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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Workplace Dialogue

TQM. ROI. E-mail. Online. Streamline. Downsize. Right size. Functional teams. Flattened hierarchies. Home work. Knowledge work. Out of work.

We're all running as fast as we can to keep up with the changes in business in general and our own fields in particular. But it seems that something critical is getting lost in the shuffle, namely how we are supposed to act -- toward our bosses, peers, employees, customers and colleagues -- as we embrace the "new" workplace.

In our quest to keep up with the times, to be successful, many of us are uncertain about the most important factor in the very success we're after -- the way we should handle ourselves with other people.

Studies show that 93 percent of what is believed about people in business is based on visual messages, not on credentials and not on the content of conversation. This means that the way you handle yourself and others, and the people skills, enthusiasm and leadership qualities you possess -- and display -- are every bit as critical to your career success as technical or professional expertise. Assuming that you have the skills and expertise to do your job, how do you work and interact with others in a way that sets you apart?

That's the question this column has been designed to answer. It will be a forum for information, opinion and debate -- a place to let off steam, raise questions and solicit advice on how to act, react and get ahead. Questions such as, "Do women want men to open doors for them?" or "How do I set and enforce higher standards of behavior in my own company or department?"

Perhaps you've been finding it difficult to get up each morning, dreading the thought of another day at work. You're tired of being unappreciated or having trouble providing superb service under less than adequate circumstances. You might be thinking of changing jobs, or are unemployed and wonder what to expect in your job search. You, the reader, will determine the topics we cover. Whatever is on your mind is worth exploring, and I'd like to hear from you.

When we need to, we'll consult experts for their advice -- but most of the expertise will come from you. My role will be to cull from your questions the issues and ideas of greatest concern and to explore points of view that are thought-provoking and illuminating.

My first venture in business was a day camp in the St. Louis Park neighborhood of Minneapolis, where I grew up. I took out my first business loan when I was 18 to sell Mary Kay cosmetics. Later, I became a manufacturer's rep and was fortunate enough to achieve great success. It wasn't that I was smarter or worked harder than my peers. With three young children at home, I often worked less than others. Yet, I was still able to excel. I realized that the thing I did best was "sell" myself; my customers and colleagues enjoyed doing business with me.

Much of my advice is based on common sense. Everywhere, I've found that people want to know how to get along better, and more productively, with other people.

Through this column, we can begin to appreciate what works in business and maybe change what doesn't. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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