Invariably I get asked about doors. People are particularly interested in revolving doors and elevator doors. My guess is their questions and their lack of confidence stem from the old adage that men hold the door for women, and women should go through the door first. But weíve also learned that todayís world in general, and the business world specifically, have changed. So does the old adage still stand: men should hold the door for women?
Interestingly, in business when two colleagues arrive at a revolving door, the solution is simple. Whoever arrives at the door first should step forward and get it moving. Communicate. ďPlease, go ahead.Ē Or ďLet me get that for you.Ē Who goes first doesnít matter nearly as much as communicating ahead so there is no confusion. The awkward play: hesitate and then step forward and end up stuffing both of you into the same section of the revolving door. That is a faux pas leading to a pas de deux shuffle, and neither of you canít get to the exit fast enough.
If Iím out socially, then the situation changes slightly. The key again turns on communication so you again donít end up crammed into the same section of the revolving door. If itís a door that is already moving, Iíll step aside and indicate for my female companion to go first. I might even add a ďPlease, go aheadĒ just so there wonít be any confusion. If, on the other hand, the door isnít moving, I will offer to go first. ďHere, let me get that for you.Ē Then, as I exit, I wait to offer my arm as she steps out next to me.
Elevators also seem to cause confusion, especially whether a man should step aside and wait for a woman to exit. Whether Iím in a business situation or out socially, regardless of the gender of the person I am with, as the doors open, I glance at the person and gesture for them to go first. Iíll add a verbal cue as well: ďPlease go ahead.Ē That simple communication saves a lot of confusion and awkwardness.
It gets a little trickier when youíre in an elevator that has several people in it. In this case, it simply doesnít make sense for a man to try to step aside in a crowded elevator car so a woman can exit first. The person closest to the door should just step through the door and then hold the door so the people exiting donít have it shut on them. If Iím following people exiting an elevator, Iíll smile, nod and say thank you to the person holding the door for me. If no one in front of me has made an effort to hold the door, Iíll try to reach out to hold it so it doesnít start closing on anyone exiting behind me.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
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Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.