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After studying Human Resources and learning about the definition of sexual harassment, I realized that I had been harassed at almost every job I have ever had! Being young, when a male supervisor made off-color jokes, I didn’t realize that it could have been considered harassment. (Heck that could happen at any age.) But harassment is really defined as unwanted attention. How does a co-worker or supervisor know it is unwanted unless they take their shot and you tell them “no.”

handshakeOf course, there are times when the “shot” is way over the line and no reasonable person should ever take that lightly. If you are ever in that position, state your position clearly. If that doesn’t work, contact your Human Resources Department.

But yesterday, for the first time since I started my own business, I had a client proposition me. This client came right out and said, “I’ve been meaning to ask you if you’d be interested in a mutually satisfying engagement.” I simply told him no. His response was, “Well, I had to ask.” I wasn’t confrontational about it, wasn’t offended or defensive about it, I simple stated that I was not comfortable with his offer.  I then told him that now that he knew my position, if he asked again, he would have to find a new assistant.

Afterwards, I talked to my business coach about the situation. She suggested that I could have told the client that the reason I was not interested was because I was devoted to my husband. She suggested that sometimes when people know the reason for our actions, they may take the information better, especially when we are trying to maintain a future business relationship.

While I don’t believe I owe everyone an explanation for my decisions, I do think this suggestion would have worked better in this situation. It could have saved my client from feeling rejected.

Only time will tell if this situation will cause problems in our business relationship. From my side of the table, I feel that I stated my position and am ready to continue our business relationship.

Have you had similar situations? If so, how have you handled it? Any suggestions on how else I could have handled it?


Do you ever get invited to connect on a social network from someone you don’t know? Or maybe the name seems familiar but you can’t quite place how you know the person? If this happens to you, you are not alone.

I get multiple invites to LinkedIn on a weekly basis. Most of them just say “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” Then I get to choose to accept or ignore. What I really want to do is ask more questions. Like:

  1. How do I know you?
  2. Where did we meet?
  3. Are you asking because we are in a shared group or association?

If you are going to ask someone to accept your invitation, please take the extra 30 seconds to modify the standard request. All you have to do it place your cursor at the beginning the “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” and type something along the lines of:

  1. It was great meeting you at the PWN meeting today . . .
  2. I see that we are both in the CR Downtown District association . . .
  3. I attended your “Dump The Frump” class at Kirkwood last week . . .
  4. We used to work together at <name of company> . . .

When I get an invitation like this, I am much more likely to accept the invitation. If not, I just might send someone a link to this post and ask them to re-word their request!

“Repondez, s’il vous plaît” Do you know what to do when you receive an invitation that asks for an RSVP? It means that they want to know whether you or anybody else is attending the event. That means they need to know YES or NO–either way. The majority of invitations that ask for an RSVP also include a “respond by” date.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people just ignore the RSVP request. Some respond, but don’t do so in the time frame indicated. Imagine you have invited 300 people to a wedding that you are throwing on behalf of your daughter (tradition says the bride’s family pays for the event). The catering company will charge you $30 per person. If you don’t know how many people actually plan to attend, you might be forced to assume everyone will, thus your bill would be $9,000.

How would you feel if only 175 of those 300 people actually showed up? Your bill could have been only $5,250. But since the catering company had to prepare food for 300, you are forced to pay the entire $9,000 bill. If the cost doesn’t stop you in your tracks, consider the amount of wasted food–because once prepared and served, it can’t be taken back and re-served.

Holiday parties may not be weddings, but the planning that goes into determining how much food to make and the cost of the event are the same. Even those jewelry/skin care/home decor parties you are invited to matter. The hostess usually never hears back from half of the people invited so has no choice than to prepare enough treats for everyone. (When this happens to me I end up eating the leftovers–definitely not good!)

Get into the habit of responding. Get into the habit of responding in a timely manner. Hostesses will love you and think positive thoughts about you. Hmmm, isn’t that what image is all about?

WONDERING WOMAN: I often get e-blasts or e-newsletter that I didn’t sign up for. How does this happen? Pat W.

Answer: there could be several reasons for this. Probably the most typical one is that your e-mail address showed up in a chain e-mail where the sender didn’t mask the e-mail addresses of the recipients. See related post: Don’t Hit Forward. Some people believe this gives them the right to use these e-mail address any way they want.

Another option could be that you were at a networking event and handed out your business cards. Some “professionals” think that any time they have an e-mail address from someone, it gives them the right to send you their monthly newsletter or e-blast. Technically, and I believe most mass e-mail companies require it, an individually needs to specifically agree to accept your e-blasts. That means you signed up yourself or you signed a document allowing them to add your name to their marketing list. (I personally do not accept verbal permission.)

For those “professionals” who add names to their marketing lists without proper permission, I believe they are showing disrespect for others. This is definitely not professional!

