WWEPD? How to Handle 5 Tricky Business Etiquette Situations

What would “EP” do? I’m referring to Emily Post, of course! While she’s a bit of a throwback, she remains the doyenne of etiquette, and I’ve been known to channel her (or at least Google her advice) for tricky business etiquette scenarios.

Recently I took this business etiquette quiz  that touched on a few common situations. And that piqued my interest in how to handle some others that Emily Post probably never had to deal with — you know, some of those modern moments that really make you squirm, like seeing your boss in the corporate gym locker room.

Fortunately, I found some articles that can help us navigate some of today’s common but sticky business etiquette situations.

Business Etiquette Issue 1: Traveling With the Boss

“Remember, this is still your boss. Some [conversation] topics might be best avoided so you never risk getting in uncomfortable situations or awkward discussions. Have a ready ‘easy’ topic at hand which you can switch to when you feel the need to escape certain questions or statements. It’s easy to slide in discussions which are usually off the radar, especially if you’re spending long hours sitting next to each other. Be friendly but steer clear of anything which is too personal.” — Read more at Forbes.com.

Business Etiquette Issue 2: Ordering at a Business Meal  

“Also be careful when ordering a ‘special.’ Many waiters do not mention the price when telling you their specials of the night. Specials can cost from 10% to 40% more than regular menu items, but you cannot comfortably ask the price of a special in a business situation. You’re better off steering clear.” — Read more at Business Insider.

Business Etiquette Issue 3: The Company Gym

“Grant Moos … had never tried yoga when, about eight years ago, he and his then-boss organized a class in a conference room at General Mills’s Minneapolis headquarters. At first the yoga class was all women and him. … He picked a spot in the back so people wouldn’t see the sweat pooling on his mat during the challenging vinyasa class. A few co-workers teased him.

‘People would walk by that I knew and would make faces at me,’ he recalls. But he loved how yoga limbered and strengthened the muscles he used for cycling and cross-country skiing. He recruited people to help keep the class going, and now it’s about half men, he says.” — Read more at Wall Street Journal.

Business Etiquette Issue 4: Politely Dissing a Coworker’s Idea

“Once you’ve decided to speak up, start by saying something positive about the idea … Next, calmly state your objections without being aggressive or adversarial. ‘Avoid qualifying the idea as ‘stupid’ or ‘horrible’ or making faces that show your dislike,’ [career coach Hallie] Crawford warned. Even when an idea is truly terrible, it’s crucial to be diplomatic to avoid bruising egos and unwittingly creating office enemies. Focus on the idea, not the person who made the suggestion, and steer clear of ‘you’ statements like, ‘You don’t have any experience in this area.’ You might also try raising only your biggest concern, instead of presenting a big list of reasons why it’s a bad idea.” — Read more at Mic.com.

Business Etiquette Issue 5: Dealing with Constant Interruptions

“An open-door policy doesn’t mean employees are free to roam in and out of your office at whim. When someone stops by and you’re busy, simply ask that they come back at a designated time. Better yet, invite your teammates to request a meeting when they want to discuss something. If they can schedule through your assistant or access your calendar to find free time, they’ll be able to choose a time that is convenient for both of you.” — Read more at Entrepreneur.com.

Have you ever had a tricky business etiquette situation? We’d love to hear how you handled it in the comments below.

Lindsey Pollak is the leading expert on millennials and the multigenerational workplace, trusted by global companies, universities and the world’s top media outlets. A New York Times bestselling author and keynote speaker, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her presentations have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!”

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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