Q: I work in a cluster of cubicles. Often, the vice presidents and senior vice presidents who work in their offices have informal meetings in the cubicle area, usually at full volume and within sight of their offices. Recently I was trying to give a presentation on the Web while two managers carried on a loud conversation, one of them was standing in my cubicle. I considered asking them politely if they could carry on with the conversation somewhere else, but I was afraid to do so. I don't work for either of these individuals, but at the same time, I was exasperated by their lack of consideration. Is there anything I can do in this situation? -- J.C., Boston
A: So often in business, it's not so much a matter of "if" you should say or do something, it's "how" you go about it that matters. While I empathize with your concern about saying anything, you can address them in a nonconfrontational manner, without anger or frustration in your voice. Don't let the exasperation you feel be reflected in what you say. Keep the focus on the problem and not on accusing them of being inconsiderate. With your hand over the mouthpiece, you could say something like "Could I ask a favor of you? I'm on a conference call. Would you mind taking that conversation elsewhere? Thanks."
Q: My question has to do with office etiquette within a team of seven. When a co-worker walks into the area and says "Hi" to no one in particular, do I need to respond with "Hello?" This seems to have become an issue among my cohorts. I feel if it is important for an individual to receive a "Hello" he or she should come to my cubicle and say "Hello David." Then I should return the greeting. As it is now, if I decide to respond with "Hello" it would only be a mechanical process without much meaning. -- D.G., Round Lake, Ill.
A: Just imagine: If 20 people worked in a cubicle area, what would happen if each person offered a general "hi" and expected a response from each individual? The noise alone of the greetings and counter greetings would be a major distraction.
In a cubical area, a person does not need to offer a general "hi" to the area as he enters nor does the "hi" need a response. But as a person walks by different cubicles, a "hi" to an individual should prompt a "hi" in return. Once a morning greeting has been made, it does not have to be repeated at each subsequent encounter with that individual.
E-mail business etiquette questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail to Etiquette at Work, The Boston Globe, P.O. Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819. 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.