Monday, December 12, 2016

Manners Monday - Office Holiday Party Etiquette: 7 Tips to Be Merry & Maintain Your Job in 2017

Office Christmas Party opened across the country and my husband and I ran to see it this past weekend. The movie, featuring a number of top notch comedians, looked hilarious. However, as someone who teaches etiquette for a living, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I was more curious to see the film from a business standpoint. Call it research. After dedicating a chapter in my book on the subject titled, “Beware the Office Holiday Party,” I was waiting for an endless stream of salacious behaviors represented and the movie did not disappoint. It had the requisite token lush, the photocopying of private parts, the swinging from the ceiling, etc. But for me, the most hilarious character was the Human Resources lady played by the white hot Kate McKinnon. She pegged the stereotypical role to a tee lurking in the background and painstakingly trying to keep everyone on the straight and narrow.

It’s been quite a while since I worked in a big office environment, but I remember the holiday office parties well. They were always something we worker-bees looked forward to with anticipation as they provided an opportunity to hang with the higher ups, show off our significant others and, if it was a good party, let loose on the dance floor until the wee hours of the morning. 

Before you head out to celebrate with your co-workers, remember these seven tips to be merry AND maintain your job in twenty-seventeen.  It may be a night designed for fun, but not worth jeopardizing your career. Rather than approaching the evening as a free for all reward for your hard work, use it as an opportunity to network, advance, and shine.

1. Dress. This is not the time to let your freak flag fly as they used to say, and this goes for women, as well as men! Maintain professionalism, keep it classy and appropriate. Refrain from showing midriff's, low decolletage, or wearing any other scantily clad items.

2. Ration the Booze. Regardless of how appealing an open bar may be, limit yourself to one or two drinks at most.  Keep yourself hydrated by filling a glass with ice and water. Don't forget to graze on food throughout the night to soak up any extra alcohol. Trust me, you will not be sorry when you see your friend from accounting dancing on the conference table and drunk­enly mimicking the CEO. 

3. Overstuffing. You are not piling your plate for your last meal. Plus, it can get weird watching our work colleagues gorge themselves. Grab a protein bar beforehand or microwave a bag of popcorn to take the edge off. This way when you arrive at the party, your focus will be on socializing with your work peers, not devouring your food. 

4. Self-control. Avoid hitting on your office crush on the dance floor with everyone watching. Save your hidden talents for gyrating, bumping, grinding and twerking when you're at the club after-party no longer on the company's time or dime. 

5. Badmouthing. Don’t let loose with your opinions or divulge personal thoughts especially negative ones about the boss, colleagues or the company.  Alcohol gives people a false sense of courage that can go terribly wrong fast.  Beware what you say at the holiday office party, it may not be forgiven.

6. Secret Santa Shame. That suggestive gift you received from your college buddy should not make its way into your Secret Santa exchange. Purchase a new gift, stick to the allotted amount, and select something that anyone would enjoy.  

7. Recognition. A nice note of thanks to the person responsible for organizing that lavish, super fantastic office party is a sure way to be recognized and stand out in the new year.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Manners Monday - Voting Day Etiquette on the Eve of the Election

Tuesday, November 8, 2016, will be remembered as Election Day for one of the most contentious Presidential races in American history. While the FBI's decision to close the case on Clinton's email controversy has provided her with a last minute boost and a Survey Monkey six-point lead, tomorrow is guaranteed to be a nail-biter nonetheless. Polls placing Clinton and Trump virtually neck-in-neck in some regions will have the citizens of this country clinging to their seats with anticipation until the official outcome arrives.  

Whether you love him or hate him, The Donald’s larger-than-life persona is largely responsible for the increase in voter registration and, has frankly, fueled new interest in the modern election process. The entertainment factor alone has garnered more viewership of the debates and round-the-clock commentary on every news network and Twitter feed known to man. Don't get me wrong, both campaigns have contributed an extraordinary amount of work to raising voter awareness which has resulted in the historic turnout of Latino and Asian-American voters and more people to the polls in general. 

But the tenor of our country has taken a turn for the worse.  From the beginning, the narrative of this election has been one of choosing the candidate you hate the least! Both are heavily flawed with critical issues of character coming into question, and when asked about the tone of the Presidential race, a recent survey revealed that eight in ten Americans were either disgusted or repulsed.

While you may not feel particularly jazzed about either Clinton or Trump, your vote matters more than ever. Exercise your right and make your voice heard. Forty-two million Americans voted early with record numbers in Florida, North Carolina, and Nevada, but the crucial states of New Hampshire and Ohio are still up for grabs.  If you've already cast your vote in California via absentee ballot like my husband and me, congratulations, you will avoid the craziness at the polls. However, if you prefer the tradition of heading to a local polling booth on Tuesday, we've compiled a list of voting day etiquette do’s and don’ts to ensure the process is smooth and drama-free. Lord knows, after more than eighteen months of this grueling campaign, we don't need no more stinking drama! Good luck everyone, may the best (wo)man win!!  

  • Go Early.  While most polls are open all day until 7:00pm, it's best to head to polling booths bright and early before going to work or beginning your day.  
  • Bring ID. To prevent voter fraud, new laws may require an original birth certificate in addition to a driver’s license, school identification or another ID card.
  • Honor Privacy.  With this race particularly heated, people are preferring to keep their personal choice mum.  Allow friends and family their vote without pressuring them to divulge whom they supporting.  
  • Respect Volunteers. Polling place volunteers are regular people just like you and me. They have dedicated their valuable time, they are not getting paid, and are doing their best.  Be patient, kind, and polite.
  • Take Reading Aids. This is not the day to forget your glasses. Reading the ballots is difficult, the type is very small.  It would be a shame to wait on a long line only to discover you couldn't decipher the ballot.
  • Electioneer.  A new amendment now prohibits people from wearing political buttons, hats, pins or T-shirts near polling places which are considered a campaign free zone. If you do so, you will be asked to remove the items or turn your tee shirt inside out. No campaign material that could influence other voters is allowed.
  • Talk Politics. Don’t verbalize your thoughts about each candidate or whom you are voting for while waiting in line. It's nobody's business.
  • Be Alarmed.  There may be police presence at polling booths. Officials expect emotions to be on high this Tuesday so they are taking precautionary measures by stationing law enforcement armed with guns to ensure the safety of all.
  • Dawdle. Prepare ahead of time by familiarizing yourself with the ballot choices beforehand so you may be more efficient in the polling booth. Some places will let you take a pre-marked sample ballot into the booth so that you may simply copy your marks onto the official ballot saving oodles of time.
  • Take a Selfie. Assume photos are a no-no, unless you receive express permission. Justin Timberlake learned this the hard way when the singer voted last month in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee where voting selfies are considered illegal.
As if you need more incentive, there are a multitude of Election Day freebies to take advantage of and inspire you to get to the polls extra early.  Don't forget to proudly display your "I Voted" sticker. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Feeling - A Halloween for Twenty-Sixteen

