Etiquette at work

In elevators, as elsewhere, courtesy is always key

As soon as I bring up elevator etiquette during a seminar, I can be sure it will elicit some comments and opinions. Interestingly, the most mentioned issue is leaving the elevator. People always want to know the protocol.

They think they know what to do, but thinking isn’t enough. It’s important to know for sure. When you do, you exude confidence. Manners are valuable because they tell us what to do and what to expect others to do. The result: Confidence.

Back to the elevator. When you’re in a business situation, the person closest to the door in a crowded elevator, man or woman, should step out first. Keep going, if that’s your stop. If not, step to the side as passengers exit and then step back in. It’s always nice to reach back to hold the door for the people after you.


If you remain in the elevator, one of the nicest things you can do for fellow riders who are exiting is to engage the “doors open” button to hold the doors, especially if you notice the doors are starting to close.

The other frustration raised by seminar participants is about inappropriate conversations in elevators. It is virtually impossible to carry on a private conversation in an elevator without being heard by others. Avoid conversations of a confidential nature such as contract discussions, candidate qualifications, gossip (which shouldn’t be engaged in anywhere), or issues with clients, prospects, and suppliers.

The same goes for cellphone calls. People are frustrated enough by having to listen to other people’s cellphone conversations, but the confined space of an elevator magnifies the problem. If your phone rings, send the call directly to voice message or answer and ask the person to wait until you exit the elevator.

Other ways to make elevator rides pleasant for everyone:


■  When entering move to the back.

■  If you’re near the control panel, ask others which floors they would like to go to and press the buttons for them.

■  Mirrors help to visually expand the space, but they shouldn’t be used for personal grooming.

■   If the elevator that just arrived looks jammed, take a pass and wait for the next one rather than cramming yourself against other riders.

■  A quick greeting “Hello” is pleasant, but avoid engaging in drawn-out conversations.

E-mail questions about business etiquette to etiquetteatwork@emilypost.com.