I couldn’t believe my eyes! It seemed that every last shred of good business etiquette had gone through the window.
There was my latest client. Half empty glass in his right hand, his left hand on his hip and he was about to gyrate on a woman who did not welcome his brand of “holidays fun”.
But wait...Oh no! I know this woman! She’s the wife of the owner of the business that I negotiated a contract with for this very client...OH NO!
You might not want to admit it, but you will find some version of the above scenario repeated Christmas party after Christmas party, year after year.
Doesn't that make you wonder what is it about the holidays and its social events that drive business etiquette right out the door?
Perhaps it's the time of the year when you really want to let your hair down. And who can blame you? After all, you worked hard all year. But does it have to include chopping off your proverbial “business head”?
Whether you believe it or not, how you behave at social events over the holidays, just might catch up with you in the New Year.
You want to know why this is so?
Well, as a small business person, you are constantly being judged - Holidays and all.
Before you can earn their trust, your customers will be second guessing themselves as to if you’re the right person to handle their business. Especially if the amount of business and money involved are substantial.
If you display inappropriate behaviour or show that you do not understand business etiquette in social situations, it could come right back to bite you on the butt.
You may never know but it could well be the inexplicable reason you don't get a contract or lose a job you thought you had locked down.
So this year, I’I’m giving you your Christmas gift good and early - 7 useful tips to help you navigate the social side of the Holidays.
Perhaps you're wondering how I came up with these particular 7...Well, I asked my colleagues in my circle of experience and my top tier clients for examples of poor business etiquette.
They gave me many instances but the ones I used to develop my list were on everybody's list.
So here's how to navigate the social side of the holidays. And win.
1. Don’t crash an event
You know what I mean...turning up to an event without having been invited.
Yes...people do this. Some of you believe that knowing the person is enough for you to show up at the party. Likewise, some of you who are invited to events believe that it's “no big thing” to show up with 5 other uninvited guests.
But it IS a big thing! and the biggest thing is your lack of knowledge of good business etiquette.
Come on, man! People plan their events well in advance - choosing their guests, selecting the caterers, finalising a location and above all, working within a budget. Just imagine the fallout if 10 people decide to crash a small, 50-person event...
2. Respond to RSVPs
You receive a lovely invitation to a Christmas dinner from your MVC (most valued client). You feel honored as you admire the quality of the paper and the special font reserved for your name.
Of course you’re going...but did you RSVP as required?
RSVP is originally French as in: “réspondez s’il vous plaît” which literally means: “reply if you please” or “please reply”.
It follows then, you cannot just ignore the RSVP instruction on an invitation unless the instruction is something like “RSVP only if you’re not attending.”
In all other cases, check to see if you were given a date by which to respond and make sure you do respond...please!
3. Follow the dress codes
Depending on the formality (or informality these days!) of the occasion, when you attend events over the holidays, you might be required to follow a dress code.
What is the problem?
Many of you small business owners believe that a dress code restricts what you can wear to an event...and it does. Doh!
But it does not limit your creativity within those limitations. You can still rock you own style and stand out from the crowd.
However, what you should not do, is display poor business etiquette, by ignoring the dress code.
If you do, you only establish that “you ain’t ready yet!” and this could lead to potential clients also wondering if you're ready to handle their big contract.
You must understand, that knowing how to conduct yourself in a professional manner, at a social event, is just another part of the business of being in business!
4. Do NOT get drunk
You are asking if I had to mention this? Well..Yes!
There seems to be a popular belief that the freer the drinks the more you should consume. Especially over the holiday season.
But regardless of the price of your drinks, the alcohol content is the same and the effect on your body and your brain is the same.
However much you believe you can hold your liquor, if you consume too much alcohol, you will become drunk.
When you are drunk, the more likely you are to make an ass yourself. And at the wrong time. The problem is, you might not even remember how you behaved. But the other guests will.
This rule applies equally to men and women. I can’t pretend that I have not noticed the increase in the amount of alcohol more women are drinking.
So, when you're invited to social events, sponsored by any of your business associates or your clients, enjoy the drinks but don’t get drunk!
5. Remember to introduce your partner
Men in particular, have this terrible habit of “forgetting” to introduce their wives, girlfriends or partners.
I don’t know the reason for this and I’m not even going to guess. What I do know, is that on social business occasions, it is one of the worst displays of poor business etiquette anywhere.
When you don’t introduce your partners, it makes them, the hosts and the other guests most uncomfortable. We then have to ask them their names, we have to be careful not to mis-interpret the relationship and we don't have the option to ignore them.
On the other hand, when you do introduce your partners, remember to do so correctly.
Good etiquette and certainly good business etiquette dictates that you introduce your partner in this manner:
"Please meet Mary, my wife" instead of "Please meet my wife, Mary."
Do not introduce an inappropriate topic
So you’ve had a few drinks. Maybe a few too many. Either way, you find the courage to tell that off colour joke that worked so well at your last “man cave” event.
But you know what's worse? It seems that even the loud silence after you are finished speaking do not alert you to your predicament. Neither does the fact that you were the only one laughing.
Look, it is very important that you conduct yourself with decorum at these events.
Listen to what the people around you are talking about and let that be your guide. If you feel to introduce a new topic, just like in public speaking, analyse your audience.
7. Prepare staff attending events in the name of your business
There are times when members of your staff will be
invited to events because of their positions in your business, or you might ask them to represent you.
Whichever it is, they are attending the event in the name of your business. This means that these business etiquette tips I am sharing are still relevant and even more so. You see, you can fire them for any bad behaviour but the damage will already be done to your business.
So prepare your staff, walk them through these tips. Make sure they understand that maintaining the reputation of your business is as important as their latest dance moves.
When you do, be sure to emphasize tip #1. It is not unheard of for young staff members to crash an event that you might have decided not to attend and claim to be representing you. It happens...
Your next "good business etiquette" step…
If you remember nothing else, just remember that even as you're partying, people will be judging you.
But why should you care?
Because if you're guilty of inappropriate behavior at these or any similar events, you can be the reason you lose a contract or a job you thought you had locked down.
So, as you party during this holiday season, be sure to display good business etiquette.
When you do, you are actually ensuring that your merry-making during the holidays cannot cost you money in the New Year.
But don't stop at socialising at Christmas time.
You should practice good business etiquette all year round. When you do, over time you will become known as a person people want to do business with.
Believe me, that's money in the bank...
To your better business etiquette