Chivalry in the Workplace

Determining whether it's appropriate for chivalry to play a role at work.

Is chivalry dead? Is it appropriate in the workplace? I’ve had friends, co-workers and clients ask me if it’s appropriate for chivalry to play a role at work.

In the business environment, chivalry is gender-free. Think of it as extending extra kindness to a colleague—holding open a door (this applies to men and women); fetching an officemate a coffee as you go to get your own; offering to take on an extra task when you notice a coworker appears overwhelmed.

That being said, there’s still a lot of confusion about what qualifies as appropriate workplace behavior and ensuring both genders are treated as equals.

Keep these tips in mind whenever you’re in doubt:

SHAKING HANDS.

It used to be that a man should wait for a woman to extend her hand. That is not true anymore, especially in business. Whether you’re a man or woman, just go ahead and shake hands.

STAND UP.

Standing is a sign of respect. It’s always a good idea to stand for elders, clients, your boss, etc. It’s a polite way of greeting someone, regardless of gender.

PAYING FOR MEALS AT A BUSINESS LUNCH OR DINNER.

Whoever initiated the meeting should pay.

HOLDING DOORS.

Whoever gets to the door first should hold it for others.

ELEVATORS.

The person who is closest to the elevator door exits first.

These are just a few of the ways to be comfortable in the office and show “chivalry,” or as I prefer to call it, simple “kindness.” 

Suzanne Willis is the founder of Willis Consulting & Communications in Naples, which specializes in contemporary business, social and children’s etiquette.