Etiquette Questions and Faux Pas

GossipWhen you are an etiquette consultant people love to either share with you their etiquette horror stories or ask for etiquette advice. I love that my friends and business associates want to tell me their stories and trust me for advice.

I thought it would be fun to feature some of the etiquette faux pas and questions I’ve gotten over the last month or so.

Etiquette faux pas

A business owner discovered he wasn’t going to be able to deliver on a project for a client, so three months after their last communication he sent an email breaking the bad news.

My response

Never ever give bad news to a client over email. Call them. Also, if you value your clients you should get back to them within 24 hours of their email or correspondence. If you don’t have an answer, communicate to them that you will have an answer by x date.



I have a friend who works next to an employee who has terrible body odor. Everyone complains about it. What should she do?


It depends on if this person manages the employee or not. If she does, then she should take him aside and speak kindly but frankly to him about it. She should not personalize it and should deliver it as if she were saying something less uncomfortable like he needs to stop coming in to work late. She should compliment his work and then state that his body odor is unpleasant and is making it uncomfortable to work with him. Ask him to please practice better hygiene. She should not say others are saying it’s a problem because he will feel everyone is talking about him which will make him feel more uncomfortable. Remember, etiquette is about making others feel comfortable.

Now if she is not his manager, she should say something to his manager. It’s not her place to say something if she doesn’t manage him unless she knows him very well.


Etiquette faux pas

A group of business people took their client out to lunch and one of the hosts sat in the best chair facing the window leaving the client having to sit facing the wall.

My response

The client or honored guest is always offered the best seat. Never seat a client facing a wall, the bathroom or the kitchen.



My friend is hosting a big holiday party is it really necessary for me to bring a host gift since it’s a big party? Also, do I need to bring a host gift and send a thank you note?


You should always bring a gift to the host unless it’s a regular monthly get together. The gift does not need to be expensive or extravagant. Something small like a nice bar of soap, a candle, some gourmet chocolates, a bottle of wine, some cocktail napkins; are all appropriate gifts.

And yes, always write a handwritten thank you note within 48 hours of the party. Keep it short and sweet, just three or four sentences long. Example:

Dear Amy,

You always throw the best parties! Eric and I had a fabulous time conversing with your captivating friends and savoring your delicious dinner. Thank you for inviting us.

I look forward to seeing you at yoga class next week.

 Best regards,



 Etiquette Faux Pas

A business associate shared: “Years ago one of my clients put on a big party for employees and company advisors.  They had an open bar……..big mistake.  One employee got abusive and was canned the next day.  Another passed out with his head in his plate of food.  Lucky for him he was a manager.”

My Response

What is it about office holiday parties that make people think it’s OK to get drunk and do stupid things? This is not the first time I’ve both seen and heard of this happening. See Patti Payne’s column quoting me about office holiday party blunders in the December 11 Puget Sound Business Journal edition (Note: you need to be a subscriber to view the article online before December 18).

Open bar or not, restrict yourself to two drinks maximum at an office party, networking event or anywhere you should be a professional; which is really just about everywhere except your home.

My associate above wrote “…lucky for him he was a manager.” But I don’t quite understand why a manager would be forgiven for passing out with his head in a plate of food. Seems to me that a manager should be held to even higher standards as he or she is supposed to be a role model.


Well, that’s it for this post. Keep sharing your etiquette horror stories and asking your questions. It makes for good blog, newsletter and seminar fodder. I promise to protect the guilty and the innocent.

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. DBSR on December 14, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    LOL Great stories that are insightful as well as enjoyable and humorous!

    Thanks for sharing.

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