Party Etiquette: Can you take your leftovers home?

Party Potluck Leftovers Etiquette A reader’s question about party etiquette: at the end of a party, could you expect to return home with leftovers of the food or the drink you contributed to the party?

No, not unless the host offers.

You’re a guest in your host’s home and anything you contributed to the party is tantamount to a gift. Unless the host decides not to preserve the remainder of your contribution and suggests that you take your leftovers home, don’t expect to return with your leftovers. Just return with your empty dish.

At potluck parties, however, you can take your leftovers home, but first offer to leave some or all of the leftovers for the host.

Party Etiquette for the Vegetarian Guest

  • Party Etiquette for the Vegetarian Guest When RSVPing to a party, mention your dietary restrictions and allergies: “Thanks for the invitation. I must tell you that I am vegan and gluten-free. I am also allergic to peanuts.” Be as specific as possible; mention if you can consume milk products and eggs. Elaborate if you can’t eat anything particular: butter, marshmallows, honey, gelatin, chicken stock, or lard in desserts.
  • Offer to provide for yourself and help out: “May I bring my five-bean and avocado salad with baked nachos? That should also cover the appetizer course for you!” If you’re comfortable with meat substitutes, offer to bring the meat-alternative dish that’s most suitable for the occasion: “May I bring a Tofurky dish? I’ve heard it mimics the taste and texture of a Thanksgiving meal.”
  • If the party is in your honor and the host insists upon cooking for you, suggest an easy dish they could prepare for you. Don’t make the host search for a dish that best suits your preferences.
  • Understand that your hosts can’t cater to every guest’s preferences. Don’t be offended if your host forgets about your dietary restrictions. Appreciate that they’ll be spending a lot of time preparing for and cleaning up after the party. If your host hasn’t made any accommodations to cover your dietary needs, just eat salad, quick-and-easy canned soup, or whatever is practical for the host to organize quickly for you. Don’t grumble.

How to Address Employees with Inappropriate Clothing

How to Address Employees with Inappropriate Clothing

Inappropriate dressing is one of those workplace concerns that is often ignored or forgotten until it becomes a problem. Revealing clothing can be an all-day distraction while a sloppy or untidy employee can project an unprofessional image about the entire company.

Some employees simply don’t get it when it comes to clothing choices for work. Inexperienced employees may walk into their offices wearing miniskirts, low rise jeans, baggy jeans that keep falling off the waist, baseball caps, spaghetti strap tops, low-cut blouses that expose the midriff, sandals, flip-flops, inappropriate tattoos, body piercings, or a three-day stubble.

Sadly, managers often avoid talking about inappropriate clothing because the highly sensitive and personal nature of those discussions makes them uncomfortable, especially when the offending employee is of the other gender.

Letting the problem fester makes the situation worse: each day the offending employee doesn’t hear an objection only reinforces his/her assumption that the clothing is appropriate and increases the prospect of a defensive reaction when a manager decides to finally address the issue.

How to Tell an Employee Who Is Dressed Inappropriately?

Dealing with unprofessional dress can be awkward, but it’s crucial to intervene directly, tactfully, and discretely.

  • Begin by having an official company policy on the expected work attire and making employees aware of it. Not only does a dress code set the standards for appropriate clothing, but it also provides a legal basis for addressing a problem without making it an issue of personal judgment. Given the modern-day relaxed rules concerning office attire, try to be specific as possible instead of using vague terms such as “business casual.” One best practice is to include pictures from dress stores for what is appropriate and what is not. Make sure the dress code is consistent with your company and industry’s culture and what your customers expect. Include policies regarding hygiene, personal grooming, tattoos, and piercings. Update the dress code to keep up with the latest professional, social, and fashion trends.
  • Inappropriate Dressing for Workplace Meet the offending employee discretely and ask, “Aaron, are you aware of our dress code?” Then, mention the specific instance of the problem, “Some of your clothes are a bit more provocative than appropriate for our workplace.” State facts and not judgments. Relate any rebuke to a business purpose, viz., the need for a professional workplace or dress-appropriateness in customer-facing roles. Ask the employee how he/she could rectify the matter. If necessary, remind that employees must accommodate the employer, not the other way around.
  • Be sensitive about religious, cultural, and gender-related aspects of office dressing. A male manager who needs to speak to a female employee (or vice versa) should consider having the problem subtly and discretely addressed through another female employee. Consider including another coworker in the conversation as a witness to prevent a discrimination claim. Seek guidance from human resources.
  • If the problem persists, try to converse again but have someone from human resources present.