This week's episode of "Modern Family" was littered with political undertones.  Cam, who takes his Halloween quite seriously, is furious with a child offender who year after year grabs a handful of candy rather than taking the allotted single piece.  He passionately explains at Halloween, "There is a social contract. You say trick or treat, you get one piece of candy. That breaks down and we’re just a hop, skip, and a jump away to a lawless wasteland where we use bees and teeth for money."  This small act of defiance by his 'Halloween nemesis' drives Cam cuckoo. He is 'crazy for justice,' a feeling many of us understand all too well as we approach the final days of one of the most contentious elections in American history.  

Our society is sprinkled with social contracts, those unwritten rules that govern our communities, our schools, our businesses, and basically every facet of our existence. In a climate when we are witnessing both Presidential candidates dodging these decrees and not necessarily being held accountable for their most questionable actions, it makes it increasingly difficult to instill these skills in our youngest citizens. How to behave on Halloween is just one of the ways kids can begin to exhibit appropriate codes of conduct and learn to respect systems and policies that will certainly play a part in their adult lives.  Below is a Smörgåsbord of guidelines to keep even the most ghastly goblin and ghoul in line.

Teal is the New Orange.  NOTE FOR KIDS WITH NUT ALLERGIES: The Teal Pumpkin Project is a new organization designed to raise awareness for kids with peanuts and tree nuts food allergies. If you see a teal pumpkin, it is a signal that a home is handing out non-food treats. Whether a non-food or candy treat, teach children to be patient and polite and limit themselves to one piece unless more is offered. Remind them to say please and thank you and try not to crowd or stampede the doorways. 

If You're Old Enough to Drive...Trick or treating is a tradition reserved for younger children who look forward each year to dressing up in their favorite costumes and going door-to-door to receive unlimited amounts of sugary treats. Most teenagers typically loose their interest, but if you're sixteen and still stomping around in your scary costume, it's time to turn in your pumpkin bucket.

Treatin' In N Out of the Hood. It is perfectly acceptable to travel outside one's own neighborhood, particularly, for children who live in a canyon without sidewalks or who live in a neighborhood that is less than child-friendly. However, if you do decide to leave your hood, the next best thing is to trick-or-treat with a friend in their area or find an alternate place that feels comfortable and familiar. Whereever you choose, be respectful of lawns and gardens and use the sidewalks or pathways leading up to the front door. If a house is dark and all the lights are turned off, this is a signal that the family is not participating in the ritual or may not be at home.

Ditch the Clown Costume. As far as costumes for children, the general rule is that they be age appropriate and kid-friendly. This year due to the panic surrounding those menacing clowns, these costumes are being banned from schools and parties. Political outfits are more popular than ever with Hilary and Trump filling the shelves, but politically incorrect outfits or extremely scary horror costumes are never acceptable. Ask yourself one simple question, "Is my costume disrespectful or would it offend or scare another person at the party?" If the answer is yes, then find an alternative choice. 

Hosting & Ghosting Halloween Parties. Anyone with a birthday in October knows how much fun it can be to have a Halloween party. If you are hosting, be gracious and provide ample treats and entertainment for your guests. Encourage everyone to come dressed in costume to help set the tone for the party. A little spooky music adds to the fun. Make sure to be a good guest as well. Don't ghost your host by not responding to an invitation and never show up empty-handed. Bring a birthday gift or host gift for the party-giver as a thank you for including you in the festivities.

Safety First on the Night of Fright. Begin trick-or-treating at dusk while there is still some light for safety. Sidewalks and lawns lined with electrical cords can be dangerous. Come prepared with flashlights to make sure you do not trip or fall. Have supplies on hand for emergencies. Keep a couple of Band-Aids and Neosporin in your pocket should minor accidents occur. Make sure to look both ways before crossing the streets. Although there are more pedestrians out than usual, it is still dark and drivers may not see clearly. Adults and children should stick together at all times. There is nothing more treacherous than trying to track down a small child in the pitch black of night.

Tricks within Reason. Halloween is meant to be fun, but not at the expense of others. Contrary to what we might see on television or in the movies, it is not an opportunity to toilet paper a neighbor's front yard or throw eggs at their front door. It also does not give one free reign to steal or damage pumpkins or other decorations. It is wise to stay away from anything that could potentially cause property damage as these types of pranks are not only dangerous but illegal. If pranks and tricks are a must, try creating an imaginative fun house or haunted house for your friends and other guests to experience.

General Halloween Etiquette Tips. Halloween is a perfect "training" time to teach children how to mind their "P's" & "Q's." After just a few house visits, your two-year-old will be an expert! At least one parent should accompany all children up to the age of twelve. Trick-or-treating should generally end around 9pm as most families with children and older adults are preparing for bed by that time. Parents should check the treats of the younger children before they eat them. Children should never eat anything that is handmade, unwrapped or specially prepared unless they personally know the family.

Happy haunting!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Manners Monday - 5 Ways Millennials are Missing Out on Manners

Last weekend, I sat by the pool perusing the September issue of Departures magazine and was pleasantly surprised to read the editor's note declaring that the current state of affairs can basically be summed up in three little words, “I dare you.”  It seems everywhere we turn - from politics to business to culture - buttons are being pushed and boundaries are being broken. Society is practically begging us to go against the grain and rewarding those who do so with the biggest bang. If you've been following the Trump headlines, you know exactly what I mean. 

I have been touting my tagline "Dare to be polite" for years and the mantra has been gaining traction. I coined the term, not as an invitation to shock or seek attention but rather to provoke, particularly the younger set, to act with grace, thoughtfulness, and good intention.  

