Master office etiquette with five expert tips

Sue Cohick poses for a photo at her office in the Adams County Courthouse. (Photo by Shane Dunlap)

for Smart

How you present yourself at work makes a big impression.

It could mean the difference between a corner office with a view and a cubicle from 9-5 every day.

No matter your job, all women should embrace etiquette in the workplace.

Lynne Breil, certified speaking professional and owner of York’s The Professional Edge, offers five tips to help brush up on the basics.

Shake firmly.

“Women don’t place enough emphasis on a handshake like men do,” says Breil. Women who have a firm handshake have a more favorable impression, and are more likely to be judged as confident and assertive.

Shake like you mean business: Firmly grasp the entire hand and make eye contact.

Dress for success.
It’s no secret that clothes make a big statement.

“Consider what you’re wearing, how it fits, and if it’s appropriate for the occasion,” says Breil.

Accessories must be appropriate, not distracting, so leave the noisy bracelets and huge earrings at home.

Hemlines should skim the knee, and necklines must not show cleavage. Heels should be no higher than 3 inches. And when it comes to colors, it’s best to play it safe.

“Power colors are dark blues, dark gray and blacks,” says Breil.

Take up space.

Next time you’re seated around a conference table, examine how you present yourself.

“Higher-ups tend to spread out around the room, and make themselves comfortable,” says Breil.

But don’t take this too far — strike a balance and take up just a bit of space to show confidence. Instead of putting your papers in one neat pile on the conference table, separate into two.

Another confidence booster? Rest your arms above the conference table.

Uncross those arms.

“Your arm posture says a lot about you,” says Breil.

Don’t cross your arms over your chest, which shows a dislike for the person, topic, or setting. Don’t stuff your hands in your pockets, either.

When your hands are visible, it’s a more powerful gesture.

Declare, don’t question.

If you raise your voice at the end of a declarative sentence, it sounds like you’re questioning yourself (i.e. “I’d like to speak with you for a second?”)

For a more confident sound, lower your voice at the end of a sentence.

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