Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


In the beginning… Salutations set the tone for emails

My name is spelled correctly in my signature block; why do so many people misspell it in the salutation? It really bothers me.

My colleague started one of his emails “Happy Monday to all!!!” He must have had too much caffeine that morning.

Only my good friends call me Bobby – my coworker should use “Robert” or “Bob” in the salutation.

Unfortunately, the salutation on emails provides endless ways to upset your reader, as indicated by the comments above from participants in my writing seminars. And, if you offend someone in the first line, that person may not read any further. 

Here are suggestions from my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes, on how to start your emails without giving offense: 

1.   Spell the recipient’s name correctly. It may not bother you, but I want to impress upon you that many people are insulted if their name is misspelled. Check for the correct spelling in the person’s signature block. Copy and paste the name to make sure you are spelling it correctly. Checking the “To:” line is also a good idea, as people’s first and/or last names are often in their addresses.

2.   Don’t shorten a person’s name or use a nickname unless you know it is okay. Use the person’s full name (Hi Jennifer) unless you know it is okay to use the shorter version (Jen).

3.   Avoid “Dear Sir/Ms." This salutation tells your reader that you have no idea who that person is. Why then should the reader be interested in what you have to say?  

4.   Use a non-gender-specific, non-sexist term if you don’t know the person’s name. You can use Dear Client, Customer, or Team Member. You can also use Representative, and add it to any company name or department name, such as “Dear Microsoft Representative,” or “Dear Human Resource Representative.” 

5.   Salutations are recommended in emails. Email doesn’t technically require a salutation as it’s considered to be memo format. When email first appeared, many people did not use salutations. Eventually, people starting adding salutations to appear friendlier and to soften the tone of their writings. (After two or three emails have gone back and forth on the same email string, the salutations can be dropped.)  

 There is a hierarchy of greetings, from informal to formal, and you should match the salutation to the relationship you have with the recipient. The hierarchy follows this general format:

   Hi,   /   Hi Anna,   /   Hello,   /   Hello Julianna,   /   Dear Justin,   /   Dear Mr. Jones,

If the person you are writing to is a colleague, “Hi Anna,” should be fine.  If you don’t know the person, or the person has significantly higher rank than you have, you may want to use the more formal greeting: “Dear Justin,” or “Dear Mr. Jones.”

6.   Be cautious with the use of Hey. Hey is a very informal salutation (Hey Daniel,) and generally should not be used in the workplace. Opening with Yo is definitely not okay, no matter how informal your relationship with the recipient. Use Hi or Hello instead.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on business etiquette and communication skills. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or    


Not for Men Only! The Etiquette of the Handshake

“When did women start shaking hands? It feels awkward.”

A very bright, talented, professional woman asked me that question. Initially, I was startled. Yet, as I thought about the question, I realized that many women in my seminars are reluctant to shake hands, and others do so incorrectly.

The topic is attracting attention beyond my seminars. The dos and don’ts of handshakes have been in the news 
recently, largely because of highly publicized political handshakes such as those between President Trump and French President Macron, or President Trump and Russian President Putin. Occasionally, political handshakes have seemed more like a battle of wills than a greeting.

So, it seems like a good time to revisit my advice on this important business greeting.

In today’s workplace, shaking hands is not for men only. Both men and women need to shake hands, and to do so correctly.

One woman told me she got her job because she shook hands at the beginning of the interview and again at the end. The manager told the woman that he chose her because she handled herself so professionally. Another woman realized that she had been the only one at her table who stood when she shook hands with her CEO.  As a result, she had a conversation with him; the other individuals did not.  

Why do women sometimes feel uncomfortable about shaking hands? The reasons vary:

1. Some women were never taught to shake hands. It is not that these women were told not to do so, it is that they were not taught to do so. One woman in an etiquette class was shocked when she realized that she was not teaching her four-year-old daughter to shake hands, but she had already started teaching her two-year-old son to shake hands.

2. Women bring the personal greeting of kissing friends on the cheek into the workplace. This can be awkward, since you will not want to kiss or hug everyone you meet at work, nor will everyone be comfortable with that greeting.

