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Business Etiquette In The Age Of MacDonalds

by Gerry Robert

Etiquette. The word may bring to mind images of the Victorian Era and unnatural rules of behaviour. But today basic etiquette is an important part of presenting a positive image to your boss or to your clients or customers. The skills required to project a relaxed and competent image are now receiving attention from all types of organizations, which expect employees at a variety of levels to be able to successfully present themselves and the company's interests.

"Many people that make it to the top understand these rules, and they expect others to know them too. Most of the people I work with are upwardly mobile and good at their jobs but might lack the social skills to take that next step," explains Jane Wilger, President of Wilger Image Development, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Wilger provides common sense guidelines for situations businesspeople frequently experience, whether they are engineers, salespeople, administrators or executives. In her seminars, Wilger discusses all aspects of business meals, how to dress for success, body language, introductions, and even cell phone manners. A few of her favourite tips follow below:

Introductions

While introductions may appear simple, these are the few moments in which critical first impressions are made on all sides.

"Always stand up when being introduced to someone," says Wilger. "If you're sitting across a large table it may not be possible to reach across and shake hands, but you can at least stand."

The name of the person of highest rank, or the person of honour, should be spoken first; all others are being presented to that person. For example, "President Bush, I'd like you to meet Jane Smith."

Second, it is the person with a higher position, so that a manager would be introduced to a vice-president.

Handshakes

"Whether you're a man or a woman, jobs can still be won or lost on the basis of a firm handshake," says James MacNeil, a Canadian Success Coach. "Men and women should shake hands with each other the same way as woman to woman or man to man. Offer your hand turned at a 90-degree angle to the floor and don't hold just the fingers or try to crush the other person's hand with an iron grip."

One great point MacNeil reminded me about was that during a cocktail hour, hold your drink in the left hand. Do this both to keep your right hand free, and so it is not cold and wet from holding a glass.

Some men may wait for a woman to offer her hand to be shaken, rather than automatically extending their hand to her. Wilger advises women to "get your hand out there right away so there is no confusion." This is particularly true when dealing cross-culturally.

MacNeil offers the same advice to anyone who might have a disability in his or her right hand or arm. "Bob Dole, the former United States senator, puts his left hand out there to shake right away, and people just learn to shake left hands with him."

Paying the Bill

If you think there might be a scuffle about who will pay the bill, or if you simply want it handled in a swift and subtle way, Wilger suggests the following.

"Arrive at the restaurant a few minutes early, tell them you are entertaining a client and ask them to run your credit card through. Then the bill will come straight to you and all you have to do at the end of the meal is figure the tip and sign your name."

This is also very classy in the eyes of any client, prospect or dining guest.

Small Talk

"The purpose of small talk is to find something in common and create a bond," says MacNeil. "The best way to do this is to ask people questions. Trying to be witty is less important than being observant and asking good questions."

Wilger does not feel politics and religion need to be avoided as topics, as long as no blanket attacks are made, and especially if you know the person you're talking with has similar interests. However, "never, ever bring up sex in any context," said Wilger.

I would add that joking about "lack of money" is distasteful for salespeople. One often wonders if there is any hidden meaning in this type of humour.

And never swear. People get into a social situation and they let their guard down. People are still often perceived as less intelligent if you have to swear to make your point.

Remember the rule: If in doubt, leave it out!

Telephone Manners

A recent addition to Wilger's bag of tips is cell phone etiquette. "Technology poses some etiquette questions that are entirely new to us. For example, cell phone time is often expensive. Don't ask to use someone's cell phone unless it is an emergency, especially if that person is a client. But regardless of whose phone it is, always offer to pay for the call."

One annoying habit I see far too often is using the cell phone when it shouldn't be used. I remember speaking in Singapore and right in the middle of my seminar, someone answered a ringing telephone (even though we had asked everyone to turn them off as a courtesy). The person spoke to the caller during the seminar, interrupting me and the people sitting next to her. How rude! You have seen people jumping for hand phones during a diner conversation. That is not professional.

If you are in conversation with someone, respect them and let the phone ring or discreetly reach down and switch it off, keeping eye contact with the person you are in conversation with.

Call Waiting

Call waiting lets you know that another call is coming in. I believe that it is very rude for anyone to force someone to stop talking because they have to answer the second line on their telephone. The problem is that people are like robots. Whenever they hear that little beep, they automatically cut off the person talking and answer the new call coming in. That is insulting.

Gerry Robert is a bestselling author of "The Millionaire Mindset" and a seminar speaker.

 

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Monday, 18 Dec 2017 12:14 AM

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