High stress, fast pace and new technology is ripe for an office blunder. Here are a few common business etiquette faux pas and some tips on how to handle them.
You forget a client’s name— It happens. Under extreme stress recently, I forgot my own daughter’s name for a nano second (and she hasn’t quite forgiven me yet!).Prepare for the meeting and go over key players, including your client(s) first and last name(s). Practice introducing them to new faces at the meeting. If you happen to meet a client out of the normal environment, either at the grocery store, movie theater, or shopping mall, say hello if you encounter them face to face but don’t go out of your way to track them down to greet them with your children in tow. It’s not uncommon to forget a person’s name if you only see them once a year or speak to them on the phone, rather than in person. Saying something like, “I’m having a blank moment, please remind me of your name?” isn’t out of order unless you see him or her on a daily basis.
You completely forget an important meeting or phone call— As soon as you remember, make a personal call to apologize. Under no circumstances should you have your assistant do it for you. Offer to reschedule at their convenience and make yourself available on their terms. Make the appointment as soon as possible after the original meeting.
You arrive to the office party under dressed— Dressing up your look can be as simple as 1-2-3. Add a smokey eye shadow, slip on a strappy heel and bring out a chic pearl necklace. Arrive in a silk wrap and you are ready to go. Men, put on a tie, add a jacket to your casual Friday look and change your shirt and your wardrobe will get an instant holiday boost. A great pair of red holiday socks will be festive and a conversation starter.
You forget to put your cell phone on silent during a meeting— Immediately take out your phone and silence it. Do not answer! Once it is on silent, turn it off completely, apologizing for the inadvertent mistake. Immediately refocus on the speaker. There is no need to make a bigger scene by going on and on after the incident. Make a point to go up to the speaker after the meeting and apologize again in person. It’s a good idea to have a simple ringtone on your phone, rather than Lady Gaga blasting at full volume.
You send an email to a colleague regarding another colleague that is less than complimentary—First of all, learn your lesson. Controversial comments should be reserved for a person to person discussion. It is always best to keep negative comments out of the professional inbox. Now that the damage is done, you must own it. Make a point to personally address the issue with the person you have offended by saying “I’m very sorry. I was venting and I should have thought carefully before sending that email. I was wrong and I take complete responsibility for my actions. Please allow me to make amends.”
Your sheer pantyhose snags right before a meeting, leaving you with a huge run up your leg—Wardrobe malfunctions happen, and being prepared is the key to your success. An extra pair of hosiery, hidden in your desk drawer or glove compartment will eventually come in handy. So will hand cream, lip gloss and a spare pair of reading glasses (the most used item at my desk!).
You are blind copied on an email and you hit “reply all” —Always reread everything you send and receive. Make sure others are supposed to know you have received a copy of the email before you “reply all” with a nice little surprise.
You answer the phone incorrectly when your boss calls— When you first start working with the company, check with your supervisor and colleagues on the company’s phone etiquette policy. Be clear on how to transfer calls and place a caller on hold. Never send a caller directly to voicemail without warning. Avoid screening calls and never say, “She’s in the restroom, may she call you back?”
For more of my tips, revisit my “Awkward Moments Etiquette” post.