The Pros and Cons of Limited Email Use

Email guide1For so many of us, email supplies constant tasks throughout the workday. No matter what projects we have lined up or meetings we have scheduled, there is always the possibility of an email adding yet another task to our growing to-do lists.

But instead of checking email every time a new message pops into our inboxes, what if we had set (and limited) times to read emails throughout the day? This emerging trend is helping some professionals to manage the constant distraction of emails and to become more focused on tasks at hand. Could it work for you? In this blog post, we discuss the pros and cons of setting pre-determined times to check email.

Pros of Limiting Email Use
As much as we would like to become more efficient by multitasking, scientific research shows that multitasking simply does not make us more productive. In fact, it can actually limit our productivity by spreading our focus too thin.

In a recent article in the New York Times, Professor Daniel J. Levitin of McGill University addresses the problems of multitasking. According to Dr. Levitin, avoiding multitasking and instead focusing on a single activity at a time can increase creativity and productivity. And this includes limiting our dependence on our inboxes: Dr. Levitin suggests that you “partition your day into project periods,” which includes checking email at designated times. Otherwise, says Dr. Levitin, email and social networking can “sap attentional resources” in your brain.

In addition, limiting email use at work – and outside of the office – can positively impact your work-life balance. On evenings and weekends, many of us feel tied to our smartphones, ready to respond to urgent – and not so urgent – requests at a moment’s notice. By deciding to check your email only at designated times between 9 and 5, you are leaving necessary time for family, friends and hobbies outside of work.

Cons of Designated Email Time
Of course, many industries and careers do not allow for such careful regulation of email. If the nature of your work functions on last-minute requests and urgent messages, maintaining a strict email schedule could hinder your performance. It may mean that you miss a fleeting opportunity, or it could make you appear unreliable or unresponsive. Especially if you do not communicate your email schedule to colleagues or clients, important contacts may be left wondering about the delay in your responses.

And for some, a full inbox can be even more stressful than managing email throughout the day. The prospect of tackling a barrage of emails, albeit only once or twice in the day, can leave many of us uneasy. In some cases, it is simply more straightforward to deal with an issue as soon as it arises.

The Bottom Line
While there are many pros and cons to setting limited times to check email, the effectiveness of this strategy all depends on your position, your workplace culture, and the expectations of your colleagues and clients. That said, keeping a limit on constant email checking – in the workday and during evenings and on weekends – is necessary for your health and your productivity.

Looking to Change Careers? 5 Steps You Need to Take First

CareerChangeAre you stuck in a professional rut and are looking to change careers? Have you learned as much as you can from your current job and are simply ready to move on? Chances are, at some point in your life you will have a career change: while exact numbers are up for debate, US surveys show that most people will change careers between three and seven times in their lives. Before you make such a sweeping change, consider five factors that may determine your choices – and your success – in a new profession.

1. Refine Your Resume
Has your resume been sitting in a file folder or in an unopened document since you landed your current job? Not surprising, as the need to keep your resume up-to-date may seem like a rainy day task when you’re gainfully employed.

Nevertheless, today might be the day to take a fresh look at your resume and bring it back up to speed. If you are unsure in which career path you are headed next, this should be an activity to start narrowing down your choices. Updating your current and recent work experience will remind you what your key skills are, as well as what tasks and challenges you enjoyed – and what you didn’t – in your work. Focusing on these aspects will help you decide both what to highlight about your skills and to determine what you might want to pursue next.

Additionally, take the time to clean up old information, which is no longer relevant to your current applications. For example, a retail job from over 10 years ago may no longer have a place on your resume.

2. Practice Your Dining Etiquette Skills
When it comes to dining etiquette, business dining is a category on its own. Business dining incorporates etiquette for formal, informal and cocktail settings, and includes interview and conversational skills.

As your next interview may take place over a meal, brush up on your business dining etiquette skills even before you receive any interview requests. You will want to be confident in your knowledge of not only which utensils to use or where to place your napkin when you get up, but also when to talk business – or not – and field interview questions over dinner.

