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Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


12.06.2016

Don’t Kill Your Career With Your Fork

My girlfriend showed me how to use my utensils, but I’m not sure she is correct. I have a job interview at a fancy restaurant coming up. Help. 

My colleague never puts his knife down when eating. Is that correct?


I read that there is a “finished position” for utensils. What is that? 


I have received a number of questions recently about correct behavior during a business meal, especially concerning the use of utensils.

People can get nervous when dining for business. And with good reason. You don’t want to blow a deal or a job offer based on your dining manners. To help people in my corporate classes remember what not to do with their utensils, I created these four examples:

1. Waving William: You wave your hands around with your utensils in them when you are talking at the table. Beware – the food on the utensils may go flying toward your neighbor! It’s best not to do much gesturing at all while you are dining, and never with a utensil in hand.

2. Finger-Pusher Fran: You want to eat every last bite, so you use your finger to help push food onto your fork. The days of the “clean plate club” are over. If you can’t get the food onto your fork without using your finger, leave it on the plate. Or, eat Continental style. In this style, the knife is used to push food onto the back of the fork.

3. Pitchfork Pete: You make a fist around your fork when cutting your meat. You look like you are holding a pitchfork! You should hold a fork with the handle inside the palm of your hand, and use your thumb and index finger to manipulate it.

4. Split-Personality Susan: You employ both the American and Continental styles of using utensils during one meal. When eating in the American style, you cut your meat using both knife and fork, then place your knife at the top of the plate and switch the fork to the dominant hand to eat. When eating in the Continental style, you still cut your food with both knife and fork, but then you eat the meal without putting the knife down or switching the fork to the opposite hand. As mentioned above, you use the knife to guide food onto the back of the fork. It’s generally best to use just one style.

Other Suggestions for Your Utensils:

•  Do not use your knife to cut your bread rolls. Break your roll in half, then tear off one piece at a time, and butter each piece as you are ready to eat it.

•  Place your knife and fork in the rest position (knife on top of plate, fork across middle of plate) to let the waiter know you are resting but not done with your meal. Use the finished position (knife and fork together diagonally across the plate, knife on top) to indicate that you have finished eating.

Additional information about business meals and your career can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes (McGraw Hill, December 2016).


Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on career development, business presentations, professional presence, etiquette and communication. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at  joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. 

11.14.2016

9 Ways to Help Restore Civility in Today’s World

I cannot believe that everyone was shouting in the meeting. No one heard anything and nothing got resolved.

My colleague stopped talking to her cousin because of the person she voted for.


The recent outbreaks of uncivil behavior in the political arena have impacted our everyday experiences, as the comments above testify. But it's time for people to fight back, politely of course, and assert that being uncivil to one another is not the way we want public figures to behave. Nor is it the way we should behave ourselves.

After the terrible events of 9/11 we came together and helped one another at a time of national tragedy.  We saw or heard of acts of incredible kindness, often between strangers.  And you know what?  We liked it!

Keep in mind that you don’t have to mirror the impolite actions of others.

There are ways for people to express their differences without resorting to bad behavior. If you want things to change, the change starts with you. Let me stress that: You are the change agent. 

Use these 9 tips to encourage polite behavior in the workplace and your world.

1. Don’t attack back. Remember that someone else’s bad behavior is no excuse for your own. Though it may feel good to respond, “Well, what do you know, you idiot?” if somebody says something to offend you, it’s not going to build your credibility or accomplish anything.

2. Use courteous behavior. It’s hard to be nasty to people who are nice to you.  Keep “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” in your vocabulary.  Greet others when you see them. And respond to the greetings of others. If someone says “hello” to you, you must say “hello” back. It is not optional!

3. Avoid inflammatory words. Using harsh words such as “stupid,” “ignorant,” and “fool” only inflames a situation, and this approach is unlikely to lead to a positive resolution. Cursing at people is just mean, and reflects poorly on the one doing the cursing.

4. Disagree agreeably. If you have difficulty with someone, talk to the person. Listen to what he or she has to say. You can evaluate an idea without attacking the person who is promoting it. Saying, “I see it differently, and here’s why…” is a lot more productive than screaming at people or calling them names.

5. Acknowledge your mistakes. Saying to someone, “You’re right. I shouldn’t have said that or done that,” goes a long way in maintaining good relationships.

