up the good work and get to the office party on time.

FASHIONABLY LATE: In this context, fashionably late = 5-10 minutes late.

If you can not make it on time, and you have a very good reason, plan to stay late, particularly if you are a manager. It is up to you to socialize with your employees and your bosses. This is the one time of the year (for most firms) that you can genuinely dramatically expand your network within the company. This has obvious benefits for promotions within the firm and less obvious benefits for finding a better job down the road.

Office Party Etiquette – Beware the Cookie Monster

Office Party Etiquette – Eating

What you push into that lovely face of yours says more about you than you may appreciate. Now, don’t get all paranoid, but do consider the following:

For a cocktail hour/hors d’oeuvres:
1. Stick to the truly finger food items – occasionally a lousy caterer (or your bosses spouse in some cases) will serve psuedo finger food because he/she doesn’t know better – this includes items that take more than one bite to consume AND lose their structure (i.e. squish) as you take the first bite . . .  as well as fried items that may drip grease on you. Anything that can ooze on you WILL.
stick to things that can be POLITELY consumed in one bite.

2. Beware the spicy/saucy/dairy items. If you have any tendency toward tummy rumbles, you should be old enough to be aware of what sets your tummy rumbling. For the sake of all concerned, please avoid those foods. 7 layer bean dip . . . jalapeno poppers . . . spicy wings . . .
3. Just shut up and eat it. If you have a real allergy – like peanuts cause death – then you know how to ask for food information tactfully and you may discard items that could kill you if you have picked them up in error. If on the other hand you simply do not like certain things, well you probably whine about it, stop. The Office Party is not the time, nor is it the place to whine . . . about anything. At a public event where you are being watched by the gatekeepers to your career, for heaven’s sake, just shut up and eat it. You picked up a spinach quesadilla with onions in it and you hate onions . . . well, never mind that that violates guideline #1 (single bite foods), just eat the damn thing. Onions aren’t going to kill you.

4. Feed yourself before you arrive – this is not a food trough. Every host/hostess appreciates guests enjoying their food, it is part of the joy of hosting. However, no one I know (except your Italian grandmother) appreciates you standing over the food table scarfing every morsel in sight. If you are really hungry, grab a bite to eat before you arrive so you won’t be tempted to position yourself at the food table.

5. When you pick up a food item, eat it quickly. No, I’m not advocating inhaling the item, but do be done with it. You never know when your Senior VP, Boss, Company President will walk up to have a conversation with you. With a drink in one hand and a meatball in the other, it is very difficult to shake hands. Women can get away with the pinky finger handshake, but men . . . if you ever give a pinky finger handshake – no matter what your *orientation* may be – you will be written off as weak. That and you just look stupid standing there with two hands full.

6. Keep your hands and mouth clean. After that meatball, make sure your hands are not sticky. Carry wet wipes with you if necessary. Again avoid the foods that will cause the most trouble – why anyone serves wings at a function is beyond me – they’re a mess!

7. Keep your drink in your left hand. In the US, we shake hands with our right hands. It is really best if that hand be dry and clean when you are greeting others. Drink napkins rarely provide enough absorption. Do you really want your boss to feel a sloppy wet, cold hand when you greet him? Drink your drink of choice, but understand that wine stems provide the best means for keeping your hands dry.

Office Party Etiquette – what you CAN do with a copy machine

Office Party Etiquette for Holidays and Other Occasions.

Thankfully, not too many companies still host office parties within the office after hours, but plenty are shutting down early on a Friday to booze up before sending employees home . . . besides the obvious potential for lawsuits stemming from drunk employees mismanaging their vehicles, the Friday office party happy hour isn’t such a bad idea.

At least significant others are spared from trying to create polite conversation with your co-workers.

But now you have a comedy sketch waiting to happen. Eggnog in the kitchen, copier is warm – who wouldn’t be tempted? Right?

So what can you do with (name available alcohol here ….) a bottle of Tequila and a Copy Machine AND still have your job come Monday?

1. BEFORE the bottle is open, you can copy a picture of your smiling FACE next to the bottle. When the original comes out decide if you will use it as the interoffice invite (deliver by hand for extra style points), your holiday card (shrink to postcard size and copy onto card stock), or simply as fine art for your cubicle (please remove after 2 weeks).

2.  AFTER the bottle is open, don’t even think about going near the copier. Don’t do it. You’ll look like a Scottish fella in a field full of sheep. You’ll be busted by the office prude so fast your head will spin . . . more.
Remember, YouTube is everywhere. It’s worse than Big Brother.

Next up: If SOs are included, how to tag team an office party for maximum career advancement.

It’s office party time – Office Party Etiquette

Office Party Etiquette – because you really do need your job.

Tempting though it is to tell your boss what a #*#B*ing bleep he is, that’s not the spirit of the season, and you probably want to have your job tomorrow . . . and the next day, particularly if you are planning to pay your holiday bills. You DO plan to pay your holiday bills don’t you??

Fine, fine.

So this week and next we will share so tips to navigate the tricky waters of Holiday Office Parties. Because Office Etiquette doesn’t stop at 5PM.

Tip #1: Do NOT, under any circumstances bring the guy/girl you shacked up with for the first time this past weekend, or worse, last night. This will seem blindingly obvious to most of my readers, but enough of you . . .

Here’s the scoop. That random hook-up and your office do not mix.

1. He/She is probably not nearly as cute as you remember (or don’t remember as the case may be).

2. He/She may not be the best behaved in public situations – remember his/her job is not at stake at YOUR office party.

3. He/She may not have that much interest in you – this one can sting the most – imagine, your office frenemy hooks up with your date. Really bad form and dare I say, bad office etiquette on behalf of your frenemy, but you brought in the fresh meat…. Your own fault.

4. He/She won’t agree to tell everyone that you’ve been seeing each other for a month and instead tells everyone about your sloppy kissing technique – you will be forever renamed “Soupy,” even by your boss. Promotion chance – for the guys, probably up; for the girls, decidedly down.

Tomorrow: what you CAN do with a copy machine and a pint of Tequila.