"Changing the world . . . one common courtesy at a time."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Tips For Hosts

Invitations.  They should be clear as to attire, time, date and whether a guest is allowed. Specify your latest RSVP date.

Special Diets.  Check for allergies or dietary restrictions.

Dueling Guests. 
Don’t let your guests get caught off guard.  Encourage all parties to settle any family   feuds or office animosity in advance.  Notify all parties as to who is and isn’t attending. 

Greet your guests as they arrive or designate someone to do so.

  Be a conversation starter.  Put people together by citing something interesting about each   individual.

Music.  Have holiday appropriate music playing - it’s festive and music sets the tone.  Make sure it’s at a   comfortable volume that doesn’t interfere with conversation.

Gifts.  Ask if a host gift is to be opened at the party or saved for later.  Acknowledge each gift with a verbal   thank you.  If you forget, follow up with a thank you call the next day.  There is no need for a hand written   thank you for a thank you.
* If giving out gifts or party favors, have extras on hand for surprise guests.

Seating.  Have a seating plan.  Sketch it onto a piece of paper.  For family get togethers, mix it up - kids,   adults, cousins.  If space allows, try to seat the kids with the adults.

Keep feuding parties at a distance.  For non family dinner parties, put guests together who will mix well,     have something in common, or may bring out the best in each other such as Chatty Kathy next to Shy Sam.

Conversation.  Steer conversation away from prickly topics such as religion, politics, someone’s parenting   skills.  If you notice that the conversation is becoming heated, take charge - change the subject, feign   assistance in the kitchen.  Some families and coworkers embrace controversial topics gracefully and   healthily.  Only you know your family or guests.  Best to discourage these topics if there is a hint of doubt.

Make a list and have family members or guests check off what they’d like to contribute in order   to avoid duplication.

Make it Fun.  Have trivia fact contests about each other, draw for a raffle, play bingo, have a story telling   contest.  Give away small prizes to the winners.  The winning number can be hidden under the coffee cup   saucer, under the chair, under the butter plate. 

  Cut off alcohol at least one hour before the guests’ departure time.  Call a cab or take away keys   if a guest is inebriated.  Know the laws in your area.  They vary jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  Do not serve    alcohol to a minor!

To combat alcohol intake, have snacks and water pitchers placed in clear view for easy access. 

Children.  You may discipline someone else’s children if you have been given permission to do so or the   situation is serious or disrespectful to your property or other children.  Best to get the parents first, if   possible.

Clean Up.  Don’t be afraid to accept a little help from your family members or co-workers.  If, however, this   is a formal event, save the clean up for later after your guests have left.

Good-byes.  Escort your guests to the door to say a proper good-bye.
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Credit Stealers Beware! Don't Take My Ideas!

Do you have that co-worker who somehow ends up smelling like a rose because of all the great ideas that he or she brings to the table?  The only problem is - the ideas are yours!  In the acting world, we have a term called “scene stealers.” They’re the actors who repeatedly try to outshine the other actors. They do things that are distracting, things that always bring the focus onto themselves.

In the Etiquette world, I call these people “credit stealers.”  Every time you have a brainstorm of an idea, that idea somehow gets tossed about behind closed doors or (the audacity!) in open corporate forums with no credit given to you.  This is a great way for a co-worker to alienate him or herself from fellow co-workers and managers.  Only problem is - they don’t care!  It’s also a great way for baby to keep sitting in the corner.

To the bysitter, it seems that credit stealers get kudos and praise and even promotions while fellow co-workers suffer in silence, not knowing how to handle such a delicate situation.  Being the “office snitch” is not a good label either so  . . . eyes roll and the dilemma continues - how on earth do you stop it?

Sooner or later, the credit stealer is exposed for what he or she is but it may take years to see office justice. Sometimes, the wait seems unbearable, but does it have to be?  Do you wait it out or do you tackle it head on?  When is too soon?  Have you been with the company long enough to do so?  Where do you rank on the totem pole of corporate worth?  How about self worth?  Are you good with composure and articulation in meetings?  Hmm . . . better give this some thought. 