With Millennials growing up in one of the most challenging economic environments to date, now more than ever, it's time to incorporate these skills. A quick Google search reveals how they are missing out on a multitude of areas from everyday courtesies to meaningful connections. If the nation's largest living generation cares to significantly increase their chances of success, they must give more prominence to their manners.  Come on, I dare you! 

1. Common Courtesies. Named the "Me Me Me Generation" by Time Magazine, Millennials are great at the larger notion of being a good citizen, but when it comes to smaller courtesies, they are sorely lacking. What they fail to realize is that it's the little things that matter.  Simple acts of kindness such as smiling, opening doors, offering a seat, politely asking for something, and using the Magic Words are a gracious way to endear themselves to others.  

2. Committed Relationships. Millennials are terrific at collaborating and cooperating on a public scale, especially with brands, but they are the poster children for keeping things casual when it comes to committed relationships. They wrongly assume a meaningful exchange can be conducted on a tiny smartphone. On the contrary, taking the time to pick up the phone rather than texting to arrange a date, greeting a companion at the door, and pulling out a chair at dinner is not only a sign of respect, it sends a clear message you are present and interested.  

3. Dining Skills. When Millennials dine out, they tend to seek the exotic and experiential. However, to save money at home, they have shunned the napkin in favor of a more economic paper towel. Profiled as the "cheapest generation" by the Atlantic, this swap has resulted in an overall deficit of napkin etiquette. A napkin has a multitude of practical uses.  When laid on our laps it protects our clothing from getting soiled. It makes a terrific blast shield to capture a cough or sneeze. And, of course, it keeps our mouths and hands clean. Millennials may not be aware that a napkin also gives us hints as to what is happening at the table. When placed on the seat of the chair, we know someone is excusing themselves during the meal and when laid on the left side of the place setting, we receive a silent signal that the meal has ended.  

4. Professional Dress.  Millennials are famous for their relaxed attitude when it comes to suiting up.  What they fail to realize is that proper attire may be the key to clinching that coveted side hustle. Whether seeking an extra gig as a yoga teacher, life coach or freelance writer, there will be an initial interview that will set the tone going forward. Dressing appropriately along with standing, sitting and walking with good posture not only makes clothing fit better, but it provides an instant air of confidence and extra edge to those entering our highly competitive job market. 

5. Face-to-Face Conversation: Millennials are super at socializing, mostly on social media, but it's no secret they are suffering a loss when it comes to interpersonal exchanges. Because the majority of their communication is electronic, they neglect to notice certain non-verbal cues from eye contact and facial expressions to body language and personal space.  And this is only half of the equation.  Their verbal communication could use a bit of polish too. Practicing how to actively listen or learning when to self-censor is a good thing. Not everyone is the star of their own reality show and these skills are essential to making them more likable, maybe even charming.  

Know a Millennial who could use a little smoothing around the edges?  I'll be shooting a manners segment with Awkwafina, star of #TAWK with Awkwafina, this Friday. Stay tuned... 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Manners Monday - Old Adage of No White after Labor Day No Longer Holds Water

The old adage of 'no white after Labor Day' no longer holds water.  Fashionistas and trendsetters in the know don't fall prey to such archaic beliefs.  They beat to their own drum turning a cheek to the majority and shunning convention.  Coco Chanel, one of the greatest fashion icons of all time, balked at the notion of banning white after Labor Day and made it a permanent staple in her wardrobe. 

Historically, white garments were associated with a look of leisure reserved mainly for the privileged.  They were a status symbol for the fortunate souls who were able to change their clothing with the season.  Many of the well-to-do adorned themselves in white linen pant suits, light cotton shirts, and white Panama hats as they escaped their sweltering city dwellings for more appealing climates.  When they returned from their vacations, they would deposit their summer duds and circulate a wardrobe that consisted of darker, heavier material.

Nowadays, we hold a different perspective.  Rather than scramble through the closet searching for white dresses, white pant suits, white flowing tops, any significant white piece of clothing to get our hands on as a last ditch effort to make sure it is worn before the clock strikes midnight, we may regard the cleansing of our white clothing almost as a symbolic ritual.  It is a purging of sorts that helps transition both mentally and physically from the light and carefree days of summer into the more industrious and diligent days that make up the fall season. 

But white is, in fact, embraced and acceptable any time of the year.  You'd be hard pressed to find a closest that doesn't contain a white button down men's dress shirt or a woman's white button down blouse.  These are one of the few essentials of every wardrobe paired beautifully with a pair of dark denim jeans and a blazer for a more casual look or worn with a tailored pant or skirt suit for a formal business meeting. It is one of the top items female executives will wear for their press photo presenting a no-nonsense look with a sense of approachability. White sneakers are also all the rage making their debut years ago by famous entertainers and athletes and still a mainstay in fashion, particularly the white leather variety which may be worn in summer or winter.  And, let's not forget winter white with its slightly creamier shade of white and heavier fabric which is very much on-trend in the winter months.  The fashion magazines sing its praises and dedicate pages of styles after Labor Day to the cozy look.  

So while we pay tribute to the laborers who toiled away in the trenches and stood on the picket lines fighting for their rights, step out this Labor Day with confidence wearing your white. Confidence is, after all, the number one accessory that is appreciated any time of the year.  

And for all you wine and champagne lovers like myself, I raise my glass to you! Just a couple more whites that are savored and welcome all year long.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Manners Monday - Make Fireworks, Not Friction at the Beach & BBQ's this Independence Day

The fourth of July ushers in the official start of summer.  Visions of frolicking at a sandy beach and dining on backyard barbeque fills our heads. This is one of the least stressful holidays of the year.  The sun is shining, there's no pressure or guilt to entertain crazy family members you haven't seen in years, and you can literally hang in your leisure wear all day.  The mantra is to sleep in late and wake up with a smile.  The last thing anyone wants is to be bothered by trivial annoyances that can eat away at our good attitude. To ensure you are not a bum at the beach or an out-to-lunch host, here are our top etiquette tips on how to make fireworks, not friction this Independence Day.

