Think Manners Don’t Matter?

NW Etiquette Dinner2I recently learned of a unique hiring test conducted by the CEO of Charles Schwab. In an effort to understand the true character of each candidate, Walt Bettinger, Charles Schwab CEO, interviews them over breakfast at a restaurant. But unbeknownst to the prospect, Mr. Bettinger tells the restaurant ahead of time to mess up their order. The purpose? To reveal the heart of the candidate along with their ability to handle challenges. When presented with the wrong food, do they become frustrated or angry? Do they lash out at the server? Or are they able to take the situation in hand and act graciously?

Manners are much more than knowing which fork to use or how to properly shake hands. Manners are a hallmark of a civil society. When manners are absent, boundaries begin to vanish, people don’t feel respected, and civility starts to break down. The rituals of etiquette help to establish civility. As P.M. Forni shared in his classic work, Choosing Civility, “Manner comes from manus, the Latin word for hand. We have good manners when we use our hands well, when we handle others with care.” Our manners reveal how we view the world—with either everything revolving around us at the center, or with us as just a cog in a bigger wheel where everything we say and do has an impact on others.

Social graces can be learned. Character can be harder to teach. But a good place to start is by learning basic etiquette. Then, when the spotlight is on, you’ll know exactly what to do and can do it with respect and grace. Good manners are good for business—and they might just get you that job!

© Jill Bremer 2016

7 Tips for Instant Messaging

Is your workplace set up for instant messaging? When used appropriately, IM’ing is great for quick and efficient back-and-forths. But, as with email, these types of messages can be treacherous because of the absence of vocal inflection and body language. Here are seven etiquette tips to keep in mind as you IM at work:

1. Check the receiver’s status before you send. Have they posted a “busy” or “away” status?  Be respectful of that and either wait or send an email instead.

2. Consider, too, if they even like IMs. That may not be their preferred form of communication and favor phone or email instead.

3. As with all communication, it is polite to ask upfront if they have time for a quick question or chat. They may be swamped and didn’t have time to post a “busy” status.

4. IMs are meant to be short. Send them when you need to get info to someone in real time or need a quick response to something they won’t need to research. Never use IMs to send negative or sensitive news.

5. Don’t send crucial last-minute changes via IM. They may have already left for the meeting and won’t get your update in time.

6. Watch the texting-style abbreviations. Use only ones that are universally known (by several generations, not just yours).

7. One of you needs to end with a “thank you” at the end, so that both parties know the conversation is finished.

® 2014 Jill Bremer

Will Your Tech-Etiquette Hold YOU Back?

A just-released study by the Center for Professional Excellence finds that, for the second year in a row, students aren’t making the grade as professionals in the workplace.  Who was surveyed?  Not only business leaders and HR professionals nationwide, but also current college students and recent graduates from around the country.

Survey-takers said that less than half of all new grads exhibit professionalism at work.  Traits spotlighted as troubling in this year’s findings included “internet etiquette” which respondents noted as getting worse, not better.

What’s your tech-etiquette like these days?  Do you use technology appropriately?  Take the following quiz and see how you do:

Do you turn your cell phone off or to vibrate in meetings and classrooms?
Do you have a ringtone that doesn’t shock others or make them giggle when they hear it?
Do you refrain from texting while in a meeting, class, or a face-to-face conversation?
Do you correct your spelling before you press “Send”?
Do you use both upper and lower case letters when composing emails?
Do you “Respond to All” only when absolutely necessary?
Do you add an executive summary at the top when you forward emails to others

If you answered “yes” to all, great job!  Your tech-etiquette is in good shape.  If you answered “no” to any of the questions, it’s time to review how you communicate electronically.  Don’t let your tech-etiquette hold you back!

Break Room Etiquette

dirty-dishesHow many times have you encountered a filthy microwave, dirty dishes in the sink, leftovers that have become science experiments, or an empty spot in the frig where your food used to be? Break rooms are one of those common areas, along with bathrooms, cafeterias, and hallways, where we comingle with each other at work. Here are some reminders that will help us all play nicely together.

Keep Your Hands to Yourself
There’s no excuse for helping yourself to other people’s food in the frig. There’s a name for that—stealing! Labeled food containers will help, but not solve, the problem of vanishing food. Short of installing closed circuit cameras, you may never know who the food vultures are in your office. But resist the temptation to help yourself to someone’s chocolate cake because your lasagna went AWOL.

If You Dirty It, Clean It
Wash your own dishes as soon as you’re done with them. Your department may have weekly clean-up crew assignments, but they wouldn’t be needed if you cleaned up after yourself! Swipe the inside of the microwave while you’re at it and wipe off the counter, too.

If You Don’t Want It, Toss It
Before you leave on Friday, glance inside the frig and throw out your uneaten leftovers.

What other rules would you like to add to the list?

© 2016 Jill Bremer • All Rights Reserved

Business Meeting Etiquette

We all dread meetings that are disorganized and accomplish nothing. Here are 8 tips for attendees and 10 tips for those who organize them.


Reply promptly when invited.
If you’re not able to attend, do your best to send a suitable and well-informed substitute.
Review beforehand any related materials that will be discussed.
Arrive on time and come prepared with pen, paper, appropriate materials, an open mind, a positive attitude, and a willingness to listen and participate.
Don’t plop down into any seat. If you’re unsure where to sit, ask the organizer.
Refrain from side conversations, texting, and checking email. Turn your cell phone off or to vibrate.
Watch your body language. It tells others volumes about what you think of them and the issue being discussed.
Follow-through on your assignments and action items.


Send introductions and send them to the right people for this meeting. Target the people best equipped to make the decisions and do the follow-through. Encourage them to send a suitable and well-informed substitute if they’re not able to attend. Include the start and end time for the meeting (with the promise to adhere to those times) and the location (with map and directions, if necessary).
Send the meeting agenda once they’ve replied along with all related documents. Also share with each attendee what they will be expected to share or report on.
Send a reminder the day before.
Prep the room beforehand. Is there a chair for each person, food/beverages, A/V that is powered up and working properly, extra copies of materials? Name tents are appreciated when participants don’t know each other.
Setting ground rules at the start can help the meeting run smoothly. Example: Only one person talking at a time, No side conversations, Confidential information should not be discussed outside, etc.
If necessary, ask attendees to introduce themselves at the start of the meeting.
Start and end the meeting on time (as promised).
Manage any tangential conversations. Move them to a “parking lot” of items to be discussed at a later time.
Finish the meeting with a summary of all action items and parties responsible.
Follow up after the meeting with a reminder of action items, assignments and open items yet to be resolved.
© 2010 Jill Bremer • All Rights Reserved

Airplane Etiquette

Overhead Compartments

Everyone is “carrying on” these days, so remember that your storage space is right above your seat, not the first open space you see.  Airlines prefer that you slide your bag in vertically wheels first.  Smaller bags and coats should be squeezed around the larger bags, not the other way around.


Let’s all agree – the person in the middle seat should have rights of first refusal on the armrests in the middle.  A personal pet peeve – armrest volume controls which have been left on “10” by the last passenger.


It’s difficult to have a conversation on a plane with the aircraft noise and plugged-up eardrums.  But please monitor your voice levels.  Others are trying to sleep, listen to the movie or music.

Reclining Seats

Just because seats recline, doesn’t mean they should.  We’re all tired, but also cramped for legroom and want to be able to work on our computer or eat without having our elbows in our ears.  So, recline a few inches and no more – please!