Post-Modern Manners, on CBC Q

I had a great time as a guest on CBC Q – you can find the “listen” icon below the image on the landing page, here.

Post-Modern Manners: What’s rude in the age of oversharing?

Conflicted about taking that selfie? Perhaps you’re right to overthink it. Small dilemmas illuminate bigger shifts in culture and society — and norms forming around these micro decisions will define acceptable behaviour in the 21st century.
So, let’s talk about post-modern manners. Joining guest host Daniel Richler to discuss etiquette in the digital age we have:
  • Jen Agg, owner of the popular Toronto restaurants The Black Hoof and Rhum Corner.
  • Karen Cleveland, etiquette advisor at MannersAreSexy.com
Click here or on the listen button above to hear the full segment (audio runs 0:13:15) and tell us: how would you handle the situations we described on air?
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(Originally appeared on CBC Q, Feb 2, 2015)

Feel like a Grinch? How to handle the office gift pool

When it comes to money decisions, it can be hard to figure out the right thing to do. Money is about power, emotion, morality, and security, among other things. So in this space, we gather a few experts to weigh in on a financial quandary.

This week’s question: How do you opt out of your office (holiday, maternity, etc.) gift pool without looking like a jerk? Can you?

Ramona Packham, HR expert and founding partner of RPHR Consulting:“Choosing to opt out can be an awkward and difficult message to deliver. A few appropriate responses may be: ‘Thank you for including me in this, but I have already done something for John/Jane,’ or ‘Thank you for including me, but I am opting out this year.’ Or, you could contribute what you can afford: $1 to $2. In the past, an office I worked in had a gift exchange for the Christmas party. A price limit was set at $10 — it was fun trying to find outrageous gifts for that amount. At the party, you opened a gift or you could steal someone else’s that had already been opened. Inexpensive and fun!”

Robert R. Brown, author of Wealthing Like Rabbits“As with so many other things in life, the best option is to be polite, honest and clear. If appropriate, reach out privately to the recipient of the gift and let them know that your decision was financial, not personal. (This is not a good time to do your Michael Corleone impression.)

Some people prefer to contribute only to certain types of gifts, like maternity, especially when they have been the beneficiary of a similar present themselves. So, when someone at the office announces that she’s expecting, start tossing a toonie into a jar every week until the baby showers begin.

In regards to the annual December gift gorge, get in front of the issue next year by stepping up early and suggesting that the gift pool be replaced by voluntary, anonymous donations to a local shelter or charity. No one looks like a jerk then.”

Karen Cleveland, etiquette expert: “The pressure to bow out of contributing to an office gift can be tempting; but while you prevent a small hit to your wallet, it might hit your reputation. Celebrating milestones together or jointly contributing to a shared cause are important for team building and creating solidarity. And, your colleagues might very well kick in to generously buy you a gift some day. Knowing that, you can relax, take a deep breath and pull out your wallet. If the gift pool is going towards someone that you’ve never met or worked with, you can politely bow out by explaining that you ‘haven’t had the pleasure of working with X, so it wouldn’t feel appropriate contributing to a gift.’”

(Originally in National Post, December 23, 2014)

You really, truly shouldn’t go to work when you’ve got a cold

Your martyrdom just spreads germs

Woman sneezing on the couch while home sick from work.

(Tom Merton/Getty)

What variety of martyrdom compels us to soldier into work, when we’re sick as dogs? The Journal of Occupational Health Psychology makes the case that there is a traditional understanding that attendance used to equate to performance in the workplace, a notion that should have been tossed out with the fax machine.

“I suspect that many people come into work when they’re sick because they’re scared of falling behind, or worry things will fall apart without them,” says Sheri Langer, an HR professional in Toronto. “For some, it is a demonstration of just how committed they are, when in reality, staying home for a day or two is better for your team as it keeps the virus from spreading.”

While we might feel like the honourable thing to do is to show our commitment by dragging our sick selves into the office, the more responsible thing to do for the greater good is to spare your coworkers from your gnarly germs and stay home for a day or two.

Here are five things to know about calling in sick like a grown up:

1. You’re doing the right thing

If you’re really sick, take solace in knowing that staying home is the best thing for your health and your colleagues. You’re heroically preventing others from getting sick and helping yourself recover sooner.

2. Pick up the phone and call

Call or email your boss explaining that you are staying home sick for the day. Millennials take note: a text message is too casual of a medium to convey this and isn’t conducive to providing context. Plus, if you sound like hell on the phone, it bodes well for lots of sympathy when you’re back in the office.

