Busines Protocol and Etiquette

This category contains 35 posts

Free Refills: The Gift of Giving Never Runs Dry

Entering the holiday season has many of us thinking of the gift of giving, to not only family and friends but also strangers.  Money is particularly nice to receive, so we know it’s an ideal go-to gift when it comes to donating, tipping, and supporting others’ ventures.  However, there are other presents we may offer those whose paths we cross this (and every) season.   I’ll tell you a little story, if you’ll let me indulge…Gift in Hand Photo - Free Refills Blog Post 12-5-17

I recently traveled to Dallas to present at a professional conference.  On day one, my presentation was scheduled for the first slot at 8:00 a.m.  Anyone who’s been graced with my presence at that time knows mornings are not my thing, to understate it.  Jet-lagged, caffeine-deprived, I squirm from under the sheets, start steaming water for my tea, shimmy into the shower and hype myself up to “Music Makes Me High.”  I’m still tired.  It feels like the wear and tear of adjusting to a new job, working long hours and traveling frequently are catching up to me all at this very moment.  I don’t know how I’m going to make it to the other side of the massive conference hotel and deliver a winning presentation.  I don’t think I have any of myself left to give.  So, there I am leaning heavily against the window, zoning out to the glowing sunrise above the city skyline.

Knock, knock.

Knock, knock.

“Hello, would you like your room serviced today?”

I turn back to my tossed towels and rumpled sheets.  “Uh, yeah.  Yes please,” I shout as I head to the door.  The cleaning lady enters.  She’s young.  I estimate she’s about 19 years old.  She smiles and begins tidying the space.  She asks me if I’m here for the conference and inquires about what we do at this conference.  I explain that it’s a convening of tons communications scholars, professionals and professors from around the country.  She squints at me in mild disbelief and asks if I do that kind of work.  She says I don’t look old enough and my students must think I’m one of them.

The cleaning lady is now my best friend.

Her name is Ké.  She tells me she couldn’t take my classes because I talk about the news media and that gets boring for her.  She doesn’t think she can make it through college, because school just isn’t for her.  I ask Ké what she wants to do.  At first she shrugs, “I’m still not sure.”  She says she knows she wants to move on from working at the hotel because she wants to do better for her son.  So, I probe with questions about her interests and hobbies, the same way I do with my students and mentees when I’m helping them through career soul-searching.  She finally comes out with her interest in studying finance and pursuing a career in that field, and I am able to guide her through the first steps in reaching those goals.

That morning, I found enough in me to share.  Of course, I tipped her for her work, but I chose to give more than the standard.  I spoke with her about her dreams for a few minutes the next day and the next, until I left.  With every bit of time and mentorship I gave each morning, I received so much more from her positive spirit.  I felt re-energized by her hope and her friendship for those few days.  With that, I had enough in me to deliver my presentation, serve on two panels, attend several sessions and events, plus fulfill my Public Relations Chair duties for my division.

On my last day at the hotel, the cleaning lady – no, my new friend, Ké brought me a small, thoughtful gift of treats that she learned I liked.  I turned over the card attached to read her expression of gratitude for the time I took out of my schedule to talk with her and brighten her past few days at work.  I was humbled and reminded that giving is not simply good etiquette.  It rejuvenates us and keeps us connected.

May your season be an abundant cycle of giving.



R-E-S-P-E-C-T Small Businesses and They’ll Take Care of You


There’s this little café in my neighborhood that I love to patronize. They always make my caramel latte with almond milk, just the way I like it. Their attention to customization and meeting the customer’s needs is superior. Dare I say, it’s even better than Starbucks!

Well, the other day in this perfect little coffee house, I witnessed a common offense take place. A guy made himself comfy at one of the tables, set up his laptop, logged onto the free WiFi and started surfing away. Then, he took a sip out of his 24 oz. McDonald’s cup!


One of the owners noticed this and demanded that the WiFi moocher leave immediately. As the (non)customer begged to finish his drink and Internet session, the owner explained a very valid point. This is a business and their particular business is coffee. Every time someone buys coffee in another shop, brings it into their café and uses the WiFi at no cost, they lose on at least three fronts:
1. You spent you’re money somewhere else;
2. You’ve given the other shop free advertising in this establishment; and
3. You’re jamming up the Internet for all their paying customers while getting service without giving back to the business.

Most businesses cannot afford to support freeloaders, but small businesses, especially, cannot bear that burden. If you want your favorite shops to stay in business, then help them out by showing a little consideration. Don’t be that guy.


