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Neels & Company - Strategic Business Communication
Trusted Advisor
Gretchen Neels
Gretchen Neels, President, Neels & Company

Dear Trusted Advisor

How much cleavage is too much? I have been told my tops are too low for the office.
S. P., Wilmington, DE

Dear S. P.,

Typically, cleavage is reserved for after-hours events of various kinds. In a word, cleavage is distracting, especially under fluorescent lighting. To be taken seriously in a professional environment, you’ll want the focus to be on what’s between your ears, not what’s just south of your shoulders.



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Click here to read Smoothing the Lines of Communication, a great piece by Nancy Colasurdo who manages to combine Spanx and business etiquette in the same column!

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Meet The Parents

“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” one member of the audience said. “You mean there are parents out there who go on job interviews with their kids?” Another piped up, “Is it true moms call HR departments to negotiate salaries? What the heck’s going on?”

This exchange occurred last month when I spoke to a crowd of legal administrators on Business Etiquette — Why It Matters Now More Than Ever. My talk was well received, but energy levels really rose in the Q&A that followed.

From out of nowhere, an audience member asked me about helicopter parents. That led to a spirited discussion about what I meant exactly in an article I wrote on recruiting and retention when I suggested that firms should “reach out to parents in some way.” Wow. There were lots of shaking heads, folded arms, rolling eyeballs, and looks of disgust.

I should have had that cocktail when it was offered.

Buckle up. The facts are:

  1. Millennials (those born after 1980) are extremely close to their parents.
  2. Many parents are quick to advocate for their kids, regardless of age.

Savvy employers accept the above-mentioned facts and make the most of it.

Here’s what Merrill Lynch is doing:

“Our premier initiative, Parents Day, …recognizes the influence that extended family members (often “helicopter parents”) bring to bear on a student’s choice of industry, firm and work location. This program is focused on family members who are unfamiliar with financial services and anxious about their child working in New York City. The event provides welcome assurances and first-hand familiarity.”

PR giant Olgilvy is all over it (emphasis on the PR):

“The Chicago office will educate parents about the day to day inner workings of a PR agency. Many employees find that their parents are confused about PR and this day serves as a crash course in PR 101.”

But enterprise software maker PeopleSoft led the charge way back in 1999:

“Parents of PeopleSoft employees will be treated to breakfast, followed by a program led by Baer Tierkel, PeopleSoft executive vice president, global marketing and strategy. PeopleSoft parent Sharon Moyles will also give a presentation. When the program concludes at 10:30 a.m., parents will see product demonstrations and take tours of the PeopleSoft visitor center, data center, alliance solutions center and PeopleSoft headquarters.”

My suggestion remains: Do something to engage parents. You don’t have to roll out the red carpet, but at a minimum, put an information page on your website within the careers section aimed at the folks back home.

Another way to bring parents closer without encouraging more hovering is to send out a letter when their child is hired that says “thanks for raising such a talented young professional - we’ll take it from here.”

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Neels & Company – Strategic Business Communication
P. O. Box 623, Boston, MA 02117
800-975-7031 ext. 701
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