Archive for the 'Daily Life' Category



The Office Christmas Party: Use It! (Part 2)

sb10063164f-001Last week, I commented on how to use the office Christmas party to your advantage. This week, some more tips which will help you gain kudos with colleagues and your boss.

Enjoy the hospitality in moderation Hold your drink in your left hand to ensure that your right hand is free—and dry rather than cold and clammy—to shake hands.  This also keeps your right hand free for sampling the finger food as it is passed. Avoid the temptation to juggle a plate of food and a drink while standing. If holding a plate, lose the glass. Serve yourself moderate portions at a buffet—better to return for seconds than to heap your plate high with an unattractive mixture of everything in sight. When alcohol is being served, stay well under your limit. Gentlemen: don’t finish your second drink; ladies: don’t finish your first. Switch to mixers or juice.

Mingle and make polite conversation Use this opportunity to introduce yourself to senior managers and meet people from other departments.  Meet your colleagues’ spouses and partners (gay couples are treated exactly the same), and acknowledge that they have lives and interests of their own—they are not merely appendages to their partners.  Any question that might appear on a government form or mortgage application is to be avoided. Also to be avoided: “shop-talk” and office gossip. Holiday plans, children, common interests, current events are all simple openers that will not offend or embarrass. Best to skip politics and religion.

Thank your host and leave By the end time stated on the invitation, you should be finding your host to say thank you and taking your leave.

And finally… If you’ve followed these guidelines, a thank you note to the evening’s host will distinguish you in the workplace as a confident and knowledgeable employee with superlative social skills. And that’s where the 85% factor comes into play.

John Robertson
Tutor, The English Manner

The Office Christmas Party: Don’t Dread It – Use it! (Part 1)

200174759-001Fact: 85% of the reason for success in business is people skills, leaving only 15% riding on your business degree and years of experience. Using the office holiday party to showcase your people skills could be a better career move than that brilliant business plan you submitted last month.

Go! Although disguised as a social event, the office party is as much part of your job responsibilities as attending any other meeting called by your boss. Make no mistake: this is business, not pleasure. In the absence of a well-established and unavoidable previous engagement, consider attendance as mandatory.

Dress appropriately This is a business event; keep the business in your choice of what to wear. Dress at the upper end of what you consider business formal.  Easier for men who can wear a blue suit and either a conservative or festive tie. Women, keep it smart—not sexy.  No cleavage means no gossip behind your back or leering looks at work. Review with your spouse or guest what they will be wearing, also. It will reflect on YOU if your wife wears a revealing dress, or your husband’s idea of dressing up is wearing clean jeans.

There is no holiday magic behind the following key social skills that successful people use year ‘round, not just at the office party:

Greet your host when you arrive (by the way, “host” is a gender-neutral term). It is not acceptable to simply head for the bar and buffet and hope to catch up with your host later in the evening.  A well-organised party of over 50 guests should include a receiving line making it easy for the host to greet everyone on arrival.

Shake hands and remember that this is the only acceptable touching allowed at a business function. Avoid determined kissers by locking your elbow when shaking hands to enforce the distance. Handshakes are accompanied by direct eye contact (don’t be looking over their shoulder to see who else is there) and often include an introduction.

Introduce yourself and others When introducing yourself, use your first and last name; never call yourself “Mr. Wales” or “Mrs. Dixon” unless you are introducing yourself to a child. In a business environment, junior (or less important) people are introduced to senior (or more important) people. Don’t delude yourself that there is no ranking simply because it is a party. Introduce people by name, not by their position or relationship to you although you may usually explain the relationship. For example: “Ms Boss, may I introduce Julius Brown, my husband.” (It is up to your boss whether she will ask your husband to call her by her first name.)

Next week: the art of mingling and polite conversation, how to enjoy the hospitality in moderation, and the all-important thank you letter!

 

John Robertson
Tutor, The English Manner

Are you a Pre or Post-Lactarian?

An example of post-lactarianism

It was whilst flicking through Professor Alan S. C. Ross’s book ‘Don’t Say It’ that I stumbled merrily upon these two terms, which were both new to me. A pre-lactarian is someone who pours their milk into their tea or coffee before the hot water; a post-lactarian is someone who adds milk last.

But which method is correct? Well, there is no strict answer to this. It has its roots in class distinction.

In previous eras, adding the milk in before the hot water was always done by the ‘downstairs’ of the big houses, who would have pottery mugs. These mugs did not react too well to the boiling water, and thus the cold milk was poured in first so that it instantly cooled the water and thus the mugs survived in one piece.

