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In the News!


Newspaper and magazine articles referencing The Executive Protocol Group® and its "premier business etiquette consultant," Paul Siddle.

"Is 'Dear' dead?" - CNN.com (5-30-12)

Dear reader:

Actually, that's the subject of today's column.

Because there is a real question that has quietly been building -- perhaps not the most important question in this tense old world of ours, but a question nonetheless:

Is "Dear" an endangered species?

It would appear to be. You may have noticed that fewer and fewer people begin their letters and notes with "Dear." Some holdouts -- I'm among them -- do, but this may be mostly out of lifetime habit. Even people who grew up using the traditional salutation -- middle-of-the-road, go-by-the-book people -- now regularly begin their notes with "Hi."

This is mostly a function of the digital-communications age. "Dear," which always looked fine atop a business letter, or a handwritten note, is increasingly seen as archaic and old-fashioned on a computer screen or on a smartphone or mobile device.

The pending disappearance of "Dear" is a sea change in the way we write to each other -- yet when you think about it, there are few logical reasons arguing for a longer life for that particular word. We've always used it, just because we've always used it.

But step back for a second and think about it -- about addressing business associates, or people you've never met, as "Dear." It has worked commendably in letters, but imagine using it with those same people in face-to-face situations.

Picture yourself walking up to someone in an airport or at a business meeting and automatically calling him or her "dear." You might be greeted with a withering glare, if not a punch in the nose. And imagine what would happen if you went around your office every day, in person, calling people "dear." You'd be taking a quick trip to Human Resources.

The reason "Dear" may be destined to die is that it faces a dilemma much like an army confronted with a pincers movement in war: On the one flank, written-on-paper, mailed letters -- the kind that have always been started with "Dear" -- are rapidly disappearing, as use of the U.S. mail itself dwindles. On the other flank, many people who use e-mail decided a long time ago to go with nothing at all, or with "Hi" (followed by the recipient's name), as a reflection of the new informality and ease of note-writing. With text messages, the idea of a salutation doesn't even come up.

(And of course, there is the ever-popular "Hey" salutation, used by those who think that "Hi" is much too stodgy.)

Not wanting to trust my own judgment on this vital matter, I put together an ad hoc advisory panel of five etiquette teachers and coaches from around the country (yes, even in our hail-to-sloppiness era, such people exist). They pondered the "Dear" question.

"Even with the new normal of being informal, the proper way to start an e-mail is with 'Dear,'" said Cynthia Lett, director of the Lett Group, a protocol training company in Silver Spring, Maryland. The time to switch to "Hey," she said, is "when we get to the point of dropping by each other's houses without an invitation and opening the refrigerator to see what is available for a snack."

Patricia Rossi, an etiquette coach based in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, said, "I really think it is best to open an e-mail with 'Dear Mr. Moore,' as it's important to start out with a more respectful and formal salutation. Mr. Moore will respond in a manner that he wishes to set the tone with."

Barbara Pachter, an etiquette expert in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, said, "E-mail doesn't technically require a salutation, since it is in memo format. And when e-mail first appeared, many people did not use a salutation. Eventually people started adding a salutation to appear friendlier and help the tone of their writings."

Jacqueline Whitmore, who advises on etiquette from her base in Palm Beach, Florida, said, "In my professional opinion you can never go wrong when you're too formal, but you can often be dead wrong if you're too casual."

And Paul Siddle, whose etiquette-and-protocol operation is based in Richmond, Virginia, responded to my question about "Dear" possibly being anachronistic by saying: "Anachronistic? Well, we are certainly becoming a more relaxed society, but there will always be a right way and a wrong way to do things. And using appropriate salutations, and closings, in written communications is the right way to do it."

Most e-mailers and text-messagers do not consult etiquette coaches, though, and with the demise of words-on-paper letters, the future of "Dear" appears dire. There are, it should be noted, some ethereal and symbolic forces working against "Hi" in other parts of society:

When Katie Couric took over the "CBS Evening News" in 2006, she at first began each broadcast with "Hi, everyone," to send a signal of friendliness and non-pontification. The "Hi" soon enough went away; evidently the word was too breezy for viewers across the United States who had long watched the evening news on the networks, and were accustomed to "Good evening."

But an e-mail is not the evening news, and perhaps it is time to begin saying our inevitable fond farewell to "Dear," and to say that farewell before the salutation has already become dearly departed.

Thank you for reading.

With my most sincere good wishes until we meet anon.

"Traveling on Business Regularly? Take Some Tips From a Super Frequent Flier" - TravelForSmallBiz.com (3-20-09)

Paul Siddle, who trains business people about corporate etiquette, is constantly on the run, but he tries not to be rushed.

How? He follows a few simple rules:

If possible, choose one airline and stick with it. This way you will obtain a higher level of frequent-flyer status with that particular airline. Therefore, your ability to get the seats you prefer will increase along with your chances of being upgraded to first and business class.

Join an airline's airport club. This will provide you respite from the maddening and hectic throngs in most US hub airports. It's also a great place to spend time with long layovers in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, New York, LA, etc. If you fly frequently invest in the Bose Quiet Comfort 2 (or 3) noise cancelling headphones. To buy, visit www.bose.com.

For Car Rentals, pick one company and stay committed to that business. This will also earn you perks and benefits. Hertz is usually more expensive, but it gets you in and out of most airports faster than its competition. For more information, visit www.hertz.com.

Pack light and don't check your luggage. Bypassing the luggage carousel saves you time and headaches. There are only two types of luggage: carry-on and lost. A great bag to consider is the "Air Boss" by Red Oxx for $225. To buy, visit www.redoxx.com.

If possible, leave the laptop at the office. A BlackBerry can do almost everything your computer can. If this is unreasonable choice, an ultra-portable laptop, such as the ThinkPad X series (www.lenovo.com), and your shoulders will thank you for shedding the extra 3-4 lbs. Also be sure to travel with a "thumb drive," an invaluable tool that will carry all of your important files.

Commit to a hotel chain. Marriott and Hilton offer great frequent-traveler programs that upgrade you to corner rooms (more space and far removed from the noisy ice machines and elevators) and guarantee you will never be without a bed for the night. Check the NeatReciepts scanner that allows you to scan your expense receipts while traveling. Its small size allows you to keep up with your billable or reimbursable expenses each night when you return to your room. Check it out at www.neatreciepts.com.

Tip generously, especially if you fly to the same places often. Shuttle bus drivers, hotel housekeeping and restaurant staff will remember you and make your stays much more enjoyable.

Paul Siddle, President of a small Naples, Florida-based company trains corporate personnel in the area of business etiquette for nearly a decade. He has worked with ADP, Anheuser-Busch, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, AXA Financial, Bank of America, Cisco Systems, Gulfstream Aerospace, State Farm, Tyco International, Wachovia, WellPoint and YUM! Brands, among many others.

"Cell Phone Manners" - BusinessWeek (2-13-09)

Cell Phone Manners - Keep your voice down, get a grown-up ringtone, and most important, turn it off!

Louise Lee

Full keyboards, color screens, and GPS systems have made the lowly cell phone an indispensable business tool. But using your phone inappropriately in a workplace setting can easily distract or offend, says Paul Siddle, principal of the Executive Protocol Group in Naples, Fla. Here's how to avoid a slipup.

As a business owner, you want to project an image of maturity and professionalism. Stick with a standard ringtone rather than blasting Beat It. Remember not to yell into the phone. And if you're taking a call on your cell, as a courtesy let the other party know. That way he or she won't be surprised if the call gets dropped, the connection goes fuzzy, or you get distracted by a texting pedestrian who steps into your path.

Three words: Turn it off. Clients and colleagues expect your full attention, and "if you reach down even to check the phone or, worse, answer it, you're sending the wrong message," says Siddle. And no, putting it on vibrate doesn't cut it, especially once your device starts doing the buzz-boogie across the table. That's annoying.

If you're worried about how the office is running in your absence, check in before you start your meeting. Tell your staff that you'll be unreachable for a short while. Then hit the off button.

There is exactly one exception to the "turn it off" rule: If you're expecting a call from a doctor. Explain that you're waiting for a call about a medical matter. If the phone rings, leave the room even before answering. "You want the least amount of intrusion possible," say Siddle.

"Truth shatters rumors over mansion antique" - Roanoke Times (11-12-08)

Truth shatters rumors over mansion antique

Pete Dybdahl

Photo courtesy of nbc12.com A TV cameraman knocked over the porcelain antique, which shattered on the marble hearth of the governor's mansion in Richmond. It was, by one account, "the shot heard across Virginia."

This much is true: On Oct. 29, a TV cameraman named Ira Quillen broke a porcelain antique in the Virginia Governor's Mansion.

Rumors started at once. It was a vase that had belonged to Thomas Jefferson. It was a gift from the French government. The vase was worth more than a new Honda Civic.

Tales of the incident circulated among the media, who had gathered for pre-election interviews with Gov. Tim Kaine. Richmond's NBC12 television station reported on its Web site that a "TV crew (not ours)" broke the vase, "to the tune of $17,500."

