We’ve Moved!

July 15, 2011
Moving Truck
Juanita Ecker is pleased to announce her new blog Etiquette Tips and Quips and would love for you to visit her new site.

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When You Fly, Don’t Leave Your Manners at Home

June 22, 2011

By Juanita Ecker

I’ve been traveling quite a bit lately, both for work and pleasure. One thing I can’t help but notice is how many people seem to resort to an almost childlike state. They bang on their tray tables and kick the seat in front of them. They whine and bicker. They show up looking like they just rolled out of bed. They ignore the rules. Few people see flying as a particularly fun experience, but this breakdown in etiquette just makes it all the more unpleasant.

As such, I’ve listed a few basic guidelines for being on your best behavior while traveling. Let’s help put the “friendly” back in the friendly skies!

Be polite to flight attendants and airport staff. Think your job is tough? Imagine dealing with hundreds of irate passengers on a cancelled flight. I have experienced flight issues that have really tried my patience, but I find it’s far more effective to be firm yet polite and respectful (not raising my voice, maintaining eye contact, etc.) rather than flippant or belligerent in these cases. It’s also nice to greet the flight attendants warmly when you board the plane, thank them when you disembark, and be pleasant when they serve you. Acknowledge them with a smile or “thank you,” and the journey will be much more enjoyable.

Respect your fellow passengers. Here are some of my top pet peeves: hogging seats in the airport lounge with bags or coats; kicking my seat; blocking the aisle for an unreasonable amount of time (move into the row and let others pass); moving my luggage without asking permission; reclining your seat just as I’ve lowered my tray table; getting up to use the bathroom during dinner service (if I’m in the aisle seat, where am I supposed to put my tray of food?); hogging the arm rest or leg space; spending a long time in the bathroom, especially when there is a line of people waiting; and going barefoot and putting your feet on my seat or the arm rest. Read the rest of this entry »

iPod Etiquette at Work

June 15, 2011

By Juanita Ecker

It seems like just about everyone owns an iPod or iPhone these days. I’ve gotten used to seeing earbud-wearing strangers tuning out at the coffee shop, bank, and grocery store. I once asked a man for directions and, wondering why he hadn’t turned to acknowledge my question, realized that he was listening to music. It’s irritating and impersonal, but it’s also a part of modern life.

However, that doesn’t mean we can let our manners slip at the workplace. Once upon a time, companies had piped-in music softly humming in the background, or radios tuned to the station most popular with employees. Now it’s becoming increasingly common for workers to supply their own iPod-provided tunes. I can see certain benefits to this practice—many people find that music helps them find a working rhythm, and by listening to their own music it eliminates any debate about whose turn it is to switch the station.

On the other hand, the casual practice can sometimes result in a relaxed attitude about workplace etiquette. Several of my corporate clients have shared with me their complaints about employees abusing their iPod privileges. I’m passing them along to make sure you avoid making the same mistakes!

Singing along to the music. Save it for the shower. Even if you think you have the voice of, say, Adele, your coworkers will be distracted by the noise. Humming, thumping your hands on your desk to keep the beat, and crooning off-key are also big no-nos.

Playing music too loudly. Keep the volume low enough so that it doesn’t reach others’ ears. You can ask your nearest coworker if they can hear your music. If they say yes, turn it down.

Shouting “what?” when someone asks you a question. If your colleagues’ voices are completely tuned out, your music is too loud. Remember, you’re there to work, not to jam out. Read the rest of this entry »

The Kindness of Strangers

June 8, 2011

By Juanita Ecker

A few days ago I was flying from Orlando, Florida to Columbia, South Carolina. When I got to Charlotte, North Carolina to get my connecting flight home, we were told the flight was cancelled. It was 10:45pm. At first the airlines said they would provide ground transportation and we should stand by for further information. After waiting for 30 minutes, the airlines informed us that we would have to spend the night and then take the next available flight out in the morning. I was not about to spend the night in one of those sleazy hotels the airlines put you up in when they cancel your flight. I have done that before and it is not a pleasant experience.

Everyone was trying to decide what to do. I turned to two complete strangers, John and Mary Lou Galloway, and suggested that we rent a car together and drive. I had never met them before and hoped they wouldn’t leave me in a ditch somewhere, but I didn’t see any other option. When I went up to the desk to ask about retrieving my luggage, an older gentleman, Bob Foster, overhead me tell the gate agent that we were renting a car and asked, “Can I ride too?” Read the rest of this entry »

Other People’s Blogs Are Not a Billboard for Your Business

June 1, 2011

By Juanita Ecker

A few weeks ago I posted an article on my website. A competitor in my industry posted a comment that said, “I discuss this topic in my book that is coming out. Here is the link.” I was shocked! How would she like it if I went to her site and promoted MY book? I felt that instead of adding to the discussion, she was using my article as an excuse to advertise her services.

As business owners, there might be times when you want to comment on blogs run by other consultants in the industry. It is a great way to start an online conversation, connect with others who are in the same field, or offer an opinion. Plus, any comments you make on other blogs link back to your own site, which can be useful for search engine optimization purposes.

But if you choose to comment on other people’s blogs, there are some rules you should follow. Here are some tips from my social media consultant Evan at Intellisites Web Design. 

Refer to something that was mentioned in the article. The best comments are those that mention specific points. Of course I’m happy to see “Great article!” but I really love comments in which the reader references a particular argument I made, or asks a question in more detail. This continues the dialogue and helps me see what people are responding to! Read the rest of this entry »

How to Tell Someone You Are Sensitive to Their Fragrance

May 24, 2011

By Juanita Ecker

My husband and I have recently become good friends with a couple whom we met through Joe’s golf outings. The four of us enjoy going out to dinner, but at first I struggled with one issue: fragrance.

