05 THE INTRA-OFFICE CHAT
The protocol for cross-office banterits volume, subject, and intimacyvaries from workplace to workplace. But even if your office is equipped with a foosball table and the CEO just instituted a regular Friday-afternoon game of beer pong, certain subjects should be avoided altogether. “Stay away from sex, politics, and religion,” Pachter advises. Even if you already consider those subjects verboten, chances are you’re committing some less obvious verbal don’ts. Derailing a meeting with tales of your child’s latest potty-related accomplishment, for instance. Or rambling about the dinner you had at the French Laundry despite your colleague’s pointed glances at his watch. “You have to be in control of your time and know when enough is enough,” Pachter says. And if you’re the one dying to cut the talk short, Jacqueline Whitmore, author of Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work, recommends that you simply excuse yourself and suggest picking it back up later in the day.
06 THE WORK SPACE
Dirty gym clothes, shoeless feet stretched under conference-room tables, desktop lunches redolent of broiled flounderthese are the things that drive co-workers to conspire and bosses to create redundancies. “The No. 1 conflict at work involves sharing space with others,” Pachter says. By which she means: Satisfy your craving for a shawarma wrap outside the office. And since your gym has a plush locker room, why not keep your sweaty T-shirts there instead of draped over the back of your chair? Beyond basic cleanliness, being a well-mannered member of an office community also involves crowd control. Don’t hold high-volume meetings in the middle of an open-plan workplace. Schedule a conference. “That’s much more of a common courtesy than hovering like a vulture, which is just rude,” Whitmore says. And when it comes to crossing the threshold of your boss or colleague’s office uninvited? When in doubt, don’t. Just send him a briefgrammatically correcte-mail asking him for a few minutes of his time.
07 BATHROOM BEHAVIOR
You might think you’ve had the laws of the lavatory down since the second grade. But they’re worth revisiting. The one-urinal “safety zone”putting a respectful amount of space between you and the guy from Accounts Payableis a given. But keeping your distance isn’t enough. No pleasantries should be exchanged beyond the sinks. “The default setting at urinals should be ‘I don’t exist, you don’t exist,’” one Manhattan professional says. “Peeing only takes what, 30 seconds? Wait until I’m washing my hands to deconstruct the staff meeting.” And if you’re primping, do it neatly and discreetly. Hair manipulation is allowed. Hair plucking and nail clipping are not. “I work with a lot of clients who require their executives to have good hygiene,” Whitmore says. “But I don’t advocate shaving at work.”