"There's all kinds of wild stories that it was worth $18,000," said Quillen, who works in the Richmond bureau of the Roanoke-based CBS affiliate, WDBJ-7.

He has dismissed the rumors around the incident but remains apologetic. "It's the worse thing I've done since I stepped on Jesse Jackson's foot," he said, a reference to a separate mishap in the 1990s.

As Quillen tells it, he was shooting footage in the mansion when his tripod bumped a chair, which bumped a table, upon which the vessel sat. It fell on a marble hearth with a sound that silenced the mansion.

He slept for only an hour that night, he said, thinking his rapport with the governor had shattered with the heirloom. He wrote a letter of apology.

Proper manners require just that, said Paul Siddle, owner of Richmond's Executive Protocol Group, which specializes in business-place etiquette.

"Immediately, you apologize profusely," he said. In turn, the thoughtful host should smooth the feelings of his guest. (Quillen said the first family was very understanding.)

When the offender returns home, Siddle continued, he should send a personal letter and an offer to replace or repair the item.

What if the broken object is a priceless Jeffersonian heirloom? Well it's not, it turns out. In fact, it's not even a vase.

Amy Bridge, the Executive Mansion's director, called it a French porcelain bowl. The white houseware with floral trim was likely a gift from the late 1800s -- a full 50 years after Jefferson died.

And now the big reveal: The bowl's 1990 appraisal value was $225.

Members of the media have had accidents in the governor's mansion before, Bridge added.

At a recent media party last year, one guest spilled a glass of red wine on the dining room rug. At another function, a guest knocked a portrait to the floor. Next to those, Bridge ranked the broken bowl third.

"Ira's a nice guy," she said. "It was purely accidental."

"Don't cook your career at summer company outings" - The Plain Dealer (6-30-08)

Don't cook your career at summer company outings

Janet H. Cho

That pretty little invitation to the company picnic this weekend might look fun and innocent, but don't be so naive.

Company-sponsored social events are rife with opportunities to torpedo your career.

"Anything that starts with 'company' first -- 'company picnic,' 'company barbecue,' 'company baseball game'— means this is a business event" and that 9-to-5 workplace rules apply, said Marjorie Brody, founder and president of Brody Professional Development in Jenkintown, Pa. She has written 18 career advancement books, including "Professional Impressions: Etiquette for Everyone, Every Day."

"People let down their guards because this is a party; drinking too much, getting sloppy in their conversation, getting overly friendly and making inappropriate remarks."

Remember that these are your colleagues, not your friends, so you can't go around doing whatever you please, she said.

"Many employees have lost their jobs because of bad behavior at a party," said Dick Blake, an etiquette consultant in Beachwood. "You never get a second chance to make a first impression."

Here, then, are some dos and don'ts for summer social outings with business associates:

  • Do attend, even if only briefly. Your supervisors will notice if you skip out. "Management often views these events as 'team building,' and if you don't participate, it may seem you are not a team player," said Paul Siddle, principal of the Executive Protocol Group in Naples, Fla., which offers business etiquette training.
  • "Don't bring the dog," warns Lee E. Miller, co-founder of YourCareerDoctors.com and author of "UP: Influence, Power and the U Perspective: The Art of Getting What You Want. "Only bring the kids if the boss has kids. If your spouse has no social graces...leave the spouse home, too. The summer party is work, and you need to act as if it can have an effect on your career."
  • Do dress to impress. You may be able to skip the ties and the pantyhose, but the company still expects you to look neat and polished. Take your cues from your boss, not your cubicle mates, Blake said. If your T-shirt looks like a wrinkled beer commercial, leave it at home, Brody said. "When the boss is considering who to promote, you don't want him or her to be thinking about you in a thong bikini," Miller said.
  • Don't forget to wear clean shoes or nice sandals. "You don't have to get a pedicure, but you do want your feet to be clean and moisturized," said etiquette coach Catherine Holloway, owner of Etiquette Consulting Services in Lyndhurst.
  • Do come prepared to enjoy the event. Whether it's a Cleveland Orchestra concert at Blossom, an Indians loge at Progressive Field or a round of golf at a local course, take some interest in what's going on around you. Holloway suggests reading up on the sport so you know, for example, how the team is doing and who the pitcher is.
  • Don't be a mooch. If it's a potluck, by all means bring enough for people to share. If not, ask the host or hostess what you can contribute to the party. "Anytime you get invited anywhere, you should always bring something," Holloway said. Her favorite trick is sending a flower centerpiece or a fruit basket the afternoon before the event.
  • Do thank the host or hostess for inviting you before making a beeline for the bar.
  • Don't drink too much, to the point where you might say or do something you'll regret. Limit yourself to one alcoholic drink, Blake said.
  • Do try to restrain yourself at the buffet. "Don't walk around stuffing your face like you haven't had a meal in three months," Blake said.
  • Don't chat on your cell phone, check your BlackBerry or wear your Bluetooth headset. Nobody's that important.
  • Do mingle with people you don't know. "You never know when you could encounter an important networking contact," Brody said.
  • Don't forget to send the host or hostess a handwritten thank-you note after the event, Holloway said. Because so few people do this, your thoughtfulness will definitely stand out.

"Minding Manners" - The Daily Toreador (1-13-06)

Minding Manners - Students, professionals discuss the perhaps lost art of etiquette

Jeremy Reynolds/Features Writer

A man laying his jacket in the mud so a woman does not dirty her dress might have been common and mannerly at one time, but nowadays it has become more of a gesture of mocking than love.

A person standing in front of a boardroom in a three-piece suit with sweaty palms as he or she gives a presentation can now be substituted for someone lounging around in a ratty bathrobe eating takeout while giving the same presentation over the Internet.

Tiffany Hartley, a freshman pre-med major from Lovington, N.M., said manners and etiquette are not necessarily dead, but they are heading down the drain.

"Kids don't think they have to do what their parents tell them to, and when they get spanked they call the cops," Hartley said.

The manners of today's society have changed drastically since those of the "Leave-it-to-Beave"age, Hartley said. People take for granted a lot of things these days, such as please and thank you remarks.

Paul Siddle, owner of the Executive Protocol Group, an etiquette consultant group that travels the country giving seminars on business etiquette, said manners overall have taken a nose dive when compared to those of previous generations.

"I think part of the problem is the dot-com business," Siddle said.

Once the Internet started up, people are having less and less face-to-face contact than ever before, which causes this decline in overall manners.

Siddle's job is to go into a company and give a seminar about how to present one's self to others. He has spoken at Bank One, Anheuser-Bush and the Yum Corporation, which owns Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

"These businesses detected a lack of knowledge on how you should behave in the business world," Siddle said.

In this business world, Siddle said first impressions are based on three things: how the person looks, how they talk and what they say. Out of the three, how the person looks rates as the most important - 55 percent of the first impression. He said how the person talks rates at 38 percent, and what he or she says rates at 7 percent.

First impressions take between four and seven seconds," he said.

Some of Siddle's work takes him to university campuses where he speaks with graduate students who are about to enter into the business world. While on the campuses, he said he sees a lack of etiquette from professors around the various campuses, especially in how they dress.

"People tend to dress more casual these days," Siddle said. "I think the academic world has become laid back."

Other problems Siddle said he has seen include people writing e-mails instead of handwritten thank-you notes, more people eating fast food than sitting at a table and people taking a more laid-back approach to dress. Among the techniques Siddle teaches at these seminars are business dinner techniques that he calls Plate and Utensil Management.

Rich Hamming, a senior history major from Brownfield, said most of his meals are fast food and he never learned the proper way to behave at the dinner table. While he did say that he judged a woman on how she ate on a date, he does not grade too harshly.

"I don't have good table manners so I'm not going to hold the girl to higher standards," Hamming said.

Depending on who a person talks to, Hamming said manners and etiquette are dead overall. He said he feels they died a while ago, and looking at Siddle's profession is proof of that.

"I think that shows where our society is heading," Hamming said. "Fifty years ago I'm sure professions like that didn't even exist."

"Regent Students Get Enlightened in the Art of Etiquette" - News@Regent University (4-14-04)

Regent Students Get Enlightened in the Art of Etiquette - Eighty students bolster good manners at etiquette training seminar

Joe Miracle

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.— Regent students, alumni and guests attended an etiquette dinner at Founder’s Inn to, among other things, learn the proper technique to correcting a bad hand shake, solve the silverware mystery of the formal table setting and decide what to do with that pesky napkin.

Participants mingled, shook hands and introduced themselves prior to the meal, where Paul Siddle, founder of the Executive-Protocol Group, answered questions and taught the basics of business etiquette.

Grace Alegre, Director of Alumni Relations, and Joel Ladd, Director of Student Development were the organizers of the etiquette dinner. The idea for etiquette training started as Alegre wanted her Student Alumni Association ambassadors to be more confident in their relations with alumni, donors and trustees. Ladd then suggested the training be offered to students

Siddle’s presentation begins and ends with the same sentiment, “In this world, there are two kinds of people, first class and no class.”

