Going up, going down, going round & round: Elevator, escalator and revolving door etiquette

revolving_doorMy friend got into the revolving door of his office building and was moving forward when, bam, the door suddenly stopped. He hit the glass front with his head and his glasses cut his face. What the heck just happened my friend wondered? Turns out a young man had jumped into the same compartment as my friend and caught his foot on the door causing it to stop suddenly. My friend, in a moment of frustration, sternly stated to the young man, “It’s really not that hard – one person to a compartment!”

He’s right; it’s not that hard when you know the rules. But many people don’t. Here’s a primer on elevator, escalator and revolving door etiquette.

Escalators and moving sidewalks

On escalators and moving sidewalks stand to the right so that people who want to pass can get by you. For countries that drive on the left you may find people stand to the left and pass to the right.

If people are standing in the middle and you need to get by, politely say “Excuse me, please.” Be patient if they are slow to move.

When you get off the moving contraption, move away from the landing so as not to clog the exit.


Getting on

When entering an elevator, allow people on it to exit first. While gender should not dictate who gets on or off first, it is still considered polite for men to let women enter and exit first unless it would cause a traffic jam. Everyone, regardless of gender, should allow the elderly and disabled to enter first.

Step to the back of the elevator if a lot of people are getting on to allow room for others or you can stand near the door and hold it open while others enter.

If you are near the buttons, it is polite to ask others what floor people want and to push those buttons. If no one offers, ask the person closest to the buttons to push the one for your floor.

If the elevator is crowded, don’t try to squeeze onto it. Wait for the next one. And, if the doors are closing, don’t stick your hand between the doors to stop it so you can get on. You’ll risk a broken hand and the ire of the others on the elevator. Just let it go and wait for the next one. If you’re on the elevator and see someone racing to get on before the doors close, it is polite, but not necessary, to push the door open button. I often find that by the time I figure out which button to push it’s too late.

Getting off

When the doors open, let those in the front exit first. Don’t push others to get off. If you’re towards the back of the elevator and need to get off on a floor where others aren’t exiting, politely say “Excuse me, this is my floor.”

If everyone or a few people are getting off on the same floor, allow the elderly and disabled to exit first, if possible.

If you’re the first to get off, it’s polite to hold the door open while others exit. Or, if you’re not getting off and are near the buttons, you can hold the door open button while others get off.

In transit

Because of having to stand so close to others it can be a bit awkward in an elevator. Avoid staring at people, primping in elevator mirrors or singing along to music you’re listening to with your earbuds.

It’s polite to greet someone you know on the elevator, but it’s not necessary to have a conversation. It can be uncomfortable for others to hear you converse. But, if you do choose to have a conversation, keep your volume down. Avoid talking about anything personal or confidential or laughing loudly.

Revolving doors

Although probably not delivered in the kindest way, my friend is right; with revolving doors only one person should enter each compartment.

If you are meeting with a guest or client, it’s polite to get into a compartment first and let your guest or client get in a compartment behind you so that you can push the door for that person.

Doors in general

Etiquette used to dictate that a man always held the door open for a woman. But today, both genders can hold doors for others. The rule is whoever gets to the door first should hold it open for the person behind him or her. If two people reach the door at the same time, to avoid any awkwardness be sure to communicate; “Here, let me get the door” or “Please, go ahead.” Be sure to thank anyone who holds the door open for you.

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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 >>

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