Self-Assessment: Test Your "CQ" (Courtesy Quotient)

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Aug 16, 2023

By AMA Staff

In her book The Etiquette Edge: The Unspoken Rules for Business Success (AMACOM, 2005), management consultant/trainer Beverly Langford makes the point that intelligence and skill can take you a long way toward achieving your career goals—but no matter where you work, mastering the art of interacting with colleagues is essential to your success.

To find out if you’re on your best behavior, take this quiz to check your "CQ" or Courtesy Quotient. The answer key at the end will give you an indication of your understanding of key courtesy and interpersonal issues and your proficiency in handling them. Some situations may depend more on good judgment than on a widely accepted rule. When there seems to be more than one right answer, choose the one with which you would feel most comfortable.

1. You are in the office on the telephone, and another call comes in. You should:

(a) Ask the person if you can put him or her on hold while you answer the call.
(b) Let voice mail take it.

2. You call a colleague and put your phone on speakerphone. Another co-worker is in the room. You should:

(a) Mention neither the speaker phone nor the other person in the room.
(b) Tell the person on the phone that you wish to use the speaker phone. Mention the other person in the room, and ask the person on the phone if this is okay.
(c) Tell the person on the phone that you are using the speaker phone, but don’t mention the other person in the room.

3. You have exchanged a couple of angry e-mails with a co-worker who, in your opinion, is being unreasonable. It’s getting out of hand. You should:

(a) Stop the communication and let things cool off.
(b) Send one more blistering e-mail, summarizing the situation and how upset you are with that person’s behavior, and cc the recipient’s boss.
(c) Change the medium. Call the person on the telephone or go sit down face-to-face.

4. You’re presenting to a potential client. Suddenly his or her body language turns very negative. You should:

(a) Try to engage the person in some interaction.
(b) Stop in the middle of the presentation and ask the person what is wrong.
(c) Ask questions to determine what you said that was upsetting and attempt to rectify the situation.
(d) Ignore the reaction and finish your presentation as planned.

5. You’re delivering an important presentation that you don’t want interrupted with questions. You should:

(a) Refuse to answer the first question that someone asks. The rest of the audience will get the message.
(b) Tell the audience beforehand that you prefer to answer all questions at the end of the presentation.
(c) Answer questions as they are asked, even though you prefer not to.

6. When communicating across language barriers, putting things in writing:

(a) Should be avoided; it can insult the international visitor’s intelligence.
(b) Can be helpful; it is usually easier to read English than to hear it.
(c) Can be confusing; it is usually easier to hear English than to read it.

7. Learning to speak a few words of the language of clients, customers or co-workers whose first language is different from yours is:

(a) Generally a good idea, as the effort communicates respect for the other culture.
(b) Generally not a good idea because they may feel patronized.
(c) Generally not a good idea, because they might be offended if you make a mistake in vocabulary or pronunciation.

8. If you meet someone whose body language is much more outgoing and expressive than yours, you should:

(a) Attempt to match it.
(b) Not attempt to match it.

9. If you meet someone whose body language is much more restrained than yours, you should:

(a) Attempt to match it.
(b) Not attempt to match it.

10. True or false: A smile is an almost universal way of communicating goodwill and cheerfulness.

11. When answering a business phone, always answer:

(a) With a simple hello. It sounds more approachable and less pretentious.
(b) With your name.
(c) With your name, department, title, and a greeting.

12. When others are close by, for example in an elevator or on a train, it’s okay to use your cellular telephone:

(a) For extremely private conversations, because, after all, it’s your business.
(b) For lengthy conversations, so you don’t get tied up at the office.
(c) For short conversations of a nonsensitive or nonconfidential nature.

13. When you reach a doorway at the same time as a person of the opposite sex, the following rules apply:

(a) Whoever arrives first should open it and hold it for those who are following.
(b) Men should still open doors for women.
(c) Women should open doors for men to prove they are no longer oppressed.
(d) Always open and hold the door for someone of either sex if that person has his or her hands full.

14. When exiting an elevator and a more senior person is toward the back, always:

(a) Step aside to let that person exit first.
(b) Exit first if you are closest to the door.

15. When writing a business letter, the inside address should:

(a) Always contain a courtesy title (Mr., Ms., Dr.).
(b) Never use a courtesy title. That’s passè.

16. When having a business lunch, who pays?
(a) A business lunch is always "Dutch Treat."
(b) You always pay for a client’s lunch.
(c) You never pay for a client’s lunch. It’s insulting.
(d) Whoever invited the other person to lunch pays.

17. On a dress-down day, which item(s) of clothing is (are) generally considered inappropriate?

(a) Khaki slacks.
(b) Solid T-shirts.
(c) Sweatpants.
(d) Baseball caps.
(e) Polo-type shirts.
(f) Loafers without socks.
(g) Thong sandals.
(h) Jeans.

18. You are in a meeting with a client and several of your colleagues, and you realize your boss’s fly is unzipped. You should:

(a) Make a joke about it, and put everyone at ease.
(b) Tell him immediately, even if you don’t know him well.
(c) Ask someone who knows him better to mention it.

19. You have just heard a co-worker in the cubicle next to yours speak rudely to a client on the telephone. You should:

(a) Wait until the call is finished, then tell the person that the behavior is unacceptable.
(b) Tell your boss.
(c) Respect your coworker’s privacy and refrain from commenting.

20. If you are managing a meeting when an adversarial relationship is present, try to make sure that:

(a) People sit with those with whom they agree.
(b) The seating is mixed to encourage open dialogue and discourage an adversarial environment.


1. b
2. b
3. c
4. a, c
5. b
6. b
7. a
8. b
9. a
10. true
11. b
12. c
13. a, d
14. b
15. a
16. d
17. c, d, g, h
18. c
19. c (except in extreme situations, in which case "a" would apply)
20. b

Interpreting Your Score

Number of correct responses:

18-20 You could write this book.
15-17 You usually know how to handle yourself.
12-14 Wouldn’t hurt to brush up
Below 12 You may need to do some damage control.

Adapted from The Etiquette Edge: The Unspoken Rules for Business Success, by Beverly Langford (AMACOM).

About The Author(s)

American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.