Students began the evening noticeably self-conscious as their manner were put to the test, but the relaxed and humorous attitude with which Siddle approached the often dry and intimidating subject lightened the mood.

“The whole key to etiquette is making other people feel comfortable,” said Siddle. “It’s not supposed to be snobbish. It’s just today’s way of treating people right.”

A variety of Regent students, alumni, and guests learned about business etiquette. Business student Kristana Dosee says she learned the proper way to introduce a person and different things about table etiquette she hadn’t heard before.

Lisa Galindo, a Regent law student says she never knew it is okay to correct a bad handshake, much less how. (If you get a “bone-crusher” relax your grip and the person should relax theirs. If you get a “dead fish,” lean forward, put your left hand on their elbow and readjust your grip in their hand.)

Handshakes, Siddle emphasizes, are extremely important, as impressions are formed within seconds. According to Siddle, the three elements making up that impression is how a person introduces themselves, their handshake and their physical presentation.

Siddle was brought up in a family where etiquette was taught, but spent 25 years working in companies full of "good ol' boys" who frequently proved their limited knowledge of business etiquette. He spends most of his time as an etiquette trainer in the corporate environment and was pleasantly surprised to see the kind of interest in etiquette in an academic context.

"I think it's rather forward thinking to have this kind of thing at school," said Siddle.

Alegre credits the fun and engaging presentation style of Siddle for making the dinner a safe place to ask questions and to make mistakes.

"We were pleased with the turnout," said Alegre. "The response was good from the student body interested in honing their etiquette skills in the marketplace."

For more about Paul Siddle and the Executive Protocol Group, go to www.executive-protocol.com.

"Paul Siddle's 13 Tips for Better Business Manners" - Rococo Ltd. (Fall 2003)

Paul Siddle's 13 Tips for Better Business Manners

Paul Siddle
  • Unlike social etiquette, business etiquette is genderless or gender-neutral. Therefore, both men and women should always stand when introduced and offer a firm handshake.
  • The first person to the door opens it.
  • Always make introductions; if you forget someone’s name, apologize and ask for the name again.
  • Introduce people in business based on rank, not gender (introduce the person of lower rank to the person of higher rank). The client or customer is always the most important person. Begin the introduction by identifying the most important person—the client—first.
  • Always refer to someone as Mr. or Ms. until he or she asks you to use a first name.
  • First impressions are formed in four to seven seconds. Make sure your handshake is firm!
  • Hugs and kisses are inappropriate in the business environment (unless you’re in Hollywood). The handshake is the only acceptable physical contact between men and women in a business setting.
  • When attending business functions that require wearing a nametag, pin or stick the nametag on your right shoulder (or lapel) because the natural line of eyesight follows the right hand and arm as you shake hands and it will be easier for people to read.
  • When entering an office or conference room for a meeting, do not sit down until you have asked the person who called the meeting where he or she wants you to sit.
  • Do not put your briefcase, handbag, papers or keys on the table during a meal or meeting; place them on the floor beside you or under your seat.
  • Never let your cell phone ring during a meal or meeting; set the phone on the vibrate mode.
  • A handwritten thank-you note to your customer will distinguish you from your competition.
  • Return voice-mail, e-mail and phone calls within 24 hours. If you don’t have an appropriate reply, call and set up another time to communicate.

"Mind Your E-mail Manners" - Journal of Accountancy (April 2003)

Mind Your E-Mail Manners - Every business is a people business

Paul Siddle

Most of us are guilty of it: We use lowercase letters and sparse punctuation throughout our e-mails with little regard for the beginnings and ends of sentences or even paragraphs. However, using good manners, proper English and sensitivity to bring a professional tone to their electronic correspondence is yet another way CPAs can make a positive impression in the business world. Here are some tips to make sure the e-mails you send work for-not against-you.

Businesses want loyal customers, he said. Even though a customer is satisfied with the product, how he or she is treated will dictate if repeat business is done.

  • Don't write in all capital letters. It is the equivalent of electronic shouting. On the other hand, don't use all lowercase: It makes the writer seem indifferent and the message not as important.
  • Use simple text messages. Your e-mail program may be able to handle all the fancy graphics from Web pages, but many cannot. Large graphics also distract from the main purpose of the e-mail.
  • Use correct grammar and spelling. Almost all e-mail programs have a spell-check feature. Pay attention to punctuation as well. Failure to proofread your message may brand you as a "poor communicator"-which is tantamount to a death sentence in the business world.
  • Answer business e-mails within 24 hours. You will show that you're professional and courteous by replying to messages in your inbox within one day. You're not required to answer as soon as you receive a new message-despite how speedy it is to communicate this way.
  • Don't expect international contacts to respond as quickly as you would like. Local customs and/or technology issues may prevent them from writing you back within 24 hours. Be understanding about this. If something is urgent, make that clear and give an alternative way for them to reach you-for example, by providing a telephone number.
  • Be aware of nuances in speech when addressing members of the global business community. Slang, abbreviations and seasonal references rarely are universal. For example, our spring may be someone else's autumn. Spell out dates to avoid confusion. To Americans, 2/10/03 is February 10, but to Germans, it's October 2. Also, avoid emoticons-the smiley and frown faces commonly used in e-mails and instant messages; they could be taken the wrong way.
  • Take your finger off that send button. When you're tired or angry, don't send an e-mail. Write it, save it as a draft and read it the next day. Maybe it is exactly what you want to say. On the other hand, maybe you come on a little too strong-certain words can get you into hot water. Also, ask yourself whether the person you're e-mailing really needs to know a particular tidbit. Cutting down on the volume of corporate communications is a wonderful goal!
  • Never substitute electronic mail for a face-to-face meeting. It never is appropriate to reprimand, reward or fire someone via e-mail. Professionalism applies here.
  • Squash the urge to forward chain e-mails. The headers and footers always are at least 10 times longer than the message itself, and people get tons of them every day. If the joke really is too funny not to pass along, copy and paste it into a new e-mail and then send that one to your friends and/or coworkers.
  • Watch your language. You don't have to answer every e-mail you get. If you get a chain or prank e-mail, most of the time you can ignore it. If you do reply or send a new message, don't forget most companies have a way of permanently recording everything you send. As a rule, do not write anything in an e-mail that you wouldn't want your boss or your grandmother to read.
  • Resist attaching pictures, letters and large documents to your e-mails. They sometimes can "choke" the recipient's system, causing technological problems for the rest of the day. Don't send a large attachment unless people ask you to and they expect to get one.
  • When you reply to an e-mail, include the original in the body of your message. Computer users look at dozens of e-mails a day, and they may need a point of reference for your response. You don't have to include the entire message, just enough to jog their memory.
  • Turn on your auto-reply function if you plan on being out of the office for an extended period of time. Your contacts will appreciate knowing when you expect to return, and this is a good way to get the word out.

"When Your Fellow Traveler Is the Person Who Signs Your Paycheck" - New York Times (3-11-03)

When Your Fellow Traveler Is the Person Who Signs Your Paycheck

Susan Stellin

Anyone who travels frequently for business knows these are not the easiest of times to be on the road, with war jitters, airport difficulties and smaller expense accounts overshadowing perks like three-course dinners or five-star hotels.

But even in the most ideal travel climate, there is another factor that can add stress to an otherwise routine business journey: taking the trip elbow-to-elbow with your boss.

Employees who have traveled with a manager say the experience can be a mixed proposition. On one hand, the opportunity to spend time with a higher-up can be a chance to show off a knack for troubleshooting computer problems or to discover a shared interest in tae kwon do.

On the other hand, employees must dodge a host of potential land mines, like whether it is O.K. to beg off dinner with a supervisor in order to catch up with a college friend or whether you should order filet mignon and a martini when your boss opts for a side salad and coffee.

Such considerations, though often involving minor questions of etiquette, can create an undercurrent of anxiety on the road, particularly for those who are just starting in the company.

Valerie Penn, now a consultant for a corporate investigations firm in New York, recalled a flight with a boss in a previous career in marketing after an exhausting promotional event she helped organize. "We were with each other nearly 24 hours a day for four days straight, so I was ready for a little space," Ms. Penn said. But even though the plane was practically empty, he plopped down in the middle seat right next to her.

Not knowing how to handle the situation tactfully, particularly with a boss she liked, Ms. Penn tried the indirect approach, asking something like whether he would have more legroom in the aisle seat. "But he stayed there the entire flight," she said, "and didn't stop talking the whole time."

On the flip side, not sitting with your boss on the plane can be problematic. Ryan Nordberg, a senior consultant with a large consulting firm, said he was once upgraded to first class on a flight while his manager was relegated to coach. "I really didn't know if I should give my boss the first-class seat," Mr. Nordberg said. Ultimately, he offered to switch seats, but his boss declined.