Key networking activities may also take place during a meal or at a cocktail reception, so keep your business dining etiquette skills sharp to make the most of these opportunities.

3. Network – Effectively
Simply put, networking isn’t as easy as it sounds. First, if you are looking to dive into an entirely new industry, you have to research extensively at what locations and events the most effective networking would even take place, and whom you should connect with.

Or, if you are looking for new opportunities within your current industry, the places where you should network might be more readily apparent – however, this does not mean no research is required: you will still want to make meaningful contacts in key organizations or companies, which will mean targeted thinking and planning in advance.

4. Polish Your Look and Manners
If you want new contacts in your ideal company or industry to take you into consideration, you must look and act like you are one step ahead of the game. First, make sure you have a go-to set of business suits, blouses, shoes, and other apparel and accessories that fit both you and the corporate culture well. This will help you to make a great first impression.

How you act influences a first impression as much as how you look. Ensure you are equally as polished in your business etiquette skills as in your physical appearance. At this early stage in a new career as well as throughout, your communication skills (including over email, phone and in person), interview etiquette and, as discussed above, dining etiquette, will all help your unique professional qualities look their best. To see how your etiquette skills rank, take the Corporate Class Inc. free Etiquette IQ test.

5. Clean Up Your Online Image
Before future employers get to know you in person, most likely they will get to know you online first. It is now routine for employers to check a candidate’s background on Facebook or other social media platforms before hiring. Additionally, LinkedIn is an invaluable tool for making professional connections and sharing your skills and work history with contacts.

Because of the myriad ways you can make a first impression online, be sure that your online accounts represent your best self. Keep your LinkedIn profile as updated as your resume, select a professional headshot for your picture, and clean up any questionable photos or language on your Facebook, Twitter, or other social media profiles. For a full guide on making the most of your online presence, we recommend Elizabeth Charnock’s E-Habits: What You Must Do to Optimize Your Professional Digital Presence.

Business Networking in Toronto: Joining a Group

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Whether you’re attending a business networking event in Toronto or anywhere else, one issue that makes most people nervous is going up and talking to someone or joining a group already deep in conversation.

An article in the Economic Times states that, “when entering a roomful of strangers, our inner critic overpowers us with the fear of rejection making us battle with thoughts like “Hope I don’t come across as desperate/ pushy / incompetent”.

So how do you overpower your inner critic?

The article suggests that “the best way to conquer this inner critic is by convincing yourself that everyone in the room has a single objective — to enhance their network by meeting more people.” And you’re there for that exact same reason.

Here are answers to a few pressing networking questions that most people have:

Whom should I join?

Always introduce yourself to a person standing alone or to a large group. While introverts are happier with one-on-one interactions, bigger groups are better as the discussion is already underway, taking away the pressure from you to initiate conversation. Also, bigger groups keep breaking into smaller sub-groups, automatically offering you a chance to connect with more people if you stay put.

The best way to identify the group to join is to see which one has the speaker/ panelist/host or a renowned business leader as its member.

How do I enter the group?

Look for one member who is displaying open body language signals (a smile, brief eye contact or feet angled away from the centre), allowing you access. Wait for a momentary pause in their conversation before you join the group.

What should I say after joining?

Shake hands with everyone, exchange business cards and introduce yourself briefly with your name, company’s name or chosen field of work. Don’t get bogged down by your own awkwardness; instead, focus on remembering the names of people in the group. If you have met any of the group members earlier, jog their memory with “We had met at the xyz event” .

How do I contribute to the conversation?

First, invest time comprehending the conversation thread before you feel pressured to contribute – here introverts score as they display better listening skills. The best way to contribute is to ask relevant questions related to the current topic of conversation.

Business networking in Toronto is a great way to build connections and expand your list of influential contacts.

Your body language and how you present yourself are critical in how you are perceived by others.

