— Recently, I was invited to attend as a special guest at a lunch that focused on the etiquette of dining. No, this wasn't for businesspeople; it was for seventh-graders at an independent school in Crownsville, Md.
The faculty at Indian Creek School has been putting on this etiquette luncheon for many years with the goal of teaching kids how to behave and handle themselves in a more formal social event. While enjoying my lunch with the students, it struck me how crucial these social skills really are in today's workplace. Watching over 10 tables of teens navigating their way through a five-course meal while figuring out which utensils to use, how to pass food around the table and what to talk about at the meal was enlightening to say the least.
The children were well prepared, yet they were curious as to why these social skills are so important today. Many college students and business professionals ask the same questions. Some challenge us by saying that etiquette training and manners are outdated and not useful in today's changing society.
I told the young people at my table that some applicants have lost jobs based on how poorly, rudely or inappropriately they behaved at meals. From the recruiter's perspective, if a person can't behave properly in this social situation, then they probably will behave just as poorly with clients or customers, and this could impact the company's service and business. Companies want to ensure that the person they are hiring is projecting the right "image" to others. Because so much more business is conducted over the dining table today, it is important that individuals display professional behaviors.
Many of us, however, have not learned proper dining etiquette for a variety of reasons. And, things seem to have gotten worse with the introduction of fast food, pre-packaged meals, dual careers and crazy, rushed lifestyles.