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Thursday, June 11, 2015

7 Tips for Young Women in the Workplace

There has been a lot of interest lately centered on helping women succeed in the workplace.  Among the more high-profile endeavors: MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski seeks to empower women on her “Know Your Value” national tour, based on her book of the same name.  And Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, through her book, Lean In, and related website, encourages young girls and women to “lean in” to their ambitions and to speak up so their voices are heard.

I applaud these efforts and others, as many of the career-limiting factors that I began speaking about more than 20 years ago are still evident today, and affecting a new generation of young women.

Consider these 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 and 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. Before women can take control of their lives and their careers, they have to 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. I wouldn’t have been hired by the Philadelphia Bulletin in the late 1970s as that newspaper’s first female photojournalist (my first profession) had it not been for the women of the New York Times who fought for parity in the newsroom. A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, the late Nan Robertson, wrote about the lawsuit in her book, The Girls in the Balcony.  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 Power of Positive Confrontation.

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 women's seminars and coaching for business women. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856..751.6141. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Avoid Mistakes in Email: ‘Address In Last’ and Other Suggestions

The following sentence was included in an email advertising a seminar: Don’t spend another day struggling to write business documents with that are on target, on topic, and on deadline.

Can you find a mistake in the italicized sentence?

Would an error affect your decision to sign up for the class? It would certainly affect some. It is unprofessional and potentially costly to have mistakes in your documents. No one is perfect, and anyone can make a mistake occasionally, but if you make mistakes frequently, or have a number of them in any one email, your reputation is likely to suffer.

In my writing classes, I teach the following five tips to help catch errors:

1. Read your message aloud. If you read the words slowly, you will often hear any mistakes. Try it out on the italicized sentence above. Reading out loud also helps with the tone of your writing. If it sounds harsh to you, it will sound harsh to the reader.

2. Always look for one. This means that when you are proofing your writing, keep looking until you find an error. And if you don’t find one, keep looking until you do – or until you are absolutely satisfied that there are none to find. It’s easy to miss an error unless you have a strategy for finding one.

3. Have someone else proof your writing. It is easier for other people to catch your mistakes, as they read what you’ve written with fresh eyes. Additional information on business writing can be found in my book The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat and Tweet Your Way to Success. 

4. Remember my acronym AIL. AIL stands for Address In Last. Use this acronym to remind yourself not to send an email before you have finished writing and proofing the message. You can’t send an email without an address. Even when you are replying to a message, it’s a good precaution to delete the recipient’s name, and insert it only when you are sure the message is ready to be sent.

5. Double-check the spelling of the person’s name in the salutation. Many people are offended when others misspell their names. The final thing to do before you hit “send” is to look at the recipient’s address. Often the person’s first and/or last name is in the address. You want the salutation to match the spelling in the address.

PS: The error in the italicized sentence? The word “with” should have been deleted.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on business writing, business etiquette, professional image, assertive communication and conflict. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856..751.6141.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Your Skirt’s Too Short! How to Avoid Dressing Provocatively for Work

Her top revealed a lot of cleavage. I didn’t know where to look!

Because of her seductive clothing, I couldn’t hire her.

Her skirt was so short that we referred to her as “Suzy short skirt.”

It’s that time of year again – time for the warm weather, when the number of women who dress seductively for work skyrockets, and I start hearing comments similar to those above in my seminars.

Sexy is not a corporate look. Dressing provocatively in the workplace is the kind of mistake that can severely damage a woman’s credibility. (Men can dress inappropriately, too, but that is a topic for another article.)

The key for business women is to ask themselves these questions: What are you drawing attention to via your clothing? Are you promoting your professionalism, or your sexuality?

Women can be feminine without flaunting their figures. Here are seven tips to avoid dressing provocatively:

1. Be cautious about modeling your clothing on the outfits worn by actresses on television. Even when they are portraying lawyers, doctors or other professionals, television characters often dress provocatively. But detectives in five-inch heels chasing after bad guys are not good role models!