Click to learn more about business networking training in Toronto.


How Business Etiquette Contributes to Engaged Workplaces

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Recently, The Globe and Mail released a report on the 50 most engaged workplaces in Canada. Engagement in the workplace, which, according to The Globe and Mail, is defined by “employees’ passion for their work and commitment to the company’s vision,” holds significant influence on a company’s success on so many levels: employee retention, customer relations and the ability to deliver on objectives, among countless others.

Business etiquette undeniably is a part of what creates an engaged workplace. The judging panel for this award evaluated companies based on the following eight elements: communication, leadership, culture, rewards and recognition, professional and personal growth, accountability and performance, vision and values, and corporate and social responsibility. How is business etiquette integral in certain elements of this criteria?

Business communication takes many forms: from internal to external, interpersonal to technological, everyday exchanges to larger issues management. For a business to be successful, all channels of communication must run smoothly, and business etiquette can facilitate this success.

  • Technological Communication ranges from email, texting, phone calls, voicemail, or conference calls – any form of communication that is not face-to-face. When you think about how often you use tech-based communication every day, mastering the nuances of these forms of communication – such as how to introduce yourself on a conference call or how to compose a respectful email in a difficult situation – becomes essential.
  •  Interpersonal Communication also can occur in various situations: casual meetings between colleagues, an important client or partner dinner, or a networking event. A gauge on properly handling communication in any one of these contexts is crucial to making professional connections.

Professional and Personal Growth
A company that provides its employees with the potential for growth and development is certainly on a path to success. Opportunities like seminars, trainings, lunch-and-learn sessions, or individual consulting can make a world of difference in an employee’s performance.

When business etiquette, professional image or executive presence are addressed in these contexts, an individual becomes more confident and self-aware, while simultaneously contributing the benefits and strengths of their newly sharpened traits to the rest of the team. Corporate Class Inc. provides a comprehensive training that can enhance professional presence in virtually every business interaction. This training, the Executive Presence System, includes six core modules: interpersonal communication skills, techno-communication skills, workplace etiquette and best practices, presentation skills, business dress and executive dining skills.
A harmonious workplace culture functions on the respect that employees have for their colleagues, their company and for themselves. This respect is made manifest through good workplace etiquette – in essence, a necessary standard for how employees treat one another.

It’s no wonder that business etiquette and professional development are key to a company’s success – simply look no further than the role of business etiquette in the elements that define Canada’s top 50 most engaged companies!

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LinkedIn Etiquette – Using the New Endorsement Tool

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No matter if you’re a job seeker or a business owner LinkedIn can prove to be a great way to network and find new career opportunities or build strong business connections.

With LinkedIn’s most recent feature, the Endorsement tool, it’s now easier than ever to recommend someone. However it’s certainly not the end all as hiring managers for example, will still obviously take into account your references, past work experience and more.

That being said, this tool is great for “voting” for someone so as to validate their skills, but if you’re not sure exactly how to approach the tool in terms of the LinkedIn etiquette to using it here are some answers to pressing questions offered by the U.S. News:

1. Do I need to thank someone for an endorsement?

LinkedIn’s new Endorsements feature is promoted as a way to give kudos with one click. Yet, if it is so simple to give, what does it really indicate? Is it valid to measure someone’s skills if there is no context assigned? And why can any connection be qualified to make these endorsements? The feature raises many issues, but the better question is, do these endorsements justify your response? Old-fashioned etiquette would say, yes, you can and probably should thank someone in a message through LinkedIn. However, that takes time and effort; more time and effort than it took the person to endorse you. If you chose to return the favor and endorse them, that is another option and decision you can make.

2.  I don’t remember (or know) the person who has endorsed me. What should I do?

Have you ever received a request to connect on LinkedIn from someone you didn’t know or can’t remember? If you are open to new connections, then most likely you will accept the request to connect. If you prefer to connect only with people you know, then your choice is a bit more difficult. Maybe you did meet this person and they haven’t reminded you. You could chose to send a message to them and ask for a reminder of how you have met or how each other. Or you could simply ignore their request. If you do chose to ignore the request, also think about the potential opportunities you may miss out on or the additional relationships you may not forge.