Beach Etiquette 
  • Dress Appropriately for the Occasion. Topless and nude sunbathing are frowned upon here in America, and in some cases is considered against the law. Unless you’re on a private yacht in the south of France or vacationing in Brazil, kindly keep your bathing suit PG-rated. Private parts should be sufficiently covered. The beach is for families and they are especially in tow on a big summer holiday.
  • Come Ready with Your Own Supplies. Everyone has their “must have” list of necessities for the beach. Most importantly, the list is to help you be prepared so that you do not have to constantly bother others with your requests for items you forgot at home. The bare minimum: sunscreen, hat, bottled water and towel. Kicking it up a notch: beach chair, umbrella, tunes, books or magazines (old school style), games, a cooler fully stocked with an incredible feast. Recommended for parents: full day supply of diapers and wipes, a Pack N’ Play or tent for shade, sand toys (BTW, don’t forget to write your name on them so you leave the beach with the same toys you came with), ample sunscreen, snacks, and beverages.
  • The Early Bird Gets the Worm. If you are one of those people who perpetually arrives fashionably late, don’t expect to have first dibs on prime real estate at the beach. There is plenty of space and no one is entitled to a reserved spot. To ensure you do not encroach on another person’s space, maintain a 15-foot distance between you and your neighbor. When selecting your spot, don’t forget to take into consideration high tide. Look for a high water mark, consult a tide chart or ask a lifeguard before settling down for the day.
  • Setting up Shop. If possible, organize your items so that you only have to take one trip on the sand to your spot on the beach. Walking back and forth is exhausting and will tucker you out before your day even begins. Before laying your towels down and inserting your umbrella, check to see which way the wind is blowing so that you don’t blow sand into your neighbor’s direction or block their view. Make every effort to consolidate your items into a small area that will not take valuable beach front away from others.
  • Keep it Down & Watch Your Language. We are well aware that the beach is outside, but that does not give you carte blanche to blast your latest iTunes mix on your giant speakers or shout profanities to your buddies. On the flip side, parents should monitor children and make sure little Mikey and Susie aren’t running amok hurling sand toys and fighting over the last Cheeto while adults are trying to enjoy a little peace and quiet or read the latest best-seller. Being outside entitles everyone to use their outside voice and have fun, just be mindful of how loud and crazy you get and keep it all in check.
  • Fun in the Sun. Game playing is great but keep it away from others. First of all, it is obnoxious to play ball over others heads while they are trying to relax and secondly, it can be dangerous, especially if there are little ones around. This extends to water playing as well. Look out for others in the water before you engage in spirited splashing, dunking, and other horseplay. Maintain control of boogie boards and other water toys so that everyone has a safe day in the sun. A special note to parents: keep an eye on the children. Organize plenty of activities like building sand castles, playing Frisbee or searching for the most unusual seashell to keep them busy so that they do not wander off or, more importantly, wander into the water without your supervision.
  • Clean Up After Yourself. If only there was a Smoky the Bear symbol to protect our beautiful beaches. I recently recall swimming at a beach just north of Santa Monica and seeing plastic bags, soda cans, and straw wrappers in the ocean. It was disgusting! Please take a garbage bag or paper bag with you to the beach and have the decency to collect all of your trash (that includes food wrappers, diapers, newspapers and whatever else you bring) and then deposit it into one of the large trash receptacles located everywhere!
  • Don't Bring the Beach Home with You. Carefully shake all items and sufficiently clean off anything with sticky sand before leaving the beach. Watch your neighbors to make sure you are not blowing sand dust in their wind. There is nothing worse than dust particles of sand found in the car, on the floor or in your bags when you return home. Shake off towels, clean dirty feet, wash out bathing suits and dump all bags before settling into your car or entering the house.
  • Give it One Last Look. Before making your final exit, patrol the area one all around your beach party scene one last time for any lost items, leftover food or litter.

BBQ Etiquette
  • Be Prepared. There is nothing worse than being invited to a barbecue and arriving when your host is wiping away the cobwebs from the grill or has to run out to the market to purchase the food. If you are hosting a barbecue, plan your menu and purchase your food items a day or two before your event. Clean your barbecue well in advance of your guest's arrival and make sure your barbecue tools are handy and in good working condition. You don't want to be flipping burgers with your fingers!
  • The Hotter the Better. Preheat the grill and allow plenty of time for it to reach the appropriate temperature so that cooking time is efficient. Generally, guests come hungry and they will not be very patient waiting for an extra half hour for the grill to heat up.
  • No One Wants to Be Eaten Alive. Everyone knows that outdoor barbecuing means you have to put up with an assortment of bugs invading your space, especially pesky flies, and bees. Arm your backyard with insect repellents such as citronella candles and an electric bug zapper. Purchasing food domes will also not only keep food warm but will dissuade bugs from hanging around the table.
  • The Grill Master is King. Every household has their designated grill master who is king of their domain and not does want to be told what to do. He or she is confident they can grill anything to perfection. Show them respect by letting them do their job and be supportive by helping in any way you can. No backseat grilling, please!
  • Finger Lickin' Good. The best tasting foods at a barbecue are the ones that happen to be super messy or difficult to eat. Think ribs smothered in sauce, buttery corn on the cob or watermelon juice running down the chin. Not only do these foods require a ton of napkins, but they also tempt us to want to suck the sauce off of our fingers at any given time. Provide cleansing wipes for sticky foods and toothpicks to remove kernels of corn from teeth. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Manners Monday - National Business Etiquette Week 2016

Yesterday marked the beginning of a week-long period devoted to national business etiquette.  At a time in history where an inordinate amount of chaos and turmoil continues, the demand for business etiquette courses has steadily risen. This is no surprise to us.  

The casual way employees engage, the loss of articulate writing, the inability to read subtle social cues has caused concern among many business owners. Couple this with the mass appeal of social media and a pandora's box of ways in which executives and employees can go awry, it's no wonder the corporate tide is leaning towards a return to a more conventional style of conducting business.

National Business Etiquette Week 2016 may be just seven days, but its purpose is to raise our awareness in the workplace and uphold the standards of civility and courtesy all year long. Restoring these simple acts of kindness and respect to their primary position is the only way to earn trust and gain credibility both nationally and within the global arena.

Whether paying attention to a co-workers personal space or learning how to give a world-class handshake, business manners do matter and this particular skill-set has become an increasingly valuable commodity for new hires as well as job retention. To test your etiquette quotient, we have compiled a list of 20 questions and answers that should give you a jump start on good business this summer. Good luck!