As a consultant who spends most weeks on the road, Mr. Nordberg said that such quandaries come up all the time, like how to deal with a boss who always insists on choosing where to have dinner or how to dine without the boss once in a while. (That is when you do the old, "No, we're not doing anything tonight," he said — and then discreetly slip out for an unchaperoned evening.)

But Mr. Nordberg pointed out that he has also worked for project managers he enjoyed eating with every night — particularly the boss who valued efficiency over long working hours so the team had time to use the gym and enjoy a leisurely dinner together. "You can have the exact same situation with different personalities and have different feelings about it," he said.

If your boss is also your friend, or just a colorful character, traveling together can be a lot of fun. Pia Petruzzi, now a freelance marketing consultant, had a memorable experience on a trip to Europe with her boss, a woman, at a defunct magazine that was organizing a promotional event in Hamburg, Germany.

In its invitations, the magazine promised to feature the best local attractions — including the "best courtesan in Hamburg." That required a trip by the two women to the city's red-light district, where they hired one of the more attractive woman to make an appearance. "She wasn't performing her services; she was just willing to show up and be billed as the best courtesan in Hamburg," Ms. Petruzzi said, though she did acknowledge that handling the payment at the end of the evening was somewhat awkward.

From a supervisor's perspective, office friendships that overlap with a reporting relationship can sometimes lead to situations that are a little too close for comfort. A partner at a technology-consulting company, who asked that her name not be used, described the embarrassment of sharing the honeymoon suite in a hotel with a male and a female colleague because no other rooms were available and it was too late to seek other accommodations.

The room had a double bed and a couch and a bathtub in the middle of the floor surrounded by gauzy curtains. "I shared the double bed with the other woman, who luckily was a friend of mine, but it was weird because it was a work relationship," she said. "In the morning, two people had to leave the room so the other one could shower. We still laugh about it now. It was a bit of a horrible thing but a bit of a bonding experience as well."

For more routine business trips, etiquette purveyors advise people simply to follow their boss's lead.

"If you're traveling with your boss and he or she has just a carry-on bag, it's really not good if you've got to go to luggage claim," said Paul Siddle, founder of the Executive Protocol Group in Richmond, Va., which advises corporate clients on business etiquette. Other tips Mr. Siddle offered: dress well, be self-reliant and keep your cool when faced with travel disruptions like a hotel error or a delayed flight.

If an employee loses his temper over a minor inconvenience, Mr. Siddle said, his boss may think, "If he can't handle the room not being available, maybe he can't handle something more weighty like client negotiations."

Nadine Nardi Davidson, author of "Travel With Others Without Wishing They'd Stayed Home" (Prince Publishing, 1999), which includes a chapter on traveling with a boss, offers this list of taboos: don't be late, don't ask for a raise on the road and don't make plans with friends in a city without clearing it first or inviting your boss along.

"At least give them the opportunity to say, `No, you go your own way,' " Ms. Davidson said. She also advises putting what is best for the company ahead of your own feelings about traveling with a boss who is not your top choice as a companion. Perhaps her most important recommendation is to refrain from gossiping about the office, though some employees might find that advice difficult to follow after a nightcap at the hotel bar or during a long flight.

The fear of saying something inappropriate has prompted one sales executive to go out of her way to avoid sitting with a boss on an airplane. The executive, who requested anonymity, said some managers are very good at coaxing opinions out of people about office matters that they probably should not be talking about.

"If you have a four-hour or a six-hour plane ride, you may end up saying something that's not composed or that hasn't been filtered," she said. "You break down that wall and you feel like you're buddies — but you're not buddies. When the plane ride ends, that person flips back to being the boss."

"Experts: Manners Can Affect Profits" - Arizona Business Gazette (10-17-02)

Experts: Manners Can Affect Profits - Every business is a people business

Maria Becker

"Using business etiquette with customers impacts a company's bottom line," said Paul Siddle, principal of The Executive Protocol Group of Richmond, Virginia.

Businesses want loyal customers, he said. Even though a customer is satisfied with the product, how he or she is treated will dictate if repeat business is done.

"Customers are likely to permit the development of a positive 'customer relationship' and will do repeat business if they feel comfortable and valued by you and your organization," Siddle said.

A study by Harvard University, Carnegie Foundation and the Stanford Research Institute said success in business today is attributed to 15 percent technical knowledge and 85 percent people skills.

"It doesn't matter what business you're in," said Cynthia Grosso, owner of the Charleston School of Protocol & Etiquette in Charleston, S.C. "It's a people business."

From the first day new attorneys enter the office of Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix, they are taught the importance of etiquette and being courteous, said Tom Hoecker, a partner and a member of the executive committee.

"The new measure of success for (the business world) is about how we behave and how we handle others," Grosso said.

Etiquette is based on hierarchy and power, experts say. For example, a person of lower status should hold a door for superiors, clients, peers following closely behind and anyone loaded down with packages. In business, the client holds the highest position in any organization. "The client is more important that anyone in your organization, even if the client holds a lesser title than the executive in your firm," said Hilka Klinkenberg, founder and director of Etiquette International in New York City. A person of lesser importance is introduced to the person of greater importance. For example, "President Bush, I'd like you to meet John Smith."

Stand up when being introduced to someone and shake right hands by keeping thumbs up and wrapping fingers around the hands when palms touch, experts said. Shake with a firm grip but do not try to crush the other person's hand. "Your handshake is your signature," Grosso said. "It speaks loudly of yourself. It is an unspoken act of respect." Since business etiquette is gender neutral, unlike chivalry-based social etiquette, it does not matter which gender reaches out to shake hands first.

"You hold the door open for a woman if you would hold it open for a man in the same situation," Klinkenberg said. When in an elevator, whoever is closest to the doors exits first. "Men do not jam up elevators by trying to let the woman out first, unless of course she happens to be your CEO or your client," Klinkenberg said. Client entertaining is the number one reason companies send employees to etiquette seminars, said Klinkenberg, author of At Ease...Professionally. The main problem she finds with clients is that they talk with a mouth full of food. The most common question, she said, is who should pay the bill. The answer: Whoever benefits from the business pays, unless there is no clear beneficiary; then whoever does the inviting pays. "They are all little things," Klinkenberg said. The type of business being conducted prescribes what meal to eat, she said. Urgent business should be discussed at a 45-minute breakfast. A two-hour lunch is a good time to entertain clients or establish contacts. Dinners are ideal for enhancing existing relationships or for providing a special treat for clients.

Knowing proper etiquette will help people communicate better and minimize insulting actions or behaviors, whether in the United States or doing business overseas. Since business is done on a global level, international business etiquette has become important to know. In the United States it is common to see men cross their legs ankle-to-knee, Grosso said. This gesture is insulting in some countries, such as Russia or Middle Eastern countries, because the soles of their shoes are exposed. "This is the only place in the world where men cross their legs that way," she said.


Business etiquette tips from the professionals:


  • Place napkin on lap within first 10 seconds of sitting down to eat.
  • Leave napkin on chair if you have to stand up or leave.
  • Ask questions to start small talk.


  • Don't talk on a cellular phone in the elevator.
  • Answer telephone calls with a greeting, identify one's self and the company you work for.
  • Return calls.
  • Don't use a cellular phone at work unless it is needed for the job.


  • Use a superior's surname when e-mailing.
  • Avoid jokes and explanations that need parentheses in e-mails.
  • If you address a letter to a person by their first name, close it with your first name. If you address the person by their last name, close with your full name.

Around the office

  • Greet everyone, even those in lower positions.
  • Don't wear a baseball cap to work.
  • Bring children to work only if the company allows it.
  • Don't let children run around.

"Forum for Decorum" - ABA Journal (October 2002)

Forum for Decorum - Etiquette 'Boot Camps' Offer Young Lawyers a Chance to Develop, Hone Social Skills

Martha Neil

Men, wear an undershirt, but don't let it show above your open collar. Women, save your mules for out of the office, when open-toed, backless shoes are appropriate. And every- one mind your manners, wherever you are.

Move over, mom. A new breed of corporate consultant is stepping into your shoes, offering such advice to young -and not-so-young-attorneys, to give them a leg up in the professional world.

Good manners and appropriate dress are important because they help give young lawyers the confidence to put their best foot forward when interacting with clients and partners, says Ann Marie Sabath. A Cincinnati-based consultant, she has pioneered the so-called etiquette boot camps now being offered to summer associates and new attorneys at a small but growing number of law firms.

"Our goal is to assist people in enhancing their client relationship skills," Sabath says, "so that they can focus on others instead of worrying about what to wear and how to do things properly."

Fortunately, learning etiquette can be enjoyable, says Anita J. Zigman, an administrator at the New York City-based law firm of Proskauer Rose. "These programs are a riot," she says of Sabath's seminars, adding that they are utterly unthreatening. Sabath's first law firm gig was with Proskauer in 2001, when it hired her to teach summer associates and new attorneys.