Every person on LinkedIn will use the new tool differently – you need to decide how to use it based on what you wish to gain from it. At all times, it’s important to “always keep in mind standard business etiquette and be polite, considerate, and respectful of differing opinions and views.”


Entrepreneurs, Consultants and Those Who Pursued a Professional Dream: Why Do You Love What You Do?

For entrepreneurs choosing to follow their professional passion, starting a business from the ground up can be risky and daunting. Yet pure excitement and enthusiasm combined with experience from previous jobs can help to jump-start a business. The key to maintaining a successful business is to continue to grow and develop skills and offerings in new and unique ways.

How did you get into your business? Why do you love what you do? There are many reasons – and benefits – to transitioning careers in mid-life and going out on a limb for your own entrepreneurial pursuits.

You know your passion – and your objectives.
It can take years to define your career passions and what is important to you. Once you have an idea of your long-term goals, it is easier to turn these into concrete objectives. Your years of experience in another profession can help to shape and guide these plans.

You have experience and skills to support you.
Not only can your initial career path help you to determine your overarching career goals, it can also give you a strong foundation of professional skills and experience. Skills you have used previously in other career contexts can be surprisingly interchangeable and universal.

You define your professional future.
In your own business venture, you can steer the company in the direction you want it to go. You have the flexibility to grow – and to determine how much and where it will grow; you also have control over the product, concept and look of your business.

Once your business is up and running, passion for the job and a serious work ethic will keep you at a steady pace. But a successful entrepreneur also must expand and develop; proactively learning and seeking new ways to grow is also then key.


A corporate training program can revitalize your brand and vastly enrich your material. Corporate Class Inc.’s Executive Presence License Program, developed and taught by image and professional development expert Diane Craig, is a gold standard for executive training.

For personal and professional development consultants and coaches, or for those ready to launch their own consulting businesses, the Executive Presence License Program includes a robust package of materials and techniques that will either further expand your existing program or help to build the foundations of a new venture:

–       Learn how to have a recognizable brand to fuel marketing

–       Connect with people in the organizations you want to work with, break into the corporate world, and do business with Fortune 500 companies

–       Build Executive Presence program material, including:

  • Executive Presence System Participant Manual
  • Executive Presence System Trainer’s Guide
  • Slides, downloadable Executive Dining Etiquette program, access to self-assessment tool and STEP profile, and more (includes all exercises developed by Corporate Class Inc.)
  • And more

–       Train for over 50 hours with Diane Craig, with the opportunity to be privately coached by Diane on a monthly basis

Passion for your profession is what helps to get your venture off the ground. Now, allow your business to thrive by becoming a licensed expert!


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Maintain Your Professional Image by Managing Workplace Stress

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Your professional image and your business etiquette skills are two elements that help you shine and set you apart in the workplace. But too much stress on the job can offset these attributes, as well as be detrimental to your performance, morale and well-being at the office. Managing workplace stress is an integral aspect to your overall professional success, as well as to maintaining a healthy work-life balance and preserving your mental health.

How is stress specifically related to business etiquette and professional image? First, stress influences how you interact with others. When you are engulfed in a cloud of negativity and stress, you can unintentionally project this on to your colleagues, or worse: you might inappropriately lash out at someone in the office. Also, elements that contribute to a successful image: composure, self-possession, control – these can all be hindered by the chaos of stress.

Below are several suggestions on how to manage work-related stress through both “big picture” strategies and small, day-to-day activities. When your stress is under control, you are better able to keep on top of your game and not let the ups and downs of the office affect your performance and image.