1. Preparing for a night out of networking? Be equal parts interesting and interested. Listen more than you talk. Think before you speak. End the conversation as graciously as you initiated it.
2. Attending the weekly marketing meeting and expecting an urgent call?  Notify your colleagues beforehand. Put your phone on vibration mode, place it on your lap or in your pocket and give your co-workers your undivided attention. When the call comes, excuse yourself and handle it quickly.
3. Courting a prospective client with an invitation to lunch?  Arrive early to set the stage and hand your credit card to the host so that they may process payment and avoid presenting the check at the end of the meal.
4. Should you accept your boss’ invitation to ‘Friend’ you on Facebook?  Yes, however, do so with care and create a separate group for work and tag it with the name of your company then filter only professionally related content.
5. Wondering whom should shake first in the workplace? In a professional setting, the host or the higher ranking person should initiate the handshake regardless of gender. The first to thrust their hand out is always perceived to be the most confident.
6. When hosting an important business meal, where should you seat your honored guest? The honored guest is always seated on your immediate right.
7. Want to avoid miscommunication when sending a text or email?  Since you are unable to see the person face-to-face, avoid firing off a flippant answer. Read your messages and responses for tone and send complete, clear communications.
8. Important interview for your dream job? Scour your social media for any red flags. Anything that defames your image should be wiped clean.  
9. Having trouble remembering names? Remembering names is an excellent skill to cultivate. Commit a name to memory by repeating it at least three times. Once during the introduction, a second time when making conversation, and finally, when saying goodbye.  
10. Want to outclass your competition? Become best friends with your stationery and write thank you notes. Whether you are following up on an introduction, interview or meeting, nothing conveys your appreciation better.
11. Should a male work colleague offer to seat a female co-worker at a business lunch? It is a thoughtful gesture, but not necessary as men and women are considered equals in the workplace.
12. Can I make casual Friday’s an everyday occurrence? Whatever your work, you want to be taken seriously. It’s always best to dress for the job you aspire to possess. Take pride in what you wear, especially in formal professional situations.
13. Where should you wear your nametag? Your nametag is always placed on the right side of your chest to make shaking hands and reading someone’s nametag one smooth action.
14. Working from home?  Get out of your PJ’s! Don’t let comfort get the best of you. Dress to create an atmosphere of professionalism, it will upgrade your phone voice and you’ll be ready to head out the door for a breakfast meeting in a moment’s notice.
15. Want to present your business card to a work colleague Before handing your card, ask for his or hers first, then present the card with your right hand and with the type facing toward the recipient.
16. Wondering how to approach your co-worker in their cubicle? Knock verbally when walking into their open office, especially if they are focused on their work. Step into their line of vision so they don’t have to scan the entire room to find you.
17. Tempted to respond to your boss’ weekend email? Don't be available 24/7. It’s perfectly okay to establish boundaries and respond the next day. It will set a precedent and your boss will respect you for it.
18. Making an important business introduction? Show respect by standing for all introductions. Adhere to the rules of the established hierarchy from top to bottom. Remember, the client always comes first.
19. Want to convey confidence and authority in all business transactions? Don’t withhold when it comes to handshaking – the ultimate greeting. For a world class handshake, extend the right hand with the thumb facing up and fingers extended out. Shake with two pumps and then release.
20. Conducting business with individuals from other countries? Err on the side of formality. Address them by their titles and full names. Familiarize yourself with a few key facts about their culture and customs, and educate yourself on their cuisine and dietary restrictions.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Manners Monday - Graduation Etiquette: Say Goodbye with Grace & Seize an Attitude of Gratitude

Graduation is upon our family in a huge way.  The next two weeks my daughters will be moving on from Elementary School and Middle School respectively and we will be saying goodbye to their private school education and welcoming in a new era of public school. The occasion is going to be bittersweet. We have met some incredible families whom we love and will be sad to leave, but we are also looking forward to having our girls attend school in a slightly less competitive environment that is located close to home and with a bit more diverse makeup that is more representative of the real world.  Don't get me wrong, they are still going to school in one of the best zip codes in the world - Beverly Hills 90210 - however contrary to mass perception, not everyone owns a private jet and shops on Rodeo Drive. Old apartment buildings line the city and many families can rent for a fraction of the cost of owning a home and still send their kids to the schools. It's not as if we're leaving the state, but it will be different. There is still a stigma associated with public school. Years ago, it was the other way around and only the problem children were sent to private. Now private is for the privileged and public is the ugly stepsister.  But, the tide is slowly turning and more families are warming up to the idea, especially those who meticulously follow the matriculation rates and realize that if their kids are not in the top 1% at private, they may actually have a better chance of getting into an Ivy League from a public education.  But I digress...

Graduating from school is a big deal at any age. With tuitions hitting record highs and academic standards reaching new plateaus, the pressure cooker to stay in school and get good grades can be debilitating. It demands a student’s fierce dedication and a family’s unwavering commitment. As a show appreciation and sign of respect to everyone who has helped you to prepare for this day, here are 7 ways for the graduate to say goodbye with grace and seize an attitude of gratitude.  

1. Cordially Invite.  Eschew the electronic invite in favor of customized printed invitations to distribute to family members and close friends two months in advance.  While you want to make everyone feel special, tickets are typically limited to attend the ceremony. Circumvent hurt feelings by making sure all guests receive an invitation to the celebration afterward.  

2. Dress To Impress.  Although you may be covered from head to toe in cap and gown, graduates should dress to impress in appropriate commencement attire. Ladies should wear a dress, slacks or skirt with a nice blouse. Flats or low heeled shoes for comfort and safe walking.  Limit accessories to only those that are necessary. Gentlemen should wear dress pants or khakis with pressed button-down shirts and a belt.  Tied shoes or loafers for footwear.  If applicable, caps are worn flat on the head with the tassels on the right side unless otherwise instructed for photos, etc. Caps are removed by gentlemen only as a sign of respect during the National Anthem.

3. Glean Jewels from Commencement Speeches.  This is not the time to take a snooze. Put down your phone, sit up straight, perk up your ears, and lean in.  After years of schooling, you must now apply what you’ve learned in the real world and that is no simple task. The commencement speech delivers the goods on exactly what it will take to not only survive, but thrive.  Legendary commencement speakers offer priceless pearls of wisdom that still resonates.  Listen with intent, take the advice to heart and aspire to live up to the standard your education has provided you.  