Sabath's courses typically feature a "mocktail" and an "instructional meal," as well as advice about potential etiquette pitfalls, both inside and outside the office. The seminars focus on such diverse skills as gracefully disengaging from conversations and properly eating cherry tomatoes (so as to avoid unsightly explosions).

Leonard Townsend, a second-year associate at New York City's Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft, praised the etiquette seminar he attended at the firm in April, and says he picked up some new tricks. During his lengthy pre-law career as an architect, he says he learned about his social blunders "through the school of hard knocks." Sometimes it took a comment from a client to make him mend his ways. Another of Sabath's clients, the Cincinnati Bar Association, offers an orientation program for summser associates from various law firms.

Sabath's etiquette seminars may be the most well-known, but she isn't the only game around. The Executive Protocol Group in Richmond, Virginia, for instance, was retained by Richmond-based McGuireWoods to offer two "Business Etiquette for Professionals" seminars that were videoconferenced to the firm's 11 other U.S. offices. For Paul Siddle, the group's founder and principal, the seminars were something of an eye-opener. "You'd be surprised what is NOT a no-brainer."

"Don't Push That Button" - Richmond Business Journal, Inside Business (9-23-02)

Don't Push That Button - The onslaught of e-mail is changing workplace culture

Jack Cooksey

When it comes to e-mail horror stories, no one is immune.

Take Gary LeClair, chairman of Richmond law firm LeClair Ryan, who experienced every top executive’s worst nightmare a couple of years ago: He accidentally e-mailed employee salaries to everyone in the firm.

It’s a classic mistake. LeClair compiled salary figures for about 100 employees to send to the firm’s partners for review. He slipped and clicked the send-all icon and the rest is history.

“We all tried to go into the system like crazed maniacs and tried to get it off the computer,” LeClair said. “Within a law firm, that’s kryptonite. It caused embarrassment and it probably affected the dynamics of the discussion of raises and bonuses at review time.”

LeClair’s experience makes one point painfully clear: Perhaps more than any other written media, e-mail in the workplace can be a double-edged sword – both a tool and a liability. Coupled with the rising popularity of instant messaging, which is basically instant e-mail that allows multiple users to message one another simultaneously, electronic communication is pervasive, immediate, hard to stop and impossible to undo.

And it's changing workplace culture. Many argue that e-mail and instant messaging make workers more efficient and productive. E-mail lets people communicate more effectively, cuts down on telephone bills and allows people to correspond when they have the time. Unlike the telephone, it's easier to prioritize e-mail, gather thoughts about how to respond and then do so at your own leisure.

But it can also be a hindrance, and some consultants say e-mail actually hurts productivity as workers spend more time at computers sifting through messages. According to Gartner Group, an information technology consulting company in Connecticut, about 5.5 trillion e-mails are sent each year, and that number is increasing about 40 percent annually. Meanwhile, spam continues to grow as the most popular form of direct marketing, which means workers spend even more time in front of their computers. By 2006, Jupitermedia Corp., a Darien, Conn.-based Internet-research company, predicts consumers will receive an average of 1,400 pieces of commercial spam each year. That's about 26 a week.

With this in mind, experts say, managers should look closely at how the technology is used in their offices and actively address matters of etiquette, productivity and even legal liability. And for good reason. Government surveys show that 41.7 percent of U.S. workers - more than 45 million people - use e-mail at work. The Radicanti Group, a market-research and consulting company in Palo Alto, Calif., estimates that e-mail traffic will average 7.3 billion messages a day this year. In another five years, that number is expected to grow to 37.3 billion messages a day, the group predicts.

The problem, say some, is that employees still view e-mail somewhere between professional correspondence and informal chatter.

"I think people still see e-mail as a very informal communication tool," said Jon Ackley, associate professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University's business school. That attitude leads to a variety of poor choices by many senders, he said.

"A lot of times we hit the 'reply' button without really considering what we're going to say," Ackley said.

Or there's the issue of crossed wires. Chuck Patsell, a network specialist with Venturi Technology Partners in Glen Allen, has seen the gamut of e-mail flubs among his clients, but he said the most common are sending errors similar to LeClair's predicament. "Probably the mistakes I see the most are [employees] sending personal e-mails to much larger groups than intended," Patsell said. "There's no getting them back. And they will call their tech departments and ask if they can get them back."

There are all kinds of horror stories: Little League parents accidentally sending e-mails laced with sexual innuendo. Bosses accidentally sending e-mail rants about employees to the actual employees.

Some researchers point out that these problems only add to wasted time for workers and reduced productivity. Corporate managers are increasingly burdened by frivolous e-mail, according to a recent study at Canada's University of Western Ontario. Christina Cavanaugh, a business professor at the university, said her study found that managers are spending more than an hour per day on e-mail, extending the work week by an average of five hours. "Inbound e-mail volumes have increased from 36 to 48 e-mails per day," Cavanaugh said in the university's report, "with a major source of the increase being employee-generated, not client-generated, e-mails. As a result, only 17 percent of e-mail users can answer their e-mails in the same day." Sometimes, Patsell said, there's little a person can do to keep incoming e-mail to an efficient minimum.

Patsell suggests workers consider all the options before turning blindly to e-mail. He said he identifies his business contacts by the best way to reach them, and many times that may not be e-mail since it is not a quick-response medium. With overwhelming volumes of e-mail becoming common, it is no surprise that some companies show little tolerance for high jinks.

There's also the issue of privacy. The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act allows employers in the United States to monitor all company e-mail and Internet activity, but that hasn't always stopped angry employees from filing invasion-of-privacy lawsuits.

Experts suggest establishing clear e-mail policies that stress that workers do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to e-mail. The employer may monitor e-mail and Internet traffic at any time. In late 1999, the New York Times Co. fired 23 employees in a Virginia office for violating the company's e-mail policy with internally circulated messages. Despite a number of similar high-profile incidents of e-mail abuse, management experts say, many companies have yet to set down solid e-mail policies.

At the Martin Agency in downtown Richmond, workers are given a loose tether on e-mail, said company spokesman Dean Jarrett. "We're very anti-Big Brother," he said. The advertising agency, which has more than 300 workers, doesn't impose any sort of personal e-mail restrictions or require any type of etiquette for contacting clients by e-mail, he said. "We hire people and expect them to have good judgment and not be hitting send on some inappropriate joke they got from a friend," Jarrett said.

But some say companies should not leave e-mail matters up to the judgment of the employee. Business consultant Paul Siddle, president of the Executive Protocol Group, said in addition to explaining the legal liability, managers must outline what's acceptable in e-mail, from tone and content down to spelling and punctuation."Depending on the person you're writing to, they may categorize you—according to how you write—as someone who is unable to communicate well," he said. "And in business one of the most sought-after traits is being able to communicate well." Both Siddle and Ackley agree that workers ought to obey one hard and fast rule about e-mail: If you wouldn't write it in a traditional letter or memo, then don't do it in an e-mail. "If it were a paper memo we were writing," Ackley said, "we would take much more time in trying to structure what we were going to say."

Network specialist Patsell points out another stark reality: Once a user clicks on send, an e-mail can practically becomes part of the public domain. LeClair said he learned his lesson the hard way, but he hopes his employees don't have to. "We have adopted a policy that you have to assume that if you send an e-mail," he said, "you're going to have to read it on a billboard on the expressway."

"E-Mail Netiquette" - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (9-22-02)

E-Mail Netiquette - Experts offer some tips to help you send the right message

Kimberlee Roth

For better or worse, e-mail is nearly as ubiquitous today as the telephone. We stopped asking people, "Do you have e-mail?" and started asking "What's your e-mail address?" around 1996, according to Paul Siddle, principal of The Executive Protocol Group, a corporate etiquette consultancy in Virginia.

A few suggestions for clear business and personal communication via e-mail:

Nuances and visual cues are the casualty of email, says Siddle. "You don't see body language, rolled eyes, a raised eyebrow." He recommends caution when trying to be cute or using irony electronically. "It may not come across, and it could be misunderstood."

Don't compose or send a message when you're tired, or worse, when you're angry. says Siddle. "You don't see body language, rolled eyes, a raised eyebrow." He recommends caution when trying to be cute or using irony electronically. "It may not come across, and it could be misunderstood."

Have realistic expectations of receivers. Again because of the immediacy, we tend to expect responses pronto. If the content of your message is urgent or critical, consider picking up the phone instead. Likewise, for personal or emotional issues, face-to-face contact or a phone call may be a better option.

Repondez s'il vous plait. Receivers can't be expected to drop everything and respond to a long e-mail or a request for information, but common courtesy dictates a 'got your e-mail and will respond by this date' response, according to Siddle. "It's no different than returning a reply to a social invitation or a voicemail message; it should be done within 24 hours."

Be careful with emoticons - symbols created from punctuation marks and keyboard symbols. They're the virtual equivalent of adding smiley faces and stickers to your letters, which may be fine for personal communications but never in business. "You shouldn't need those to express your thoughts if you're writing concisely and to the point," says Siddle.