 “Big Picture” Strategies

Engaging in reflection and planning can help you maintain your focus during tough times:

–       List your strengths, both professionally and personally. For inspiration, think about how you have succeeded or overcome previous challenges in the workplace. When a stressful situation next arises, take a step back and revisit these qualities, drawing on them to overcome the present challenge. Reminding yourself of your strengths will not only reassure you of your assets, but it will also help you keep practical resources handy in the midst of a hectic moment, where you otherwise might lose track of them.

–       List your professional goals and objectives for both the short-term and long-term. Keeping goals at the front of your mind will help you to maintain sight of the future and drive your focus. When you lose focus on what you aspire to achieve, it can make stressful moments even harder to cope with since your eventual outcome is out of sight.

Daily Stress Relievers
Even the smallest actions can help to relieve stress and make you feel more balanced and in control.

–       Take short breaks throughout the day. Stand up, leave your computer and take a five-minute walk around the office. Literally taking a step away from your work for a moment will help you to regain your focus. It is also healthy for your eyes to divert attention away from the computer and for your body to stand up and stretch.

–       Organize your to-do list in order of priority: this will help you to tackle the most important tasks first, and will allow you to manage your time – alleviating the overwhelming feeling that everything must get done all at once.

–       Follow an exercise routine after hours. Literally working out your stress does wonders for both physical and mental health, and you will feel more balanced and energized during the day. It will also allow you to shift your focus so you don’t continue to think about the stresses of work outside of the office.

–       Pursuing hobbies outside of work also help you to shift your attention and face other intellectual challenges and endeavours, the results of which might even give you new skills to bring back to the office. Hobbies and side projects also lend the opportunity to pursue new goals and accomplishments.

Helpful Resources

–       For Managers: Forbes, “The Importance of Proactively Managing Workplace Stress”

–       For Everyone: Mayo Clinic, “Tips for Coping with Stress at Work”


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Why Engaged Listening Matters in Business

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In a humorous and insightful essay in last weekend’s issue of the Globe and Mail, Katrina Onstad analyzes today’s growing disappearance of eye contact, which she cites as “the most potent tool of body language.” This essay struck a note with me, particularly because eye contact is so critical for effective communication and engagement in business, not just in social life. Likewise, knowledge of how to use devices respectfully, especially smart phones, is also very important – and, as Onstad notes, is a central reason for the current absence of eye contact and therefore engaged communication. Her concept, put in a business perspective, could help you keep on top of your game in business communication.


Engaged Speaking and Listening

As we have shared in another recent blog post on body language tips, body language can help to make or break your career. And as eye contact is a significant component of body language, it certainly carries weight in your career-related interactions.

In one-on-one situations, eye contact demonstrates to the other person in the conversation that you are interested in what they have to say. As your posture and gestures can reflect boredom or disengagement, a lack of eye contact will make this painfully obvious. As you will see in my earlier post, if what you say is not congruent with your body language, then people will believe your body language and not your words.

Eye contact is necessary during individual conversations. A less obvious context but equally as important for good eye contact is during public speaking or talking to a group. Effective public speakers scan the audience during a talk, maintaining eye contact with listeners in the crowd. When up onstage, keep in mind not to focus on one person the whole time, but move your eyes throughout the crowd. This will make the listeners feel like you are speaking directly to them as individuals, and will keep them engaged throughout the duration of your speech.

Likewise, even in a more casual context of a group or staff meeting, be sure to allow your eyes to move from person to person. Again, this will create the effect that you are speaking to them instead of at them.


Focus on the Conversation

Another component of Onstad’s essay that is both inseparable and foundational to her argument for sustaining eye contact is the argument that our devices – most notably, our cell phones – are making us less engaged with those around us. This concept is also important to keep in mind in a business setting, whether we are interacting on a daily basis with a colleague or trying to impress a client.


Cell Phones in Meetings

Often in day-to-day meetings, it is considered acceptable to have a smart phone or laptop present, as the rest of the workday continues and people need to keep on top of their tasks and emails. Nevertheless, try to check emails minimally, and don’t have a phone sitting right in front of you – or else you will be tempted to pick it up every time you receive an email. In doing so, you will be removing yourself from the discussion or blatantly disregarding what someone is saying.

