MU-OER Project Soft Skills- Index/Business Etiquette and Grooming

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SLMtitle.png Learning Objectives

1 To introduce students to business etiquette and grooming.

2 To familiarize students with dress and grooming in a formal set up.

3 To explain the importance and the use of courtesy.

4 To familiarize students with table manners observed at business lunches and dinners.

5 To introduce e-mail etiquette,telephone manners and overall conduct at the place of work.

6.To explain the use of time,space and things in the world of work.

SLMtitle.png Introduction

How many times have we fumbled using forks and knives and chopsticks? How many times have we extended our hand for a hand shake which has not been reciprocated on time leaving both individuals embarrassed? How long have we fussed over what to wear to a semi–formal official party? Well, the answer to all these questions lies in what is going to unfold. Today,professionallooks,corporate manners,these terms have gained a lot of importance.Thanks to globalization,work places have become a microcosm of the world.We find ourselves often confused as to how to behave,so that no cross - cultural barriers are created while communicating in a multi-cultural set up.In order,to overcome these problems we could encounter at the world of work,we need to familiarize ourselves with acceptable professional behavior and groom ourselves accordingly.

SLMtitle.png Dress and grooming

The first impression of any individual is created by external appearance. Even products are thoughtfully packed for instant appeal. It is imperative that we take utmost care of our appearance;of which our clothes and grooming are an integral part.

One should be appropriately dressed for any occasion. Care should be taken that one is neither over or under dressed. The minimum requirement is that clothes should be ironed.Women have an array of clothes to choose from,however in order to create a positive impact senior executives should wear either a saree or a business suit comprising a jacket,shirt, and skirt. A trouser if not well tailored looks clumsy. Middle executives could also follow the same dress code.They also have the option of wearing salwar suits. Jeans even if allowed should be strictly avoided,as it doesn't create a positive impression.Women should take care that clothes are not revealing.Low cut blouses and short skirt lengths should be strictly avoided. Bright,gaudy colours should be avoided and pastels should be preferred.

Clothes with large floral prints or large checks are a strict no.

Accessories should be appropriately matched.Handbags have to be neatly organized,in order to avoid spilling things in others presence, also they shouldn’t be too huge,torn or tacky looking.

Makeup shouldn’t be too loud and colours have to suit one’s skin colour and dress.

As regards jewellery,it has to be minimal,dangling earrings should be avoided and the number of finger rings should be one per hand(for both men and women). As regards foot wear,uncomfortable pencil heels should be avoided.

Hair should be neatly tied or cut,shoulder length hair is managable,thus preferred.It is essential to wash and keep hair absolutely clean on a daily basis.

Men should also take care to wear matching shirts with trousers. Shirts should be lighter than the suit and the tie darker than the shirt.Pastels should be preferred over bright colours.

Senior executives should wear neatly tailored suits.Suits should be formal and light coloured in tropical country.Official meetings should not be attended in blazers.

Belts should match shoes and if cuff links are used they shouldn’t be cheap looking,with the polish worn off. Shoes should be polished and should be in shape.Shoes should be either brown or black and white clothes should be strictly avoided.Buy the best you can afford.Clothes shouldn’t be stained and seams shouldn’t be ripped (especially collars and hand cuffs).Wear a watch that reflects your personality.

Personal hygiene should be maintained. Nails should be clipped. Garish/gaudy nail enamel should be banned (especially dark reds and blues).Oral hygiene should be observed and mouth fresheners should be kept handy. A neat hair style should be maintained and hair should be neatly combed and appropriately set.

At a formal party it is a better idea to find out the dress code in advance and if not intimated,one should find out from the host about the dress code. Above all one should remember that it is better to be dressed simply,instead of being over or under dressed. One should remember it always helps to look your best,because people like to have good looking people around them.It makes them feel good looking too. Finally one should evolve one’s own signature style.

SLMact.gif Activity
(Total time- 15 minutes)

The teacher can ask the students to present the answers orally and discuss.(Fifteen minutes)

What personal hygiene should be maintained,in order to be presentable at the workplace? (Five minutes)

The teacher can ask the students to discuss the appropriate dressing for men and women at a formal gathering.(Ten minutes)

SLMtitle.png Courtesy

It is said that,"Handsome is what handsome does".It is important to be physically appealing butit is of no use unless it is complemented with courteous behavior. One shouldn’t reserve best behavior for special occasions.A uniform set of social codes should be followed, that shouldn’t discriminate between individuals one considers important or otherwise.

