Category: Etiquette

We all know that our clothes play a very important role in how people perceive us. However, while you probably know not to wear a mini-dress to a job interview at a law firm, you may not have considered what the colors of your clothes could mean for a job interview or even in terms of how you are perceived on a daily basis. There are some surprising connotations – both positive and negative – for some popular “work colors” that can actually undermine your professionalism. Here are a few examples:

Blue and gray are great for focus

Blue and gray are actually the most popular job interview colors, according to employers. This is because they are not distracting (avoid turquoise and edge toward the darker blues) but do help you project an image of calm, stable control. Color experts also believe blue can make you seem more trustworthy, which is always desirable during a job interview and after.

You can wear too much black

While the “little black dress” and the “sharp black suit” do help you appear commanding, in control and representative of authority, did you know that black also connotes drama for many people? If you overdo on it, you could actually be subconsciously implying that there is a little more drama to you than meets the eye. Avoid this by accenting with this popular color (an unusual touch) rather than drenching yourself in it.

Red and white aren’t just for tablecloths

While both red and white should be used in moderation to avoid projecting too much aggression or simplicity, respectively, these are great accent colors because they represent things to interviewers such as energy, precision and positivity.

Ultimately, whether you are going to a job interview or going into work for the tenth year, it pays to think about what your clothes might be “saying” behind your back.

Category: Etiquette

As an assistant, from time to time it will fall to you to settle differences of opinion among co-workers on what types of behavior are appropriate for the office. While sometimes there will be outright conflict, in most cases you will find that one individual has a problem with another’s behavior but prefers not to address it personally. Your job is to resolve the issue without creating more turmoil.

One way to do this can be to address the issue as if you noticed it on your own. This is particularly effective if the behavior in question is in violation of the set office etiquette policy. For example, if your office requires women to wear skirts below the knee, then a request for an employee to refrain from mini-skirts is easily made and justified.  Similarly, if your office prohibits radios without headphones, then asking an employee to invest in a pair of earbuds or give up the afternoon “Swap Talk” show is entirely understandable.

However, many times the lines will not be so clear. In these cases, you will have to determine what behavior is appropriate and address the issue head on. In most cases, this should be done without the complaining party present unless the conflict has escalated to the point where both parties must reach some type of resolution together. For example, if it has been brought to your attention that “Lacey” has a tendency to loiter in other people’s offices and go through things while she is talking to them, you probably will ultimately need to have a confidential conversation with Lacey about not violating confidentiality between other employees and the people with whom they work. When this type of sticky situation arises, always check with your employer or human resources department before addressing it in case there is paperwork to be filled out or a specific course of action or vocabulary that needs to be used to protect you and your employer.

Category: Etiquette

Some workplaces do not have strict rules for etiquette. Others have myriad rules that you may feel govern every aspect of your life from how you answer the phone to the soap you wash your face with in the morning. While workplaces with extremely strict behavior policies can be frustrating, most of the time you simply will have to learn to live with it if you want to succeed in that environment. Fortunately, you do not have to bring your workplace's stringent rules home with you, which should help you continue to work within workplace etiquette while you are at work.

One of the most important things to remember about workplace etiquette is that it is in place so that people can work together more effectively. Is it always effective in this endeavor? Well, not necessarily. However, it is something that you have to learn to live with, so go ahead and adopt a tolerant attitude if you are required to answer the phone with something ridiculous (my personal favorite was "It's a beautiful sunny day at _____ Apartments!" even if there were tornados right outside the window) or mark your location every time you leave your desk for more than 30 seconds to use the restroom. The ability to laugh about the apparently "silly" requirements will help prevent you from obsessing about them or getting angry every time you have to do them.

Next, remember that work etiquette stays at work. When you walk out the door, you are free! That means that you should not spend a lot of time at home complaining about work etiquette at home, when you can do basically whatever you please. Make the most of your "me time" and your family time by focusing on yourself and your family. This will also help relieve frustration that you may feel about work etiquette and also help keep your family from resenting your work issues and even your job every bit as much as you do.

Dealing with seemingly crazy workplace etiquette can be difficult. However, as long as you work in that place, you likely will have to learn to adapt. Drawing a clear line between your professional and personal life will help you work within workplace etiquette without losing your cool in the office.

Category: Etiquette

Lots of offices have "unspoken etiquette" rules that you will need to identify as quickly as possible in order to slip smoothly and effectively into a routine in a new job. Sometimes the rules may not be crystal clear and you may have to look hard in order to avoid offending someone with whom you work or creating an unintended conflict. Being able to identify "unspoken etiquette" is as much about being courteous and asking the right questions as reading the office rule book, so be prepared to be polite and be corrected along the way.

One of the biggest issues in office etiquette that may go unaddressed is, surprisingly, the dress code. Most offices do have some formal dress code, but generally you should err on the side of conservatism, particularly at first, rather than walking the fine line between appropriate and inappropriate. Add a few inches on skirts past the bare minimum and keep decolletage largely covered, particularly if you are well endowed, until you have seen how other people with similar body types to yours dress in the office and observed office mates' reactions and behaviors around them.

Next, be aware of simple things, like allergies. Most offices have no problem with air fresheners or even candles, though the majority do prohibit incense. However, if the guy in the office next door has asthma or allergies, it might be considerate to find out how those items will impact his ability to breath. And frankly, strong scents make many people nauseous. Even if no one is actually allergic, you might want to think twice before putting in something the aroma of which will not be entirely contained in your office.Finally (and this is the big one) fish and popcorn. You're probably thinking, "What?!" but these are huge office "no-no's." They both stink up the entire workplace with a pervasive and not universally pleasant smell that can take days to dissipate. So leave these two food items at home, or prepare them ahead of time, so that you do not stink up the kitchen for everyone. (Cabbage, while far less popular, is also pretty smelly when microwaved and should be avoided). Keeping your eye out and your ears alert can help you stay on top of things at your office and keep all your co-workers happy.