It is for this reason that many companies have established a “no devices” policy during certain meetings, notably during staff meetings that occur only once per week or month. Otherwise, members present risk being distracted by other work.

During important and less frequent meetings, such as those with external clients or guests, no devices should be present. Keeping preoccupied with one would not only reflect poorly on you, but also on your company. If your ringer goes off during such a meeting, turn off the phone without checking to see who is calling and apologize after the meeting.

Cell Phones at the Dinner Table

Though phones and other devices are often acceptable in meetings, it is never appropriate to keep one on the table (or on your lap) during a meal. Again, if you are out on a business lunch with a client or a company guest, bad business etiquette becomes a poor representation of your company.

While cell phones on the dinner table are inappropriate, it is equally unacceptable to try to use a phone discreetly – due to the reality that it simply won’t be discreet. In her essay, Onstad describes a situation that happens all too frequently:

You are mid-sentence and suddenly the listener’s eyes slide southward to her own hand or the table or her lap. Whether she glances back immediately or – and this hurts – begins pecking away at whatever device proved more important than the final part of your sentence, the moment of connection that came before has snapped like a twig.

In business, moments like these are not only rude, but they can also be destructive to your credibility.

In daily life, remembering to put down our devices and make eye contact is important if we want to actively engage with our surroundings and with the people around us. In business, doing just that is crucial to effective communication, to displaying the best level of professionalism, and ultimately to advancing your career.


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How to Make the Most of a Conference

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I recently returned from a conference in Orlando.  I went along with 120 Canadian delegates, all members of WEConnect Canada, an organization dedicated to the certification and support of women-owned businesses. The conference was an exciting and robust exchange of information, ideas and contacts – a valuable experience indeed for women of various expertise and backgrounds in entrepreneurship and business. As most conferences go, such a vast amount of content in such a short period of time requires a lots of planning and strategy in order to make the most of the fulfilling time there. A few tips can help to get you in the right mindset and can keep you focused during the conference itself, enabling the most “takeaways” from a conference rich in content. These tips can be applied to conferences of any topic or theme.


Come prepared.

Before you even travel to the conference location, review the schedule beforehand. If you have a choice between simultaneous workshops, research and read about both the speakers and the topics, so that you can attend the talks that you know would best fit your interests and your work.

The schedule will also provide insights as to what you should wear.  If you are not certain of the dress code, ask.  And please err on the more formal side: even if the program recommends casual dress, as the conference may take place in a warm climate or involve lots of walking, remember that you are there to do business and you must make a good first impression.

If the conference offers an accompanying trade show, reading about organizations with booth displays as well as reviewing the trade show floor map in advance can save a significant amount of time. Instead of wandering through the show, scanning the booths and deciding which ones to visit, you can head straight to the ones that you are interested in and would like to engage with. Otherwise, the sea of booths can prove overwhelming if you spend most of your time simply processing who is represented.

Another tip: have some questions ready for the organizations or vendors you are certain you want to visit at the trade show.


Take time to reflect after each panel discussion or speech.

Following each informative talk or discussion, take just a few minutes to reflect on what you heard. What was the key message? What were one or two important points that you learned? What can you apply to your own professional growth, or the development of your company? Write these reflections down between the sessions or during breaks. With so much information exchange at a conference, even brief moments of reflection are necessary for internalization and retention of information.

Even if you are scheduled to attend back-to-back sessions, think about these points during your walk between venues. Take time at the end of the day to process and write down takeaways from each unique talk.


Actively network, both during the conference and on “off-time.”

Conferences are well known to be great networking opportunities. But don’t limit networking to simply acquiring a stack of business cards without making legitimate connections and lasting impressions. If you meet people that could be really valuable contacts, be sure to connect with them during time you set aside to chat one-on-one, not just a brief conversation between sessions or a networking cocktail.

