The Etiquette of “Regifting”

Let’s be honest – we all do it. Pass along a gift we don’t like or have no use for to an unsuspecting friend or relative. So how can we do it gracefully and without tipping anyone off?  Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind –

Regifting Guidelines

Make sure the new recipient can actually use the item. Just because you don’t want it means they will. Give some thought to their tastes in clothing, music, jewelry, home décor.  Ask youself – will this regift be something they’ll truly enjoy/wear/use?

Never regift something that was handmade, one-of-a-kind, monogrammed, or autographed.  You should keep these gifts and, at least, put on display when the giver is in the vicinity.  If you regift these items to others, you will most assuredly be found out at some point.

I hope this goes without saying – only regift something that has never been opened or used!  The new recipient will be able to tell if the original shrink wrap is missing or they find a bacon bit in the salad spinner.

Regift only – and this is very important – to someone in a completely different social circle from the original giver. This will ensure that the scarf or picture frame will never be seen by them and your anonymity will be preserved.

Don’t rewrap in the original wrapping paper or gift box.  Again, the regifting will be obvious to the recipient, especially when they find the gift tag made out to you hidden under the tissue.  Find a new box and wrap this regift up anew!

Finally, if you’re the kind of person who keeps a stash of regifts ready for giving on a moment’s notice, take heed.  Keep meticulous records!  You don’t want to give your college roommate the very same sweater she gave you 2 years ago!

6 Etiquette Tips for the Office Holiday Party

Holiday parties at the office can be great fun and a nice way to celebrate the year with your co-workers, but they can also be a career minefield if not handled well. Remember – you’re still “on” and being observed by others. Look at these events as opportunities to put your best food forward and make positive impressions on those who control your career. Here are 6 tips to help you shine at your company’s holiday party:

Holiday Party Etiquette

1. Dress Appropriately
Nothing shocking or out of the ordinary, please. It’s important to be seen at these events, but don’t let it all hang out! Stay true to your company’s dress code, simply add a little more polish or sparkle. Easy fixes: upgrade your shirt or tie, or add a sparkly belt, jewelry, bag, or shoe.

2. Work the Room
Avoid clumping with your best buds and use the event to introduce yourself to some new folks, have a more meaningful conversation with those you know a little, and get some valuable face time with the upper ranks. You’ll come away with new or stronger relationships that could benefit you later.

3. Keep Small Talk Light and Positive
Stick to the “A & E” topics: books, movies, theater, museums, travel, restaurants, etc.  It’s never a good idea to discuss politics, religion, your love life or recent medical procedures at a social event.  Ask people if they’ll be traveling for the holidays or what they’ll be asking Santa for this year.  That should start the ball rolling.

4. Drink Lightly
One or two glasses of beer, wine, or spiked punch will get you through the evening.  And there’s nothing wrong with sodas or sparkling water.  Don’t overindulge and become tomorrow’s Hot Topic at the office.  Many careers have been ruined because of excessive drinking and the uninhibited behavior that usually follows.

5. Maintain Boundaries
If you’re not on a first name basis between 9 & 5, you’re not after 5:00.  Maintain the usual bubbles of personal space and show the same deference to superiors you do during the day.  In other words, don’t walk around the party holding mistletoe over your head.  That’s a sexual harassment lawsuit in-the-making.

6. Watch What You Post
Don’t ruin the positive impression you make tonight with a questionable status update, Tweet, or tagged photo of you tomorrow morning.  Any online post you make about the party should be done with a clear and sober head.  Ask your friends to do the same.

I’d love to hear about the Do’s and Don’ts you see at your party.  Please post them here!

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

Small Talk Breakaways

The most awkward part of small talk can be the breakaway – and, for many, it’s the very reason they shy away from engaging others to begin with.  How can you gracefully disengage yourself from a casual interaction?  Make sure your final comments have a positive spin and incorporate any “next steps” that were discussed during your conversation.  Here are some ideas for exiting gracefully:

“I’ve really enjoyed talking with you, but I don’t want to monopolize you.  Can we talk next week by phone?”

“I’m sure there are others here you’d like to meet.  I hope you enjoy the party.”

“I’m going to circulate and say hello to some of the other people here tonight.  I loved hearing about your trip to Italy.  May I contact you next week to get the name of your travel agent?”

“I see someone I must speak with before I leave tonight. I hope you have a good time this evening.  When I see Mr. Blair, I’ll be sure to introduce you to him.”