6. Share, wait your turn, and be gracious toward others. Help other people when you can. Don’t interrupt. And be considerate when sharing space with others. This includes cleaning up after your meeting and making sure that you return the items you borrowed. 

7. Be cautious with humor. Humor can be an effective communication tool, but it also may cause you to fail miserably, especially in tense or difficult situations. What some people believe is funny may hurt or put down other people, and this invites conflict.

8. Stop complaining. If you don’t like something, don’t complain about it to others – do something. Get involved. Join organizations. Politely object. (Additional information on communicating effectively and politely can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.)

9. Walk away.  And if you don’t want to do any of the above, you can always avoid hostile or impolite interactions by simply walking away.


Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at  joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. 

 



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11.03.2016

How not to be overlooked at work

I am not asked to attend certain meetings where I believe my input would be helpful. I don’t know what to do.

I am being slighted at work. I don’t get the good assignments. And I need those skills to move up in my organization.


These comments and others from my seminar participants suggest that some people believe they are being overlooked at work. Yet there are often two sides to a story. As the quote below illustrates, sometimes when people are given opportunities to be noticed, they don’t make the most of them.

I was nervous when I attended the senior management meeting. I stood by myself and didn’t talk to anyone. My boss was furious at me. She said it was my opportunity to get known and I blew it.

Regardless of which side you identify with, here are some general guidelines to help you stand out – in a good way:

Don't make it easy for people to ignore you.  Walk into a room like you belong there. Go up to people and introduce yourself, shake hands correctly, and make conversation with others. Pay attention to your nonverbal communication. Look people in the eye when you speak. Don’t cross your arms. Speak loudly enough to be heard – many people don't.  And dress professionally. Your clothes need to be clean, pressed, in good condition, fit well, and be appropriate for your position. 

Speak up if something is bothering you. If you don't bring up situations that you believe are unfair, others may assume you are passive, and it’s unlikely anything will change. The key is to pick situations that are important, and to voice your concerns assertively. "Boss, I haven't been asked to attend the marketing meetings, yet I believe my suggestions on the budget would be helpful to the team. I would like to attend next week's meeting."

Make use of your network and mentors. Talk to people you trust about your specific situation. Get their suggestions. If you don't have mentors or a network, start developing them. (Additional information on building your network can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.)

Have “fire in your belly.” Have a powerful sense of determination – of working hard to succeed. Some people seem to be born with this attribute; others have to develop it. To ignite that blaze, go above and beyond. Do more than what is expected of you. Help others. Show initiative and do good work. Make sure you have all the necessary schooling and/or certifications. Convey enthusiasm for your work. Meet or beat your deadlines. When you can, solve problems. Get to work early, and don’t rush out the door at the end of the day.

There are many other things you can do to enhance your career, but these four items are key to helping you get noticed – an important part of any professional’s development.


More information on career development can also be found in my book The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success.   

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at  joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. 

10.25.2016

In the beginning… Salutations set the tone for emails


My name is spelled correctly in my signature block; why do so many people misspell it in the salutation? It really bothers me.

My colleague started one of his emails “Happy Monday to all!!!” He must have had too much caffeine that morning.

Only my good friends call me Bobby – my coworker should use “Robert” or “Bob” in the salutation.


Unfortunately, the salutation on emails provides endless ways to upset your reader, as indicated by the comments above from participants in my writing seminars. And, if you offend someone in the first line, that person may not read any further. 

Here are suggestions from my upcoming book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes, on how to start your emails without giving offense: 

1.   Spell the recipient’s name correctly. It may not bother you, but I want to impress upon you that many people are insulted if their name is misspelled. Check for the correct spelling in the person’s signature block. Copy and paste the name to make sure you are spelling it correctly. Checking the “To:” line is also a good idea, as people’s first and/or last names are often in their addresses.

2.   Don’t shorten a person’s name or use a nickname unless you know it is okay. Use the person’s full name (Hi Susan) unless you know it is okay to use the shorter version (Sue).

3.   Avoid “Dear Sir/Ms." This salutation tells your reader that you have no idea who that person is. Why then should the reader be interested in what you have to say? 

4.   Use a non-gender-specific, non-sexist term if you don’t know the person’s name. You can use Dear Client, Customer, or Team Member. You can also use Representative, and add it to any company name or department name, such as “Dear Microsoft Representative,” or “Dear Human Resource Representative.”