According to the creative professional think tank Behance, “many frequent conference-goers claim that their greatest conference experiences happened in the ‘downtime,’” when they truly had a chance to sit down and discuss with peers from around the world whom they otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to meet.


Follow up with key contacts – ASAP.

Don’t leave getting in touch with fellow conference participants as a “to-do” that will sit on your desk until you have time to get around to it in a few weeks. It’s crucial to follow up with important contacts shortly after you meet them: firstly, so that they don’t forget who you are, and secondly, so that they are aware that you value them as a connection since you have promptly reached out to them.

Be sure to call or email key contacts within a few days of returning to the office – you never know what kind of opportunity could arise from their connection. Another point to stress is to follow up on any and all promises you made, whether it is to connect people, send the title of a book or share a recipe. Follow through with your commitments, big or small.

Conferences can provide excellent spaces for development and can facilitate valuable relationships. Attending with even a minimal strategy in mind will help you gain the most a conference has to offer.


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How to Navigate Sticky Situations at the Office

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 We’re all susceptible to an uncomfortable or embarrassing moment at some point or another – which could happen in any context, including at the office. When you find yourself caught in an awkward situation, reacting appropriately could transform the moment from a humiliating memory to simply a one-time blunder. Here are a few tips to navigating those sticky situations gracefully (and to staying prepared so they don’t happen again!).

You spill coffee on your shirt and are unable to go home and change.

At this point, it’s too late to benefit from the first suggestion, which is to be prepared. Keep a spare shirt and tie in a desk drawer for exactly this kind of situation. If you have a private office, hang a spare jacket on the door for any wardrobe mishaps. Keep travel-sized stain remover, as well as a small brush and extra lipstick, for use to quickly freshen up in between meetings or after lunch. These accoutrements will occupy minimal space and can be lifesavers when needed.

In the case that you do not have such emergency supplies, work with what you have to make a stain as unnoticeable as possible. Immediately after a spill happens, excuse yourself to the washroom to scrub with cloth and cold water. Manipulate your other pieces of clothing (such as a scarf or a cardigan) to conceal the stain.

You share a workspace with a messy colleague.
Sharing a small office or space with a disheveled coworker not only can be distracting and disruptive to your work, but it can also reflect poorly on your image. If this bothers you, don’t discreetly clean up their mess or hide your sentiments; similarly, don’t address the problem passively, such as through a note or an email.

Be direct: ask to have a brief meeting where you address the problem rationally and without judgments. Then, discuss solutions, such as creating a cleaning schedule or sharing costs for more storage space. The more the conversation is friendly and devoid of blame, the more likely a colleague will be open to changing his or her habits.

A colleague has claimed your lunch from the fridge.
The first step is to let it go. By most accounts, taking someone else’s lunch from a communal fridge is unintentional, especially if the food is unlabeled and not in a personal container, such as a piece of fruit or a yogurt. Even if you know who did it, avoid escalating the situation into a conflict.

Instead, use it as an opportunity to improve the situation for everyone in your office. At a meeting, mention that the fridge is getting unorganized and provide solutions: take it upon yourself to do the first cleanup, and propose that colleagues label their dishes and that anything unclaimed should be thrown away each Friday. This will keep your kitchen organized and prevent any confusion in the future.

Your cell phone rings at an inopportune moment.

Especially for those who are used to keeping their cell phones on “ring” mode during casual meetings at the office, it can be easy to forget to silence them when necessary. Unfortunately this forgetfulness can turn in to a very awkward moment, when a cell phone rings during an important meeting or during someone’s presentation.

If this happens to you, the first step is to turn your cell phone off immediately. Even if you have to draw attention to yourself by looking in your briefcase for the ringing phone, do not wait until it stops ringing or pretend that it is not your phone.

If your phone does ring during someone’s presentation, approach the presenter following the presentation and apologize.


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