Idea for Impact: A manager can forestall a great deal of employee problems by being proactive about setting expectations. Managers can and should create an appropriate work environment by defining hard boundaries on office etiquette, respectful interaction, and dress codes and then actively addressing concerns before they become problems.

Success Conceals Wickedness

Biographies of Steve Jobs (by Walter Isaacson,) Jeff Bezos (by Brad Stone,) and Elon Musk (by Ashlee Vance)

Two common themes in the biographies of Steve Jobs (by Walter Isaacson,) Jeff Bezos (by Brad Stone,) and Elon Musk (by Ashley Vance) are these entrepreneurs’ extreme personalities and the costs of their extraordinary successes.

The world mostly regards Musk, Jobs, and Bezos as passionate, inspiring, visionary, and charismatic leaders who’ve transformed their industries. Yet their biographies paint a vivid picture of how ill-mannered these innovators are (or were, in the case of Jobs). They exercise ruthless control over every aspect of their companies’ products but have little tolerance for underperformers. They are extremely demanding of employees and unnecessarily demeaning to people who help them succeed.

  • Steve Jobs was renowned for his cranky, rude, spiteful, and controlling outlook. Biographer Isaacson recalls, “Nasty was not necessary. It hindered him more than it helped him.” Jobs famously drove his Mercedes around without a license and frequently parked in handicapped spots. For years, he denied paternity of his first daughter Lisa and forced her and her mother to live on welfare. He often threw tantrums when he didn’t get his way and publicly humiliated employees.
  • In a 2010 commencement address at Princeton, Jeff Bezos recalled his grandfather counseling, “Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.” Still, according to Brad Stone’s biography, Bezos often imparts insulting rebukes and criticisms to employees: “I’m sorry, did I take my stupid pills today?” “Are you lazy or just incompetent?” “Why are you wasting my life?” and “Do I need to go down and get the certificate that says I’m CEO of the company to get you to stop challenging me on this?”
  • According to Ashlee Vance’s biography, when an executive assistant asked for a raise, Elon Musk asked her to take a two-week vacation while he contemplated her request. When the assistant returned from vacation, Musk fired her.

“Success covers a multitude of blunders”

The great Irish playwright Oscar Wilde once remarked, “No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly.”

The other great Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Success covers a multitude of blunders.”

British politician and historian Lord John Dalberg-Acton famously said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which … the end learns to justify the means.”

Ethics Violations by NBC News Anchor Brian Williams

Ethics Violations by NBC News Anchor Brian Williams In 2015, NBC suspended prominent news anchor Brian Williams after internal investigations revealed no less than 11 instances where he either embellished facts or bent the truth. Members of his team and NBC staffers who knew about these ethics violations chose to overlook because he was powerful. According to The New York Times,

Mr. Williams has been drawing 9.3 million viewers a night, and his position seemed unassailable. Even as the stature of the nightly newscast faded in the face of real-time digital news, Mr. Williams was one of the most trusted names in America … He was powerful. Williams had the ear of NBC boss Steve Burke. He was a ratings powerhouse. And he spent years overseeing TV’s most watched newscast. He was a winner, for himself, those around him and those above him—until it became clear the man who is supposed be among the most trusted in America had issues with telling the truth.

Power Corrupts the Mind

Brilliant men and women engage in morally wrong conduct simply because they can. They can get away with extreme pride, temper, abuse, and other disruptive behaviors because their spectacular success can and does cover many of their sins, even in the eyes of those at the receiving end of their crudeness.

Our high-achieving culture adores the successful, the powerful, and the rich. And part of this adoration is the exemption we grant these celebrities from the ordinary rules of professional civility.

Idea for Impact: The more people possess power and the more successful they get, the more they focus on their own egocentric perspectives and ignore others’ interests.

How to Exit a Conversation Gracefully

Stuck in a boring conversation that you desperately want to escape but can’t see a way to without appearing discourteous?

How about trying a method parodied in the Seinfeld episode “The Stranded”: arrange for a friend or coworker to interject upon your wave of a hand, pattern of coughs, or some other silly gesture.

You probably feel that it’s impolite to leave a conversation after talking to somebody for a few minutes. You’d rather endure an uninteresting conversation and hang in there than leave rudely. You may not feel comfortable enough to exit courteously. Instead, you nod your head, exchange listless comments, or let your eyes wander around the room seeking an opening to leap to another person. You even look at your wristwatch and wonder if it’s stopped working.