2. Pay attention to the fit of your clothing. Your clothing needs to fit properly. You don’t want to over-emphasize body parts! Skirts or slacks can bulge when the item is too tight across the buttocks. Buttons can pull on shirts if the item is too tight across the chest.

3. Don’t reveal cleavage. Low-cut tops that expose cleavage draw attention to your chest, and are not suitable in the office. People tell me that they don’t know where to look when conversing with women dressed that way. It’s a distraction to others. 

4. Don’t show too much leg. Short skirts draw attention to your legs. If you sit down when wearing a short skirt, you expose even more leg. Is that where you want people to look? The general guideline is that skirts should be no higher than the top, or slightly above the top, of your knees. 

5. Don’t let your underwear show. Do I need to explain this one? This includes bra straps and thong underwear.

6. Take note of the size of the armholes when you wear a sleeveless dress.  Make sure the armholes are snug enough that no one can see in. 

7. Never expose too much skin. This means you should not wear strapless or spaghetti-strap sundresses, or crop tops that expose your midriff. Do not wear a bikini when you are at a company picnic or on an award cruise. Additional information on dressing for work can be found in my book The Essentials of Business Etiquette.

I know many people have strong opinions about this topic. Please share your thoughts.

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Empowering Women in the Workplace: Help Yourself

Many of my seminars and coaching sessions over the past 25 years have focused on empowering women – especially helping them to gain an awareness of how they present themselves to others. This requires women to understand the ways in which they communicate, both verbally and nonverbally.

Listed below are my top 10 suggestions to help women be professional, get their voices heard, and enhance their credibility.

1. Speak loudly enough to be heard. If I could say just one thing to women, it would be: “Speak up!”  Women often speak too softly, and make it easy for others to tune them out. Practice increasing your volume. Initially, you may feel that you are shouting, but the chances are that you are finally speaking loudly enough to be heard.

2. Learn to interrupt. Interrupting can be an annoying speaking habit, but sometimes it’s vital for women to put aside the niceties to create an opportunity to speak. In some situations, if you don’t interrupt, you won’t get to speak. When interrupting, you can say, “To build on what you are saying…” or “We also need to discuss….”

3. Don’t ask permission to speak. Women often ask, “May I say something?” Others raise a hand to “request” permission to speak.   Instead, say something like, “The question remaining is…,” or just start talking to add your point.

4. Dress professionally, not seductively. In a professional situation, you don’t want to wear clothing that’s too low, too short, too sexy, or too anything. Think about the message you are sending when you wear short skirts. You’re not saying, “Look at me because I know what I’m doing.” You’re saying, “Look at me because I have great legs.”

5. Command the room.  Walk into the room as though you belong there. Go up to people. Shake hands correctly. Stand assertively – no slouching – and don’t cross your ankles while standing. (An amazing number of women still do this.) Look people in the eye. Don’t wring your hands or play with your hair. Take a seat at the table. Do not sit on one of those chairs that are often arranged against the wall. You want to be part of the discussion, not an observer. Additional information on professional presence can be found in my book The Essentials of Business Etiquette.

6. Eliminate self-discounting statements. Don’t start your comments with, “It’s only my opinion,” or similar statements. Don’t conclude with, “I don’t know. What do you think?” If you discount yourself, it’s easy for others to discount you as well.

7. Use direct statements instead of questions. When you use a question instead of a statement, you are giving the person you’re talking with the opportunity to say “no.” Instead of giving away your power by asking, “Can I add something?” say, “I’d like to add to that.” Instead of asking, “Could you clarify that statement?” say, “I need additional information.” 

8. Be cautious about using the words “I’m sorry.” Women have a tendency to apologize too much, or to use the words inappropriately. When you say “I’m sorry,” you may be undermining your own standing (“I’m sorry to bother you...”), or taking responsibility for something that is not your fault.  (“I’m sorry the project is behind schedule.”) 

9. Stop complaining and learn to confront. Complainers don’t confront, but gripe to others about their situations. Unfortunately, lots of women complain. You can learn to speak up and ask for what you want in a 'polite and powerful' manner. Additional information on confronting can be found in my book The Power of Positive Confrontation.

