Behaving at the Office

uncivil wars cover

Uncivil Wars
Men, Women, and Office Etiquette in the 90s

This is another of the million books published about how to get along at the office and succeed. As women entered the workforce, issues of “new” office etiquette were being discussed. Discussions targeted at both men and women centered on catering to their supposed needs. For example, women being coached to get along with the boys world of work, how to dress, and level up in management. Men were told to not “make a pass” and be polite to the ladies.

Of course, if you are under the age of 40, the discussion of a fax machine as an ideal method of correspondence is going to seem ridiculous. Same with discussions of business dress. There are some generational conversations, interviewing, and networking advice. Very little remains in today’s office culture.  Looking forward, COVID-19  has/will change our office yet again. What will be the new office etiquette in the age of virtual work?

Mary (always wearing sweatpants to virtual meetings)

how to dress

fax and voicemail



sexual harassment


  1. I feel like the person who wrote this was old-fashioned even in the nineties. Their work attire advice quotes a book from 1923!

  2. For some reason, I feel antipathy toward this book for no reason other than that ampersand on the title page.

    1. It deserves repeating, so I’m going to.

      That ampersand is not only pointless, but ugly. It looks more like it says “e+” instead of &, which makes the title read awkwardly.

      1. The ampersand began as a ligature of the “e” and “t” of “et” (“and” in Latin). Thus the fact that this and many stylized ampersands look like “et” is quite deliberate and proper.

  3. Phone tag via voicemail was often annoying, but I set up entire meetings that way as long as it was 2-3 people.

    I sometimes faxed for business, but a lot of them were for sending jokes before everyone had robust email. Provided it was kept to a minimum and at off-hours, you could do that. I had a 5 year old correspondent who’d send computer fax-to-computer fax jokes and drawings with Mom’s help at this time. Not having kids of my own, it was fun to see badly-drawn Power Rangers.

    This book would have dated quickly once email was a thing (let alone all the messenger apps of today), and nobody in those earlier generations is in an office now, they’re all retired or dead.

    And everyone of every age is in sweatpants to work nowadays if they can. Guess what I’m wearing right now?

  4. Was there such a slew of “Madonna wannabes” in ’90s offices that the author felt she must address them? Also, the idea that “trendy all black” is taboo is so funny to me.

    1. All black is almost always acceptable. Mostly-black for sure.

      Do today’s newly minted office-workers even know who Leno and Letterman are? Or Madonna, for that matter, unless they think she’s just a geriatric version of Lady Gaga?

      I’m ever so grateful to have worked in an office where just being dressed in clothes without holes was fine. One of the guys wore shorts and sandals year-round, and even the boss never wore a tie unless someone important was coming. We did dress up when the money men came by, and also once for a Nobel Prize winner. As for panty hose, right about this time, it became illegal in California to require them.

      Asking for money was completely verboten, although announcing you had a source of Girl Scout cookies was encouraged, purchase not required.

      I bet this book doesn’t have warnings about not eating peanuts in the break room, and other food allergies/preferences, plus nothing on pronouns.

  5. The illustration about nude photos at work struck me as funny. I’m old enough to remember when guys would tack Playboy centerfolds up in their cubicles and no one gave it a second thought.

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