Foil Wrapped Potatoes and Other Business Etiquette Faux Pas

Successful people create positive personal impact.  People who create positive personal impact: develop and nurture their unique personal brand; are impeccable in their presentation of self; and know and follow the basic rules of business etiquette. Creating positive personal impact is more important than you might think.

I got an e mail solicitation the other day.  It read…

“A New York Times article (“The Hot Potato of Business Etiquette”) reported that a job applicant lost the position when he incorrectly ate a foil-wrapped baked potato during a formal business meal. Although somewhat extreme, this case shows how unwitting mistakes can damage your career. Whether it’s saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, showing up improperly dressed, or making an accidental cultural faux pas, our behavior influences how others think of us.

“Knowing the rules of proper etiquette gives you confidence and comfort in all sorts of business situations. When you execute the right behavior at the right time, you leave an impression of professionalism rather than nervousness or incompetence. Join us for a live Webinar where we’ll cover all you need to know about business etiquette.”

Do you know how to properly eat a baked potato that is wrapped in foil?

Just for the record — you cut across the foil and lay it back so you can cut the potato open, add your favorite condiments and eat.  But you probably know that.

While I’m not planning on joining the webinar, I do believe that it makes sense to know and understand business etiquette.  Knowing which fork to use, that your water glass is on the right side of the place setting and your bread and butter plate is on the left, makes it easy for you to focus on the conversation – the real reason for a business meal.

There seems to be an accepted way of doing everything.  For example, do you know how to properly eat an olive that has a pit?  I’ll give a free copy of “Straight Talk for Success” to the first person who provides the correct answer in a comment.

However, in the end, there is one rule of etiquette that reigns supreme.  Make the people around you feel comfortable. Well mannered people are gracious.  They are more interested in making others feel comfortable than they are in the rules.

Don’t get me wrong.  Knowing and following the rules is a good idea.  However, embarrassing people who break one of them doesn’t make you the manners king or queen, it makes you an inconsiderate know it all. 

The common sense point here is simple.  If you understand and practice the accepted rules of business etiquette, you will be more comfortable in social situations.  You won’t have to think about what to do, you’ll be able to concentrate on the conversation.  When someone commits a faux pas, don’t embarrass him or her.  Carry on as if nothing has happened.  Later, in private, you might choose to explain the faux pas and teach the other person what to do in the future.

That’s my take on foil wrapped potatoes and business etiquette in general.  What’s yours?

As always, I’m interested in your perspective on these thoughts.  I welcome and appreciate your comments.  Thanks for reading.

Bud

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Comments

  1. I would just like to mention two rules I was taught as a child that pretty well cover all the situations in which you are unsure, or wanting to make others comfortable.
    Wait for your host. If unsure, use the fork he uses, prepare your potato the way he does (assuming he has one).
    If unsure whether to go with fingers or utensils (fried chicken, olives) I would err on the side of being formal (using utensils) if clues cannot be taken from other people.
    As far as olive pits, the rule is that pits or bones come out of the mouth the same way they went in. If they went in on a fork, then the pits or bones must come out on a fork.
    Eileen
    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas (in the Middle East)
    elementaryteacher.wordpress.com

  2. I would just like to mention two rules I was taught as a child that pretty well cover all the situations in which you are unsure, or wanting to make others comfortable.
    Wait for your host. If unsure, use the fork he uses, prepare your potato the way he does (assuming he has one).
    If unsure whether to go with fingers or utensils (fried chicken, olives) I would err on the side of being formal (using utensils) if clues cannot be taken from other people.
    As far as olive pits, the rule is that pits or bones come out of the mouth the same way they went in. If they went in on a fork, then the pits or bones must come out on a fork.
    Eileen
    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas (in the Middle East)
    elementaryteacher.wordpress.com

  3. I forgot to say that if the candidate above lost his chance at the job because of foil on a potato, he was probably a weak candidate to start out with.
    Eileen

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