Mastering Corporate Etiquette Helps to Succeed in Business

By Alisa Valdes The Boston Globe | THE JOURNAL RECORD, September 19, 1997 | Go to article overview

Mastering Corporate Etiquette Helps to Succeed in Business


Alisa Valdes The Boston Globe, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Without consulting Miss Manners, can you tell what's wrong with this scene?

A young woman -- we shall call her Mary -- walks into a cocktail party and dinner function for the firm where she has just been hired as an account executive. Mary wears a sleeveless black dress, with pearls, dangling diamond earrings, and black flats. Her long hair is loose over her shoulders. She picks her name tag up off the table and pins it on the left top of her dress front.

Next, Mary spots the man who sits next to her in the office -- we'll call him John -- and waves, gesturing to indicate that she will be over as soon as she grabs a drink. With her gin and tonic in her right hand, Mary heads toward John, who is conversing with an executive. John introduces the executive to Mary. They shake hands. Mary looks the executive up and down, smiles, and says "hello." John makes a toast to Mary's new job. Mary, John, and the executive raise their glasses, and all take sips. When dinner is announced, Mary is the first to sit down. She immediately puts the napkin in her lap. If you counted nine corporate etiquette violations by Mary, and one by John, you were right. (See attached list to learn which rules were broken.) If you didn't spot them all, you are jeopardizing your career, according to Amy Mills Tunnicliffe, instructor of a workshop called "Finishing the Fortune 500; Corporate Protocol and Dining Skills." The one-day course is offered by Tunnicliffe's Hingham, Mass., company, a finishing school called The Proper Manner. The course costs $395 a person and covers everything from "Perfectly Proper Introductions" to "Top 10 Signs of a Savvy Diner." A recent workshop held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Boston drew executives from the automotive, beer, telecommunications, travel, and hotel industries. Tunnicliffe, age "30-something," was raised by "very proper parents" in southern Illinois and majored in journalism at the University of Missouri. In 1991, she left a lucrative marketing and advertising career in the Boston area to teach etiquette to children. But when parents began discreetly asking for tips, Tunnicliffe knew there was also a need for a manners class for adults. "This is one of the only countries in the world where you can actually go from working in the mail room to being the company president," said Tunnicliffe. "You may learn how to dress the part, but it's the little details that give you away.... Hopefully, you had these behaviors modeled for you as a child. But not all of us were that lucky, and it's never too late to learn." While emphasizing etiquette and protocol may seem frivolous in today's dress-down world, research indicates that humans remain a shallow bunch impressed by poise and good manners. Like it or not, said Tunnicliffe, careers are made -- and ruined -- every day, based not on work but on appearances. This is old news to Ernie Boch Jr., vice president of his family's successful auto dealership. A good salesperson is a master of appearances, he said during the workshop, where he was a participant. Boch brought five managers to Tunnicliffe's recent workshop at the Ritz-Carlton, to burnish their dining skills and his "room working" talents. …

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