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P’s and Q’s: Don’t stumble at the threshold

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in Business Etiquette,Workplace Communication

by Letitia Baldrige

Q. What's the proper procedure for a group of people approaching a closed door? If I (a female) arrive first, I usually open the door and hold it for others, but I notice that makes some people (particularly older men) uncomfortable.

A. We spend too much time worrying about who should go through the door first. The important thing is just to get through it!

If you hold the door for a man who is clearly embarrassed by it, rest easy in the knowledge that you won't see many more men like him. He's obviously of the "outgoing generation" of businessmen whose touches of chivalry are no longer the norm. Just be thankful you once knew a "real gentleman."

Of course, you can avoid this problem by simply not being the first person at the door. Let someone else be the first.

If you find yourself stuck with holding the door for what seems like an interminably long line of people, step away from the door and let someone else cope with it. You shouldn't be left holding the bag—excuse me, door—for the whole world.  

To tip or not

Q. When I pick up a carryout order from a restaurant for our office, should I tip? If so, how much is appropriate?

A. You're not obliged to tip the person who assembles your carryout order for the office, but I always do. I know that this person has gone to a lot of trouble assembling and checking my order. Sometimes, I give a dollar to the person out in the kitchen who readies the meal, and I give a dollar to the person out front who actually hands me the package and receives payment for it. 

If the order is a monstrously large one—10 sandwiches and 10 beverages, plus mustard, salt and pepper, sugar, napkins, etc.—and the employee has been diligent about putting it in my hands, I tip $2. Fast-food workers are rarely paid well, they work incredibly hard for long hours, and they appreciate any recognition of their efforts more than you can imagine. 

If your order is for only a coffee and a donut, you don't have to tip. But if someone has done a complicated job for you, add anywhere from 50 cents to $1 to the bill for the server. 

A 'weighty' question

Q. An overweight co-worker has noticeably slimmed down. How can I congratulate this person on the accomplishment without possibly embarrassing her?

A. Speak to your colleague about her weight loss in a private moment, when the two of you are alone. 

Don't ruin the compliment with a remark such as, "Have you been sick?" Simply tell her how "terrific" she looks, and congratulate her on her victory. The big smile on your face will soon spark a big smile on her face.

Author: Letitia Baldrige has been called "America's foremost authority on manners." She has written dozens of books on manners, entertaining and design. In recent columns in Administrative Professional Today she answered questions on workplace etiquette and protocol submitted by readers.

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