Oscars Blooper: Jennifer Lawrence’s Big Trip Up

This year at the 85th Academy Awards, the lovely Jennifer Lawrence won Best Actress for her role in “Silver Linings Playbook.”  As she ascended the stairs to accept her award, she stumbled in excitement.

Jennifer Lawrence at the OscarsPhoto credit: Reuters

Jennifer Lawrence at the Oscars
Photo credit: Reuters

What to do, what to do when you trip and fall on your face at the biggest event of the year?  I certainly speak from experience on this, since I’ve managed to do it on many fabulous occasions.  The only way to handle it is to fall all the way out and play it all the way up!  Don’t try to hide it, play it off, or downplay it.  You just have to go for the full sympathy of the crowd.  Make them feel like they have to check that you are OK before they react.  Then, at that point, you have two gracious options: 1. stay put and look completely distraught; or 2. get up and burst into laughter, signaling that it is alright for everyone else to laugh with you – not at you.  Lastly, you can mention the blunder to take the edge off and put everyone (yourself included) at ease.


Work That Outfit: Proper Business Attire


Business Casual




Business Casual with Jeans/Jean Fridays


Business Casual














It tickles me that every year, right around early summer, just about every company I’ve worked at has to remind employees of the dress code. It’s like the weather gets hot and people lose their minds …and clothes.

Every office or work environment has it’s own dress code, often found in the company’s code of conduct document. It is best to refer to this document if you are unsure of what is considered acceptable and appropriate work attire. If you are really lost on the matter, contact the human resources department with your questions.

Keep in mind that what is appropriate to wear to work varies depending on whether the dress code is business, business casual, casual, or uniform.  Many younger companies that encourage innovation and creativity take a laid back approach to attire, but even in those instances that does not mean you should walk into work like you are America’s Next Top Stripper. To help out, here is a list of clothing articles you should probably avoid wearing at jobs that are business or business casual:

  • Short shorts
  • Ripped denim
  • T-shirts with logos, words or graphics
  • Flip flops
  • Tube tops
  • Mini skirts
  • Plunging necklines
  • Sheer tops without a camisole or undershirt

These are good to start off with, but please feel free to add to the list!

Listen up or Lose out: Advancing Your Listening Skills

When we think of holding engaging, powerful conversations, the first thing that comes to mind is mastering the art of persuasive speaking. While there is magic in persuasion, one of the most powerful tools of a leader is the ability to listen.

You are tossing the idea around in your mind, right? Surely, the way to control a discussion, direct the flow of ideas, and get someone to jump on your bandwagon is to use your words to convince and even manipulate. Yet, think about how much more likely you are to hear someone out and consider their point of view when you feel like they’ve been paying attention to you. You’re more willing to do something they’ve requested or give them what they’re asking for if you feel like that person has taken the time to listen to you and has shown a deep interest in what you think or feel. Beyond that realization, consider that the only way to know how to build an argument to budge others from their stance is to listen to them and figure out from which angle to approach their way of thinking. There within lies the compelling strength of a master conversationalist. If you are striving to become a great leader and influential figure, it’s worth it to acquire the following listening skills:

1. Don’t cut others off while they are talking. It’s disrespectful and it makes them feel like their ideas are being devalued. Be patient and let them finish their thought.

2. Actually pay attention. Avoid getting so caught up in coming up with a rebuttal or good come back line that you completely miss what the other person is expressing.

3. Use the various nonverbal gestures that let a person know you are present and connected. Try these nonverbal cues:

  • Lean forward, without slouching.
  • Make eye contact, instead of letting your eyes wander, but don’t stare.
  • Nod your head, not like you’re falling asleep, but like you get what they’re saying.
  • Smile/Laugh if they say something cheerful or funny.
  • Put away any distracting devices, i.e. cell phones, mp3 players, etc.

4. Ask questions related to what the other person is talking about. That is a surefire way to let someone know you were not only paying attention, but that you’re interested.

Before I run off to another meeting, I’ll share with you one of my personal secret weapons: the head nod and furrowed brow combo. When my eyebrows move closer together and I nod my head as in “yes, I get what you’re saying,” without fail, the person who is speaking stops talking to everyone else in the room and directs his/her words towards me. If you need a big dog, power player to notice you, if even for a moment, then give that one-two punch a try.

