How to Navigate Stormy Weather Without Offending Your Neighbors and Co-Workers

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — When you are facing inclement weather during this winter season, determining what is socially acceptable among your co-workers and neighbors may not obvious.

Figuring out the right thing to do so you don’t step on any toes at work or offend your neighbors can be a tricky matter.

Avoid venturing out during a storm if you do not need to and make safety a priority. If you have a scheduled doctor or hair appointment, make a phone call even if it seems obvious you won’t be able to make it. The determining factor on if you should reschedule your appointments is proximity and whether the doctor’s office, hair salon or even retail store will be open for business, said Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas in San Antonio. Even if you live close by or it’s on your way to work, always call ahead during a storm.

Getting out and driving in the storm may be detrimental to your health and life, but also to the emergency rescue crews, she said. Working from home may be your best bet, so talk to your boss and offer to work at home and to check in and send updates. Your boss will most likely give you some guidance, but if not, ask what the storm protocol will be. If you can’t get in or feel it would be too dangerous, speak up. Most other offices may be closed.

“Don’t anticipate a regular work schedule, but get clarification on how the deadlines will be affected if you have projects due,” Gottsman said.This is a good opportunity to get to know your neighbors, especially if one of them is elderly or a single parent who might welcome the extra assistance, food or even company.

“Don’t hesitate to reach out and it’s a good way to build a relationship or show empathy for those that may need extra help,” she said. “If your mailman is working through sleet and snow, do offer them a cup of warm cocoa or hot soup – even if it’s to go.”

Offer to help neighbors with shoveling or errands after the storm has passed, said Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach in Florida. Let people borrow your shovel to clear the snow from their doorway and driveway, or if you borrow a neighbor’s shovel or anything else, return it in a timely fashion. While you are checking on your neighbors, invite them over for dinner or a hot meal.

Focus on the benefits of working from home, and don’t be impatient when you are standing in line to stock up on food.

“Everyone is touchy and your frustration will not make the situation better or smoother,” Gottsman said.Once the weather is clearing up, don’t feel bad if you want to order food. If a restaurant is open and stating it delivers, your business helps the restaurant stay open. Feel free to order and poll some of your neighbors to pitch in and order, and tip a little extra.

Avoid using the storm as an excuse to miss work, school or other responsibilities since your employer and teachers will know the difference.If you have to go into work, think about carpooling. The fewer cars on the road the better for everyone involved, said Whitmore.

“Be patient and keep your cool,” she said. “There’s going to be a lot of frustration, but the person in front of you may be worse off than you.”

--Written by Ellen Chang for MainStreet

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