7 Tips For The Office Holiday Party

Many a career has been ruined at the office holiday party. We’ve all heard the horror stories – some unbelievable, some funny and some very sad.   While you may be encouraged to have a good time and let loose you should be mindful that this is a business function and all the rules of conduct that  normally apply at the office also apply at the party. How you conduct yourself is noticed especially by management. While people may not know your name they will remember your face and how you acted. You want to ensure you are memorable for the right reasons not the wrong reasons.

Don’t skip the party

Always attend the office holiday party, because it is a business function and attendance is mandatory. Trust me, management will notice if you don’t attend and it will make you look like you’re not a team player. Even if you have another commitment, at least make an appearance for 30 minutes.

Mingle & socialize

The holiday party is the ideal time to mix, mingle and network. It’s the opportune time to get to know others in your office and senior management.


Limit business talk

It’s inevitable that there will be some business talk, but don’t be labeled as the boring person who spent the entire evening talking about business. Come prepared to talk about other things such as what your plans are for the holiday, your children, pets, hobbies, recent movies and even share a few funny stories. It’s the holiday season so be positive in your conversations and avoid any negativity. As tempting as it may be don’t gossip, especially about your colleagues.


The 2 drink limit

You never want to get drunk and make a fool of yourself. Many people are reprimanded and fired due to their actions at the holiday party. To ensure you don’t get drunk; eat before you go, have a glass of water or club soda after each drink and water down your drinks with lots of ice.


Don’t flirt or hit on others

This is usually the result of drinking too much. We’ve all heard the story of the employee who hit on the boss’s spouse. You don’t want to be part of a sexual harassment case.

Dress appropriately

Find out what the dress code is. Skip anything too revealing or flashy. Remember this is a business event. You don’t want people saying, “ Did you see what they wore” Err on the conservative side. 

If you are bringing your significant other or date make sure they know how to dress and what is expected of them. It’s equally important that your date dresses and acts appropriately.

Thank the host and organizers  

Try to thank both the host and organizers before you leave, or send an email or thank you note the next day. Don’t take the party for granted as a lot of time and money is spent. Your appreciation will not be forgotten.

By Pat Stonehouse
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The Consequences of Using Bad Language at Work


Oops, a little slip of the tongue and a bad word slips out of your mouth at work. In this day and age should we be concerned about using profanity in the office? After all we are being inundated with the likes of Gordon Ramsey, Joan Rivers and the X-files.


Last week I was interviewed by CBC Television on the consequences of swearing at work. CareerBuilder recently conducted a nationwide survey on swearing in the office and the results were interesting. They found that half of the workers surveyed swear in the office and of those who swear, 

  • 95% swear in front of their coworkers
  • 45% in front of their bosses
  • 17% in front of senior leaders
  • 7% in front of clients

The impression you leave on your employer

  • 81 percent believe that the use of curse words brings the employee's professionalism into question
  • 71% are concerned with the lack of control
  • 68% with the lack of maturity
  • 54% thought swearing made an employee appear less intelligent

The bottom line

While you may think that it is your prerogative to use bad language at work, think again, as it may be costing you. Sixty-four percent of employers said that they'd think less of an employee who repeatedly uses curse words, and 57 percent said they'd be less likely to promote someone who swears in the office. The bottom line is swearing is poor business communication and creates a negative impression.


Taming your tongue

Breaking a bad habit takes time and a desire to change. Some companies resort to having a Swear Jar and fining employees a minimal amount for each time they’re caught swearing. For those companies that want to eliminate profanity in the office, there’s a company called the Cuss Control Academy that offers seminars and presentations on how to tame your tongue. Check out their Ten Tips for Controlling Your Tongue.

By Pat Stonehouse
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Etiquette Rules at the Royal Ascot


It’s been a few years since I’ve been to the Royal Ascot outside of London. I remember back then receiving a letter months before the event with my ticket, badge and dress code for the Royal Enclosure. It outlined in detail what was permissible in the Royal Enclosure; the length for hemlines, no bare arms, no revealing clothes, etc. The Royal Enclosure is the area that the British royalty have their box and it has the strictest dress code. At the Royal Ascot there are different dress codes depending on the ticket type.

This year the Royal Ascot tightened up its dress code, and has produced a very tasteful video on what is appropriate attire. There has been a stir about fascinators and the new rule is that hats worn inside the Royal Enclosure must have a 4 inch base. Fascinators can be worn in the Grandstand area.  This year the ascot will enforce the strict dress code with fashion police.