As Erastus Wiman says, "Nothing is ever lost by courtesy.It is the cheapest of the pleasures,costs nothing and conveys much.It pleases him who gives and him who receives and thus,like mercy,it is twice blessed."

One must recognize other people’s work, appreciate efforts.It is said that nine positive comments counter a single negative remark. Appreciation is always welcome from all quarters by everyone.Especially,freshers crave for appreciation from superiors,so superiors shouldn’t be cutting in their remarks about juniors.Have realistic expectations from others and oneself,so that there is no confusion.It’s best to be transparent and honest in dealings in order to be credible.

Conversations should be sprinkled with words like Thankyou,Please,Excuse me.Try to maintain eye contact with as many people as possible while conversing.

However,one’s response to the question ‘Do I think of others more than myself?’,should put things in perspective.After all,being courteous is nothing but being honest,fair,putting others before oneself and being accountable.

SLMact.gif Activity
(Total time- 5 minutes )

The teacher can ask the students to present the answer orally and discuss.(5 minutes )

1.Suppose you are in a situation where the printer has run out of cartridge,only two print outs can be possibly taken ,your junior has an important document to print and you share the same printer,whereas,you have a day on hand to submit your document, you being senior would you use your senior position?

2.A client comes to meet you and enters your office.Do you:

A.Invite him to sit.

B.Allow him to take a seat.

C.Say nothing.

Ans .A.

SLMtitle.png Conversations and small talk at official gatherings

In order to be liked,one should be a skilled conversationalist.No body is a born speaker,one has to make conscious efforts to be good at it.This can be developed by reading and being generally aware of things.

Positive people are liked by all,so be positive and do not indulge in gossips.

At a social gathering it helps to show interest in others,of course one should avoid controversial and personal questions.Sense of humour is vital to being liked by all.One should be careful that laughs and giggles shouldn’t be at somebody else’s expense. If people around are known and you notice that someone is being left out of conversation,then try to include them in your conversation and put them at ease.However,do not go out of your way in doing so,as it is your host’s responsibility to keep people engaged,nonetheless,you can contribute in your own small way.It’s possible that we tend to forget people’s names,in such a case,try to make the situation light by cracking jokes about how forgetful you have become generally,and be honest about having forgotten people’s names. You could also start as, "It’s been one of those days. Please tell me your name again." Do not cling on to people at social gathering nor should you allow others to do the same to you.In order to gracefully exit,suggest the food table or rope in someone to make your exit.

SLMact.gif Activity
(Total time-5 minutes)

Write your responses to the queries below:( Five minutes)

1. At an official gathering you come across people gossiping and laughing wrongly at a very close colleague,your reaction would be to:

A Laugh at the absent colleague.

B Clarify the real situation.

C Do not react,just listen and keep quiet.


2. You happen to know only the host at an official get- together ,in such a case :

A You cling to the host.

B Just be relegated to the corner of the hall.

C Be proactive, interact with others on your own initiative.


SLMtitle.png Power lunches and Dinners

Today, business is not limited to closed rooms, it is all encompassing,the concept of power brunches,lunches and dinners is an accepted way of doing business.Time is thus utilized to the fullest.It is said that," Dinner lubricates business."

Multi- national organizations conduct intense interview sessions for senior and responsible positions that span across the entire day, observe table manners of candidates and their overall conduct over lunch/dinner which is part of the interview ,which contributes a great deal to the final decision making process.

The way an individual eats,conducts himself/herself does reveal a lot about one’s upbringing and social background.It is aptly said, "Tell me what you eat and how you eat and I will tell you what you are." Thus a lot of care should be taken about how one conducts oneself at such occasions.

Firstly,personal addictions should be kept at bay. Smoking is banned at public places,and if one wishes to indulge in smoking,it should be done in areas allotted to do so. Drinks should be consumed within limits,at least at official gatherings .Follow the lead of the most senior at the table who will set the tone. Allow a more senior person to be the first person to order alcohol.

Cell phones should be put on a vibrating mode. Try to confine your conversations to business related talks. Wait for all to start eating,unless most senior announces it is time to eat it is not correct to start. Napkin should be placed on lap during eating. The dinner should begin with the outer most utensils.Take bite-sized pieces of finger foods and mind you,no double dipping. For soups,fill spoon by moving it away from you. Use edge of the bowl to wipe off drips from the spoon.When finished with the soup, place spoon on saucer or at four o clock position.

