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Emily Post's family is bringing business etiquette to the 21st century

Lizzie Post (seated) with her family members and co-authors Anna Post, Peter Post and Daniel Post Senning. Lizzie Post (seated) with her family members and co-authors Anna Post, Peter Post and Daniel Post Senning.

Emily Post made a name for herself in the early 1900s as a world-renowned expert on etiquette and manners advising readers on everything from making polite conversation to the right way to host an afternoon tea. Several generations later, her descendants are continuing her legacy with a 21st century twist-- by advising people on life in the digital age.

The family has just released the third edition of their book “Emily Post’s The Etiquette Advantage in Business.” While it’s been less than a decade since the last book was released, the Posts say that because the business world has changed so rapidly in recent years, it can be tough to navigate it all.

“It’s kind of unbelievable the leaps and bounds we have made in the just the last few years and how much digital usage has increased,” says Lizzie Post, Emily’s great-great-granddaughter. We asked Post for her take on several modern social media dilemmas many of us face in the workplace.


To friend or not to friend?

When it comes to Facebook, think hard about whether you want to add your coworkers. “While typically most of us have always bonded with our coworkers, it’s really different today,” Lizzie Post points out. “Previously, it was very controlled in what you allowed your co-workers to see [in your life outside of work]. But now you are not just letting them see your photos, you are also letting them see the conversations you are having with other people.”

Post notes that letting someone into your personal online space is a private decision and reminds everyone that they are in charge of the process. “You have to decide what works for you,” says Post. “You can always tell a coworker, ‘I had to make a decision and I decided not to mix my work and personal lives.’”

Should you accept that LinkedIn request?

With the popularity of LinkedIn, it’s common to get all sorts of connection requests from everyone from elementary school friends to your neighbors. “I don’t respond to people on LinkedIn that I don’t know well or that I haven’t worked with closely,” says Post of her own personal policy. “For people like high school friends, unless I know your work, I decline the request.”

What if you really don’t want to write that LinkedIn recommendation?

“I don’t recommend friends,” says Post firmly. “It’s one thing to be friends with you, but that doesn’t mean that I know how you work. With endorsements, it’s a little bit different. If I have seen your blog and have read your book, then I feel like I can do it.” Remember that saying no is always an option, she says.

What should you say to your friend who constantly complainsabout work on Facebook?

It can be hard to watch when a close friend constantly complains about their job or boss online, says Post. “They put something negative out there, and it’s most likely something like ‘My boss sucks.’” Posts says many people don’t realize that they are harming their reputations.

“The best way to handle it is to say, ‘I’m your friend and I’ve seen lately that you’ve been complaining a lot on Facebook,’” advises Post. “Then just say ‘I know people who have been caught by that before and I don’t want that to happen to you.’” If your friend continues their behavior even after your talk, know that you did all that you could.

Ask yourself what impression you are making online

“Google yourself,” suggests Post to see what others see when they search for you. Are there public posts of you drinking or partying? Post says you may want to erase those, but that it’s ultimately up to you to decide what’s important to you. “Are you going to let your career dictate your online persona or are you the type of person that is going to say, ‘No, this is who I am and I am going to find a position where this isn’t going to matter?” Post asks.

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.

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