Watch grammar, punctuation and spelling, which can be casualties of e-mail. Improper usage and foregoing capitalization detract from your message. Run spell- and grammar-check tools before sending.

A whole new set of acronyms has developed thanks to e-mail: FWIW, YMMV, IMO, IMHO, etc. (For what it's worth; your mileage may vary, in my opinion, in my humble opinion). Use sparingly, or not at all, unless you're sure your recipient knows their meaning.

Privacy and Prudence

"Remember there's no privacy in cyberspace," says Peggy Noonan, an independent writer in the Denver area. "Don't send anything to anyone that you wouldn't want shared with others, because it might be."

Not only do the recipients see your message, but so does anyone with access to any of the servers your e-mail passes through on the way. "Worst of all, don't send to or from a work e-mail address any personal information, remarks, slams, criticism, vulgar jokes or anything that could prove embarrassing later, and don't let anyone you know send that kind of stuff to your work e-mail address."

While the number of e-mails we send and receive is hard to quantify, recent figures from Forrester Research suggest it will be well over 430 billion messages in 2002. (That figure is based on marketing e-mails alone.) How can you manage so much mail?

Rule Number One, says Noonan, is not to let it pile up. "Set a specific time and deal with it then, religiously. It doesn't matter if you make that time once a day when you first boot up or once a week - whatever works - just so you set an inflexible, must-do time for it." Read, respond, delete and file away as appropriate. Also consider turning off the "you've got mail" sound and graphics so you won't be tempted to check your inbox every time a new message arrives.

Subject lines are critical, says Siddle. Be sure to make good use of it, encapsulating in four or five words specifically what your message is about so recipients won't mistakenly hit delete.

Learn to file, sort and screen. Most e-mail programs have filing features where you can create folders to store messages. Some will allow you to point incoming mail directly to those files so they won't appear in your inbox. Be specific with file names to save time when you need to refer back to a message.

When trying to locate a message in your inbox, try sorting by arrival date (if you can remember approximately when you received it), sender or subject.

To block spam, or junk e-mail, many programs also allow you to block certain senders as well as create a list of senders from whom you will accept messages. Most Internet Service Providers offer spam filters and virus software vendors sell anti-spam applications. Use all for maximum effect. Never reply to spam - you'll just flag your address as a valid one, inviting even more.

Install virus software, both to protect your own computer as well as those you communicate with.

Despite the inconvenience of high volume, says Siddle, e-mail has increased the amount of communication we do, especially with those with whom we might not otherwise keep in touch. His rule of thumb for the entire process is simple: "Whether business or social, it's all encompassed by the golden rule ('Do unto others...'). Keep that in mind, even when writing."

"A Taxing Situation" - Richmond Times-Dispatch (1-24-02)

A Taxing Situation: Readers weigh in on the tax-tip issue

Jody Rathgeb

"A nice can of worms, indeed."

That's how David McGrann reacted to the recent Table Talk asking about whether a restaurant tip should be on the pretax amount or the total amount of the bill. McGrann was one of many readers who wrote and e-mailed comments about tax and tipping.

Most of the responses, like McGrann's, protested vigorously against including the tax when figuring a tip. Some of the comments:

  • "Tipping is for service rendered...obviously tax is not the result of the work of kitchen and waitstaff." (Jim Rosati)
  • "The customer did not `order' the tax, therefore it is not part of the bill for tip purposes." (Al Gladstone)
  • "No way should one pay tip on taxes. Tax didn't do anything for you. It's basically the principle of it." (unsigned e-mail)
  • "...just because the locality has a high tax, like the city of Richmond, does not mean I get better service nor should the server get more." (Michael Walton)
  • "By definition, a tip is for services rendered. It should be based on `before tax.'" (Gerard Coiley)
  • "If your service has been acceptable, tip 20 percent without tax." (O.C. Gibson)

We also received e-mail from Paul F. Siddle, founder of The Executive Protocol Group, which provides consultation and training in business protocol and etiquette.

"Simply said: You do not tip on the `total amount (including tax)!' You tip only on the `food and beverage amount (exclusive of the sales tax),'" Siddle wrote.

Siddle provided his own footnote, referring to three etiquette books associated with names such as Post, Baldridge and Vanderbilt.

But (you knew there'd be a "but" didn't you?), some people saw another side to the issue.

A reader named Mike (he did not want his last name used) wrote, "I have eaten out with people who tip only on the pretax amount, and it has always seemed chintzy to me. On most occasions (at least in my crowd), the difference would be less than a buck. Example: On a $50 meal tab, a 15 percent tip would be $7.50. On the pretax total, the tip would be $6.79 (which anyone but the group accountant would round up to $7). Unless you regularly drop a hundred bucks or more on a meal, the savings aren't worth appearing to be a cheapskate. And if you do regularly drop that much money on eating out, then why quibble over a couple of extra dollars for the hard-working waitstaff?"

Also, Betsy Migliaccio, who has worked locally as a server for 13 years, pointed out that those who tip only on the pretax amount are "hurting" not the government but the server as the figure used to determine his or her tips for income-tax purposes is the total bill.

Using Mike's example, Betsy pays income tax on $7.50 even if the actual tip left to her was $6.79.

It appears, then, that the tax man gets his, no matter who or where it comes from.

Where does that leave the average Joe sitting in a restaurant, looking at his bill?

Jim Rosati suggested following the example set overseas: "The Europeans have it right, they automatically include service, usually at 15-18 percent," he wrote.

He added that those "we'll-save-you-the-work" suggestions on your credit-card slip are not a good substitute. "Restaurants that gratuitously add a `suggested tip' on the whole are wrong to do so," he continued. "One wonders, in such occasions, who benefits from the tip...management or the waitstaff."

Another solution came from Greg Jones, who wrote, "Here is my rule of thumb that I think is fair and works well. I generally tip 15 percent on the total with tax if service was good, effectively giving a 17-18 percent tip. My exception to this is for smaller bills, lunch, etc., where I feel 20 percent gives an appropriate tip, i.e., $2-$5. If service is exceptional, I give 20 percent on the total. Virginia sales tax is low, so it doesn't affect the tip that much, but it works well for me where tax is 6-10 percent, so I believe it is a good rule of thumb wherever I am."

Finally, one simple comment from Paul Sorensen, general manager at Ruth's Chris Steak House in Midlothian: "Tip your server what you feel they have earned."

"The Experts: Business Sense" - Richmond Business Journal (11-5-01)

The Experts: Business Sense - Making business etiquette less scary

Mark S. Fulton

Like many American homes, your house was probably a target for youngsters (and some oldsters) dressed up in costumes and pretending to be Dracula, Freddy Kruger, Jerry Springer or some other ghoul.

I loved Halloween as a child. Rather than buying a costume from the store, I preferred to create original outfits. For example, there was the year I went as The Werewolf from Outer Space.

One of the saddest moments in a young boy's life is the day he realizes he's too old to go trick-or-treating. Aside from missing out on the free goodies, I especially missed having an excuse to dress up and behave strangely. In my youthful ignorance, I didn't realize that I would spend a good deal of my adult life doing exactly that.

I'm not discounting the significance of character, reputation, authority, status and so forth. But your appearance and behavior must match up with the other messages you send if you want to gain credibility, especially in business.

Unfortunately, we don't always know everything we should about creating a dynamic and sophisticated image. While my propensity to mix visual themes earned my Halloween costumes rave reviews, my occasional potpourri approach to business attire can be "hard on the eyes," as one kind soul has put it. Likewise, I am often perplexed about proper protocol where businesswomen are concerned.

Sandy Dumont is a Virginia Beach image coach. Paul Siddle is a Richmond business etiquette consultant. Each has supplied me with a handy list of dos and don'ts to at least get me started on the road to propriety.

Dumont's dressing dos:

  • Develop good posture. Stand up straight, take a deep breath and get a "proud chest." Maintain that posture, but let the shoulders relax a little when you exhale. A poor posture can neutralize a great ensemble.
  • Wear dark suits. Dark navy blue suits, in particular, look businesslike and authoritative on nearly everyone. Appropriate suits for women can include vivacious colors such as magenta, royal blue and deep purples.
  • Men should wear ties in bold colors such as red or yellow to look dynamic but friendly. Women should get a true red jacket and wear it with skirts and pants and even jeans. You will be memorable.
  • Wear classic shoes that can nearly go unnoticed. For women, plain pumps look the most businesslike.
  • Always insist on white shirts that are superbly cut and made from the finest cotton. Try a French blue shirt to give more color to the face.

Dumont's dressing dont's:

  • Avoid brown suits. They suggest a weekend in the country and are difficult to dress up.
  • Avoid pastels, including beige. With the exception of yellow, they undermine authority and create a passive look. This includes ties and shirts.
  • Never wear a tie with horizontal stripes. The line is jarring to the eye and causes the eye to drop from the face to the tie.
  • Avoid ties with non-business patterns such as cartoon-character motifs or floral prints, including paisley patterns.
  • Unless you have an expert eye, use caution with black suits since they can cause some people to look reserved, forbidding or threatening.