5.   Salutations are recommended in emails. Email doesn’t technically require a salutation as it’s considered to be memo format. When email first appeared, many people did not use salutations. Eventually, people starting adding salutations to appear friendlier and to soften the tone of their writings. (After two or three emails have gone back and forth on the same email string, the salutations can be dropped.)

      There is a hierarchy of greetings, from informal to formal, and you should match the salutation to the relationship you have with the recipient. The hierarchy follows this general format:

       Hi,   /   Hi Anna,   /   Hello,   /   Hello Julianna,   /   Dear Justin,   /   Dear Mr. Jones,

If the person you are writing to is a colleague, “Hi Anna,” should be fine.  If you don’t know the person, or the person has significantly higher rank than you have, you may want to use the more formal greeting: “Dear Justin,” or “Dear Mr. Jones.”

6.   Be cautious with the use of Hey. Hey is a very informal salutation (Hey Daniel,) and generally should not be used in the workplace. Opening with Yo is definitely not okay, no matter how informal your relationship with the recipient. Use Hi or Hello instead.

Additional information on salutations, emails and business writing can be found in The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes – available in bookstores in December. You can preorder you copy now.



8.17.2016

Does sarcasm work at the office?

There have been numerous mentions in the press and social media recently about using sarcasm to argue a point.

Let’s look at sarcasm from a communication standpoint (not a political one!), and consider whether it’s an effective way to connect with people in business.

First of all, what is sarcasm?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, sarcasm is “the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really want to say especially in order to insult someone, to show irritation, or to be funny.”

The Cambridge dictionary has a similar definition: “remarks that mean the opposite of what they say, made to criticize something or someone in a way that is amusing to others but annoying to the person criticized.”

Adopting the first part of the definition – using sarcasm to insult someone – is not okay in the business world (or elsewhere). To use sarcasm to insult another person is rude and mean-spirited, and reflects poorly on the speaker. If you have difficulty with someone, be direct and confront that person on the issue. You want to build relationships with the people you work with and others in your network. Sarcasm can destroy those relationships.

Using sarcasm to be funny can be tricky.  Oscar Wilde said, “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but the highest form of intelligence.” A good example would be a quote long attributed to Mark Twain: “I refused to attend his funeral. But I wrote a very nice letter explaining that I approved of it.” 

Very few of us have such literary talents. For the rest of us, it is easy for our sarcasm to become hurtful or tactless. As author Shannon L. Alder said, “If you have to explain your sense of humor, then you are performing for the wrong crowd.”
I admit, you can sometimes pull off sarcasm if you have a good relationship with your target. An example of this would be the exchange I saw on a poster: “Mom, what is it like to have the greatest daughter in the world?” The mom replies, “I don’t know, dear. You’ll have to ask Grandma.” 

I have used sarcasm successfully with my husband. But when I was sarcastic in a seminar, it fell flat. The participants didn’t know me well enough to get the intended humor.

Bottom line, it is generally best to avoid sarcasm.

Additional information on communication can be found in my book The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success. 

And look for my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes, coming in December. You can pre-order your copy now.

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at  joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. 


Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

8.03.2016

Moving on? The etiquette for leaving a job

An article in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago talked about a possible developing trend in the workplace – more workers are leaving their jobs without giving the traditional two weeks’ notice.

The reasons given for “quitting without notice” included frustration with their jobs (both younger and older employees) and not knowing the appropriate way to quit. One young woman mentioned that she had seen characters on the television drama “Suits” who quit and immediately walked out of the office, and assumed that was the way it was done.

Moving to a new position is not unusual in today’s workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the “quit rate” in May of this year was 2%, or 2.9 million workers. (“Quits” are generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee.) This number was up over the previous year’s May rate of 1.9%, or 2.7 million people.

Quitting without giving notice can be difficult for an employer who has to replace you, and may negatively affect your reputation. A prospective employer might question whether to hire you if it is known that you were willing to leave your previous employer in the lurch.

If you quit in a professional manner, however, you could enhance your reputation and your options for the future. One woman I coach told me that the last thing her former boss said to her was, “You are welcome to come back any time!”