Little Lady Tips – 6/20/12


Managing Your Cell Phone Addiction: Class Now in Session

Earlier this week, I sat in on a media presentation.  The presenter wasn’t the most engaging and apparently he was filling in for someone else at last minute notice.  You could see he was nervous and just wanted to get through the PowerPoint as soon as possible.  He stopped in the middle of his presentation and, in a tone riddled with annoyance, said to someone in the audience “Should I wait until you’re finished texting to continue?”  Now the truth is, many people were using their smartphones throughout the session.  So why did he call out this one person?  He spotlighted her because she was in his direct line of sight.  She was sitting right in front of him and didn’t think anything of whipping out her phone and chatting it up!

I began to think of my classes and how at the beginning of the semester some students think it is alright to text while I’m teaching or answer a call in class.  Contrary to their beliefs, there is a standard of cell phone etiquette that you should put into action when you are listening to a lecturer or presenter of any sort.  Practicing this short list of standards will help you to convey that you respect the person and the work they put into sharing information with you:

  1. Turn off that cell phone ringer!  Vibrate is an option if the phone won’t be resting against anything that makes the vibration louder.
  2. Put your cell phone away (out of site).  Hiding your phone behind your bag or in your lap while you type away is not the same as putting it away.
  3. If you must keep your phone visible, then turn it face down so that the LED light notifications do not distract you or the presenter.
  4. If you anticipate receiving a call or responding to a series of text messages, then take the conversation outside until you are done and ready to return.
  5. When using the phone as a tool in the session, let your presenter know ahead of time that you will be using it for that reason.  For instance, if you will need to calculate data that will be discussed, then you should explain that you will keep your phone out in order to utilize the calculator.

As with everything else, there are exceptions to the rule.  In today’s world, with everyone being wired (or WiFi-ed), a presenter might ask the audience to keep their phones available to access the Internet in order to surf the web, visit a specific website, tweet about the lecture, or any of the other awesome things you can do on a smartphone now.  I take the liberty of incorporating that kind of technology usage into my lectures all the time and so do many others.  In those cases, by all means comply with the request.  Just keep in mind that the main purpose of you working on your cell phone is still to participate in the activity led by your presenter and not to text your BFF for an hour.

Formal Email Writing Etiquette: Get Your Desired Results

We’ve talked about the general, informal email, which is not so tricky, especially when dealing with friends and close acquaintances. As we discussed in Email Etiquette: Know Your Audience, there are some simple rules to follow to keep your basic email messages on the safe side. However, the big, bad wolf of emails seems to be the Formal Email.  What a diva she is, requiring more thought and a much more structure. The formal emails can include messages that are addressed to an employer, an official at a school or college, an executive at a company, or a professional with whom you are not acquainted, amongst others. Yet, some of the same tips for basic emails still apply, with a few additional rules:

Opening Salutation

1.  Formally greet the person to whom you are writing. For example, try one of the following opening salutations: “Dear Mr. Rodriguez,” or “Good morning, Anna:” or “To Whom It May Concern:”


2. Identify yourself in the most relevant manner. You can choose to state who you are in relation the person or topic (i.e. a salesperson, customer, student, etc.). You can identify yourself or your interest by way of pertinent information, such as an account number, a job ID, an order number, etc. You can also tell the person your name here, but you will still have to sign off with your name at the end.

3. Concisely state the purpose of your email. Clearly and briefly summarize why you are contacting the person. You will have the opportunity to elaborate later in the email, so there is no need to be long winded at this juncture.

Body Paragraph(s)

4. State and explain the main points of your email in detail. Lay out all of the important elements and/or occurrences of your business, interest, issue, concern, or request. Paint a full picture for the other person. It is necessary for you to convey your thoughts and tell your story.

5. Be careful not to ramble or go off on tangents. Although you want to be thorough, you want to keep the person’s attention and help them to understand where you are coming from. Particularly, if you are sending a complaint, avoid including extra thoughts that are overly emotional, too personal, or unnecessarily insulting.


6. Express the number one goal you want to accomplish with this email, once again. If there is a key point you think might still be complicated or confusing, this is your chance to clarify it, briefly! Here are a few questions to consider: Who should take action? Which action do you want them to take? Will you play a role in this? Is there anything you are willing to do or offer? What outcome do you desire?

7. Provide your most reliable contact information. If you want a timely response, then you must give them a way to reach you directly. Choose a channel through which you know you will easily receive the person’s response, like a phone number that you have regular access to, a direct voicemail number you check frequently, or a mailing address. In some instances there is no need to provide additional forms of contact if it is understood that the other person will respond to the email address through which you are sending the message. In this case, providing your contact information means making sure your email address is visible.