There is power in numbers.  If you decide to move forward by addressing the subject, you may want to wait until you have several examples to reference.  However, if there was only one credit stealing incident, yet that one turned out to have a significant impact on the company (a novel innovation, a decent revenue booster, a project that was well received by clients), then you may want to summon the courage to discuss the matter with your superiors now.  No one but no one can make this decision for you.  Each credit stealing situation is different.  Each manager is different.  Think carefully.  Weigh the pros and cons.  And then prepare.  Prepare to be professional.

If you decide to ask for a meeting: Presentation is key.  Rehearse.  Practice the salient points you wish to make.  Keep it short and to the point without becoming defensive. The old cliché of “it’s not what you say but how you say it” has a lot of merit.  Be diplomatic. Tell your manager that you thought long and hard before deciding to come forward, that it wasn’t an easy decision, that you realize this is risky.  State how your “idea” or conversation began and how it progressed.  Stick to the facts and insist that you are not angry but are indeed “disappointed.”  "Disappointed" gets higher marks than angry.  Shake hands, thank your manager(s) for their time.  (Oh, by the way . . . this is a great opportunity to ask for special assignments to demonstrate your capabilities.  Never pass up an opportunity!)

Now, what if the credit stealer is your manager?  Whoa.  It does happen - more often than one might think.  First and foremost, will a sit down with that manager change anything?  Is it worth a try?  How do you know if the manager is not taking credit behind closed doors?  At some point, you will have to make the decision as to how to broach this prickly situation, should you choose to do so.  Once again, eventually credit stealers are ‘found out’ but also once again, if you feel violated, feel that your ideas are repeatedly being ‘borrowed,' if you feel that the lack of credit is preventing you from deserved promotions and acknowledgment, it may be time to have that face-to-face with the higher ups.  You may be viewed as a dissenter . . .  or a genius.  It's a risk you take.  

If you politely and professionally address the concern using the tips above and state that you just want this noted, you have less of a chance of appearing jealous and malicious, and a greater chance of being taken seriously.  It’s all in the presentation.  

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank A Veteran

As You Salute Our Flag, We Salute You!

Today, all around this great nation, there are choruses of "America The Beautiful" and "God Bless America,” echoing from sea to shining sea.
Tiny pockets of Americana are ringing their bells in tribute to those wonderful men and women who fought and continue to fight for this great land and the many freedoms we enjoy as a result of their selfless dedication and service.

Their faces, a mix - some worn and wiser, each weathered crease hiding a story of perhaps unspeakable visions.   Others who seem just too young to have witnessed the atrocities of war. So many words that are never spoken, words that never will be . . . the innocence of youth stripped away.

They served and continue to do so in whatever capacity but they serve . . .  and they do so without bellyaching, without illusions of grandeur.  They just do it.  They do so with pride and humility.
Let today be a gentle reminder of the great sacrifices they made and continue to make.  Sacrifices such as precious time away from loved ones - time that can never be recaptured; endless anxious, sleepless nights where a bunker is sometimes a bed; living conditions and climates that we spoiled outsiders could never fathom.

We got to see our little boy take his first steps.  They didn’t.  We sat proudly in the audience as our daughter accepted her honors award. They didn’t. While we were feasting on steak and wine, they were dining on ‘whatever’ and they liked it. We rested our heads on a feather pillow.  They put theirs down on a rock.  While our mother was ill and we got to say goodbye, they remained ever dutiful to us and forfeited that chance of closure.  They never complained - they just did it.  They continue to do it.

I am honored to be in your presence.  I am honored to know you.
And so today, I call upon each and every one of us to make a phone call or send an email to someone we know who has served or is presently serving our country and simply utter two words . . . Thank You.

Make a call today or tonight and say. . . thank you. Thank you for doing what so many of us take for granted.  Thank you on behalf of my children, my grandchildren, my parents, my colleagues, myself . . . thank you.

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