3. Many women were taught that they did not need to stand when shaking hands. Before each of my seminars, I walk around the room to introduce myself to my participants and extend my hand in a greeting. Approximately 70 to 75 percent of men, but only 30 to 35 percent of women, stand to shake my hand. You establish your presence when you stand. Both men and women should stand when shaking hands.

You will be judged by your handshake. Be honest: What do you think if someone gives you a limp handshake? Yes, you tend to think of that person as weak and unimpressive. (Additional information on greetings can be found in my book, 
The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat and Tweet Your Way to Success.)

To shake hands properly:
•    Extend your hand with the thumb up.

•    Touch thumb joint to thumb joint with the person you are greeting. Put your thumb down, and wrap your fingers around the palm of the other person.

•    Make sure your grip is firm, but don’t break any bones – it’s not a competition.

•    Don’t over-pump. Giving two to three pumps is enough. Face the person, and make eye contact.

And one more thing: It used to be that men needed to wait for a woman to extend her hand. But that is not true anymore. Today’s guideline is to give the higher-ranking person a split second to extend his or her hand, and if he or she does not, you extend yours.

The key is that the handshake needs to take place. 

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on business etiquette and communication skills. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or   


7 Tips for Young Women in the Workplace

Consider these scenarios involving young women:

A newly appointed vice president who said that she had never thought about becoming a CEO until her mentor told her, “You could be running this place in a few years.”

• An unmarried college student who decided not to become a physician (her career choice for many years) because she wanted to “have a life.” She hoped to marry and have children, and decided that she couldn’t have a successful family life
as well as a career as a physician.

• The young woman who became all-but-invisible in her office because she rarely voiced her opinion.  On the rare occasion when she did say something, she spoke so softly that no one heard her.

• The (formerly) successful businesswoman who said, “My husband does very well. I don’t have to work.” Yet she was bored at home and missed the challenges she had encountered at work.

Though these examples touch on very different scenarios, they highlight how women can hobble themselves and restrict their careers through their own actions. Many of these career-limiting factors – situations that I began speaking about more than 20 years ago – are still evident in the workplace today, and affecting a new generation of young women.

Before women can take control of their lives and their careers, they must recognize what they are doing to handicap themselves. Here are my suggestions:

1. Don’t set limits on yourself. Be open to opportunities. Aim high. More and more women are advancing in the workplace. You can be one of them. The vice president cited above noted that once her mentor expressed the possibility of her advancement, she began thinking that she could become the CEO of her company.

2. Don’t limit your options based on an unknown future. No one knows what the future will hold. There always will be obstacles, regardless of your choices. If you are smart enough to advance, you will be smart enough to find solutions. I know a number of career women, including physicians, who successfully balance having children and a career. 

3. Appreciate history. Learn about the struggles of women in the past. Had it not been for the efforts of women before you, many of the opportunities that you have today wouldn’t exist. Oprah Winfrey said, “I have crossed over on the backs of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman and Fannie Lou Hamer and Madam C.J. Walker. Because of them I can now live the dream. I am the seed of the free, and I know it. I intend to bear great fruit.” 

4. Learn from others. Have role models and mentors. What have they done that you can incorporate into your career? A woman in one of my seminars had four young sons, worked full time, and still found the time to earn her MBA. To help manage family and career, she had a to-do list that included weekly family meetings to discuss the upcoming week’s activities.

5. Support and encourage your friends and colleagues. Madeline Albright, first woman U.S. Secretary of State, said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Sometimes, telling a colleague that “You can do it!” will encourage her to go back to school. Helping a friend out when she needs an emergency babysitter may allow her to attend her night class. Remember, there’s truth to the saying, “What goes around, comes around.”

6. Pick the father of your children wisely. Once you have children, life gets more complicated. You will want someone who is a partner in every sense, someone who supports you and your career.

7. Present yourself assertively. Learn what you are doing, verbally and nonverbally, that could be detracting from your power. Speak up and let people know your opinions. Ask for what you want. There are numerous classes and books available that can teach you to present yourself assertively, including my free
Special Report: 5 “Power” Essentials Every Working Woman Needs to Know, and my book The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes (McGraw Hill, 2017).

