How to Ride an Elevator like a Boss

You are late for an interview and standing down in the lobby waiting for an elevator is just making you crazy. By all means as soon as the doors open shove the people coming through the door out of your way and start jamming on the button to your floor. When another passenger gets on, keep hitting the button while telling him or her that you are late for your interview and you hope the company HR people didn’t notice the typos you made on your resume. Though you are fairly sure having spoken to them, they are not very good at noticing errors and if you got to the interview, they probably didn’t. Whatever, you will charm them because you got a business degree at a prestigious local university. Punctuate your conversation with references to the other passenger’s beverage choice such as “man, I should have gotten one of those, but I wouldn’t want it to spill on me” and their later sneeze with “whoa, don’t get me sick (insert laughter here).”

Many of us have been on the elevator with this person: bull-in-a-china shop, tell-it-like-it-is, invade-your-personal-space. Unfortunately, if I just described you, your current and potential employers, your clients, and others in any elevator you will get into have noticed.

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A professional does not use an elevator this way.

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Getting On: When the elevator opens, do not get on immediately. Pause for a moment to determine if others are getting out.  If you are nearest the elevator, put your arm out to keep the doors from closing as people exit the elevator. Get into the elevator and if no one else is doing so, hold the door open from the inside, so people can get on.

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On the Elevator: Even if you are alone, do not adjust your clothes or engage in grooming habits.  The space is enclosed as is not a good place to fart. Go into a bathroom to make adjustments and make yourself presentable.

Talking to other people on an elevator is acceptable behavior. Use an inside voice and be polite. Greet people with a smile, nod, or handshake depending on how well you know them and if your hands are free. Talk about project ideas briefly or update your acquaintance about your life. Be mindful, however, that others are present and they do not need to know about the time you got really drunk, threw up in the pool, and made out with what you thought was a hot chick. They also don’t need to know how much money you make, how you make it, or what you spend it on. Polite people do not discuss any of these things in a small public space like an elevator. The listener is not likely to be impressed and probably views your speech as tacky.

Be careful about consuming food and drink in the elevator. While most elevators do not jostle passengers, they can abruptly stop or pause. Also, overly pungent food and drink can adversely affect other passengers.

If you wear headphones to listen to music, keep the sound down. Not to be an old lady, but loud music hurts your ability to hear and not everyone wants to hear your music (noise pollution).

Getting Off: When you reach your destination, exit the elevator without shoving. If there is a large crowd, politely say “Excuse me. This is my floor.” You may have to repeat yourself, since multiple people are rearranging themselves.

If you get off the elevator first (and men if you are the type to hold the door open for a woman, this is you)*, you should turn and use your arm to hold the elevator open for others to disembark. Even if you are a woman, it is more polite and professional to hold the door open, especially for someone with full hands, then it is to run off to your appointment.

Basically, you don’t know who on the elevator might directly affect your professional career. It is better to treat everyone with patience and consideration.

*Men who subscribe to the etiquette of holding a door open for others, should step out of the elevator first in order to hold the door open from the outside for others to exit.

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