How to you handle this in a professional manner? Don’t send a nasty email to the person, don’t hit “reply” and give them a lecture. Simply select “unsubscribe.” This link is a part of all reputable e-mail marketing companies. It is sometimes difficult to find because it is often in small print and in a light color, but look at the bottom of the e-mail (some of you may need your reading glasses because it is so small). Some companies up it at the top of the e-mail is small print or provide other instructions on how to unsubscribe.

If there isn’t an “unsubscribe” button or link, you have two choices. I have tried both and have had limited success. First is to simply hit “Reply” and type “REMOVE ME FROM YOUR LIST” in the subject line. Another option is to simply hit “Delete,” as many people believe the first option only confirms that your e-mail address is real, encouraging more spam e-mail. This is the price of living in the age of technology!

Anyone else find a better way to deal with this annoyance?

“Joe” received one of those mass e-mails at work from a friend about how Company A’s logo really represented the devil and all the supporting documentation about that suspicion. “Joe,” being like many of us, hit “forward” and sent it on to his list of family and friends.

Here’s the kicker: As the e-mail was forwarded from friend to friend, no one bothered to delete the long list of senders. Of course, it ended up on the desk of one of Company A’s executives. Company A was a client of Company B where “Joe” worked. Company A was now looking at an insulting e-mail from one of their clients! Needless to say, Company A was not happy and contacted executives at Company B to complain. “Joe” almost lost his job because it caused great embarrassment to Company B.

How could this have been avoided? The best answer would be to NEVER forward mass e-mails. But I’m fairly confident that won’t happen because we all get them and some of them are pretty funny.

Failing that, consider these:

  1. If you receive mass e-mails from family and friends at a work e-mail account and want to send it to your family and friends, send it to your personal e-mail account first.
  2. Before forwarding any e-mail, make sure you delete the previous senders’ names and the names of the other people who were included in the e-mail chain.
  3. When you send it to your family and friends, hide their names using the “BCC” feature of your e-mail program. This keeps their e-mail address out of everyone else’s hands.

Any other e-mail horror stories you’ve run into? What was your “kicker?”


Someone once told me that I had beautiful handwriting for a lefty. I remember being taken aback at the time, thinking that I either had nice handwriting or not. Whether I was a lefty should have nothing to do with it.

Which bring me to the issue of qualifying compliments. While we are often trying to be nice, sometimes we step in quicksand and wish we just had kept our mouth shut. Don’t stop giving compliments, just learn to give them in an appropriate manner.

Compliment with qualifier: You look great today. (Some infer that they didn’t look great yesterday or the day before that, either!)
Compliment without qualifier: You look great!

Compliment with qualifier: I like your new hair color. (Some infer that you think there was something wrong with the previous hair color.)
Compliment without qualify: Your hair really looks nice. 

Compliment with qualifier: You look great, did you lose weight? (Some would infer that you thought they were unattractively overweight.)
Compliment without qualifier: You look amazing!

Compliment with qualifier: You do a great job when you put your mind to it. (Some would infer that you think they don’t put their mind to it very often.)
Compliment without qualifier: You did a great job!

I know you are thinking that some people are very thin skinned. But when you are trying to pay someone a compliment, think a bit further about how it might be received. Keep it simple. Say what you mean (that you like the way they look) without having to add extra words to qualify why you like it. Let the compliment stand on it’s own without being watered down.

What compliments with qualifiers have you received that caused you to wonder whether it was really a compliment or not?

May you always look great!

Pat Roland, Certified Total Image Consultant

WONDERING WOMAN: I have been working in my current position for several years and I get rave reviews from my superiors and co-workers. Yet, time and time again, I have expressed my interest in a higher-level position, but nothing has happened. Do I stay in this job or jump ship? –Mary Kay M.

ANSWER: I’ve actually had this happen to me–several times. I was so good at making my boss look good that he didn’t want to promote me to a different position. The curse of being too good at what you do! After several experiences, I gathered my courage, tucked away my “entitlement” feelings and asked my superior exactly what I needed to do to move up to the position I wanted. When he gave me the answer, I did exactly what was requested of me–additional education, talked with those who currently held the position I wanted, dressed for the job I wanted and kept my attitude positive. I ultimately did get the position, but there are many people who do exactly what they are told to do and nothing happens. This is the time to take your skills (even the new ones you gained while trying to qualify for that desired position) and start knocking on some new doors. There is no such thing as wasted time, because every day you learned a bit more about who you were, what it took to get the job done and working in a professional environment.

May you always look great!