While the ascot is about horse racing, the outfits and hats frequently outshine the horses. Ascot’s Ladies Day is known for the most fabulous hats you’ll find on the face of the earth.   While most are beautiful creations, there are always a few tacky novelty hats worn by attention seekers. This year was no exception with a postage stamp hat and an Olympic torch.

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Dining Etiquette: Salad Before or After the Main Course?


In my Dining Etiquette Seminars I am frequently asked; “Should salad be served before or after the main course?” 


The foundation of what we refer to as dining etiquette dates back to the Victorian and Edwardian times. The rules of fine dining and the order of food service were established during these periods. In the Edwardian and Victorian times the salad course was presented after the main course. This is why most formal dinners today still serve the salad course after the main course.


In North America the salad course was originally served after the main course. After World War II, this started to change. In California, restaurants started serving the salad before the main course as a way of keeping their diners entertained while the meal was being prepared. Obviously it caught on, and today Canada and the United States are the only countries that serve salad before the main course. 

By Pat Stonehouse
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Office Etiquette: Those Little Things That Drive Your Co-workers Crazy

office etiquette

It’s sometimes those little things that people do at work that drive their co-workers crazy. In the open office concept with cubicles in close proximity we easily hear, smell and see what others around us are doing. Sometimes the simplest thing can become a big annoyance and tempers can flare when it is repeated day in and day out.


Here are some of the little things that annoy people at work:


Little repetitive noises

When you’re trying to work noise can be very distracting. No one enjoys sitting next to someone all day long to hear them belching, sniffling, talking to themselves, whistling, humming, clicking the pen, chewing food and popping gum.


Colleagues who add unsolicited comments

During private conversations or meetings, your colleague in the next cubicle listens in and constantly adds their two cents worth. Or worse, they pop their head over the cubicle and join the discussion. 


Following someone into the bathroom

People like a little privacy and space. The bathroom is the place to do business not conduct business.


Olfactory overkill

Everyone loves the smell of their own cologne or perfume, but others may not feel the same way. The problem is after a while we become accustomed to our own fragrance and can’t smell it. So we apply more and more which can be overwhelming to our co-workers.


Personal grooming

Personal grooming should be done in private, not in public. This includes painting nails, clipping toe nails and flossing teeth.


Borrowing items

Don’t invade someone’s personal office space and borrow an item without first asking permission. Always remember to return what you have borrowed.


Body odors

Being next to someone who smells of body odor, stinky feet or bad breath is disgusting. A private discussion is needed as they may not realize that they smell.


High tech rings and dings

Our computers and phones add to the list of annoying sounds at work - the ding every time a message comes in, the cellphone that keeps ringing, and goofy ring tones. Be respectful and turn the sound off at work.


While these things may drive you crazy, it’s important to understand that many of these annoyances are not done intentionally. Quite often a co-worker doesn’t realize that they are doing anything wrong or out of the ordinary. The best way to resolve the issue is to calmly and politely discuss it with the person in private. It’s always best to resolve the issue before it escalates and gets out of control.

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5 Things Women Should Never Wear To The Office This Summer

 With the warm weather approaching we are faced with the dilemma of what to wear to the office. Summer means more relaxed light weight clothing, but how relaxed can we be in the office without appearing totally unprofessional. What is deemed appropriate does depend on our geographic location, the profession we work in, our company’s dress code, and whether we are directly dealing with clients.
Most companies relax their dress codes in the summer, however here are 5 things you should never wear.

    1.     Flip Flops

Here come the beachcombers. Hear them coming down the hall flip flopping away. Flip flops are meant to be worn at the pool or beach and have no place in an office environment. According to a survey by Adecco 71% of all employees believe that flip flops should be saved for the weekend. Furthermore, when wearing them by the time you get to work your feet will be dirty and who really wants to look at your dirty feet. Remember to make sure your feet are well groomed and pedicured if you wear open toe shoes or sandals. Check your corporate dress code to see what is acceptable in the area of summer shoes. 


     2.      Skin baring clothing

Yes, it may be hot outside but with air conditioning in offices cover up and save your reputation. Stay away from revealing clothing such as sun dresses, halter tops, spaghetti straps, bare midriffs, tube tops, see through and low cut tops.  As a general rule, if your bra straps are showing it’s probably not office appropriate.