Here are five key actions to take so the rude practice of “quitting without notice” doesn’t become a trend: 

1. Let your boss know. Have a conversation in person, or, if that is not possible, let the boss know via a phone call. Do not quit in text! Plan a quiet time for your meeting, and practice what you want to say. Get right to the point (“I am handing in my resignation...”) and explain why, such as “I received a fantastic offer,” or “The new position is the next step in my career development.”

2. Don’t burn your bridges. Be positive, though this may be a stretch if you disliked your boss. Find some reason to express appreciation – “This was a difficult decision for me, and I want to thank you for the opportunity to be part of your team.”  No matter how long you have fantasized about telling your boss off – don’t do it. It might make you feel wonderful for ten seconds, but later you probably would feel bad about it. And the only thing you would accomplish would be to lose a reference. Also, do not post any nasty or gloating comments on Facebook or other social media.

3. Let other people know. You also need to tell or email your subordinates, colleagues and clients/customers. A woman I mentored used the email below to tell a group of her clients at the same company that she was leaving. It could be adapted to fit a variety of situations.

Hello,
I wanted to reach out to everyone to share some news. This Friday will be my last day.

Over the past year, you have provided me with the opportunity to grow, have challenged and supported me, and have helped me to become a better account supervisor. I am grateful, and couldn't leave without expressing my appreciation for your many kindnesses.

I have enjoyed working with all of you. Although I am sad to leave, I will be moving on to a new opportunity to continue my growth and career development.

I hope to have a chance to see everyone to say goodbye in person.

All the best,


4. Thank people. Make a special effort to thank the people who have gone out of their way for you. One departing employee took his office manager to lunch as a special thank-you.

5. Make the transition easy for your replacement. Be as up-to-date as you can. Leave detailed notes. If possible, introduce the person replacing you to the key people with whom he or she will be working.


Additional information on career development can be found in my book The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success. 

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at  joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. 


Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

6.21.2016

Do you agree with “No, I Agree”?

Why does my manager say “No, I agree” – when she agrees with me? It doesn’t make any sense to start with a “no.”

This question from a seminar participant reminded me that I have meant to discuss this communication conundrum for some time.

The above manager who confuses my seminar participant is using what I call a “contradictory phrase.” This is a term frequently used to describe an expression where the first part seems to contradict the second, as in “organized chaos” or “original copies.” This type of wording is sometimes called an oxymoron, and is often intentionally used for humor or to create rhetorical effect. Examples include “pretty ugly” or “sweet sorrow.”

However, this article is not about crafting such wording for literary effect. This is about the specific use of “no” as the first part of a phrase, followed by wording that seems contradictory. As illustrated above, this can occur when someone agrees with you by saying, “No, I agree.” It also pops up when someone tells you that you are correct by saying, “No, you’re right.” Other examples include, “No, I’m certain,” “No, you’re fine,” and “No, I’m sure.” 

This is a kind of verbal idiosyncrasy that many people don’t notice – but once they become aware of its use, it can drive them crazy.

So why do people use these types of phrases? Based upon my research, I have come up with three reasons:

Sometimes these phrases are said sarcastically, such as on this ecard that’s part of the humorous “rotten” series: No, you’re right. Let’s do it the dumbest way possible because it’s easier for you. 

Or, the person says “no” as part of an unspoken addition to a comment, such as “No, I don’t disagree with that. I agree.” The other person is supposed to know what was left unsaid and fill in the blanks. And sometimes in casual conversation that will happen. But not always.

And sometimes people just say “no” as a matter of course. There are some people who have a tendency to respond negatively to any comment or request – at least at first. I admit that I did that when my son was young. Saying “no” immediately gave me a second to evaluate what he wanted, before I (sometimes) agreed to his request. I found myself making comments such as, “No. [slight pause] You can sleep over at Max’s house.” When I realized how often I was saying things like that, I stopped saying “no” and replaced it with the phrase “Let me think about it.”

Other solutions to eliminating these types of contradictory phrases include:
  • Eliminate the “no.” Simply state your response. Instead of saying, “No, you’re right,” say, “You’re right.” It’s a more positive comment.
  • Explain the unspoken.  Instead of saying, “No, you’re fine,” you would clarify, “No, I don’t think you’re inappropriately dressed. You’re fine.”

Additional information on communication can be found in my book The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success. 

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at  joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. 


Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net