Siddle's deportment dos:

  • Women should always stand when introduced, as men do, in a one-on-one encounter or meeting environment.
  • Shake hands with everyone — men and women — the same way. And always shake hands!
  • Introduce people in business based on rank, not gender.
  • The host of a business meal — the one who did the inviting — pays for lunch, regardless of gender.
  • Hand write a thank-you note to your client after an introductory or infrequent meeting.

Siddle's deportment dont's:

  • Prevent your cell phone from ringing during a meeting or a business meal. If it does ring, never take the call.
  • Never place handbags or briefcases on the meeting or restaurant table or in empty seats. These items belong on the floor.
  • Avoid wearing strong cologne or perfume with business attire.
  • Smoking during a business meal is never appropriate.
  • Don't neglect appropriate table manners.

Even if your apparel is not appalling and your manners are not maladroit, you should consider paying attention to the finer points of image. Otherwise, you could find yourself unintentionally masquerading as The Creature from Planet Tacky.

Mark Fulton is president of CoachCare, a business-coaching service based in Norfolk, VA. For more information, visit www.coachcare.com or call (757) 533-9650.

"Business Etiquette is Executive Protocol's Niche" - Richmond Times-Dispatch (9-17-01)

Business Etiquette is Executive Protocol's Niche - Smallest Gestures Affect Bottom Line, Founder of Firm Tells His Clients

Holly Carroll

The first slide in Paul Siddle's presentation to the administrative staff at a local law firm reads: "Business goes where it's invited, but stays where it's well taken care of." For the next hour, Siddle proceeded to show his audience how the smallest gestures affect a company's bottom line.

Siddle is founder and principal of The Executive Protocol Group at 1829 Hanover Ave. He hosts seminars for businesses around the country to test their knowledge of business etiquette.

"If you're going to play in that ballgame, you have to know the rules," he said. "Otherwise you'll lose the game."

Established in 1998

The Executive Protocol Group was established in 1998. Before its opening, Siddle worked as a corporate national account manager for a large beer company. In that job, he said he was often placed in situations with people of upper management positions. As he interacted with these people during business dinners and cocktail parties, he said he noticed a difference in the way they handled themselves.

"You just don't get it unless you're placed in a position where you can watch and observe," he said.

The topics of his seminars vary, he said, because he customizes them according to the company's needs. Topics range from how to conduct yourself during a business dinner, to sports, airplane, elevator, and even bathroom etiquette.

He talks about how to handle difficult people, and appropriate behavior at trade shows and conventions. Some points of interest in his seminars include proper greeting, telephone and e-mail manners, social and business introductions, and dining tips.

Siddle also pointed out that 93 percent of a first impression is visual, so people should dress and act appropriately when meeting clients.

"You are a reflection of your company," he said. "Your client pays for and expects common courtesy."

Contracts with others

Siddle doesn't work alone. He said he contracts with five others with particular expertise. For example, one of his sources is a chef, who works in upscale restaurants, and knows valuable tips for fine dining. Another is the past president of a golf association, and informs him of golf course etiquette, since more companies are conducting business on the greens, Siddle said.

Attorney Janice Sigler is the Appeals Unit program manager for the Department of Social Services. Sigler said one issue Siddle incorporated into a seminar that was done specifically at her request was "cubicle etiquette."

"He was very well-received," Sigler said, adding that each participant filled out an evaluation form afterward, and each person said they would recommend him to anyone. "My group enjoyed him a lot."

One of the toughest issues Siddle faces is reaching out to people who think they already know "the rules." More often, these people are men, he said.

"When you say 'etiquette' to a man, you get a push back right away," he said. "But if you can relate that quickly - that this does affect your bottom line - then you've got their attention."

Siddle also talks about the interaction between men and women. He said because the business world is gender-neutral, men and women should not rely on traditional stereotypical gestures.

Whoever gets to the door firsts

He said one example is the tradition of men always opening doors for women. In the business world, he said, whoever gets to the door first, opens the door.

Dick Smith is president of Capstone Investment Group, a 12-person investment advisory firm. Smith said Siddle has presented seminars that included topics such as how to conduct office tours, how to properly prepare meeting rooms when meeting a client, and dining and telephone etiquette.

"We have to interact with people in formal settings a lot," he said. "All of it was real beneficial." It was so useful, Smith said, that a copy of Siddle's handout was incorporated into the company's employee handbook.

Siddle said he is busiest from March through October, when companies have the money and are willing to spend it on employee retreats or training.

The cost of the seminars depends on the amount of time he spends researching and preparing for them, and the number of people involved.

After giving a seminar, he offers etiquette support for up to one year via e-mail because he said some people feel hesitant asking questions in a group. He also offers one-on-one personal development training.

Siddle said the difference between his consulting company and others is that his focuses on results that affect the company's bottom line. "It's easy to satisfy a client," Siddle said. "But it's extremely difficult to make a client a loyal one."

"Fitbits: Fitness at Work" - Pacific Northwest Magazine (5-13-01)

Fitbits: Fitness at Work

Molly Martin

Wednesday is National Employee Health and Fitness Day. Its sponsor, the National Association for Health & Fitness - which encourages employees to become more active and healthy through fun, noncompetitive activities - offers several programs for worksite wellness and general health. For information, go to www.physicalfitness.org or call 317-237-5630.

Boating survival

What is the Traffic Separation Scheme and why should all boaters know about it? How long does it take a 650-foot ship traveling at 11 knots to come to an emergency stop? When don't sailboats have the right-of-way? Answers to these and other important safety questions are in the new Recreational Boating Manual put out by Vessel Traffic Service Puget Sound, the local marine equivalent of an air-traffic control center. For a copy (maximum five per address) go to www.uscg.mil/d13/units/vts/psvts.html, call 206-217-6050 or write USCG Vessel Traffic Service Puget Sound, Building 1, 1519 Alaskan Way S., Seattle, WA 98134.

Saving while aging

Could gardening help save Medicare? A study that compared lifestyles and Medicare claims of nearly 3,000 people 65 and older found that those who stayed active required substantially less from the government health system than those who weren't active. Over a four-year period, those who said they gardened had 19 percent lower health-care expenses than those who did not report gardening. Expenses for those who reported swimming or walking were 7 percent less. The study was reported in the American Journal of Public Health.

Mind Our Manners

Readers find a few more nits to pick when it comes to club etiquette

We covered a lot of territory a few weeks back when readers offered their favorite gripes about health-club etiquette. But it clearly wasn't enough for some of you.

Several folks since have added complaints about aural pollution: talking during aerobics class, instructors shouting into microphones, commercial radio played over the loudspeakers, music geared toward staff not members and music that's just too loud. "On top of that," said Kent Garvey, "it plays along with the TVs that are always on, creating a cacophony of noise."

Garvey also said not once in 10 years has he completed a designated circuit-training program without having to stop: "Someone else just pops into the line to work on one machine." Clubs should post signs to not "cut in," he suggested.

Jeanne Drury told how, just before a Vail ski vacation, she was working out on an EFX machine next to a pregnant woman with a bad cold. "She must have been really hot, because she had one of the fans set to blow directly on her. The only problem was, it blew on me, too. The second day at Vail, I came down with one of the worst sore throats I've ever had, followed by a terrible cold. I was down for the remainder of my expensive vacation."

Dorothy Burns pointed out a common gripe: Not wiping down the equipment after use. She suggested posting signs, making announcements, placing spray bottles at machines and giving members towels as they arrive. "Shouldn't this be `the rule' at health clubs?"

Jim McGill added that staff should ensure users are vigilant about cleanliness. And, "If guys have to wear shirts, which they should to keep the sweat down on the machines, then females should wear shirts, too. Women seem to sweat nearly as much as men and a jog bra doesn't absorb much. Some of the worst machines I've ever seen were leg-curl machines where the bench was smeared with a mix of sweat and pancake makeup."

Also from McGill:

Gym management should vacuum floors and scrub showers daily.

Even if circuit training, no yelling "I'm on that" from across the gym.

No dropping of weights. If you can pick it up, you can put it down.

Keep the singles scene out of the middle of the floor.

Staff shouldn't push sales of gear, supplements, new classes or the latest membership deals.

Among Caroline Thienes' complaints were ripe, smelly gym clothes. She also encouraged flexibility: "Live a little, and try using another section of the aerobics floor, instead of being territorial and in the same spot every single class."

We even heard from the founder of The Executive Protocol Group in Richmond, Va., (www.executive-protocol.com), which bills itself as "Protocol and Etiquette Consultants to the Corporate World." Paul Siddle's suggestions included:

Don't stare at the opposite sex.

Sign up for machines (if required) and don't exceed the time limit.

Don't increase the steam in the steam room without asking others present if they want more steam.

Thank club employees for favors done.

David Kronfeld also addressed staff, though not in an especially grateful tone. "I could write an entire page about employees. I belong to a club with multiple locations. I rarely go to the one closest to me because it is so poorly managed." He cited apathy, poor follow-up, lack of enforcement of club rules, and a general emphasis on selling memberships over customer service. "Most of them are eternally polite, but rarely helpful."

