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CONTEMPORARY COURTESIES

Etiquette column: Rules have changed with more women in business

Friday, February 8, 2013 - 12:01 am

Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at www.news-sentinel.com.

Q. Karen, I am a thirty-something male and am unsure of the guidelines for standing to greet women in business situations. What is the etiquette in today's business world?

A. There are distinct differences in business etiquette and social etiquette. And many of those differences in etiquette involve women.

Over the past 50 years etiquette has changed, especially in the business world. Most of those changes involve women because of the increased number of women in the work force. That increase has caused the workplace and the etiquette involved to become gender-neutral compared with the social world, where etiquette is gender-based.

In business, a woman would not expect a man to pull out her chair at a business luncheon, for instance. If a man would pull out the chair, a woman should say thank you, but she would not expect it. However, socially it is still polite for a man to hold the door, pull out the chair or offer the other courtesies that have been a standard of gentlemanly behavior for years.

When it comes to standing at meetings or at a business meal, both men and women should stand for introductions and to meet and greet one another. If a women remains seated, she relinquishes some of her personal authority to the men in that situation — something she wouldn't want to do in business.

Here are some of the other “new” rules for men and women:

•Men, women and young people should stand for all introductions. It is a sign of respect to all involved regardless of whether it is a social or business situation.

•At a business meal, a man is not expected to pull out chairs or stand when a woman excuses herself from the table temporarily. The same is true during meetings.

•In business, whoever gets to the door first holds it for those following.

•At a business meal, the person who does the inviting is responsible for the bill.

•Today, women are expected to shake hands as frequently and as comfortably as men.

•“Ms.” is the contemporary abbreviation used in front of an adult woman's name, regardless of her marital status. It is used the same way Mr. is used for a man. If a woman is married and prefers to be addressed as “Mrs.,” that is also correct. Referring to an adult unmarried woman as “Miss” today would be very outdated.

Staying up to date with contemporary business etiquette is important and can impact how one is perceived as a professional. Our rules change with the times, but the reason for the rules remains the same — respect for all.

Karen Hickman is a certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy LLC. Do you have a question for her? Email clarson@news-sentinel.com, and we’ll forward it to her.