Thursday 6 October 2011

Slangy Girls

A guide to office etiquette for Edwardian office girls (London Journal, 1909):


No business man wants a secretary whom he cannot trust to see his business callers in his absences. A knowledge of good English and a courteous way of speaking are the things he wants in his representative.
    There are other little details of office manners which every business girl should know. In the first place, when you come to work in the morning. say good morning, individually or collectively, to your fellow workers. There is no need to be effusive about it, but it is a simple courtesy which is well worth while. If you are late, don't come hurrying in with "Gracious! Isn't this awful?"  but say simply and frankly, to the head of the office, "Good morning, Mr. Mr. Blank. I'm sorry to be late, and I will make up the time this evening ." For it is office manners, and the best sort of  office manners, to give your employers honestly all the time which they are paying you for. You owe them the ten minutes which you lost in the morning. You owe them the ten minutes you stayed out over your lunchtime. They will appreciate your honesty it you make it a point to see that their interests are protected.
    Don't be familiar either with your superiors or inferiors on the office staff. Familiarity leads to gossip and office gossip is always bad for those taking part to it.
    You are not paid to make friendships or to chat with the rest of the office. Guard your opinions as to office conditions. The girl who sits at the desk next to yours, and who thinks the office manager a mean, partial thing, always giving the easiest work to someone else, may, if you agree with her, and let her know it, be unscrupulous enough to repeat your words to the office manager himself, or to someone else who can injure your prospects.
    You can be pleasant and polite to every one, but keep your own counsel—or you will be sure to wish you had.
    Don't get into the habit of criticising your superiors, even to yourself. Maybe the head of the firm is cranky and inconsiderate of you, but you must remember that you are only a small piece of a big mechanism, and that it is this mechanism which he is working with all his strength to keep mowing,
    He is struggling with problems of the gravest weight and importance, and when you misspell words and get figures wrong you are putting most trying little obstacles in the way of his success, and when he flies out at you and calls you inattentive and incompetent, he is only telling you the truth. Try to concentrate and make your work the big thing during work time.
    All girls should remember, too, that the office is not the place for manicuring, hair-dressing, or general 'prinking'. All that sort of thing should be done at home. How many business girls, during a lull in work, may he seen giving attention to their nails or readjusting their side-combs, and the like. Some girls even have little mirrors into which they may be seen looking anxiously whenever they get a chance.


  1. I'm going to print this off for my house officers...

  2. This is brilliant. I may print it out for my Consultant but I'm worried he'll think its a good idea and impliment it

  3. Glad you're finding it interesting!