Meanwhile, in the ‘upstairs’ of the house, where they could afford cups and saucers made from china or porcelain, the milk could be added after the hot water, as the cups were able to cope with the boiling water as they were made from a more resilient material.

As to who actually invented the terms pre and post-lactarian, I do not know and I am still researching, but they are much grander than some of the terms one could use instead!

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Denim for Dinner?!

true_religion_jeansRecently I had a sojourn to the Lake District with my family and we stayed in the same small, hotel we have stayed in for the last twelve years when we visit our relatives in the north of the region. One of my favourite things about this hotel is the excellent food they never fail to serve.

On our first night at dinner, I was shocked – no, mortified – to discover that fifteen out of the nineteen diners were wearing jeans. Jeans! Denim! I should at this juncture state that the restaurant itself is quite formal (it’s not a Harvester). Only at this point did I realise that my brother was also wearing jeans (smart jeans – not ones with rips and holes in, but jeans nonetheless). My family quickly told me to calm down and stop being such a stick in the mud.

But this is why I was shocked: when we first stayed at said hotel, the gentlemen wore jackets and ties, whilst the women wore dresses. You were looked upon in horror if you wore jeans (or dared not wear a jacket – although no rule was enforced). Now, ten years later, there has transparently been a seismic shift in standards. I should state here and now that I rolled up on the first night (going by previous experiences) with a jacket, tie and corduroy trousers. People looked at me. They stared.

When sitting in the hotel lounge afterwards I heard a young-ish girl refer to me to her father as ‘that odd boy with the tie’. Well. That’s the thanks one gets for upholding standards.

Society does change, I accept that, but what shocked me is the speed in which, in this particular instance, it has done so. My fear is that we as a nation are too lazy to make the effort for anything anymore. The chef has made an effort to produce top-notch food, so why should we be so arrogant as to wear the same clothes we were wearing all day to eat it?

Moan over. But for the record, for the next two nights we were there, I made sure I wore a jacket, tie and smart trousers. And if I had had my dinner jacket to hand, I’d have worn that: just to make my point.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Pearls Before Swine: Shaking Hands and Swine Flu

A question etiquette consultants have been asked over the last few months is ‘do I shake hands with someone for fear of catching swine flu?’ A lot of people are becoming worried – perhaps paranoid – that if they shake someone’s hand at the moment the chances of catching the H1-N1 virus increases. The same applies for social kissing.

The English Manner’s John Robertson says, “Go ahead and shake their hands. You’re going to pick up more germs anyway as soon as you touch the next door knob and you should just continue to wash your hands frequently and carry a little squeeze bottle of hand sanitiser if you’re really worried”.

A good sanitising product readily available in the UK is ‘Flu Pak’, which can be bought at all good pharmacies and drug-shops, as well as online.

It is rude to refuse someone’s hand when proffered and this should be remembered at all times. On a medical note, swine flu is no different to normal influenza. Whilst it is harmful to pregnant mothers, the very young and the elderly, to everyone else, it is just the same as having common or garden flu. As with many recent diseases (I’m thinking bird flu) the media have been as helpful as ever in stirring up public paranoia with this disease.

Of course, if you have the disease then you should be in bed and not shaking hands with anyone, so it is a fair assumption to assume that people who have swine flu will not be proffering their hands to anyone.

John Robertson continues, “Shaking hands doesn’t give you the virus, it doesn’t pass through your skin. The infection is passed when you put your hands near your mouth or nose or your eyes. So wash your hands often and keep them away from your face; good advice at any time”.

It would seem the best antidote to swine flu is common sense.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Swearing: Think of Our Language!

Three in ten of us are subjected to swearing every five minutes, according to a recent report. When I was asked to comment on this for BBC Radio 5 Live the other day, my initial thoughts (apart from how bad this is) were for the English language itself. We have such a rich, vibrant and beautiful language and to limit it to a handful of words is such a pity.

People use the F-word and the like now as nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, pronouns and prepositions. We hear swearing on the television, in the cinema and on the street. These taboo words are not only unnecessary but also horrid for the ear: they have no mellifluous quality that some words do: none of us want to hear those abrasive sounds. Perhaps then they are well suited to their purpose.

But swearing all the time devalues it. There is (sometimes) a time and a place for the occasional swear word (although using a curse-word to describe someone is never acceptable). If someone who never swears does occasionally exclaim something a bit off-colour, then those around will know that the person is truly annoyed and angry But if we go about swearing left-right-and-centre, willy-nilly, then we automatically take away the gravitas and oomph that any invectives may have.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner


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