Pat Roland, Certified Total Image Consultant

We recently discussed day dresses and following are some guidelines for keeping them professional:

  • Length: Make sure it is no shorter than 2″ above your knees. Anything shorter is distracting in the workplace, no matter what your age. When sitting or reaching for things, your skirt will become even shorter! On the other end of the spectrum, maxi dresses are not appropriate for the office because they are likely to get caught under the wheels of your office chair.
  • Neckline: Whether its a dress or a blouse, the rule is still the same–no cleavage. Make sure that cleavage isn’t showing when you are bending over, either. Practice in front of the mirror to make sure. A camisole goes a long way.
  • Sleeves: While sleeveless isn’t forbidden, it isn’t as professional as a dress with sleeves. Sleeveless dresses with a blazer allow you to remove the blazer when not meeting with clients.
  • Slips: Yes, you need a slip. Slips allow the skirting material to fall smoothly over your hips. They are a must if your skirt is lightweight because in the sunlight light-weight fabric will appear more sheer. In the colder weather, a skirt will help to keep static cling under control. Make sure the slip is approximately 2″ shorter than the skirt of the dress. Pickup a neutral color and you can feel confident it will work with just about any skirt.
  • Hosiery: If the weather is warm and you’re legs aren’t a distraction, you can go without. When in doubt, wear hosiery. A rule of thumb about when to wear hosiery or not: If you are wearing a coat, it is cold enough to wear hosiery. Nude hosiery is the most formal and professional. If you decide to wear colored stockings, they should match the color of your shoes and the hem of your skirt to elongate the leg line as much as possible. Textured hosiery can be distracting and are generally more casual (see related post from Fall 2010).

May you always look great!

Pat Roland, CTIC

An Ounce of Prevention talked about keeping arguments from developing. What about when “someone else starts it.” Sometimes you are the one who is the “you” in someone else’s blame game. Then what?

Four itty bitty words. Very difficult to say in many situations, but very simple words: You May Be Right. Think about these words. They don’t say that the other person IS right, only that they MAY be right. It doesn’t say you are wrong, only that the possibility exists that the other person may be right.

Learn to keep the focus off the problem and on to the solution. Blame and defensiveness keep the focus on the problem. Once you offer “You may be right,” the next step is to move toward a solution. For example:

  • Missed a meeting and are being accused of being disorganized?
    • “You may be right. My calendar says we were meeting at 3p rather than 2p. Can we reschedule the meeting to next week?”
  • Surprised when your spouse brings a friend home for dinner and accuses you of forgetting that he told you?
    • “You may be right. My memory was that you were going bowling. Do you prefer delivery pizza or Chinese food?”

“You may be right” is NOT the correct response in every situation. If someone accuses me of stealing money from the company, I’m going to defend myself! This is reserved for those occasions when you are trying to keep minor irritations from developing into major problems. Will it always lower the flame? No. Sadly, some people just like to be confrontational. But every confrontation takes at least two people to keep it going. At any point in the confrontation, you can decide to walk away. Sometimes walking away starts with “You may be right.”

May you always look great!

Pat Roland, CTIC

Your image is about more than your physical appearance. It is about how you handle yourself in normal situations and, more importantly, how you handle yourself in difficult situations.

Let’s say you are sitting at a restaurant waiting for your friend/client who, at this point, is 15 minutes late. You continue to wait another 30 minutes and finally give up and go about your day.

Steaming Sally calls her friend/client and at the first opportunity asks, “Why did you stand me up!” Defensive Diane replies, “I don’t know what you are talking about, you stood me up yesterday!” Steaming Sally then starts to defend her position that their meeting was for today, to which Defensive Diane digs in her heels and staunchly defends her position that it was yesterday and tells Steaming Sally, “You need to get a handle on your calendar!” And on it goes . . .

Secure Sally, on the other hand, calls her friend from the restaurant after she is 15 minutes late (why wait another 30 minutes) and says, “There must have been a miscommunication. I’m sitting at the restaurant because I thought we were meeting for lunch today.” Deliberate Diane says, “Wow, my calendar said the meeting was yesterday and I was wondering why we never connected!”

Notice the difference in the initial assumption? Steaming Sally assumes that Defensive Diane has erred and goes on the attack. “You” statements, those that point the finger at someone else, are a good way to start a fight and ultimately ruin a relationship–personal or professional.

Secure Sally on the other hand knows there is a problem, but she doesn’t assume that it is Deliberate Diane’s fault. There are no “you” accusations in her statements. A “miscommunication” does not assign blame to any one person. It is shared between both people. Deliberate Diane does not accuse Secure Sally of anything, either. She merely states a fact–that her calendar indicated that the meeting was the previous day.

It may very well have been Diane’s fault or it could have been Sally’s poor organizational skills. It may have been their secretaries who mixed it up! Who know? But more importantly, who cares? “You” statements keep you mired in the problem. Keeping blame out of the picture allows both people to “save face” and reschedule the meeting. (And each may have learned the importance of confirming a meeting the day before the allotted time.)

Which brings us to another saying: Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?

May you always look great!

Pat Roland, CTIC

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