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ETIQUETTE AT WORK

When someone arrives at work, who should say "hi" first?

Q: I've always wondered: When someone walks in the door, should he or she be acknowledged by the people already in room, or is it up to the person walking in to acknowledge the other people that are there? I work with several people in a small area and I'm never sure who should say ''Hi" first -- the person arriving at the office, or the people already at work.

V.S.,
Federal Way, Wash.

A: The person entering the space would usually be the first to speak. Typically, when I walk into our office I say, ''Hi, Matt" to Matt, our administrative assistant. He invariably replies ''Hi."

If the person entering doesn't offer a greeting, the person already in the space should pick up the ball and start talking. Let's say I'm in our reception area, and a person enters and doesn't say ''Hi" first. The appropriate action on my part would be to say, ''Hi, can I help you?" or, if I knew the person, ''Hi, John."

I certainly wouldn't stand there mutely waiting for the person to speak just because the ''rule" says the person entering should make the greeting first.

Q: A co-worker I share a cubicle with is always eating. It wouldn't be a problem if we didn't answer the phone for a living. How can I get him to stop talking on the phone with his mouth full?

N.P.,
Taunton

A: Being a business that relies on the phone, I'm sure your company wants its staff to present the best image possible, and let's face it, the sound of food being chewed and swallowed is pretty revolting when heard over a phone. Your co-worker's behavior has to be corrected. The only question is who should correct it, and how.

Most people will tell you they'd prefer a friend to clue them in about a ''personal skills" issue, rather than a boss or someone they don't know. The key is to correct the behavior without embarrassing the person.

Shouting, ''Hey, you sound like a cow chewing its cud! No wonder people are hanging up on you!" isn't going to do any good.

Asking to speak with your co-worker privately is the way to start.

When you're alone, tell him: ''John, there's something going on that I'm uncomfortable bringing upbut I know if the roles were reversed, I'd want you to talk to me. I'm not sure you're aware you're doing it, but I couldn't help noticing you've been eating while talking on the phone. I know people can be pretty turned off by sounds like that, and I wouldn't want it to hurt your success."

This way, you're gently raising the issue in a helpful way. Good luck.

TUNE INTO A PODCAST ON OFFICE MANNERS

E-mail questions about business etiquette to bizmanners@globe.com; fax to 617-929-3183; or mail to Etiquette at Work, The Boston Globe, P.O. Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819. Readers whose questions are published will receive a copy of Peggy and Peter Post's book, ''The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Listen to Post's advice at boston.com/business/podcast.

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