How to Exit a Conversation Gracefully

Idea for Impact: The key to exit a conversation gracefully is to do so quickly and decisively

Here’s an ideal way to exit a conversation: at an appropriate moment, without interrupting the speaker, say something like, “It’s been interesting talking to you; I’d better go around and mingle” or, “Excuse me, let me say hello to the hosts.” If you’re stuck in a conversation over the phone or in an office, just say, “I’ve got to get back to work; let’s resume this discussion later” or, “I’ve really got to go; I’ll talk to you soon.” If you are sitting down, you can imply that you want to leave by simply standing up.

Avoid making up some insincere pretext to get out of the conversation. Try not to claim, “I have an appointment” when you don’t—the other can check if you really do. “Let me refill my drink” is not only overused but also silly when you just walk over to another person. The same is true for declaring, “I need to go to the restroom,” and going anywhere but to the restroom.

Often, a simple “excuse me” is adequate—don’t feel compelled to proffer an explanation or justify your exit. Be decisive and direct.

Related Tips from Previous Articles

Mail Bag: How to Cut Off A Boss Who Rambles [Managing Your Boss #4]

Mail Bag Kathy asked, “Every time I ask my boss a question about a process, I get a lecture instead of a quick yes-or-no answer or specific instructions. Is it necessary to listen patiently and let her finish her lengthy sermon, or can I cut her short and tell her that a brief answer is all I need?”

My short answer: Live with it.

Cut off a boss who rambles Interrupting and cutting short a boss in the middle of a conversation may be an impolite way of handling a harmless habit. Your boss may ramble on for a number of reasons—she may be uneasy, excited, or frustrated about the topic at hand. She may just be thinking aloud or stating some particulars about the subject matter. If she is uncertain about what she wants to say, she might blather about everything she can think of.

Here are some techniques that can help:

  • Try to meet your boss just before an appointment on her calendar, prior to lunch, or at the end of her day. This encourages her to stay within a set time limit—she’ll want to leave her desk or prepare for the next meeting.
  • Phrase your question or request in a way that suggests that you need only a brief answer. Open the conversation by saying, “I know you’re headed to Peter’s office, but may I have a minute of your time to talk about …”, “I’m up against a deadline but can’t proceed until our scheduled meeting. Can you please tell me quickly …,” or “I only have five minutes—can you explain how to ….”
  • If you must cut off a boss when she’s rambling, interrupt her only occasionally. Your boss’s rambling may simply be her attempt to clarify or reiterate some details. Politely say, “Would you please excuse me? I must get back to my desk for …” and state a verifiable reason. Next, if you have what you wanted from your boss, recap what you’ve heard from her by saying, “So, I will ….” Alternatively state, “I think this topic needs more time. What’s a good time to discuss this later today?”

Want to be more likeable? Improve your customer service? Adopt Sam Walton’s “Ten-Foot Rule”


Walton Ten-Foot Rule

Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart Stores Sam Walton, Walmart’s iconic founder and perhaps the most successful entrepreneur of his generation, demonstrated considerable charisma, ambition, and drive from a very young age.

Sam was a committed student leader when he attended the University of Missouri, Columbia. One of the secrets to his reputation in college was that he would greet and speak to everybody he came across on campus. If he knew them, he was sure to address them by their name. In a short time, he had made many friends and was well-liked. Small wonder, then, that Sam triumphed in nearly all the student elections he entered.

From his bestselling autobiography, “Made in America”:

'Sam Walton: Made In America' by Sam Walton (ISBN 0553562835) I had decided I wanted to be president of the university student body. I learned early on that one of the secrets to campus leadership was the simplest thing of all: speak to people coming down the sidewalk before they speak to you. I did that in college. I did it when I carried my papers. I would always look ahead and speak to the person coming toward me. If I knew them, I would call them by name, but even if I didn’t I would still speak to them. Before long, I probably knew more students than anybody in the university, and they recognized me and considered me their friend. I ran for every office that came along. l was elected president of the senior men’s honor society, QEBH, an officer in my fraternity, and president of the senior class. I was captain and president of Scabbard and Blade, the elite military organization of ROTC.

