Not sure how to ask your boss for a raise or quiet your chatty co-worker? Etiquette expert Arden Clise is here to answer your awkward workplace questions.


QMy office has quarterly team-building retreats where some of my co-workers get super competitive. How can I get them to tone down their smack talk and loosen up a bit?

A: The best way to combat trash-talking co-workers is to not join in.
Because when you get competitive in response, they feel they need to outdo you, and the cycle continues. It’s like kids competing for Mom’s attention. Everyone wants to be the star most loved and respected by Mom. But what your co-workers don’t realize is the real stars are the people who are team players and who work together for the good of the company. So, when Criticizing Charlie discredits someone’s idea, don’t let him get away with it. Instead say something like, “I think Jane has a great idea. I’d love to hear more about that, Jane.” And, if Mr. Critical has a good idea, be equally supportive. Model respectful, team-focused behavior, and your co-workers will notice and so will your boss. 


Arden Clise is a business-etiquette trainer and author of Spinach in Your Boss’s Teeth: Essential Etiquette for Professional Success. Visit her website at

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