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Business Etiquette 101—Part 2

Are you putting your best foot forward, or are you getting a reputation that will kill your business relationships? Check out these common etiquette blunders.

By Kathleen Pagana


Now that you have taken the quiz, use these answers to help you project a professional and credible image in any business setting. These ideas will help you develop relationships at your business outings.

  1. False. A business meal is not a time to relax and “let loose.” It is a test of your social skills and level of sophistication. Your interpersonal skills, including your treatment of the wait staff, are on display. It’s also important to note that one of the biggest blunders you can make at a business meal or gathering is drink too much alcohol. You can undo months and years of good impressions by excessive drinking. The key point to remember is that “business” should always be the No. 1 item on the menu.

  2. The boss’s name should be said first. Proper introductions have a pecking order with the person of rank, honor or importance being mentioned first. The other person is being introduced or presented to the person of honor. Follow these three steps. One, say the name of the key person. Two, mention the name of the other person and say something about him or her. Three, come back to the key person and say something about him or her. Here is an example where the boss is Mike Williams and the spouse is Cindy Clark.
    “Mike, I would like to introduce my wife, Cindy Clark. Cindy is an interior decorator. Mike Williams is our company president.”
    Think of it is book-ending the introduction with the person of importance.

  3. True. Clothing is never neutral. Some people disagree and say, “I don’t judge a book by its cover.” Maybe, this is true. However, people do judge you. If you are at a business holiday party, remember that the key word is “business.” Dress how you want when you’re with your family and friends. Women should avoid wearing clothes that are too tight, too short or too sexy.

  4. False. A man does not have to wait for a woman in business to extend her hand for a handshake. Business should be gender neutral. Many men were taught to wait for a woman to extend her hand in social settings.

  5. False. Your drink should be held in your left hand so your right hand is free for handshaking. This also prevents your right hand from being cold and damp.

  6. Your salad plate is to the left of the entrée plate. An easy way to remember this is to think of the BMW car. From left to right, think bread, meal, water. Bread and all food to the left of the plate are yours. Water and all drinks to the right of the plate are yours. Knowing this will help you avoid taking the wrong bread, eating the wrong salad and drinking from the wrong water glass.

  7. Yes. Please tell an associate if she has spinach in her teeth. An important part of etiquette is kindness.

  8. False. If you need to excuse yourself during a meal, place your napkin on your chair. People do not want to see a dirty napkin with food stains while they are eating. When the meal is complete and people are leaving the table, place the napkin to the left of the plate.

  9. False. Barbecue ribs are not a good meal option at a company banquet or business meal—as is any other menu choice that requires massive clean up. You need to keep your hands and face clean.

  10. False. Pushing back your plate is not the signal indicating that you are finished eating. Think of your plate as a clock. Put your fork and knife so that they are lying across the plate with the top of the utensils pointing at 10 o’clock and the base of the utensils at 4 o’clock. The knife should be on the outside with its blades facing inward towards the fork.

Kathleen Pagana is the author of Bread, Butter and Beyond: Dining Etiquette a book that can help everyone be more confident at business meals, job interviews and other social functions. She draws on her leadership of more than 25 years in health care, college teaching, administration, clinical practice and business management. For more information, visit



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