When Walmart became sizeable enough, Sam realized that it could not offer prices lower than those of other retail giants—yet. As part of his customer service strategy, he institutionalized the very trait that had made him popular when he was a student. He insisted on the “Walton Ten-Foot Rule.” According to the rule, when Walmart associates (as Walmart calls its employees) came within ten feet of customers, they were to smile, make eye contact, greet the customer, and offer assistance. As Walmart grew, Sam added greeters who would greet customers at the door (and control “shrinkage” / shoplifting.) Even today, the Ten-Foot Rule is a part of the Walmart culture.

Likeability: A Predictor of Success

Likeability for success in life Likeability is an important predictor to success in life. Some people seem naturally endowed with appealing personalities. They tend to complement their talents by being personable and graceful, presenting themselves well, and by possessing the appropriate social skills for every occasion. They often win others over effortlessly. At school and in college, they are their teachers’ favorites and are chosen by their peers to represent their classes. They are invited to the right kind of parties and gatherings, and infuse them with life. At work, they are persuasive; they get noticed and quickly climb the corporate ladder.

From my observations of the traits of the talented and successful, I offer you a few reminders to help you become more personable, develop rapport, and thus maximize your chance of success:

No White Socks with Black Shoes

Inexcusable and disgusting While we are on the topic of clothing and appearance, this is a little pet peeve of mine.

Wearing white socks with black shoes is a style faux pas.

Why fuss over something trivial, you might ask. True, socks are less conspicuous than most other elements of your clothing. However, wearing an unaesthetic combination or, worse, the wrong kind of socks can attract attention. Remember that in matters of clothing and demeanor, the devil is in the details. When it comes to dressing for an important event, no element is trivial enough to overlook.

A few broad guidelines are in order.

  • Generally, match the color of your socks to that of your shoes.
  • White socks with black shoes is a style faux pas Avoid light-colored socks with dark shoes. In particular, avoid wearing white socks with black shoes. Men should also avoid pastel and flesh-toned socks.
  • Prefer darker socks. If you own an assortment of black, blue-black, and dark brown socks, be careful when matching socks into pairs. When you are indoors or under low light, you may inadvertently mismatch socks and wind up wearing one each of two different dark colors. (This happened to me when I was heading to an interview a few years ago. Luckily, I had enough time to stop at a store and buy a new pair of socks.)
  • For dress wear, your best bet is to own a collection of plain, black, vertically ribbed socks. Dress socks should be thinner than athletic socks. If you want to try patterned socks, let the patterns be simple and subtle.
  • Use white socks only with white athletic shoes, shorts, track pants and other active gear. Select darker socks with dark colored athletic shoes.
  • For casual wear, say while wearing khakis or jeans, white socks are acceptable if you are wearing white athletic shoes. Black socks are just as acceptable.
  • Holiday-themed socks for relaxed wear You may wear striped socks, holiday-themed socks or socks with your favorite cartoon or Disney characters only for relaxed occasions or when indoors.
  • Buy socks that are long enough to cover a good portion of your calves. When you sit down or cross legs, you should not display any skin between your socks and pants.
  • Wear ankle socks only with shorts.
  • Choose socks made of wool or cotton. These materials breathe well and absorb moisture better.
  • Do not wear socks with sandals or slippers.
  • After each wash, make sure that your socks are in good condition. Avoid the embarrassment of having to remove your shoes in front of others only to find that your socks have holes in them.

More on Etiquette and Clothing

Meal Manners: Pace Yourself, Start and Finish with Others

Meal Manners

  • As a guest, when your host asks you to order first, ask her for recommendations. This can hint at a price range from which to pick.
  • As a host, urge your guests to order first. Then, try to order as many courses for yourself as your guests to make sure everyone can begin and finish eating at about the same time.
  • At the table, wait until everyone is served. Begin to eat only after the host or the most important guest does. Follow this guideline for each course of the meal. Pace yourself such that you finish at about the same time as everybody else at your table.
  • If you are the most important guest or the host and others are served way before you are, urge the others to begin eating while the food is still hot.
  • At buffet meals, after you get your food and sit down at an open table, wait until two or three others join you at the table before beginning to eat.

Depending on the formality and decorum appropriate to the occasion, try to stick to the above guidelines.  More importantly, use common sense and make others around you comfortable.

