About Author

Jeffrey L. Seglin is the Director of the HKS Communications Program and a Senior Lecturer in Public Policy. He writes The Right Thing, a weekly column on general ethics that has been syndicated by Tribune Media Services since September 2010. From 2004 through 2010, he wrote an ethics column distributed by The New York Times Syndicate. From 1998 through 2004, Seglin wrote a monthly business ethics column for the Sunday New York Times Money and Business section. Prior to 1998, Seglin was an executive editor at Inc. magazine. He is the author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice (2016). His book, The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business, was named one of the Best Business Books of 2003 by Library Journal.

From 1999 until 2011, Seglin was a tenured associate professor at Emerson College in Boston where he was also the director of the graduate program in publishing and writing. He is an ethics fellow at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, and was a resident fellow at the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at Harvard in 1998-99. Seglin lectures widely on business ethics. He has taught in the Executive MBA Program at University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Fast Track Executive MBA Program at Virginia Commonwealth University, Duke Corporate Education, and elsewhere. He was the host of Doing Well by Doing Good, an hour-long live television program airing out of WCVE, PBSs Richmond affiliate. He has also lectured on writing and other topics. He has contributed commentaries to Public Radios Marketplace, and is regularly featured as an expert on ethics on CNN, CNBC, Fox 25 Boston, CBS Sunday Morning, Fox Business, and other media outlets. He has written for publications including Fortune, Real Simple, FSB, Salon.com, Time.com, Sojourners, MIT's Sloan Management Review, Harvard Management Update, Business 2.0, and ForbesASAP, among others.

In 2014 and 2017, Seglin was a recipient of the Manuel C. Carballo Award for Excellence in Teaching at Harvard Kennedy School. Seglin holds a masters degree in theological studies from The Divinity School at Harvard University, and a bachelor of arts degree in English from Bethany College in West Virginia. He lives in Boston with his wife, Nancy, a therapist.

Book Description

Practicing business etiquette doesn’t mean pretending to be someone you’re not. Brimming with practical, up-to-date tips on minding your business manners, The Simple Art of Business Etiquette guides you through the tricky territory of office etiquette with real-life stories and workplace scenarios. Become attuned to body language (don’t gawk at others during meetings or at any other time -- it’s creepy). Engage in thoughtful introductions (don’t guess at someone’s name if you don’t remember it). Practice proper e-mail etiquette (do you really want to be the jerk who sends annoying e-mails around the office?). Curtail office conflicts (never punch anyone in the workplace -- never). Exhibit workplace sensitivity (listen to your coworkers without cutting them off). Plus, decode the 15 most commonly-used phrases in business.

The Simple Art of Business Etiquette proves that minding your manners goes a long way toward successfully advancing your career.


“With a great sense of humor, sage advice and practical tips, Jeffrey Seglin reminds us to overcome the complexities of the modern workplace and get back to the basics. This helpful roadmap for succeeding in today’s world is a must read for new and seasoned professionals alike.”
– Melodie Jackson, Associate Dean for Communications and Public Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

With gentle humor, keen insight, and plain common sense, Jeffrey L. Seglin offers compelling advice for acting effectively and ethically at the same time. Don’t be fooled by the focus on business etiquette. This is really a book on how to be a decent human being in every aspect of daily life.
―Kenneth Winston, Harvard University, Author of Ethics in Public Life: Good Practitioners in a Rising Asia

The Simple Art of Business Etiquette is a fun and fast guide on how to engage productively in today’s rapidly evolving workplace. This book has helpful tips for first time hires and career veterans alike. It’s an entertaining read. I highly recommend it!
―Gus Tai, Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist

Seglin has written a fantastic guide for anyone facing an unreasonable boss, a tipsy holiday party crush, an intimidating salary negotiation, or just another bleary Monday―in other words, anyone navigating the contemporary workplace.
―Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, Adjunct Lecturer at Harvard University, Author of Any One of Us

The Virtual Book Tour was brought to you by HKS Library & Research Services. As of Spring 2019, our faculty video series is called Behind the Book. Contact us with inquiries.

Jeffrey Seglin:

My name is Jeffrey Seglin. I'm a lecturer in public policy and the director of the Communications program at the Harvard Kennedy School. I have a book that was published in January, 2016, called The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, which was published by Tycho Press. That's what I'm going to talk about for the next few minutes. Sort of a little bit of background about how the book evolved. Since 1998 I've been writing a ethics column called The Right Thing, first for the Sunday New York Times business section and then it moved to become a weekly column for The New York Times Syndicate. Now it's being published by and distributed by the Tribune Media. In the column, I cover everything from business ethics to everyday ethical decision-making. The column resulted in a couple of earlier books. One was called The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart and another was called The Right Thing, which was a collection of several years of the early column.

The new book is basically about how to behave in business without being a jerk. So it's about business etiquette. The idea behind the title, The Simple Art of Business Etiquette is that just because something is simple doesn't always mean it's easy, as judged by the fact that many people have a hard time learning how to behave in business without being a jerk. The book covers everything from meetings and interviews to dealing with difficult bosses to romance in the workplace. It looks at the right way to use social media and the right way to manage boundaries between personal and professional work lives. The way the book has been structured, each chapter starts with some basic descriptions of business etiquette and then there are short cases that bring these descriptions to life. Then, there's a multiple-choice quiz that readers are asked to take to sort of choose the right answer. Then, after that, I come back in and sort of give an explanation for what the best right answer might be.

The book was written in a way that it's supposed to be engaging. So a lot of the multiple-choice in the cases are full with some humor and a bit of a whimsy. One of the reasons I wrote the book was that there seems to be a need for civility both in business and in public life, and yet people seem a little bit lost about how to get to that point of civility. So I'd like those who read the book to use it as a guide for how to make decisions in the workplace and how to behave with respect to all of their coworkers. The intended audience is that ... I'm told it would be a terrific book for anyone starting out in the business world, but I'd also like to think it would be good for managers and bosses and owners of businesses as well, and perhaps politicians who could use a lesson or two in civility.

One of the things I tried to do in the book is to avoid the preachiness or the high-handedness of many other books on business etiquette. So the humor that I use here is meant to diffuse some of the stuffiness that's included in other books on etiquette. One of the things that's happened as ... The book's only been out for a few weeks, but one of the things that's started to happen is that people have begun posing with the book and sending me pictures of them. So I started getting photos of New York City police officers on duty reading the book, pictures of deans of colleges, pictures of high school students, pictures of pretzel vendors all reading the book and telling me that they're trying to get etiquette. So I've begun to paste those through social media on Facebook and Twitter. People continue to send me those photos, which was something that was unforeseen and they keep coming regularly every day, which has resulted in me having an expanded email box.

The the reception has been pretty strong so far from various reviewers and I think the sales have been good. Within the first couple of weeks, it's been on one of the ibook or the electronic book best-seller list on Publishers Weekly. So the takeaway is that the book is a quick read and it's full of hands-on advice and information such as guiding workers to never punch coworkers in the face, and other advice about how to quit jobs gracefully. Knowing not to punch someone in the face is pretty obvious. Quitting a job gracefully is a little less obvious. So that's it. That's the new book. This is it. I hope you're curious enough to take a look. If you take a picture of yourself and email it to me reading the book, I will post it around. Thank you very much.