Carpooling Rules

If you aren’t lucky enough to live in a city with mass transit, you can still save gas, the environment, not to mention your personal energy and time by carpooling with your coworkers. The key to keeping every one happy is to create some basic ground rules. While the specifics will vary from car to car and group to group, some basics to get you started can be found in this MSN Career Article.

Ride sharing can be a good opportunity to interact with coworkers from other departments that you wouldn’t normally have a chance to see regularly. If you use this time wisely, it may even help advance your career. As the MSN article suggests, if appropriate, this can be a good place to review speeches, get an other perspective on a proposal and test presentations and speeches.

The top 10 list from the article:
1. Be on time
Even early. Always. Call if you aren’t going to make it so your coworkers aren’t waiting around for you when you are home with the flu.

2. Avoid eating or drinking in the vehicle.
Even if the driver says it is ok, this is not the time to test your new spill proof thermos. You don’t want to be the person who spills clam chowder in your coworker’s brand new car.

3. Discuss and agree on pickup points as well as main and alternate routes beforehand.
Some cities have commuter parking lots. Others don’t. Have plans for bad weather and construction.

4. Let the driver choose the radio station or CD.
Even if you find pop music to be the most grating and awful sound in the world, don’t complain. Maybe there’s a book your entire office is reading, or your boss suggested. Perhaps a business related book might be just the sound everyone can agree on.

5. Refrain from using your cell phone; if you must take or make a call, be brief.
Be respectful. If you’re expecting an important call, give your coworkers a heads up. Same goes for texting. And for goodness sake don’t leave the ringer on or clicks, or beeps or anything that make noise.

6. If you’re feeling under the weather and could be contagious, stay home or ride alone that day.
See point number one. Make sure to alert your rideshare group if you’re not going in. Don’t be the person coughing and sneezing all over everyone. If you absolutely must go in, drive yourself.

7. Pay your share of expenses on time.
Establish this early on. Does everyone pay $15 every two weeks? Or does the driver switch on and off?

8. Keep your conversation appropriate, so as not to offend or cause other riders discomfort.
If you wouldn’t want your boss to hear you say it, or have the details of your conversation broadcast over the office intercom system, don’t talk about it during your commute. Silence is better that an off-color joke that could haunt you for years.

9. No back-seat driving!
Self explanatory. Unless the situation poses imminent danger, stay quiet.

10. And finally, respect your fellow riders’ privacy. Inevitably you may overhear a fellow carpooler vent about his boss or discuss a problem she may be having with her child. What goes on in the carpool stays in the carpool.
Again, see number eight.

More tips:

  • Shower often, wear deodorant and avoid strong cologne and perfume. Remember you are in a very small space and a scent that is subtle to you could easily overwhelm the person sitting next to you.
  • Climate control should also be discussed and agreed on early. Should everyone wear their coats in the car in the winter? Is your office temperature freezing in the summer causing everyone to dress in layers?
  • Review emergencies. What happens if the driver or a passenger needs to get home before everyone else because of an emergency or they got food poisoning at lunch?

The main point is to be flexible, open-minded and willing to follow the rules established by the group so every person arrives at the office safe, happy and with extra money in their pockets.

Do you car pool?

Resource: Email Etiquette

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The advice of Peggy Duncan, author of Conquer E-mail Overload With Better Habits, Etiquette, and Outlook, was recently featured in Shape Magazine (see you never know where you’ll find words of work related wisdom!).

The short article lists 5 of the most common email questions.

  1. When Do I need to use the CC line?
    To separate the people who need to respond from those you just want to share the information with. To is for response or action required. CC is for keeping people in the loop.
  2. What should go in the subject line?
    Be specific, Duncan advices. If you are writing to let someone know the time for a meeting has changed, write Today’s meeting is now at 2 p.m. in the subject. Think of a subject like a newspaper headline. The most crucial piece of information.
  3. Is it ok to use emoticons?
    Smiley faces are not acceptable. “If you wouldn’t put it on company letterhead, don’t put it in an email,” according to Duncan. Now, once you know your office culture, it might be ok to use a smiley face in a semi-personal email to your coworker, but never ever to a client.
  4. When do you hit reply all?
    Rarely. Duncan advises, “almost never.” Reply all just gunks up everyone’s inbox. Refer to CC above and only reply to those who need the answer or need to be kept in the loop.
  5. When do I send a follow-up email?
    Give 24 to 48 hours for a response advises Duncan. If it’s urgent and requires an answer before then, don’t be shy about calling the person.

There are even more tips in Duncan’s book. Now if only everyone in the office would read it and take her advice!

Don’t put your co-workers down

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Even if you are trying to be funny, this is one of those things that can easily be misinterpreted. And if done in front of other co-workers or clients, the chance for everything to fall apart grows exponentially.

You might think it’s funny to treat Steve like a child and for example scold him for doing something wrong, but doing that is neither funny or appropriate. If you have real concerns about Steve’s behavior, please take him aside and mention it in private. If you feel you have a strong enough relationship and work in an overly friendly environment, great! But this kind of teasing can still leave room for hurt feelings.

How would you feel if Steve did that to you, even in the context of a fun gathering? It would feel very demeaning. It would probably make you feel about three feet tall, even in context. Did you mean it that way? Probably not. It would have been better to err on the side of caution in this instance.

You would never cut down your supervisor, so even if you are best friends with one of your coworkers, it is always best to extend a basic level of professionalism to every single person you work with from the janitor to the CEO.

Social graces are worth learning


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Everyone has that one friend who is comfortable in all situations and never makes anyone cringe with his comments or actions. The rest of us aren’t so graceful. (Full disclosure: I am not that friend. Sometimes, I don’t filter well, but I’m working on that.)

According to Wikipedia, Social graces are “skills used to interact politely in social situations. They include manners, etiquette (the specific accepted rules within a culture for the application of universal manners), deportment and fashion.” Basically having good social graces means your boss can take you to a business lunch, you can go on a date to the theater and you can travel abroad without risking your job, love life or sense of adventure.

Some people are seemingly born with an innate sense of reading social situations and acting accordingly. Others are not so lucky. But social grace is a skill that can be learned! Otherwise, why would all those finishing school have existed last century?

A few tips: Be courteous and polite. Don’t be afraid to show your lack of knowledge about a topic, but reiterate your interest. Know when to Google and when to ask. Have a few relevant talking points prepared ahead of time. (Note: this does not mean create a canned speech, but it does mean do some research. If you are going to a charity event, be sure to know a little about the charity. If you are going to a party as a guest, learn a little about your host.)

Still at a loss? Try the Emily Post Institute.