3. Give just enough information

While there is no need to go into the gory symptomatic details (save those your doctor), you should provide a cursory descriptor of what ails you. Mentioning that you have a migraine and are out of commission for the day is one thing: going into explicit detail to describe a gastrointestinal issue is quite another.

4. Be helpful

Touch on who-can-cover-off-what in your absence, and if you hazard a guess, say when you expect to be back in the office. If team members or anyone that reports to you needs to know you’re taking the day off, fill them in too. Set your auto reply on your email inbox so people know to expect a delay in your reply.

5. Get back to bed

Arm yourself with orange juice, cold meds, tea, whatever your weapon of choice is and rest up. If you use your sick day to truly recuperate, you will be better poised to nip your sickness in its early stages—and avoid wiping out your colleagues in the process.

Karen Cleveland is a Toronto-based etiquette writer and advisor. Follow her on Twitter or visit her site.

(Originally published for Canadian Business, October 2014)

Introducing The Skimm

A solid handshake, warm smile and immaculate manners go a long way, but the art of giving good, smart small talk is key. I read a great little book on the subject and a while back talked about the importance of knowing how to properly introduce your boss socially.

It’s pretty well impossible to make quality small talk without knowing what’s going on in the world. A quick skim of the daily news allows you to keep pace on light banter. Imagine how embarrassing it would be to be stuck in an elevator with someone you want to do right by, and they’re talking about the ground-breaking morning headlines that you know nothing about. No one wants to feel like a dumbdumb. Moreover, local and global news are typically safe terrain for small talk (provide you stay clear of the being fiercely opinionated on the loaded territory of politics, religion and investing, unless you welcome controversy).

While I love curling up with a coffee and getting all inky-fingered over a newspaper, I was recently introduced to The Skimm, which lives up to its advanced billing of a skim of daily news. The daily newsletter has become a part of my morning routine, giving me the what-I-need-to-knows for the day. From there, I can later go back and scope for what stories I want to read in more detail from my usual go-to sources.

While the content is bonafide news (its founders are NBC News alumni) short, it is served up in a pithy, witty tone. As The Skimm is published out of NYC, American headlines are requisite, but the coverage of international issues is mint. Maybe one day they’ll make a Canadian edition, if we ask them really nicely.

Manners are sexy, so is keeping up on what’s happening. You can subscribe (free!) here. And follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Keep It In Your Pants. Your Phone, That Is

They’ve truly thought of everything. July is now dubbed Cellphone Courtesy Month, though it is worth noting that we should all consider being courteous for the other eleven months of the year, too.

To mark this newly minted awareness month, and hopefully spark good cellphone decorum all year-round, TELUS recently surveyed Canadians to gauge their thoughts on cellphone etiquette.

When Canadians were asked “when or where is it completely unacceptable for others to use their smartphone”, more people indicated movie theatres than funerals (12 per cent versus. 10 per cent, respectively).

Face to palm. The data suggests that we don’t have a cell phone etiquette problem so much as a crisis of humanity.

The survey showed that respondents overwhelmingly admit to using their smartphone to tune someone out, or to avoid conversation. Fully 75 per cent of people said they purposefully use their smartphone to tune people out and nearly a third (30 per cent) even admitted to doing so on the day they were surveyed.

The survey also found that we are twice as likely to whip out our phones around family and friends (83 per cent) than we are when we are at the office (40 per cent).

More than half (54 per cent) of respondents said that if their counterpart whipped out their phone on a first date, there wouldn’t be a second one. In fact, 16 per cent said they would end the date early if their companion couldn’t keep it in their pants (their phone, that is).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: don’t do things with your phone that you wouldn’t do in the flesh. Sitting at a dinner table, what’s the harm in squeezing in a sneaky text, right? But would you, at that same table, ignore the friend you’re in mid-conversation with, and strike up a new conversation with someone you recognize behind you? Maybe you’re bored at a wedding (I know, I know, some speeches go one longer that an Academy Award acceptance) and want to know how the Jays game is going? Checking the score on Twitter is akin to speaking over the person who is talking, and asking someone what’s up with the game.

Here’s the thing: this isn’t really new territory. Our phones have been welded to our hands for a few years now. It is looking like they’ll stay there, so we need to figure this out. Tricky. Very trickaaay.

Know that feeling of rebuff when someone turns their attention away from you and straight into their little screen? It doesn’t feel good at all. Being slighted, in any way, stings. So back to basics and the good news is that it is wonderfully simple: treat others the way we all want to be treated. All 12 months of the year.

If this topic really hits home for you and makes you want to confess for phone manner misdemeanors, there is salvation on the way. TELUS is inviting Canadians to come clean and share their cellphone etiquette confessions this July on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #keepitinyourpants.

(Originally published on The Huffington Post Canada, July 2014)