There is not one perfect career path for everyone, but you want to be in control of your career. Explore your options, and think about what you really want. Why not go for it? You may be surprised at how successful you will be!

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on business etiquette and communication skills. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or  


Someone Else's Bad Behavior Is No Excuse for Your Own

There has been a lot of discussion about uncivil behavior lately, including in the media. For example:
-A recent Washington Post article, “When we fight fire with fire: Rudeness can be as contagious as the common cold, research shows,” discussed mounting research that shows rudeness can cause employees to be chronically distracted, less productive, and less creative.  

-CBS This Morning talked about how incivility is rampant in our world today in a segment entitled: “Where's the civility in America? How rude behavior is contagious.”   

Rudeness can be contagious – but it doesn’t have to be!  You don’t have to mirror the impolite actions of others. 

The recent outbreaks of uncivil behavior in the political arena have impacted our everyday experiences. But it's time for people to fight back – politely, of course – and assert that being uncivil to one another is not the way we want public figures to behave. Nor is it the way we should behave ourselves.

People can learn to express their differences at work and at home – without resorting to bad behavior. But the change starts with you. Practice these communication tips in person and online to help foster polite behavior in your workplace and world: 

1. Understand that someone else’s bad behavior is no excuse for your own. Don’t attack back. If you respond to someone’s rude comments with your own, you are giving that person power over you – the power to get you to reply as a jerk. You don’t want to do that. I do realize that this is a hard concept to accept. But deep down you know that even though it may feel good temporarily to counter one offensive remark with another, in the long run it damages you. Comebacks along the lines of “Well, what do you know, you idiot?” are not going to build your credibility or enhance your reputation for maturity. 

2. Stay calm. Take a deep breath. Tell yourself you can handle the bad-mannered behavior of others with grace. 

3. Don’t insult people. It can be tempting to say something like, “How do you know so much about things you know nothing about?” But don’t. That’s offensive. Name-calling only inflames a situation. Cursing at people is just mean, and reflects poorly on the one doing the cursing.   

4. Speak up. You don’t have to tolerate the bad behavior of others. Faced with such a situation, many people stay passive and do not say anything, which can encourage additional bad behavior. Some people may respond aggressively. They may yell, shout, scream, ridicule, admonish, or be sarcastic or condescending, which often builds more aggression. 

But there is an alternative to being either passive or aggressive.  

You can respond to others in what I call a “polite and powerful” manner. This means you respond – you speak up – and say something in a civil manner. Make sure you look at the person and speak loudly enough to be heard. Make yourself familiar with some assertive responses, such as those below, so you are ready to use them, when appropriate.  

-Why do you say that?
-Did you mean that comment to be as nasty as it sounds?
-I’m offended by that comment.
-Help me to understand why you say this idea is so stupid.
-What information (or facts or data) do you have to support that position?
-How do you know that to be true? 

One caveat to all this advice: If somebody’s behavior makes you concerned for your physical safety, do whatever you need to do to stay safe, whether it’s leaving the area, calling for help, or some other appropriate action. 

6. Avoid controversial topics. Co-workers, customers, clients, bosses, and vendors may have very strong, and very different, opinions about hot-button topics, such as politics. You don’t want to say something that may alter someone’s opinion of you and affect your working relationships. 

5. Disagree agreeably. If you have difficulty with someone, talk to that person. Listen to what he or she has to say. You can evaluate an idea without attacking the person who is promoting it. Saying “I have difficulty with this because...” or “I see it differently and here’s why...” is a lot more productive than screaming at people or calling them names. Sometimes you may have to “agree to disagree,” and not discuss a particular topic. (Additional information on polite behavior and communication can be found in my books, The Power of Positive Confrontation and The Essentials of Business Etiquette.)  

7. Practice the “It’s hard to be nasty to people who are nice to you” attitude. Courteous behavior will beget courteous behavior. Share, wait your turn, and be gracious toward others. Keep “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” in your vocabulary. Help people. Greet them when you see them. Be considerate when sharing space with others.  

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on business etiquette and communication skills. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or