10. Be visible. Get involved. Join organizations and volunteer for their committees. Participate in office activities. Volunteer to make presentations. Develop yourself--take additional training, get certified or obtain a degree. Use social media to comment positively on your company. Enter competitions and apply for awards.

Start paying attention to how you present yourself. What items do you need to work on? There are many more items that could be added to this list, but these 10 are a good start.

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


Thursday, May 7, 2015

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.

In today’s workplace, shaking hands is not for men only. The handshake is the business greeting: 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.

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. 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. Not anymore. The new 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.

Additional information on the handshake and greetings can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat and Tweet Your Way to Success (McGraw-Hill).

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

No Pouting: 7 Polite Ways to Handle Criticism

As you advance in your career you are bound to get feedback on your work. No doubt you will hear a lot of positive comments, but you also are likely to hear negative ones. This is normal – no one is perfect and we all make mistakes. Yet how you receive this feedback is important to your career. 

Follow these 7 steps so you handle criticism professionally:

1. Don’t get defensive. You want to be open to the other person’s comments. Make sure you look at the person, and don’t frown, pout or cross your arms. It is easy to think the person criticizing your work is a jerk, and brush aside the comments. If you do this, you may miss the opportunity to learn from the feedback.

2. Listen attentively.  As hard as it may be, do not interrupt. You don’t want to cut short the comments. You really have to hear what the person has to say.

3. Ask for clarification. If the person is not specific, you can ask him or her to explain the comments. Responses like, “What exactly do you mean by unprofessional?” or “Why did you say the report was terrible?” can help you gain information, and also buy you some time to calm down and collect your thoughts.

4. Explain what happened. Do not make excuses. However, if there were reasons for the difficulty that truly were beyond your control, calmly give the details.

5. If you did mess up, accept responsibility. Saying, “You’re right. It won’t happen again” can help to defuse a negative situation. You also may want to let the person know what you will do differently in the future.

6. Ask for more. Before the conversation is over, ask for more feedback. Saying, “Tell me more….” or “What else?” demonstrates that doing a good job is important to you. (If you believe that the person is just dumping on you, you may want to ignore this step.)

7. Thank the person. Handling feedback effectively is an opportunity for you to improve your skills or to make your business better. It also helps you to maintain your relationship with the person. Whether your critic’s comments are positive or negative, at the end of the conversation, make sure you say “Thank you” or “Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate it.”

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on conflict, assertive communication and business etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141856.751.6141 or

Monday, April 13, 2015

Offended by a Comment? Try 3 Simple but Powerful Responses

A young woman quit her job after her boss made a disparaging remark about her. She didn’t confront him about the comment, but sent an email to her boss and her coworkers that contained a series of photographs of herself holding a dry eraser board. In each photo, the board displayed a different negative comment about her boss.

Many people in my seminars have told me similar stories about their clever ways of quitting a job or ending a relationship after they were offended by comments made by bosses, friends, or coworkers.

Using such a novel approach to resign from a job or to end a relationship may or may not be clever … but it is definitely passive. You are failing to act in your own best interest by not confronting the person. You can learn to be assertive and respond to offensive comments without attacking the person.

Try using one of the following comments when someone makes a distasteful remark. You may be surprised at the response:

 -Why are you saying that?

 -Help me to understand what you mean by … stupid/silly/dumb/whatever disparaging word was used.

 -I’m offended by your comment.

It is possible that the person will feel some remorse. I once asked a colleague, “Why are you saying that?” after he made a negative comment about another colleague. He thought for a second and then responded, “I guess I’m just being a jerk.” And that was the end of that.

If you confront someone directly, that person may stop making negative comments, or may regard you differently. Your relationship with the person may improve.

Of course, there is the chance that nothing you say will make a difference. But, as I discuss in my book The Power of Positive Confrontation, what do you have to lose by trying?

Unfortunately, many people will never know.  They quit their jobs or end relationships before they find out what might have happened.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on conflict, assertive communication and business etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141856.751.6141 or