3.      Shorts and short skirts

 Shorts are shorts, whether they are short, Bermuda’s, or culottes. Simply put, they are recreational wear not business wear.


4.      Maxi dresses and skirts 

Those trendy floor length skirts or dresses are wonderful in hot weather, but not wonderful in the office unless you work in a highly creative field. After all, they can be a nuisance as you will end up tripping over them every time you bend over. Save them for the weekend with the flip flops.


5.      Sunglasses as an accessory 

Sunglasses are to be worn outside not inside and don’t serve as a headband.

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Is Your Online Reputation a Liability?

 Online reputation

Have you Googled your own name recently to see what comes up? If you did you might be surprised or even unpleasantly surprised. Today it’s easy to gain insight about who people really are due to the internet and social media.


Your online reputation is becoming increasingly important as more and more corporations and universities are doing social media background checks. A survey done by Microsoft found that 70% of Human Resource professionals have eliminated a potential employee based on what they found online. The reasons were unsuitable photos and videos, badmouthing people and past employers, inappropriate comments and drinking and drug abuse.


Students need to be aware of how their actions online can hamper their chances of getting into university. If a student is irresponsible online they run the risk that the university they apply to will place some of their metrics on that profile. Roughly 24% of admissions officers say that they do look at prospective students’ social media profiles. While 24% may not seem like a very high percentage considering that in 2008 only 10% of admissions officers used social media, it is easy to see that the number is rising.


The bottom line, keep your personal life private. What you rant or rave about today may come back to impact you in ways you never imagined.

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Going To Work Sick - Should You?

going to work sick 
You've come down with the flu or a cold.  What should you do - stay home or go to work?  The answer should be simple, but it's not always.  Do you choose absenteeism or presenteeism - attending work while sick?
The logical answer is to be considerate and take a few days off to avoid infecting others at work.  A Queen's University study found that it cost employers twice as much in productivity losses for employees who come to work while sick compared to those who stay home.  Due to technology many people can work from home.  If you can, do so.
 Unfortunately, it's not always that simple.  Sick days are not offered by all companies, and some employees can't afford to stay home and lose the income.  Others feel pressured to come to work due to job insecurity or no one to cover for them at work.  For some people it's not an easy call to make.
Here's some tips on what to do if you absolutely have to go to work when ill.
  • Isolate yourself.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Use alcohol based hand wipes.
  • Avoid shaking hands.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue.
  • Use a clean tissue to touch door handles and elevator buttons.
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Cafe Boulud Lunch with Jacqueline Whitmore

Jacqueline Whitmore & Pat Stonehouse

Over the years I have met and developed lasting friendships with many in this profession. Recently I had the pleasure to meet and lunch with Jacqueline Whitmore of the Protocol School of Palm Beach. Jacqueline is a leading authority in our profession and has published two books;  Poised For Success and Business Class.
We met at Café Boulud in the Brazilian Court, which is one of my favorite restaurants in Palm Beach. Café Boulud is the creation of internationally acclaimed chef  Daniel Boulud. Since it was a beautiful Palm Beach day we decided to dine outside on the terrace.

French Sauce spoonWe both ordered the Artic Char which was sumptuous. At a restaurant of this calibre you would expect be presented with a fish knife and fish fork, but we were also given with a French sauce spoon which is rarely seen in North American restaurants. The French sauce spoon is a spoon that is usually the size and shape of a dessert spoon, but with a thinner edge with a notch on one side. It is used to eat the sauce accompanying a dish.  If you have ever eaten at any of Daniel Boulud's restaurants you will know why you would not want to leave any sauce on the plate. We ended our luncheon with warm madeleines.


It was a most enjoyable afternoon spending time with Jacqueline, sharing our stories and a few laughs. I look forward to the next time.

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Happy New Year Mar-a-Lago Style

Mar-a-Lago New Years 
One of my favorite places to celebrate New Years Eve is Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club.  The  evening starts with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres outside on the loggia.  Watching the guests arrive is like having a front row seat at New York's Fashion Week.  After everyone has overindulged in caviar, fois gras and other delectables the party moves to the grand ballroom for dinner and dancing.  This year the band was Party on the Moon, who played at President Obama's inaugural dinner.  Palm Beachers love to dance and the floor was packed in between the four course meal that ended with Baked Alaska.
Best wishes for 2012,
Mar-a-lago table setting 
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