The first time we all went out, the wife wore perfume. I noticed it right away as I am scent-sensitive—perfumes, colognes, and other products with a strong smell bother me. When we left to go to dinner, the men sat in the front of the car while the women were in the back seat. 

Sitting side by side, I was overwhelmed by the smell of her perfume! It’s not that it was an unpleasant smell—it was very pretty. Still, I am very sensitive to chemicals and it was uncomfortable, like being around a smoker if you don’t smoke. Even so, I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to offend her. Plus, it was the first time we had met, and I didn’t want to make a bad first impression.

The second and third time we went out to dinner, I was in the exact same position. I began to react to her perfume. My nose ran, I got a headache, and I had a chemical taste in my mouth. I needed to tell her of my predicament! Read the rest of this entry »

Alcohol, Business Meals, and Expense Reports

May 18, 2011

By Juanita Ecker

Recently a friend contacted me about a sticky situation: Her employer has decided to no longer cover alcohol on company expense reports. I suspect this drastic measure was implemented because employees were taking advantage of the situation by, say, ordering a $90 bottle of wine because they knew the company would cover it.

My friend expressed concern, as she was recently out with one of her clients and the client wanted to order a beer with her dinner. What should she do if this happened again under the new policy? My friend felt it would have been rude to tell the client the expense was no longer covered, but wondered if she should pay for the beer herself in order to keep the client happy.

None of us would be happy covering other people’s alcohol expenses for business meals, yet we would not want to offend our clients by refusing to let them put a glass of wine on our tab. So what’s the right way to handle a ban or limit on company alcohol expenses? Read the rest of this entry »

Making Introductions Shows Business Savvy

May 11, 2011

By Juanita Ecker

A few weeks ago I attended the Color the Arts Festival in downtown Columbia, SC, a fundraiser for the arts in the local communities. It was a lovely event held in an outdoor courtyard. Local artists could feature artwork for sale and there was a silent auction to raise money for the cause.

As my husband and I were mingling amongst the crowd, I spotted Hannah Horne, a reporter and anchor for WIS TV, NBC’s local affiliate. I watch Hannah and the morning team every day and I wanted to meet her in person. My husband and I went over to say hello and introduced ourselves, mentioning that we were new to South Carolina. She shook our hands and said, “Nice to meet you.” We chatted for a few minutes and another couple came along to join the group. They said hello to Hannah and introduced themselves. Then, to my surprise and delight, Hannah turned to this couple and said, “Have you met Joe and Juanita Ecker?” Wow, what a classy lady! Not only did she remember our names, she took the initiative to make the introductions.

Individuals who introduce others are viewed as people with good business savvy skills—“connectors,” if you will. In the business etiquette seminars that I teach, I always emphasize the proper way to introduce others. It seems like a simple gesture, yet people don’t do it as often as they should. Read the rest of this entry »

Setting Boundaries When You Work From Home

May 4, 2011

By Juanita Ecker

Many people dream of working from home. It’s convenient, your time is more or less your own, and you can work in a space that’s more creative and intimate than a tiny cubicle. But in reality, it can be difficult to focus on your work and get into business mode when you are surrounded by family members, not to mention a million other distractions like a TV, the family pet, and neighbors who want to pop in for a chat.

If you’re going to ever get any work done and help your business grow, it’s vital that you set boundaries for your home office. The following tips will get you on the right track.

Make some room. It’s crucial that you have a dedicated work space where you handle all of your business matters. Your bedroom, kitchen, and living room should be reserved for your personal life. If, however, your home is too small for an office, at the very least have a dedicated desk in an area where you are unlikely to be distracted. Right by the TV is probably not a great idea! Setting up a phone line that is only used for business is also ideal.

Have a back-up. A home office isn’t necessarily the best place to hold a client meeting—it feels too informal. If you can’t go to the client’s place of business, look into renting an office suite for the day (some hotels and large office buildings offer this). Or, suggest a lunch meeting at a nice restaurant that is conveniently located to both of you. You should also find a nearby café or library where you can escape should the neighbors be doing noisy renovations, or if someone is mowing the lawn. Read the rest of this entry »

Are Bow Ties Appropriate for Business?

April 27, 2011

By Juanita Ecker

I was just reading the April issue of Lake Murray Magazine and saw this headline on the cover: “Tie one on for the Cup–an ode to the bow tie, an essential accessory for the Carolina Cup gentleman.”

“Men who wish to project a different, daring or distinguished style choose to tie up their fashionable loose ends in a handsome bow tie,” the article read, explaining that men can elevate their look from “done to dapper” by wearing a bow tie.

It seems that in the South, a bow tie paired with a suit is quite fashionable for formal social occasions. But as I read the article, I wondered about how the bow tie is received in the business arena? Is it outdated? Inappropriate? Or merely a striking personal style statement?

I get asked this question all the time in my dress seminars. “Can I wear a bow tie at the office and still be viewed as credible,” men ask. Being from the Northeast, I used to say, “Absolutely not!” However, now that I am living in the South, my view has changed.

Now, I have two major considerations with regards to this look. The first is, where does the client live? The bow tie is much more accepted in the South. When I am out to dinner at nice restaurants in Columbia, South Carolina, I see lots of businessmen wearing bow ties. Up north, and, indeed, most of the country, a bow tie is a rarity and therefore more likely to be seen as unconventional. Read the rest of this entry »