Your Guide to Business Etiquette

Introducing our latest Small Business column -- a guide to handling the touchy issues that can cost you workers, contacts, and sales

By Marjorie Brody

For more than 20 years, workplace and career expert Marjorie Brody, MA, CSP, CMC, has helped Corporate America and other organizations overcome poor communication. She is the founder and Fearless Leader -- yes, that's her official title -- of Brody Communications Ltd. in Jenkintown, Pa., which offers customized training, coaching, and keynote presentations. In this and future BusinessWeek Online columns, she will answer readers' questions related to business etiquette and workplace professionalism. To seek her advice and expert insights, and to have your concerns addressed in future columns, drop a line to brodyetiquette.

Q: I have a co-worker who uses his speakerphone as his primary vehicle of communication. His office is next to mine, but even if I close my door and/or his, I can still hear every word. I find this behavior rude and annoying, as do several other of our co-workers. Any suggestions you have would be extremely helpful.


First, let me say that I am sorry you are located next to such a rude colleague! Although you never can control the behavior of others, you can give some feedback and make a request. He might be unaware that people overhear him and that it is a problem for others in the office. At least give him the benefit of the doubt, and provide the necessary information. You can say something like, "Bob, I -- and several others of us -- are having trouble concentrating when you use that speakerphone. This is affecting our work. Would you please make an effort to pick up your phone so it's a better work environment for the rest of us?" If this doesn't work, it is time to discuss it with his manager. Good luck!

Q: A fellow employee at my wife's place of business recently died. Her death was relatively sudden and untimely. I believe she was only in her 20s. Here's the rub: First, the office manager told his two supervisors to tell the employees (approximately 20). This information was passed around almost matter-of-factly -- one person here, maybe two there. Second, the following day, my wife placed a hankie and two carnations on the girl's computer at her former desk. In the middle of the morning, she was told to remove those articles because it was making everyone feel sad. It was implied that it was creating an unproductive situation. This seems very cold and insensitive. I realize that companies can do what they want, but surely there are some general rules of protocol?


The situation you described must have been very sad for everyone involved. I agree that everyone needed to be informed at the same time, and there should have been a discussion or an announcement about what the company was going to do for the family, funeral policy, etc. Although your wife's gesture was lovely, it might have made other employees uncomfortable, and they may have complained to management. We all handle grief in different ways. There are no general guidelines about this. Each company will handle it differently. Fortunately, it isn't something we are faced with on a regular basis.

Q: I am a professional woman who is to be married at the end of June this year. I do want to take my husband's last name, and some people have suggested that I go by my first name, maiden name and last name and just drop my middle name. I am just not sure what is appropriate, but I have to decide soon, because the company I work for is printing new letterhead.


First, congratulations on your marriage! How would you feel as a hyphenate -- using your maiden name and new married name? I use my maiden name, not my husband's. How does your fiancée feel? When you make your decision, know that there's not one "right" or "standard" way to do it. Professional women choose all different options -- keeping their maiden name, using the maiden and new name, or just taking the new married name. I've even heard of husbands changing their names by adding their wife's name to theirs with a hyphen. If you do take your husband's name, drop your middle name. You can keep your middle name, however, if you are sticking with your maiden name. Whatever your decision, consider the long-term repercussions. It could be confusing, for example, if you have children.

Marjorie Brody is a professional speaker, executive coach, and author of 18 books, including Professional Impressions…Etiquette for Everyone, Every Day, and Career MAGIC: A Woman's Guide to Reward & Recognition. For more information on these and other titles go to BrodyCommunications, call 800 726-7936, or e-mail brodyetiquette.

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