It’s Hard To Believe It’s Been Ten Years

On October 3, 2004, ten years ago this week, Etiquette at Work first appeared in the Boston Globe’s Sunday business section. It’s been a fun ride these past ten years answering readers’ questions and writing about all kinds of business etiquette issues.

A lot has changed in the business world in that time. Texting was barely a blip on the radar. Now it’s on every screen. Millennials were barely making an entrance into business. Now it seems they’re everywhere. And the Blackberry was still the go-to cell phone while the iPhone was just an idea at Apple with more than two more years before the first one was announced.

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Yet, for all the change that has occurred in those ten years, I’m surprised at how relevant the issues in those first columns still are in today’s business world.

The first question in that debut column dealt with a universal problem: The person loved her job but hated her boss. The answer to this dilemma is as valid today as it was then: “Ultimately, of course, you may find she [your boss] either is unreceptive to discussing your concerns or refuses to change her ways. In this case, you’ll have to choose between putting up with her behavior or changing jobs.”

The second question in that first column focused on cell phone use at the office: “Is it acceptable for employees in an office to use their cell phones in the middle of the workday, rather than the phone at their desk?” It’s almost hard to believe there was a time before cell phones or when personal calls were not permitted on an office phone except in an emergency. Cell phones certainly changed that rule. It didn’t take long for people to use their cell phones to make and receive personal calls at work. The advice then and now is the same: Limit your use of a cell phone for personal purposes during work time. If you do make or take a personal call, step away to a private area so your call doesn’t bother others. And be careful of too many calls.

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Flip flops at work and even at the White House; people cutting their toenails at their desk; an interviewee thinking it’s unfair to be disqualified for a job just because he was five minutes late for the interview; office kitchen frustrations like stealing food and not cleaning up after oneself; who pays for a business meal; tips for the holiday office party; elevator/escalator etiquette; who sits where at a meeting; appropriate usage of business cards; workplace gossip; retirement parties—These are just some of the topics touched on over the past ten years.

It’s been a great ride. My heartfelt thanks to all of you who read the column and send in your questions. I continue to look forward to answering your questions and helping make your work life pleasant, positive, and successful.

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.

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