Oops. That was embarrassing.

Have you ever said something or done something that was an embarrassment to you, your organization and your Mother?

Years ago, my wife and I attended an Association conference in Palm Springs. The board of director’s dinner was an elegant affair. I remember walking into the dining room. The candle light was glittering off more silver and china than I had seen in my life.

I remember thinking “Tom. You’re not at Bob Evans anymore.”

Shortly after we were seated at our round table of eight people, the lady to my right said, “I wonder … which fork do we use for our salad?”

With high confidence and no hesitation, I said, “the one at the top of the plate.”

When it was time to eat our salads, my new “mentee” and I picked up our forks from the top of our plates.

Everyone else, including my wife, picked up their fork to the left.

No one said anything, but I immediately knew that I had made an embarrassing mistake and I had taken down someone else with me.

I didn’t want to make matters worse, so I just went ahead and ate.

You might be thinking, come on Tom. Isn’t the error of confusing your dessert fork with your salad fork a pretty small thing. Well, yes, you are correct. It is a little thing.


However, in my case, it was a sign of lack of knowledge that amounted to a much larger problem.

I’d rather say “lack of knowledge” than ignorance.

As J.W. Marriott said, “it’s  the little things that make the big things possible.”

You might be wondering, why didn’t someone say something?

That’s because people with good manners don’t tell people with bad manners that they have bad manners because that would be what? That’s right. Bad Manners!

So, since I discovered that polite people were not going to tutor me, I decided that I was going to become knowledgeable about American business etiquette and protocol.

As I learned more, I noticed that many of us show signs of lack of knowledge and confidence in networking, business dining, and public speaking skills. Most of us are comfortable in the bar in the evening, but throughout the day, we’re less at ease.

Also, once we are asked to leave the office to attend a conference, or a networking event or business meal, we wish we could be somewhere else. Some of us will go to great lengths to get out of these assignments.

Career Magic

However, the fact is that much of our career magic happens in these out of office venues. We need to be ready.

How about you?

Besides being an expert about the content in your field, are you on top of your game with business etiquette and protocol? How about how you come across in front of the room?

Are you sure? If you’d like some resources about these topics, contact me. I am glad to help.