How to Make Eye Contact [Body Language]

Keeping Good Eye Contact: President John Kennedy (JFK) with Jackie Kennedy

Humanity is imparted on us by actions and language and by looks and glances. We start to comprehend humanity soon after birth in the eyes of our parents, our siblings, and other loved ones. The glances of their eyes have profound meanings—even the subtlest of glimpses could convey emotions of love and hostility, cheerfulness and anxiety, approval and disapproval. The glances elevate us from our insignificance and instinctively make us feel more significant. In “La vie commune. Essai d’anthropologie generale,” Bulgarian-French philosopher and essayist Tzvetan Todorov declares,

The child seeks its mother’s eyes not only so that she will come to feed and comfort him but because the very fact that she looks at him gives him an indispensable complement: it confirms his own existence … As if they recognized the importance of this moment – though such is not the case – parent and child can look at each other’s eyes for a long time. Such an action is totally exceptional in the case of adults, when looking at each other’s eyes for more than ten seconds can only signify one of two things: both partners are either going to fight or make love.

Eyes are the Mirror of the Soul

“The eyes are the mirror of the soul.”
– A Yiddish Proverb

Our eyes play a major role in our interpersonal communication. The eyes express our moods and reactions more overtly than does other body language. Largely, observant people can attempt to understand our attitudes through the nature of our eye contact, our facial expressions, and body language.

When we meet other people, we usually observe their eyes first. When we speak, we tend to look other’s eyes. In return, we expect our audience to look at our eyes and pay their undivided attention. Hence, making and keeping good eye contact with others is an important habit.

President John F. Kennedy’s Technique for Eye Contact

The Reader’s Digest guide ‘How to Write and Speak Better’ notes a technique used by President John F Kennedy.

When people look and listen they tend to focus on one eye rather than both. Kennedy, however, would look from eye to eye when he listened, softening the expression in his own eyes at the same time, and so giving the impression that he cared greatly about the speaker’s feelings.

Trick: Make a Mental Note of Their Eye Color

The ‘ Success Begins Today‘ blog cites a technique from Nicholas Boothman’s book, “How to Connect in Business in 90 Seconds”

Eye contact and smile … it’s a simple courtesy and leads to a relaxed conversation. If you tend to be a shy person, this may be somewhat difficult for you. You may tend to look down or away when greeting someone. This can break the conversation right away.

When you meet or greet someone for the first time, just make a mental note of their eye color. This simple technique is amazingly effective. If you are looking for their eye color you’ll automatically make eye contact for a second or two.

Keeping Eye Contact in Conversations

Keeping Eye Contact in Conversations

When people maintain eye contact during a conversation, others usually interpret the eye contact as a sign of interest, confidence, honesty, compassion, and sympathy depending on the nature of the conversation. Failure to maintain eye contact may be interpreted as signs of suppression of emotions or truth, distraction, disagreement, confusion, reticence or lack of interest. Further, when people react to blame or accusation or are provoked into defensiveness or aggressiveness, their eye contact increase considerably—often, their pupils dilate.

Individual Differences

Many people, due to innate shyness or cultural background, tend to evade or curtail eye contact. They do not realize that, even if they are sincere and confident, their lack of eye contact could inadvertently communicate insincerity and lack of self-assurance.

Cultural Differences

The amount of eye contact varies dramatically in different cultures. In Asian cultures, for instance, where formal social structures (age, experience, social status, etc.) exist, eye contact with somebody superior can be offending. In some parts of India, men and women do not keep eye contact with their in-laws, out of respect. In most cultures, a longer eye contact while interacting with the other gender may be read as a sign of intimacy and expression of interest.

Eye Contact - Gender Differences

Gender Differences in Eye Contact

  • Between men, prolonged eye contact may signal aggression or intent to dominate–especially so during acquaintance or if the men are not completely familiar with each other’s expectations. Although more contact is tolerable as a relationship grows, eye contact needs to be broken often.
  • Women tend to maintain better eye contact in conversations with other women–more so with friends and family than with strangers. Generally, women interpret eye contact as a sign of trust and compassion.
  • Prolonged eye contact, an intent-look in particular, between men and women may quickly be interpreted as a sign of intimate interest. In the absence of romantic interest, concentrated eye contact must be avoided.

Avoid Staring and Gazing into Somebody’s Eyes

Staring or gazing at other individuals is typically awkward, sometimes intimidating. Never overdo an eye contact. Break eye contact often.

Idea for Impact: Learn to Keep Eye Contact

People who keep good eye contact are usually seen as personable, self-assured and confident. In the context of cultural backgrounds of the people around you, consider what messages your eye contact and body language may be unconsciously communicating about you. A firm handshake and a smile at the onset of a meeting, and eye contact throughout your conversations can establish a good impression of you.