In the last couple of weeks I have been accepting proposals from vendors for a large development project that is planned to start in the next 6 months. In the course of this process, the executive team has met with each of the candidate groups and their top managers for a dinner meeting, to talk over the specifics of the project.
Suzanne, I was aghast at their manners. I realize that in recent years, the importance of table manners has dropped. However, I never could have imagined how dire the situation had become until we had completed the third dinner meeting, and every one of them had been a circus of ill-mannered candidates.
What priority do table manners have in today’s workplace? Is the situation as bad as I thought, or were these experiences just a fluke?
Jeff H. Boulder, CO
Jeff, Believe it or not, table manners are one of the best ways for employers to test your trustworthiness. Regardless of what your position is, table manners say a lot about how you function in a formal or tense situation. Your level of politeness at the table is a good indicator of your ability to maintain decorum in any situation.
Everything from the very general – such as how much alcohol you consume and how you manage moderation in foo, to whether you wait for everyone to be served to begin eating – reveal much about how you likely handle business relationships.
These are just a few of the reasons why we include a section on table manners in the Professional Presence in a Casual World program. The way we all present ourselves to the people we interact with tells volumes about how we handle challenges and projects. Even more, being polite is a way of showing regard for others. Just like the ill-mannered candidates who attended your dinner meeting, good manners open doors, poor manners make one wonder if the business relationship can succeed.
In the words of Margaret Walker, “Friends and manners will carry you where money won’t go.”
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