By Kelly Patrick Slone
Whether it’s happy hour with coworkers, a sit-down business dinner or a casual company picnic, all professionals at some point will find themselves socializing with colleagues outside the typical business environment.
These events are often more relaxed and social than in-office happenings, but Christie Herron — certified etiquette consultant and founder of Excellence with Etiquette — says it’s imperative to act like a professional at all times.
“Someone is always watching you, and you never know who it is,” she said. “This is still business, and we still need to conduct ourselves as such.”
Through Excellence with Etiquette, Herron provides etiquette training for corporate, medical and non-profit organizations, as well as etiquette seminars for children, teens and adults.
Herron shared some of her top dos and don’ts of after-hours business etiquette:
Eat and drink responsibly
If you must have alcohol, Herron said limit yourself to one drink so you can stay in control. If there’s food involved, such as hors d’oeuvres, stick to small portions. “It’s really not about food. You’re there to mingle,” Herron said. If the food is served buffet-style, be smart about going back for seconds. Take your cues from others. “Observe, look around and see what others are doing before moving on to seconds.” Herron says if you’re holding a drink or a plate of food, use your left hand. “The reason is so your right hand is free, and you’re available to shake hands.”
Acknowledge the host/hostess
If people are mingling around the room when you arrive, you don’t necessarily have to greet everyone, but Herron said you must greet the person who is hosting the event. When it’s time to go home, the same rule applies. “You don’t need to say goodbye to everyone, but you do need to make sure that you acknowledge the person who invited you,” Herron said. If they’re engaged in conversation, never interrupt. “If you’re able to make eye contact with the individual, you can wave and walk off.”
Topics to avoid: Politics, religion, sex and work. “Work is at work. Leave it there,” Herron said. “The event is a time to get to know your coworkers.” If the conversation enters an awkward lull, Herron said just politely move on. “Don’t feel as if you have to stay there and continue to just try and grasp at straws.”
Avoid phone faux pas
Smartphones? “No, no, no,” Herron said. “You’re there to enjoy the party, not to check your Facebook page or Instagram or take selfies.” Also, don’t take photos of your colleagues without their permission, and absolutely never post a photo of anyone on social media unless you’ve checked with them first.
Table manners 101
Etiquette expert Christie Herron shared her top tips for sitting down to dinner.
- Follow the lead of the host or hostess. The meal does not begin until he or she has placed their napkin on their lap.
- Never reach over someone. If there’s a dish you need, request it from the person who is closest to it.
- Always pass counterclockwise. Do not take from the dish or basket until it comes back around to you.
- Taste your food before seasoning it. How do you know that it isn’t already to your liking?
- No talking with food in your mouth. Take small bites so it doesn’t take you long to chew, and you can engage in conversation.
For more information from Christie Herron, visit excellencewithetiquette.com.