I couldn’t believe my eyes. It seemed that every last shred of 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 my very client...Oh no!
You will find that some version of the above scenario is repeated, Christmas party after Christmas party, year after year, more often than you would want to admit.
Do you ever wonder what is it about the holidays and its social events that drive business etiquette right out the door?
I know 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 ear. But does it have to include chopping off your “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 how is that?
Well, as a small business person, you are constantly being judged.
Before you can earn their trust, your customers will be second guessing themselves as to if you’re the right person to handle their work. Especially, if the amount of work 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 back to bite you on the butt.
It could well be the inexplicable reason you lose a contract or a job you thought you had locked down.
So this year, I’m ready for you.
I’m giving you your Christmas gift good and early – 7 useful tips to help with your business etiquette during the holidays.
Perhaps you're wondering how I came up with these particular seven...
Well, I asked my colleagues in my circle of experience for examples of poor business etiquette.
Of the many that I was given, the ones that led to these tips are the ones that came up the most.
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. In your own words: “no big thing!”
But it is a big thing and the biggest thing is your lack of knowledge of good business etiquette.
People plan their events - choosing their guests, selecting the caterers and above all, working with a budget. Just imagine if 10 people decide to crash a party...
Crashing a party also occurs when you accompany someone who was originally invited and just invited you without first getting permission to bring you.
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 paper and the special font.
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 respond...please!
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 these 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 that 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!
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 some 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!
Remember to introduce your partner
Men in particular, have this terrible habit of “forgetting” to introduce their wives or girlfriends.
I don’t know the reason for this and I’m not even guessing. What I do know is that in business situations, it is one of the worst displays of poor business etiquette.
When you don’t introduce your partners, it makes them, the hosts and the other guests most uncomfortable.
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. Wuhloss!
It seems that even the loud silence after you were finished speaking did not alert you to your predicament. Neither did the fact that you were the only one laughing.
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.
Prepare staff attending events in the name of your business
There are times when members of your staff are invited to events because of their position in your business, or you might ask them to represent you.
Whichever it is, your business is being represented at the event. This means that the business etiquette tips I shared above are still relevant.
So walk your staff through them, making sure that they understand that maintaining the reputation of your business is as important as their partying.
You should 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.
Your next business etiquette step…
If you remember nothing else, just remember that your behavior will be judged, even when you’re partying over the holidays.
Why should you care?
Because any inappropriate behavior at these or any similar events, can be the reason you lose a contract or a job 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.
Do you have any experiences to share about your Christmas partying? I’d love to hear about them so drop them in the comments below…
To your better business etiquette