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.
Eclectic can be a GOOD thing. ;-D But you were right on about the chamber music in the background. The grandkids even bring a set of dress-up clothes for these "family feasts."
Traditionally the person who doesn't want wine simply tossed the unused wine glass against the wall as a subtle signal to the waiter.
(If what I just wrote makes you sad or angry,
No, silly, they turn it upside down. It's after the toast that they throw it against the wall. ;-D
You are having too much fun with this aren't you?
This should be clarified-- Place the wrappers under the rim of the bread plate or the meal plate. Do not lift up the plates and put trash under them.
I guess she sweeps her dirt under the carpet, too!
I would be VERY suspicious of anyone that dealt with their butter wraps in this way..
What the hell is wrong with folding them up and leaving them on the edge of some appropriate saucer or plate?
Sticking them under the bread plate is both messy and devious....
If I could get my kids to just put them down rather than pat them on their sisters head, that would be a victory.
Silly you, they only serve toast at breakfast!
I cannot find any good "open drosophila" pics. :(
(as far as I know :)
It really is to laugh, isn't it? And we do have fun with all the rules and such, but the oooohs and aaaaahs when the table is set, the candles are lit, and the room sparkles like a dream are very gratifying.
I don't actually have a dishwasher, although I have a two-door ice and water dispensing fridge, and a nice glasstop stove, so we all end up doing every little tiny dish afterward...
This past year, DIL in the spirit of things, got me individual salt and peppers for each place setting, although I do have salt bowls with tiny spoons...
B.S. Who really believes someone is going to go to the next highest bidder because of a half second of "bad manners"?
What in the heck????
I have to admit, I read it the way you warn about in your last sentence and thought it was really odd advice.
I sent a $4 million casing deal to a very slightly higher priced supplier because one vendor really stank like he ate turdburgers and rolled in a black mud swamp when he came to visit me. At least he never came to see me after that.
I will beleive it could happen.
I eat my peas with honey;
I've done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny,
but it keeps them on my knife.
re: ..what to do with used butter foils.
I roll mine up in a ball and 'flick' them across the dining area, aiming for the snootty blonde with the costume jewelry.
Actually my wife and I used to teach Christian Etty-kit to our cohorts and children using our china and crystal. We were normally able to use the example of an ill mannered friend as one to not emulate if one cared to be always welcomed as a guest.
They got the point and I've always been able to take the kids (grown and older teens now) out without worrying about manners. In fact, they normally received compliments from other diners.
These dinners usually go very well until I loudly pass gas.
My advice to toss the glass was my attempt to start a culture war. Not nice, but nice is sooooo boring.
It was quite a disgusting series of events actually. I was advising on the project locally and one of the Americans made of point of telling me he was gay and asked where he could meet other gays in town - I was a bit shocked and just said that I had no idea.
It was a US5 million dollar project and the US company based out of Boston was actually going to get the project until the last minute.
We went to the hotel to meet the guys and the doorman told us that one of "our friends" he was up in the room the night before with two gay boys he had picked up somewhere.
I met later with two of the directors and the CEO and then advised them accordingly.
The project was awarded to the Australians - The company in Boston never knew the reason why. Sad.
I do believe they get wadded up and tossed at the jerk wearing his hat a the dinner table. But that's just me.
We just have fun with it. Actually, I look forward to it this weekend, when everyone will be here for the annual family reunion.
I was at a restaurant Happy Hour with my wife the other evening, next to a table of three very loud and obnoxious young women and one young man, who probably all worked together, and it reminded me of a date I had in college. I took this girl out to dinner, and everything was going fine until the food arrived, whereupon she dived in facefirst and started scarfing it like a Teamster. I swear, she even licked the plate and burped afterward. I was so grossed out, I never asked her out again. I'd really liked her up until that point, but I couldn't face the thought of seeing that hog-slopping demonstration at every meal for the rest of my life.
It made me want to tell that story to the girls in the restaurant, who seemed to think that their obnoxious antics (shrieking with open-mouthed laughter while chewing food, etc.) were really amusing the guy at their table, who looked to me as if he wanted to flee. I know the feeling, pal.
OK, by popular demand, here it is:
A guy walks into a bar, orders a beer, and notices a piano in the corner. He asks the bartender if it is OK to play a tune.
The bartender says, OK, but if you're no good, I'll have to ask you to stop.
Theu guy sits down and plays the most beautiful song the bartender ever heard.
The bartender says, "Hey buddy, what was the name of that tune? It's beautiful."
The guy says, "Oh, it's one I wrote. It's called, 'I love you so #9!!%$**& much I can't hardly ^%(**#@^.'"
He then plays a tune more beautiful than the first. When asked its name he says, "That one is called, 'You're so #(*&%#$!)_ gorgeous that my &)$%@#& #)*(&*%$%@ hurts.'"
So then he goes to the bathroom. He forgets to zip up. The bartender says, "Hey buddy. Do you know you forgot to zip your fly and your &*&^#$ is hanging out?"
The guy says, "Know it? I WROTE IT!"
When I was growing up, a copy of Emily Post was de rigueur in our house. Thank goodness, and I love my parents for that. The lessons in it have never failed me.
I agree. The only thing worse that losing a client that is that obsessed with table manors is winning that client.
How long before some crazy "outrageous offense" of some sort happens to ruin it later. Life is too short for that.
Treat people nicely and show them respect. That should be enough for business. Elaborate mating rituals are for Romance.
But, the only problem growing up with Emily Post is that those who didnt/dont, or the like, view good manners as a personal weakness. I had to learn as an adult to get into the gutter with these ##@%% and show them I was/am capable of a good ugly scrap on their level.
"Don't even touch spaghetti; it's too messy."
Or fried chicken or ribs. Basically anything you can't eat simply with a knife, fork, and spoon. If the salad leaves are too big, cut them with a knife.
"Sounds like an urban legend to me."
Maybe so but I think you're missing the point. If I were a salesman and we went to dinner together and I ate like a friggin pig would you want to do business with me? I represent myself and my company and if you think about it, maybe that's the kind of service you'll get from me and my company. Would you want to do business with me? If on the other hand you ate like a pig I would not do anything to make you feel uncomfortable.
If they had asked where to score some hookers, then taken the girls up to their room......I suspect your reaction would have been the same. Mine would have, I'm sure.