Q: My husband of 17 years is driving me crazy! He's 43 years old and has been an outside sales rep of building materials for a local lumber company since he was
18 years old. He makes a substantial salary, as do I. We are very secure in our careers at this point in our lives. So, with that said, my question is: Should my husband call every client of every age "sir" or "ma'am" instead of just addressing them by their name?
He ends every phone call with "Yes, sir." For some reason, it irks me! I've told him that these people are his peers (not his elders or bosses). He says, "It's proper," but I feel that it puts him in a subservient position instead of an "equal" business position. Am I wrong or is he?
-- B.L., Tulsa, Okla.
A: You say he's very successful. While I wouldn't ascribe all his success to his use of "sir" and "ma'am," I do think it says something about him as a person and a salesman. His job success depends on his ability to build and maintain successful relationships with his accounts.
He's using every tool in his arsenal to help him be as successful as possible by being respectful of and deferential to his clients. His use of "sir"
and "ma'am" is one of these tools. It looks as if it's working to me. I suggest you stop rocking the boat.
Q: Is it proper etiquette for someone to answer a cell phone during a meeting? My initial reaction has been to think the cell phone user to be rude and disrespectful of others' time. Am I overly sensitive and out of touch with where trends have gone?
-- M.J.B., Lexington, Mass.
A: You are not overly sensitive or out of touch. Answering a cell phone in a meeting is rude. And, if that's not bad enough, it creates a poor impression with the other attendees. It doesn't make the cell user look important, rather it makes him look disrespectful. Chief executives and meeting planners are becoming more aggressive in their efforts to stop cell phone and PDA interruptions during meetings.
One vice president I know stands at the door with a basket. Each attendee has to place cell phones, PDAs and pagers in the basket, which is then taken away by an assistant and returned at the end of the meeting. The only time it is acceptable to answer a cell phone in a meeting is if the person receiving the call has alerted the person leading the meeting that the call is expected, has his phone on vibrate, and then quietly leaves the room before answering the call.
Peter Post is a director of the Emily Post Institute and the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business," published by
HarperCollins. He is one of Emily Post's four great-grandchildren.