(One Man’s Suggested) Office Manners (for Women)

the privileges of the weaker sexQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I have an ex-boyfriend who immediately got a new girlfriend who works within my jurisdiction. His new girlfriend is my officemate. So I took revenge by forwarding their email that says “I love you”, using the guy’s email, to all of our officemates! Yeah, I knew his password. And eventually they knew I was the one who did it. Am I too bad? Do I really have to apologize when in fact they are the who started to mess with me?


A Dear Shao:

I could take this question in so many directions, but I think I’ll focus on one of the core issues at hand ~ your behavior in the workplace. Crummy boyfriend or otherwise, you better watch how you handle yourself at the office. Apologize now before you are out of a job, and take this opportunity to reflect upon your manners at work. Bad email-forwarding girl!

The following is from Walter Lowen’s How and When to Change Your Job Successfully (1954), found in a chapter titled “The Problems of Women in Business.” While the “problems” of the 1950s may have changed slightly (no, there was no email back then), it may help you to see that work is a very serious place and women should not take that lightly. Well, at least according to this guy, who seems to have a lot to say on how women should behave.

1955: Office Manners

Under the catch-all heading of ‘office manners’ comes a whole slew of things that can be problems for the woman in business if she doesn’t watch herself ~ and them. You know all about them, I’m sure, but just for a safety-first double-check, let’s run down a list of ‘don’ts’:

Don’t hog the telephone with your personal calls.

Don’t spend too much time in the washroom.

Don’t keep a sloppy-looking desk, outside or inside.

Don’t take long lunch hours to do your shopping.

Don’t dress too severely, or too glamorously. If you have a date right after work, wear something that will serve both purposes ~ such as a tailored suit that can be dressed up after five with a colorful scarf or gay pin.

If you have to be home at a certain time each night ~ to take care of your husband or child, perhaps ~ make sure the boss knows about this in advance, and agrees.

Don’t overdo lateness and absences and chalk them up to sick leave on the theory that women are entitled to more ailments than men.

Don’t excuse poor job performance by taking refuge in your sex.

Don’t carry on feuds with other female employees ~ a tendency which is especially true on the secretarial level.

Don’t gossip, especially about men, more especially about men in the office, super-especially about married men in the office.

Don’t expect to combine the freedom of the career girl with the privileges of the weaker sex. Any working woman who thinks she deserves special consideration because she is a woman doesn’t belong in a plant or office.

Source: Walter Lowen, How and When to Change Your Job Successfully. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954
~ pp. 191-92 ~