Avoid seasoning food quickly,it shows that you are overall a disorganised and impulsive individual.Remember that servers serve from left and remove from right.Always cut one piece of food at one time before cutting another piece of food. Put elbows on the table only in between courses .Clasp hands in front to look attentive and interested.

At buffet dining,plates shouldn’t be overflowing with food.Care should be taken of not mixing foods and serving utensils. While serving oneself one should take care not to sneeze or cough and control the urge to taste selections-however delicious the food looks. If Chinese cuisine is on the menu,use chopsticks only if confident,the twirling and swirling sessions should be done at home and knives should be avoided completely to manouver .Personal chopsticks should not be jammed into a common dish.

Using knife and forks Forks should be held in the left hand and the knife should be held in the right hand. The knife should be used to cut the food,after which the fork and knife, should be laid down and the fork should be shifted from the left hand to the right and the food should be speared to the mouth. The fork is also used to scoop up the remnants, corn kernels peas etc on the plate. In Europe the fork is held in the left hand and the knife is used to push food on to it and the fork carries it to the mouth .Corn kernels,peas are squashed into the fork for delivery to the mouth .A fork should never be used to stab a dish.Also never cut up all food at once. For finger foods,watch your hosts, seniors to determine,whether forks will be used for finger foods.

Once eating is done ,place fork and knife in the middle of your plate ,side by side. The fork tines up or down ,the knife to its right, sharp blade pointed inwards towards the fork.If a fork,knife or spoon is missing always ask your host to replace it. If a fork or food drops to the floor,ignore, and quietly ask the server to provide for another one.

Eating and passing food:

While eating it is impolite to cut up all food at once .Bread should be broken into two pieces, and butter should be spread only before putting it in your mouth. If someone takes your bread plate, don’t make an issue out of it or point it out, you could use your dinner plate. It is impolite to take food from someone else’s plate. A small portion can be offered on the bread and butter plate. The bread plate is placed to the left and the drink to the right. Also try to avoid answering with your mouth full. Try to redirect a question aimed at you elsewhere. If the person is insistent, just smile with your eyes ,point to your mouth and chew slowly. Don’t force the food down and don’t even try to say a word with your mouth full. If you notice unclean utensils or something in food, discreetly ask the server for new utensils /plate. As regards passing food ,it should be passed counter clock wise .However, if someone to your left asks for an item, pass it .Pass salt and pepper together ,even if one is asked for. As far as possible stick with known food ,do not experiment .Also ,if you are allergic to certain food ( eggs or mayonnaise),confirm about the ingredients with the server or the host.

Excusing oneself:

Excuse yourself only for phone calls or if some gristle is stuck between your teeth.

To blow your nose or for obvious reasons.

After the food:

Once you are finished eating place utensils at 4 o clock and 10 o clock position.Take care of not placing used utensils on the table cloth. Do not ask for a doggy bag at a business lunch/dinner.Fold your napkin in such a manner that the soiled area is hidden and place it to the left of your plate.Also if you soil someone’s clothes by spilling food/drink be ready to pay for professional dry cleaning. Keep drink in left hand to keep right hand free for hand shakes.Be prepared to pay in case of misunderstanding of host roles.In case you have to cancel,call personally and apologize in time don’t ever keep your host waiting .Send a thank you note or an SMS to that effect.Finally,remember it is a business lunch /dinner,so food should take a back seat to mingling and business.

SLMact.gif Activity
(Total time-10 minutes)

1. You find hair in your food, you

A Show the strand of hair to everyone present.

B Call for the server and yell at him.

C Quietly ask for food to be replaced.


2. You accidentally spill drink on your colleagues expensive sari, you

A Apologize profusely and try to clean the stain with a napkin.

B Apologize and act as if nothing has really gone wrong.

C Apologize and offer to pay for professional laundering.


3.You are hosting a dinner for about 10 people at a restaurant.You have ordered the food for everyone.You have also indicated where they should sit.Are you right in doing so?

Ans.Yes,you are saving on a lot of time by doing so.

4.You see a friend at a restaurant in the midst of a business dinner.You excuse yourself and go to greet your friend.Where do you place your napkin?

A Take it with you.

B Fold it and place it on the left of your plate.

C Leave it on the chair.


5At a business meal when do you start discussing business?

A.As soon as you are seated.

B.After the starters are ordered.

C.After the main course is ordered.

D.After the dessert.