Bad table manners are like any lapse in etiquette – when the problem is coming from someone else, it’s immediately apparent, but if you’re the offender, you probably don’t even realize it’s an issue. (This explains such mysteries as why there are still people who belch in public or trim their nails on public transit.) If you are an unseemly eater, you could be damaging your career and not even know it.
(Photo Credit: Jenny Downing/Flickr)
How can eating affect your shot at a promotion? Well, if you dine with clients, the answer is simple: people don’t buy from people who gross them out. If you’re not in a client-facing role, the issue is about building and preserving relationships with your team.
Even if you’re heads-down most of the time, sooner or later, you’ll probably break bread with your colleagues. And when you do, you’ll want to make sure your manners don’t put people off.
Most of us know not to start eating before everyone is served, to chew with our mouths closed and not speak while chewing, and to place our napkins in our laps, not in our shirt collars, like a lobster bib. Our parents covered the obvious things – our job is just to keep them in mind, now that mom and dad can’t see us. But what about the finer points?
There, etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore can help. Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach and author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals, recently offered a few tips on navigating business dinners with grace, including:
Watch your breadiquette: Bread should never be eaten as a whole slice or even two halves. You’ll look more polished if you break off one bite-size piece, butter it and then eat it. And never butter your bread directly from the butter dish. Instead, transfer some butter from the butter dish to your bread plate. Never dunk bread in your soup or use it to sop up sauces or juice on your plate.
No chivalry when it’s about business: The business arena is gender neutral nowadays, therefore men are not required to pull out a woman’s chair or stand when a woman approaches or leaves the table during business meals. And whoever reaches the door first, regardless of gender, should open it for the other person.
Salt and pepper together: Always pass the salt and pepper shakers together, even if someone asks you to pass one or the other. It’s best to keep them together as a set in the event someone else at the table wants both. Never pass them from hand to hand as this is considered bad luck in some cultures. Place them in front of the receiver and allow him to pick them up.
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