On October 19, 2022

100 years later, etiquette is still in style

By Liz DiMarco Weinmann

As we navigate the return to in-person work, stricter dress codes, business travel and meals with clients, I’m hoping that the importance of being respectful to colleagues hasn’t disappeared entirely. But, considering the past few years of social isolation, it’s reasonable to expect that we all could benefit from a refresher on business etiquette.

Lizzie Post, co-president of the Waterbury-based Emily Post Institute, assured me in a recent phone interview that etiquette at work is even more relevant, valued and vital than ever.

The Post name has been synonymous with etiquette ever since 1922, with the publication of the book, “Etiquette,” written by Emily Post, who is Lizzie’s great-great-grandmother. Lizzie herself is the author of several books about etiquette, and the co-host of a weekly podcast that explores etiquette through, as the Institute describes it, the lens of consideration, respect, and honesty.”

As the Emily Post Institute is celebrating its 100th anniversary, it seems the perfect occasion to illuminate the work of this valuable educational firm. A fifth-generation family business, The Emily Post Institute today is a multi-media content company offering seminars and trainings, including a wide range of books, online resources, training programs for all ages and topics, a weekly podcast and even a selection of greeting cards and paper products.

There are currently two generations and four direct descendants and their immediate families involved with The Emily Post Institute. Daniel Post Senning, Emily Post’s great-great grandson shares co-president duties with Lizzie Post.

Following is an overview of Lizzie Post’s candid views on modern business etiquette and its importance to the bottom line;,a sampling of the Emily Post Institute’s business etiquette advice and the institute’s most requested business etiquette services.

(Subsequent references to “Post” refer to Lizzie Post unless noted.)

According to Post, when the institute’s principals work with businesses, they set up the notion of business etiquette as a bottom-line necessity and a benefit that also values individuals.

“Every company gets to choose its own culture, and the standards of that culture, and why those make a difference,” explained Post, “but it’s about balance.

“We talk about the idea of etiquette as a whole and leaders’ impact on staff. People can get behind that and understand that. Everyone has had rude things happen to them. We talk about how we as human beings come together and interact with respect.

“You want to open up the conversation and ask people what they would like to see in a work environment, but the company has to be presentable, win clients, and run a business.”

Post acknowledges that while specific interactions may have changed, civility and empathy remain essential. “For example, we’re now navigating fist bumps, dealing with whether to mask or not, and treading carefully about vaccinations. It all still comes back to etiquette,” said Post.

On the Post Institute’s website is an entire section dealing with the complexities of modern business etiquette, such as: email dos and don’ts; proper manners at business dinners, job interview tips, swearing at work and how to resolve workplace conflicts. Of the numerous bad attitudes and behaviors that could annoy or offend coworkers and bosses, or result in dismissal, drinking on the job is the most grievous one.

According to Post, one of the Institute’s most popular workshop topics is business dinner etiquette. “Over the 15 years I’ve been at the institute, I’ve heard repeatedly that people don’t know how to behave at business dinners,” she said. The internet concurs: a Google search of “business dinner etiquette” yielded almost three billion citations.

Other media also feature articles about business etiquette frequently, including Fast Company, Inc., and Entrepreneur as well as the Wall St. Journal and Harvard Business Review.

Recently, many news outlets have cited a report from the Department of Health and Human Services about the high rate of anxiety among Americans, concluding with HHS’s advice that all adults under the age of 65 be screened for anxiety. Constant news reports about the war in Ukraine, the horror of mass shootings, and the escalating crises being experienced by migrants no doubt contribute to this anxiety.

The Rutland Herald recently cited anxiety triggers that are even closer to home: the rise in microaggressions (i.e., lack of etiquette) that cause everyday anxiety has led to outright aggressive behavior, to the point where people are having to seek professional help.

The Wall Street Journal referenced a report by the Peter Drucker Institute about how leaders must modify their communication style if they want to attract and retain talented professionals. Among the pre-Covid relics to eliminate are expectations of overtime without pay and being available to employers 24/7. Also noted: narcissism and yelling are absolutely out.

Another WSJ article cited how bragging about one’s accomplishments at work without crediting others is an etiquette faux pas that could result in being passed over for promotion. Also a definite don’t: passing off someone else’s work as one’s own. Because colleagues can’t always be in person to have frank but respectful conversations about it, it is more prevalent than ever.

As a consultant, I see this a lot: clients who present work I produced for them as their own work, without crediting my firm, or those that co-opt an in-depth analysis I copyrighted. The difference now is that I confront them about such behavior, courteously but firmly.

All of which points back to this uplifting insight from Lizzie Post: “Respect for one another is more crucial than ever. Without giving up self-respect, we all need to cultivate more awareness of the people around us and the impact we have on them, whether consciously or unconsciously, just as we are very aware of the impact others have on us. Having a civilized society means we respect the fact that, whether I know you or not, I am valuing the fact that you exist on this earth, and I respect you.”

For more information, visit: emilypost.com.

Liz DiMarco Weinmann, MBA, is principal and owner of Liz DiMarco Weinmann Consulting, L3C, in Rutland, serving charitable and educational institutions: lizdimarcoweinmann.com.

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