8. Thank the person for his or her time, cooperation, assistance, or anything that he or she has already done. You also have the choice of thanking them in advance for whatever it is you anticipate or hope they will do. Here are two examples: 1) Thank you for your continued support. 2) Thank you in advance for resolving this issue.

Closing Salutation

9. Sign off with a respectful closing salutation, followed by your name. There are many options, so select the one that you feel is most fitting and that makes you feel most comfortable. Some examples are “Yours truly,” “Sincerely,” “Respectfully yours,” or “Best regards,”
(Note that the first word in your salutation is capitalized, but the second word is not.)

Before You Click Send!

10. Proofread and edit your email. Check for any confusing language, inaccuracy of facts, typos, grammatical or spelling errors, inaccuracy and misspelling of people’s names, spacing and formatting mishaps, incorrect punctuation, or automatic correction disasters. Also, make sure you have not inappropriately used all capital letters, which can look like you are shouting. Some of these might seem minor, but they vary in significance to different people and can be the deciding factor for whether or not you get your intended results.

These are a couple of examples of how to structure a formal email message. (Click on the email to enlarge):

Formal Email Sample 1:

Formal Email Sample 2:

Public Displays of Protocol – April 2012

As a communications professional and scholar who keeps an eye and an ear (just one of each) glued to the media, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to recognize the t.v. legends who passed on during the month of April.  I’d like to dedicate this Public Displays of Protocol to three men of media who exemplified dignity, class, and high ethical standards:  Gil Noble, Mike Wallace, and Dick Clark.


Dick Clark Photo Credit: Alan Light

On April 18th, we lost “America’s Oldest Teenager.”  Dick Clark, known to the younger generations as the cool older dude who made an appearance every New Year’s Eve, built a long-lived career of so much more.  His extensive work in show biz made him the most well recognized pop culture icon spanning several generations.  Mr. Clark was adored as the host of “American Bandstand,” TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes,” the “American Music Awards,” “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” and countless other television and radio shows.  Always a vision of effortless sophistication, he dedicated his career to bringing young talent to the forefront as well as entertaining his youthful audience (regardless of age) in a respectable way.

Gil Noble – the journalist, the gentleman, the giant – whom I watched religiously each Sunday, departed on

Gil Noble Photo Credit: WABC-TV

April 5th.  I must admit that Mr. Noble’s passing touched me as though I lost a dear distant friend.  For as long as I could remember, he sat in my living room every week, educating my siblings and me on historical and current events, on people who were making a difference in the community, and on the ways every individual can improve the quality of life.  Mr. Noble dressed impeccably, spoke articulately and welcomed us into his realm on the television show “Like It Is,” which aired for 43 years.  He built his career as a journalist, bringing us fair and accurate news, and continued this practice as a host shining light on issues as well activism well into his later years.  He never faltered from his journalistic standards and he always kept the well-being and empowerment of his viewers in mind.

We lost more than one phenomenal journalist in the month of April.  The great Mike Wallace, best known for

Mike Wallace, 1957

his role as the legendary host of “60 Minutes” also died on April 5th.  He subscribed to the old school practice in which journalistic integrity really meant something.  His reputation stands tall on his lengthy track recorded of providing insightful, balanced investigative reporting and interviewing.  Mr. Wallace didn’t take it easy on his guests.  As a matter of fact, he developed a whole new style of tough interviewing techniques by which he dug out the information he knew his viewers tuned in to hear.  Yet, he remained a gentleman and did not make his work a personal attack on those who sat face-to-face with him.  He kept his guests honest and gave his audience what we needed.  What more could you ask?

These three men impacted us across cultures, age groups, and personal interests.  Their legacies will continue to serve as a strong, reliable foundation for the modern era of broadcast media.  For their excellence and nobility, I salute them again and again.

Clark Kent to Superman











Interviewing?  Get all dolled up or shaped up and clean shaven, and then throw on a pair of glasses. Studies show that people assume you are smarter and more focused when you’re wearing spectacles. You might even feel smarter and you’ll probably see better.

If you’re not accustomed to wearing glasses, then wear them around first to get comfy with how they feel.  The secret to pulling off this look is to exude confidence through the mini windows atop your nose.

Go for it!  Pick out a cute pair of frames (prescription or not) and get that position!