Three steps to proper etiquette in the office lift

There is unwritten code of behaviour in the elevator, ignore it at your peril.

Having now spent a combined total of approximately two years in my office lift (we're on the 25th floor) I believe I'm relatively well trained when it comes to elevator etiquette, the unwritten code of behavioural laws that must be adhered to in order to avoid looking like an absolute moron.

Unfortunately, I witness this as-yet-unpublished rule book ripped into pieces every day, either by amateurs new to the elevator game or mavericks trying to go it alone. To help save civilisation from the first lift-induced Falling Down-style meltdown (and we've come very close, sometimes), here are three handy starting points for anyone about to press the "up" button:

Where to look

If you don't have a phone, it's best just to stare ahead at the door or - the most popular choice - at the panel displaying the floor number. The numbers don't move quicker if you look at them (if anything, they go slower), but it's a good focal point. If this fails, pretend you're looking at a Magic Eye puzzle and let everything go out of focus without fainting. Fainting in a lift is not cool. Avoid eye contact at all costs. Don't, I repeat don't, stare at someone you don't know. You'll look weird. And guys, apparently women don't dig being ogled in elevators. Who knew?

When to talk

If you don't know anyone, never. Don't attempt to start a conversation with someone across a busy lift, you'll look weird. Don't attempt to entertain the lift occupants with a hilarious "lift joke" or "observation", such as "it's a bit hot today, isn't it?" when everyone has sweat streaming down their faces. They'll hate you. Please don't talk to your colleagues about work, particularly if your work includes accounts, spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations. And guys, don't try to flirt with the solitary woman in the lift. This only ever works in films.

How to use the buttons

If you're next to the floor numbers and it's a busy lift, a common courtesy is to ask those at the back which number they're after. This will give you elevator brownie points and make people think you're a great guy. When somebody gets out of the lift and you're staying onboard, don't start repeatedly jabbing the door close button as if the saved milliseconds are of the utmost importance, this will lose you elevator brownie points and make people think you're a big idiot.

Follow these three guides, and your elevator experiences should remain trouble-free. Of course, there are plenty of other subjects to consider, including the consumption of food, the making of telephone calls and humming, but I'll let you figure these out for yourself.

Published: August 7, 2011 04:00 AM


Editor's Picks
Sign up to:

* Please select one