4. Receive the Diploma in a Dignified Manner.  You will rehearse countless times how to approach the stage to receive your diploma, but here are a few extra pointers to be mindful of. Posture, posture, posture! Stand tall, shoulders down and back and walk with dignity being careful not to trip on your gown. Make good eye contact, administer a solid handshake with your right hand using two pumps, and use your left hand to accept the diploma. If applicable, move the tassel on your cap if directed by the photographer and be sure to smile with your eyes, as well as your teeth.  Continue offstage confidently and return to your seat. 

5. Split Time Sensibly between Guests & Grads.  Guests have come far and wide to witness the occasion and they deserve a little quality time and undivided attention before running off to party with your friends. If your family is hosting a celebratory luncheon or dinner on your behalf, make it your mission to be charming, gracious, interesting, interested and grateful.  Connect with each guest and personally thank them for coming.

6. Allocate Announcements.  If you have extended family and friends whom you’d like to share in your joyous occasion, limit announcements to those who actually know you are graduating.  “No gifts please” should be added so recipients understand this is purely a gesture to include them in your achievement.

7. Handwrite Appreciation.  Hopefully, you own personalized stationery or a have a box of thank you notes stashed in your drawer as you are going to need it. Thank you notes should be written within a one to two-week period.  Monetary gifts may include a sentence on how the money will be used such as towards future savings or special purchase. Being the gracious graduate you are, an expression of gratitude will also be mailed to those who came to support you but did not bring a gift.  

Monday, May 23, 2016

Manners Monday - From the Promposal to the After-Party, Prom Night Done Right!

It was 1985, senior year and I asked my on-again, off-again boyfriend who was two years older and had already graduated high school, to escort me to the prom.  At Beverly Hills High School, prom was held in the same ballroom as the Golden Globes.  We had a very large class of about 600 students so we required a big space.  Finding the right dress for the occasion was no small feat.  My mother took me to a seamstress on Rodeo Drive who would make a royal blue taffeta strapless ensemble straight out of a John Hughes film.  I dyed my satin Charles Jordan shoes to match and embellished them with rhinestone clip-on hearts to complement my rhinestone earrings. You gotta love the 80’s! 

Things seemed so much simpler back then. Prom goers were forced to relate to one another in person in real time. Your date had to actually walk to the front door to meet and greet you along with your parents. They made good eye contact, shook hands, and engaged in polite small talk before heading out for the evening. Requisite photos were taken on good old-fashioned 35mm cameras and we were forced to wait for what-felt-like-forever for the film to be developed.  No one took selfies.  If we wanted a photo of ourselves, we handed the camera over to someone else to take it.  Our attire, while totally cheesy, was wholesome and age appropriate, not revealing or distasteful. Transportation consisted of three to four couples pitching in and piling into a stretch limo for the night. This was vastly different from the SUV's and Uber's that blanket our streets today.  The Grand Ballroom at the hotel was decorated with a sea of sixty inch round tables adorned with balloons, carnation centerpieces, and a ton of confetti. We chatted and we danced. Sometimes we were too cool for school, but we stayed until the bitter end.  After the prom, most of my friends headed to Palm Springs, but my boyfriend and I opted for Lake Arrowhead. I still recall the hike we took and the photo of the two of us sitting on a rock in the sun.  I was in heaven.  Wish I could find those photos. They’re probably nestled deep down in a drawer with my other embarrassing teenage memories. 

Prom in 2016 is an entirely different animal.  From pretentious promposals and designer dresses to luxurious pampering and stylish hotels, the sky’s the limit for today’s precocious teens. But there are also a million ways a prom can turn sour, the hashtag #ruinpromin4words recently trended on Twitter recounting all types of bad behavior.  My advice, enjoy this rite of passage by leaving a lasting and positive impression.  Here’s how to do prom right from the initial ask to the final goodnight.

The Ask. Asking a date to prom has changed dramatically from private inquiry to a public announcement.  Gone are the days when a suitor would pick up the phone or present a rose to a potential date in person. Now, they spend hours scouring the internet for unique ways to craft an unforgettable 'promposal' to rival the most outrageous wedding proposal. Whether it comes in the form of an announcement made live on national morning television or written in the sky via plane, it must be done well in advance or certainly by the time tickets go on sale.  Don’t even think about emailing or texting, these 'asks' occur in front of a full audience with plenty of fanfare and witnesses. Saying yes is easy, it’s turning down an offer that requires grace. A simple, I appreciate you thinking of me...but I’ve already made other plans/will be going with my best friend/decided to go with a group, will suffice.  And, there is no hall pass for better offers. Once you commit to a prom date, stick to it.   Even if it’s the potential love of your life, this is non-negotiable.  Be your word and make the best of the evening.  The good karma g-ds will smile kindly upon you.

The Attendance. Not all prom goers are happily coupled at event time nor are they forced into traditional male/female relationships. Some may choose to go solo (a la Pretty in Pink) or attend as part of a larger group (Girl’s Night anyone?) while others representing the LGBTQ community may arrive with a partner of the same gender. All preferences are welcome as most schools are becoming increasingly conscious to make everyone feel comfortable and included.

The Funds.  Prom costs can range from bare minimum to the extravagant depending upon budget and taste.  Discuss with parents an overall amount and then plug in the hard costs from the promposal to the after party including the attire, the transportation, the prom tickets, the flowers, the food and the photos. If an overnight stay is on the table, factor in the accommodations as well.  On average, a prom these days can set you back $900.00 when all is said and done. But do not feel pressure to break the bank, there are less expensive options for every detail. Apply a bit of creativity and style and no one will be the wiser.  

The Attire.  Girls are no longer adhering to the strict floor length dress codes and gone are the days of the matching satin baby blue cummerbund and bow tie for guys.  In terms of attire, stylistic license is more acceptable as long as it is tasteful and appropriate.  Fashion forward girls have been known to don a formal suit or tux for the occasion! The invitation dictates the clothing and certain rules still apply. Formal dress demands a tuxedo and knee to floor length gown. For semi-formal attire, only a sports jacket and short dress is expected. Whether two-piece or sleek and minimal, be mindful of cut out’s and cleavage.  To color-coordinate with your date, a swatch may be provided.

The Dough.  Who Pays? Back in the day, it was traditional for the gentleman to pay for the tickets to attend prom. In today’s times, technically, whomever poses the question should pay. The key is to communicate with your date and your parents as to who will foot the bill for what. Typically, each party will pay for their flowers, grooming, attire and accessories. A word to the wise gents - whatever you do, do not ask your date to go Dutch.

