Skip to comments.American companies find manners still matter
Posted on 06/28/2005 12:16:13 PM PDT by phoenix_004
Business etiquette coach Barbara Pachter likes to tell the story of a financial executive who, dining with a potential client, licked his knife clean at the end of the meal.
"It was a $30 million dollar lick," she said at a recent etiquette seminar in Goshen, New York, referring to the value of the deal the executive lost by offending the potential customer.
Businesses are turning to etiquette training to boost their bottom line, according to the coaches who train employees on everything from shaking hands to buttering bread.
Simply put, better-behaved employees are more valuable than brutish oafs, they say.
"Etiquette is saying that it's really OK to be nice," said Peter Post, the great-grandson of etiquette's grand dame Emily Post and himself a writer and lecturer on business etiquette.
"We've had an attitude in this country that being nice was somehow counter-productive to good business, to being successful," he said, adding, "In fact, being nice is a way to be much more successful in business. It has real bottom-line, dollar value."
He's seen demand for etiquette training boom in recent years, he added.
"We've heard over and over from corporations who have employees with all these skills but can't let them take a client out to lunch," Post said. "I get calls every week."
In suburban New York, employees of Elant Inc., which runs health and housing facilities for the elderly, have been studying etiquette since the company decided to slash its advertising budget and send staff into the community to drum up business through word of mouth.
Sent out to join civic groups and meet people, employees soon complained they were uncomfortable networking and socializing, so the company turned to an etiquette coach, Elant Chief Executive Donna Case-McAleer said. "It's a lost art," she said. Elant employees recently attended a day-long seminar to hear Pachter answer an array of etiquette questions:
--What accessories do people notice first? Watches and pens.
--Where should empty foil butter wrappers go? Fold the foil wrappers in half and place them under the bread plate.
--How does one eat spaghetti at a business dinner? Don't even touch spaghetti; it's too messy.
--Should a man be told that his fly is open? Yes, people should be always informed of zipper failure.
Listening, Elant administrator Laurence LaDue said he was well aware of his own etiquette failings. "I don't speak up, I'm guilty of the 'ums,' and I'm a fidgeter," he said.
Jan Davis, new to Elant management, found herself practicing her handshake with some tips from the coach.
"I've never been in the corporate world before. I've got a lot I need to learn," she said.
In a telling development in the world of business etiquette, Post said he has just added a chapter on ethics to the business etiquette book he first published six years ago.
Not paying attention to ethics, he said, can be costly. Just look at Tyco International Ltd.'s Dennis Kozlowski, facing prison for stealing the company's money, he said. The former chief executive could have used a little etiquette, he said.
"We teach people to think before they act. My guess is he wasn't thinking. He was doing. But unfortunately we're responsible for our actions, and now he's responsible for his," Post said after a recent lecture in New York.
Experts say modern etiquette is different from just a few years ago. Women's roles have changed, families spend less time in such settings as sit-down meals, children of working parents often fend for themselves and television and movies glorify profanity and rough-and-tumble behavior. "If I asked my mother where she learned manners from, it was probably from Sunday dinner, and I don't think you find that today," said Susan Schulmerich, an Elant vice president. "In many ways, we're missing a lot in our informal society and loss or tradition."
BACK TO BASICS
Pachter said she often has to go back to basics. "I am amazed I have to tell people to say please and thank you," she said. "Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we stop using those words."
Listening to Post, businesswoman Dale Marcovitz said she wished her company, a huge retailer, would train employees.
"I'm from the old school and social graces, or the lack of, is what I notice the most, she said.
A study of people who experienced incivility at work, conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School, showed how costly it can be.
One in five said they worked less hard as a result of rudeness at work, and one in 10 spent less time at the office. Nearly half considered changing jobs, and more than 10 percent did so, the study found.
"It's more than just telling a person the rules," said Post. "Etiquette does have value for people. Etiquette makes you a successful person."
Your flys are all open.
Sounds like an urban legend to me.
Thanks for your helpful frankness. Since one good turn deserves another, I suppose I should be equally frank and tell you that your spelling sucks.
Whenever my wife points out my zipper failures I try to be polite saying "thanks for noticing".
There are some who consider that to be a zipper success instead of a failure.
We do fine dining etiquette at family Feasts, on the holidays when everyone is visiting.
At least one meal, and sometimes more, are done with all the forks, knives, spoons, plates, bowls, glasses, napkins, cups and saucers formal dinner setting...it's fun, the kids help set the table and ask about everything fromt the chargers to the butter knives on the bread plates to the fish forks to the dessert spoons, etc.
The only thing we haven't done is the palate-cleansing sherbet between courses...
My grandkids get a kick out of it all...when we put the gold lame tablecloth out and the limoge china, the silver and crystal, light everything with candles...they range in age from 5 to 11...
I told them that when they have this mastered, they can eat dinner at the White House and not have to worry about which freaking fork to use!
And be careful flashing the "V for victory" sign in Great Britain: palms out is OK, but palms in is offensive. (I think I got that right...)
Phew, thanks, That could have been embarrassing.
Not if he were having dinner with a European.
BTW, your flie is open.
Well, you dropped some of your lunch on your shirt!
Which reminds me... can any FReepers from Australia tell me if this is true: Turning your glass upside down at the dinner table is a challenge to a fight to the person across the table from you.
I'm guessing Urban Legend, but just to be on the safe side, if I didn't want wine for dinner, I moved my wine glass far away from me, rather than turn it upside down.
DAMN! You get me with that one all the time, CD!
I say. Do try to be more careful, old boy.
Dinner music is always welcome. Something from Jeff Beck, maybe.