Going Up? Elevator Exit Etiquette
Question: I’m a 28 year old man. I work in a law office in a tall building, where I use the elevator several times a day. I was under the impression that it was just common courtesy to let women exit the elevator first, so that is what I typically do. A female colleague of mine recently mentioned that this makes her uncomfortable (not when I do it, but when men do it in general). Should I stop assuming that women should be given the chance to exit first?
Answer: This one throws everyone for a loop at some point. Prior to my first office job, I wasn’t even aware that it was considered polite for men to wait for women to exit the elevator first. There were more than a few instances in which I’d stand there blankly, assuming that he (or she) who was closest should get off first. This makes logical sense, but chivalry doesn’t play the logic game, does it? So, I took the cue and started exiting first. I got used to it and yet it still feels odd at times.
Your colleague is probably just wary after experiences with certain men (of the “undress you with their eyes” genre) who make a grand gesture of their manners. We'll assume that this is not the case with you.
Side-stepping (heh) potential feminist implications, the deferential elevator exit is a nice thing for both men and women to do for others. The easiest way to practice it is by seniority or need, as opposed to just gender.
Anyone disabled or carrying something heavy (whether in a box or in a womb) gets automatic first exit. If your colleague is older than you, she should be exiting ahead of you as a sign of respect. If she is your junior, exit in the order that you're in. If you're both equidistant from the door, feel free to exercise those chivalry muscles and let the younger colleague exit first.
Bottom line, whatever the scenario: No one should have to shimmy past you and your politeness to get out, so good intentions go out the door when the elevator is jam packed and you're up front.