The Flowers.  It is part of the prom tradition for dates to present flowers to one another. Gentlemen purchase corsages to be placed on the wrist or the dress of the girls and ladies purchase boutonnieres to be placed on their date’s jacket.  The purpose of this ritual and exchange helps to set the tone for the evening. Upon arrival, a gentleman presents the corsage by opening the box for his date.  To properly assist your date with her corsage, turn the inside of her arm facing up and then gently slip it onto her wrist.  This will help prevent damage to the flowers. If she prefers to pin the corsage to the bodice or shoulder strap of her dress, ask whether she would like assistance.  Ladies will offer to pin the boutonniere on the left lapel of the gentlemen’s jacket.  When it comes to what to choose, the couple should take a trip to the florist to determine design and color to match each other, as well as their outfits.  Pick up for both should occur on the day of the prom to ensure the flowers are at their freshest. For bonus points, gentleman may wish to purchase a small bouquet or wristlet for the mother of his date as well.

The Wheels.  Selecting which type of transportation to arrive at prom in style is an important decision that should be discussed between the couple. In some cases the school may provide a bus, however most arrange a private bus (the Mercedes version) for a group of friends or car and driver for just a few couples.  Uber or Lyft is a third option for those who want to ride alone, have flexibility, and keep costs down. Regardless of which type of wheels you choose, the same rules apply. A gentlemen allows the lady to enter the car first and exit first offering a hand to lend assistance.  If using a chauffeur or professional driver, allow them to open and close the doors for you and your date.  The lady enters first and then the driver will open the door on the opposite side for the gentleman. No smoking, vaping or drinking in the car.  At the end of the evening, if the tip is not included, it is appropriate to tip the driver a cash amount between $50-$100 or 20% of the total.  

The Family. Picking up your date requires some quality time with their family.  Plan ahead, punctuality is a sign of respect.  Walk to the front door to greet your date properly.  Do not text from the car or, heaven forbid, honk the horn to signal your arrival.  If your date is introducing you for the first time, she will defer to her parents, “Mom and dad, I’d like to introduce to you Luke Jones, my date for the prom. Luke these are my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jones”.  In return, the gentleman responds with “It’s very nice to meet you” while flashing a toothy smile, making good eye contact, and shaking hands with two pumps.

The Dining. Impress your companion with this quick tutorial on formal dining skills. Once everyone has arrived at the table, ladies take a step to the right to be seated by the gentlemen. Napkins should then be folded in half lengthwise and placed in laps. Use a napkin to wipe your mouth and to capture a sneeze or cough at the table. If getting up during the meal, the napkin is placed on the seat of the chair.  At the end of the meal, the napkin is laid on the table to the left of the place setting.  Whether a sit down dinner or buffet, break and butter bread one bite size piece at a time, scoop soup away from you, and utilize both a fork and knife to efficiently enter food into your mouth. Remember, the acronym BMW going left to right which signifies the bread plate, the meal, and water glass.  In the buffet line, cater to your date first. It should go without saying, but be polite and use the magic words with all wait staff. Do not begin eating until everyone is served. Sit up straight with good posture and take small bites to keep the focus on conversation. 

The Behavior.  Rudeness is a huge turnoff.  Give your date the attention they deserve by keeping your phone out of view.  Use it for taking photos only, not to multi-task, text or use as an excuse to disengage. Gentlemen, break out the chivalrous behavior.  Walk your lady curbside, open her door and let her walk into the room first, pull out her chair, and shower her with sincere compliments.  Ask her to dance. Escort her where appropriate. Never ditch your date to socialize with friends. At the end of the evening, walk her respectfully to the front door.  Ladies, keep it light and breezy. This is not the time to take stock of your relationship and put demands on your date. Be polite, poised, positive and fun!  

The Dancing.  Most ladies love to dance and will drag their dates to the dancefloor. Dancing with a group of friends generally happens organically, it’s the slow dancing that prom-goers feel compelled to pair up.  Be respectful to your date and dance with them only.  If someone other than your partner asks to cut in, politely decline.  

The Photos. Once everyone is camera ready, the photo taking extravaganza commences.  To memorialize this rite of passage you’ll want a combination of professional looking photos and fun candid shots.  Make sure to monitor selfies and ask permission prior to tagging.  The emphasis should be on being present to the people in front of you rather than posting relentlessly.  After all, it’s about enjoying the moment to the fullest, not feeling a slave to your social media.

The Goodnight. If the stars were not aligned for you and your date and you’d rather forgo the final kiss goodnight, a simple, “Thank you for a lovely evening” accompanied by a friendly handshake will send a gracious message of appreciation and nothing more.  Read your date’s body language before making an advance.  Our non-verbal language speaks volumes about how we are truly feeling. 

The Thank You.  A gesture that is sure to impress is to write a note of thanks to the committee chair(s) for their hard work and dedication. As prom-goer, you are an ambassador of your school and your community, and your thoughtfulness will leave a positive and lasting impression. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mom is CEO, First Lady & Role Model Rolled into One Pretty Package – NO Pressure!

In the past week, I have heard a rainbow of responses from mothers about what will transpire this Mother’s Day.  One of my girlfriends who is not a fan of Hallmark holidays absolutely dreads the day and would rather ignore it entirely. Another mom I chatted up in spin class said her Mother’s Day has never once been about her and instead is about placating her mother and mother-in-law.  At a luncheon I attended recently, I laughed out loud when I heard that in anticipation of Mother’s Day this mom surreptitiously added money to her daughter’s credit card in the hope of receiving a decent Mother’s Day gift. A mantra from most of the mothers I’ve talked to is that they simply do not want to spearhead the planning of their own Mother’s Day.  Their needs are simple.They want to sleep in and not be bogged down by questions and carpooling and other demands typically put upon them every other day of the year.  A mother who had the faintest idea of what was in store for her special day summed it up best when she told me, “You have to have zero expectations, so you aren’t disappointed.” 

