The Elegant Executive Blog

Free Digital Versions Now Available!

Neels & Company’s best-selling booklets, Business Etiquette 101 and Business Etiquette 102, are now available in PDF format FREE! Many of you who have enjoyed these little gems chock full of dos and don’ts for success in the workplace have asked me for digital versions for quite a while. I was hesitant, because the printed versions are so perfectly designed by the one and only Debra Wieder of Five Elements, but I understand not everyone is stuck in 1992 like me! Avail yourself to lots of free resources, including the Business Etiquette booklets, by visiting the Preferred Guest page on my…

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Lots of Clothes But Nothing to Wear?

Nice article in today’s Washington Post about where to find a good suit for the 30-plus working woman in DC. Author Monica Hesse points her readers to visit the newly refurbished Ann Taylor store on 13th Street NW for fashion-forward suiting. Ms. Hesse also makes an excellent point about how most women don’t know how to shop, resulting in over-stuffed closets and nothing to wear: There are several rites of passage on the way to [dress] Correct. The exhausted jostling at Target for the precious Missoni line. The exhausted pawing through Marshall’s clearance racks, which never has the right size, no mater…

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The Age of Entitlement

I am fascinated with the concepts of entitlement and it’s evil end, narcissism. After reading Jean Twenge’s book, “The Narcissism Epidemic – Living in the Age of Entitlement,” I have a better understanding of where a lot of bad behavior at work is coming from. In a nutshell, Twenge and her co-author, Keith Campbell, explain: Historically, entitlement meant having a social position or a claim to ownership granted by some legitimate authority. Having a title (or being entitled) meant having a clear claim to a social rank or piece of property, such as being a lord or duke in British…

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“I Gotta Be Me” Straight up Narcisissm?

With the economy in the ditch and the unemployment rate being what it is, I am amazed when I’m asked to coach a professional who isn’t following clearly defined directions. Who in the world wouldn’t fall into line with the expectations of their employer? Well, not Ryan. Ryan, age 24, works at a large consulting firm’s help desk, delivering in-person technical assistance to a broad range of co-workers, including senior executives. Because he’s so visible, his manager has asked him to step up his grooming and wardrobe selections, but after six weeks of excuses (I have to go shopping, my barber is on vacation, we…

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Bare Legs Are So 2010

Researching an article I am writing on pantyhose, I found a piece entitled “Kate Middleton brings back pantyhose. Bare legs are so 2010,” and I laughed out loud. After, of course, sighing in great relief. Finally, a young, hip chick like KM is bringing back something most women over the age of 25 should be wearing in a corporate setting: hosiery. Did I hear someone just call me a fuddy-duddy?? Well, go ahead. The fact remains, very few of us have been blessed with perfect legs, especially yours truly. As I have said before, I could sleep in my Donna…

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Interviewing for Fit

Most new professionals interviewing for jobs know enough to dress to impress. But will they continue to care about their appearance once they land the position and begin to represent your firm? Internet start-ups and creative enterprises generally don’t care how their new hires present themselves, but if it’s important to your organization that employees appear polished and professional, look for these clues during the interview: Is the candidate really well dressed, even if wearing a suit? If the clothing doesn’t fit properly, it may be because they’ve borrowed the ensemble or bought it so recently they didn’t have time for…

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Some Employees Simply Don’t Care

My last blog post was about a manager’s hesitation to introduce his talented but heavily pierced/tattooed employee to others in senior management. This must be a trend, because I recently got a call from a client who has an employee who, despite numerous discussions about her choice of dress, has decided to stick with her mode of self-expression (which happens to be what I call “club girl,” also known in some circles as “hootchie”). Her male manager no longer felt comfortable having the employee in front of clients. The young woman (let’s call her Jackie) was told she could not…

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Know Your Audience

Should tattoos, piercings and wacky hair keep a relatively new professional from being introduced to senior leaders at a critical brainstorming session? This question was posed by a manager at my last generational program in Seattle. This individual was super smart, enthusiastic and would probably add significant value by being in the room, but the manager felt her appearance might have a negative impact on the EVPs present. Should he bring her along? The ensuing discussion was robust. Most audience members (also managers) were sympathetic to both the talented young professional and her manager. Keeping good employees engaged means including them whenever…

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Tim Gunn’s “Quality, Taste & Style”

Tim Gunn of Bravo’s Project Runway fame has written an excellent book on creating and maintaining your personal style. It’s got plenty of fashion advice of course, but it’s the chapter entitled “Shoulders Back – Style from the Inside Out” that made me sit up, straight, and take notice. In a nutshell Mr. Gunn says all the fashion advice, clothing, make-up and positive self-talk won’t help a bit if your posture is out of whack. Instead of the standard advice of putting one’s shoulders back, Gunn instructs the reader to “pull the shoulders away from the ears.” Try that – doesn’t…

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Legal Secretaries Say “No-thanks”

Victoria Pynchon’s recent article in Forbes.com ”Women Lawyers and Their Secretaries: An Emotional Sweatshop?” is worthwhile reading for attorneys and support staff alike. Pynchon sites the 2009 survey in which a whopping 50% of legal secretaries said they preferred to work for male partners (35%) and male associates (15%), rather than female partners and associates (3% said they liked working for female associates, none peferred working for female partners and 47% reported “no opinion”). I started my career as a legal secretary at Skadden in the mid 1980s. It was an extremely demanding and stressful job where mistakes were not tolerated. We secretaries worked very…

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