Heard on the Hill

Staffer Guide: Etiquette Tips

How to act appropriately on the Hill

Antonia Ferrier, staff director for the Senate Republican Communications Center, leaves a meeting in the Capitol last November. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

There are a lot of social aspects of Capitol Hill that can be confusing to newcomers. Here’s some advice from staffers on a few of those. 


Anything less than business attire is not appropriate during session. When it’s recess, look at what others in your office wear so you don’t find yourself the only person in jeans.Some of the worst Capitol fashion violations people have seen include beanies, shorts, flip-flops, bare feet, short skirts without tights, and hoodies.


If an elevator is marked “Members Only,” it’s off-limits to most staffers. People have different opinions on what to do if another elevator opens and there’s a member in it.Generally, staffers say to get in the elevator. But while in there, perhaps don’t select a floor before the member’s stop and consider saying hello.


There are lines at the security checkpoints during the hustle and bustle of the morning, so don’t make that experience more miserable for anyone. Metal will set off the detector, so prepare beforehand and empty out anything with metal from your pockets. Capitol Police are on your side and there to keep everyone safe, so disagreeing with them and haggling over taking off your belt off is inappropriate and considered very rude.

Internet use

Like any job, you’re representing an office. Be careful what you put on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Cloakroom, dating apps, etc., because your boss could actually get into hot water over something you say. If you’re on the press team, you might also have access to your boss’ social media accounts. Be sure you know which account you’re tweeting from before you do it.

Sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll

A lot of relationships have blossomed on Capitol Hill and that’s great. But, like other aspects of the Hill, it’s like any other job and although it can sometimes feel like college, it isn’t.Reputations matter immensely and in this small town, people have long memories. That can be used in your favor if you’re a rock star, but if you’ve dated the whole office, that could work against you.Be careful.

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