Meanwhile, zero expectations is the complete antithesis of what a mom fulfills for her children on a nearly daily basis.  She is, after all, CEO of the household, First Lady of the family, and the original role model rolled into one pretty package. She is the go-to-gal for virtually everything.  Scraped knee, belly ache, hurt feelings, bruised heart?  No problem, she is on it with ice packs, hot compresses, an ear to listen, and a shoulder to lean on. She is a jack-of-all trades, superhero combining the expert skills of a doctor, lawyer, limo driver, plumber, housekeeper, chef, party planner, travel agent, and so much more.  She is a master scheduler and ninja multi-tasker.  When it comes to her children, nothing can stand in her way.  She will move mountains and part seas to protect them. She is a tiger mom, a soccer mom, and a mama bear armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude and a don’t-even-think-about-messing-with-me spirit. And that is why we love her!

Mom as role-model possesses an ethereal elegance. She is poised, composed, thoughtful, presentable, well-spoken, and, of course, well-mannered.  We hold her up on a pedestal and demand her absolute best all of the time.  Does this job come with a great deal of pressure?  You betcha!  Why do you think so many moms count the seconds until they can glean just one peaceful moment to down their wine devoid of interruption?  For all of these reasons and a thousand more, it is important to show mom the love on this day dedicated to her greatness and to recognize that with all of the amazing things she does, she is also human and she will make mistakes, grave mistakes every now and again.  

So today cut her some slack and shower her with the love she so rightly deserves.  Do a dish, take out the garbage, hold your tongue, set the table, pull out her chair, help her with her coat, give her a hug, and most importantly, say thank you and tell her how much you appreciate her.  That is guaranteed to put a smile on her face at least until…Father’s Day.  Don’t even get me started on moms many roles and responsibilities when it comes to the care and keeping of DAD!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Manners Monday – Paying Homage to the Purple Prince Whose Presence Transcended

I was a junior in high school when Purple Rain hit the theaters. I vividly remember driving my white VW Rabbit Convertible Cabriolet packed with friends to a downtown Los Angeles club blasting the soundtrack the entire way.  That movie, for me, like so many others, was a game changer.  As a child, my parents had introduced me to Bette Midler and I was memorized by her turn as Janis Joplin in The Rose. I was also a huge Barbra Streisand fan so I naturally fell in love with A Star Is Born. But those rock anthems, while incredibly powerful, felt too adult. Purple Rain, however, was the gospel for my generation. I saw the movie umpteen thousand times and listened to the music endlessly. I am positive I went to a Prince concert in my teens, but for some reason remember more vividly his performance many years later at a private Emmy party in West Hollywood that literally blew my mind.  I have never witnessed someone with such presence on stage. You could not take your eyes off him. His aura was other-worldly. His colorful style, musical acumen, effortless dance moves, and pitch-perfect vocals were incomparable.  It was one of the best concerts I have ever seen.  In the last decade when I would hear a new Prince song on the radio it was immediately familiar and would take me right back to my youth.  His appeal never waned in my book nor did it with the masses as evidenced by the standing ovations he continuously received whether arriving like royalty at a basketball game or awarding the coveted Song of the Year at the Grammys.  No one would have guessed that this still relatively young man who was a devout Jehovah’s Witness and ate only Vegan would see his fate come abruptly to an end. The world was stunned so much so that national monuments across the globe were lit the color purple in his honor. As Jimmy Fallon proclaimed in the Saturday Night Live tribute, who else but Prince could take ownership of an entire color.  Over the weekend, artists from Jennifer Hudson to Bruce Springsteen paid homage to his royal purpleness covering hit after hit. While he may not have been perfect (there is now evidence of a hidden drug addiction that was kept under wraps for over 25 years) no one could argue the magical genius and the omnipresence that was Prince Rogers Nelson.  Here is just a taste of the many ways he influenced us with his incredible talent.

His impression was lasting. This man commanded presence and confidence when he walked in the room.  Crowds of people would stop in their tracks to watch his swagger.  He was a diminutive five foot two, but his platforms and charisma made him appear six feet tall. 

His attire set the tone.
  Boy, did Prince know how to dress!  He had an entire wing of Paisley Park dedicated to his handmade wardrobe with an around the clock designer and tailor.  He pushed boundaries wearing feminine clothes and high heels that somehow never compromised his masculinity.  He mixed and matched bright colors, fabrics, and accessories always with a highlight of his signature color, purple. He oozed sex appeal, but still maintained a certain elegance.

He had a demeanor that was endearing.
  He appealed to all audiences perhaps because he knew how to embrace both his masculine and feminine attributes.  He was able to write erotic love songs that would make women swoon while dressed in heeled boots and full makeup. While his persona onstage was energized and outrageous, off stage he was soft-spoken and exceptionally shy, always humble and gracious.

He had a tremendous work ethic. 
 Prince was constantly making new music to the point that his label, Warner Bros., created a vault filled with his never released songs. He performed and toured tirelessly sometimes doing a full concert followed by a club gig in the same evening.

His talent inspired others.
 He was a revolutionary who played every genre imaginable from pop, rock, and funk to jazz, blues, and soul.  He was a self-taught prodigy who composed, wrote and played all of the instruments on his first two albums. He was a deeply religious man who could astoundingly mix the holy and the sexy in the same song.  He was a major influence on so many other artists and wrote hit songs for everyone from Sheila E. and Chaka Khan to Sheena Easton, Stevie Nicks, Sinead O’Connor, and the Bangles.  

He was full of passion and charitable deeds.
  He was a humanitarian who funded countless charities, helped underprivileged youth, and stepped up for famous friends. When director Spike Lee's budget skyrocketed on his Malcolm X movie, Prince was there to lend a monetary hand. When he felt a slave to his record label Warner Bros., he famously split from the label and changed his name to a symbol to protect his rights. When he was baptized a Jehovah's Witness in 2003, he went door-to-door on behalf of the ministry.  

Most importantly, he aspired to be a good person.  According to a public source, he was often heard saying, 'We have to be good people. It's important that we try to be good people.”  To that, I raise my glass to the Purple Prince and drink a sip in his memory.

My list of Prince Favorites:
Starfish & Coffee
If I Was Your Girlfriend
The Ballad of Dorothy Parker
I Would Die 4 U
When Doves Cry
U Got the Look
Purple Rain
Let’s Go Crazy
Sign O the Times
Pop Life (Extended Mix)
The Beautiful Ones
Alphabet St.
I Wanna Be Your Lover
Get Off
Take Me With You
Darling Nikki
She's Always in My Hair
Soft & Wet