One reader took issue with all the beefing: "I can't believe all the whiners who complained about other members at their respective clubs!" said Susie Maxwell. "They all seem like excellent candidates for working out in their own homes."

Finally, there was the reader - my sister, Mame - who watched a man at her club stay on the weight-lifting machines between sets while he read what appeared to be a fascinating article in The New Yorker. She started to be a little annoyed until she realized she might have been partly responsible: "I think the magazine was one I donated to the club!"

"Mr. Nice Guy" - Virginia Business (May 2001)

Mr. Nice Guy

Leila Marija Ugincius

Paul Siddle’s a nice guy. So nice, in fact, that businesses pay him for it.

His Richmond-based company, The Executive Protocol Group, gives corporate seminars on business etiquette. While one may think etiquette is common sense, Siddle says there’s a real need for his services. "Everyone sells something. With banks, investment firms … what they offer is no different from what their competitors offer," Siddle says. "There’s got to be a point of differentiation. It’s important that a company maximizes its most important asset, which ... is its employees."

Siddle, who formerly worked as a national corporate account manager for a beer company, spent his time traveling around the nation meeting with retailers’ decision-makers. Often, local reps from his own company would also attend the meetings, Siddle says. "These people didn’t really seem to have the inter-personal skills or business etiquette that was needed at that level." As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. A positive first impression is achieved in the first four to seven seconds, Siddle says, with a solid, firm handshake.

When the brewery closed, the seed had already been planted for Siddle’s next business venture — etiquette consulting. He started the company in 1999, at a time when the booming economy was causing a lot of businesses to hire newly graduated employees who were still wet behind the ears. While these new hires had the smarts, they didn’t necessarily have the social graces of seasoned pros. Unlike social etiquette, business etiquette is gender-neutral, Siddle says. Men and women should always stand when introduced to someone. They should also refer to someone as "Mr." or "Ms." until specifically asked to call that person by his or her first name.

This all sounds fairly straightforward, right? "Etiquette is common sense," Siddle concedes. "It’s common sense combined with the old, corny Golden Rule." Yet businesses such as Anheuser-Busch, Bank of America, First Union and Media General recognize the need for good, old-fashioned courtesy and have hired Siddle.

Siddle won’t give revenue figures, but says he’s pleasantly surprised by the response he’s gotten from the business world. "[I’m] teaching what is sometimes perceived as rather 'dry' subject matter to businesspeople who wonder why their company has asked them to attend a business etiquette seminar. Therefore, humor plays a large role in our presentations. It's wonderful reinforcement to have these very same people line up to ask me additional questions after the seminar has ended!"

Some of his clients have been Fortune 500 companies that rehired him for additional seminars, "That is the ultimate compliment!"

"Minding Your Ps & Qs" - The Richmond Business Journal (2-19-01)

Minding Your Ps and Qs - Local business-etiquette consultant teaches the finer points of business gentility

Jack Cooksey

It’s a Friday afternoon just around quitting time and Paul Siddle’s seminar, which is already running behind schedule, has hit a speed bump.

If he’s nervous or disappointed that things aren’t going exactly as planned, Siddle doesn’t show it. Considering the nature of his business, you wouldn’t expect anything less.

Siddle, president of The Executive Protocol Group, is an etiquette expert. He’s the Mr. Manners of the corporate world.

Since July 1999, when he established his company, he has specialized in teaching businesspeople the manners and skills they need to navigate smoothly through the office or through almost any deal.

On this particular afternoon, Siddle is holding court with 11 employees and the president of Capstone Investment Group in their downtown Richmond location.

Already trying to cram a two-hour presentation into an hour and a half, Siddle is under the gun, and the seminar gets snagged on the issue of phone etiquette, an issue that W. Richard Smith III, Capstone’s president, wants ironed out once and for all.

The company caters to a sophisticated customer base—namely, family and institutional investors that typically control funds ranging from $5 million to $100 million. The last thing Smith wants to do is lose a prospective client because of poor phone manners.

So when the presentation hits on the topic of proper phone etiquette, Smith and his employees look to Siddle as an arbitrator, the final word on how they should be greeting customers on the line.

“We answer the phone about 17 different ways,” Smith explains.

What ensues is a mild debate among the staff about how each person greets clients. Siddle fields a barrage of questions and offers pointers. The group narrows its choices to two phone responses: “Capstone Investment Group, this is Jane Doe,” or “Capstone Investment Group, this is Jane Doe. How may I help you?” (Smith eventually decides on the longer version.)

Even though the discussion is putting Siddle behind schedule, he brushes it off like an old pro. These are the kinds of problems he’s hired to solve. In the course of the seminar, Siddle eventually talks the Capstone staff through other issues—from how clients are greeted in the lobby to the proper placement of a nametag at a social mixer.

“It really can impact a company’s bottom line,” Siddle says, “because one of the things that happens when you treat customers well is they come back.”

Siddle scoffs at the idea that proper etiquette is not important, a “soft skill,” something not normally looked at as a necessity for any given job.

“The soft skills are often what sells a company’s hard skills,” Siddle says.

In a tight labor market or a weak economy that makes every sale or business deal even more important, the soft skills are often the only thing that differentiates one company from another, Siddle says.

In today’s business climate, business etiquette has become even more important. Hungry for new workers in the tight labor market of the last few years, many companies have been forced to hire inexperienced workers straight out of college. And while they may have the technical expertise they need to do their jobs, these rookies often lack the social polish of battle-tested professionals.

It’s this fact that has created a growing market for Siddle’s services. His clients so far include Bank of America, First Union, Anheuser-Busch and Media General.

Last year, Bank of America contacted Siddle to give a daylong seminar for about 40 of the company’s most promising young employees, many of whom were being groomed for management positions. They needed help in the etiquette department.

So in swooped Mr. Manners. As with most of his seminars, he taught the youngsters a variety of do's and dont's—from handshakes to table manners to proper business attire.

His ultimate goal as a consultant, he says, is to help companies maximize the return on their greatest asset—employees. This means coaching workers—typically those in sales or management—on the finer points of any social or business situation so that they can concentrate on their clients and not become preoccupied with whether or not their manners are under scrutiny.

“What I really do is instill self confidence in employees,” Siddle says.

Kevin Meegan, the general manager of Anheuser-Busch’s Charlotte, N.C. office, says he learned a great deal from Siddle’s etiquette training.

“It reduced a lot of awkwardness,” says Meegan, who has attended two of Siddle’s presentations at Anheuser-Busch management conferences.

“Especially in our company, we like to present a quality image,” he says. “How people present themselves is an aspect that plays into that image.”

The modern-day axiom that image is everything may not be entirely true, Siddle says, but it’s close. He cites a standard list of statistics offered by the organization from which he received his training and certification as a protocol and etiquette instructor.

“There are about 10 factors that we can control in our client’s or customer’s first impression of us,” he says. “And the customer’s first impression of you is formed in the first four to seven seconds of having met you.”

Siddle says the most critical factor in shaping someone’s first impression of another person is visual—how a person looks. Next is vocal—how a person sounds. And last, by a long way, is a person’s actual knowledge of a subject.

Attire and grooming are obvious “musts,” he says, but an often-overlooked detail of first impressions is only an arm’s length away—a good, firm handshake. Siddle calls it “the most frequently exchanged asset in American business transactions.”

Linguistically, he coaches clients to steer clear of what he calls “power-robbing phrases” that make an individual look sloppy.

“Like ‘dude,’ ” he says, giving an example. Also off limits are conversationally ubiquitous filler words such as “actually” or “basically.”

Siddle says his knowledge in the world of etiquette consulting is a byproduct of his 25 years in business, initially as a sales representative for the Danville, VA-based tobacco company Dimon Inc. and then as a corporate account manager for The Stroh Brewery Company in Detroit.

His jobs took him around the world and through many social settings where he learned to put his good manners—instilled in him by his mother—to good use.

Throughout his years in business, Siddle says, he took note of how many executives and salespeople lacked proper etiquette. Now, he’s doing something about it, and in the process he’s even sharing a life lesson. And it’s something that, for Siddle, is just as important as making a profit.

“Having proper manners is just acting with thoughtful consideration for the other person,” Siddle says. “Everything with manners is based on the Golden Rule — treating someone the way you would want to be treated.”

Paul Siddle’s 13 Tips for Better Business Manners:

  • Unlike social etiquette, business etiquette is genderless or gender-neutral. Therefore, both men and women should always stand when introduced and offer a firm handshake.
  • The first person to the door opens it.
  • Always make introductions; if you forget someone’s name, apologize and ask for the name again.
  • Introduce people in business based on rank, not gender (introduce the person of lower rank to the person of higher rank). The client or customer is always the most important person. Begin the introduction by identifying the most important person—the client—first.
  • Always refer to someone as Mr. or Ms. until he or she asks you to use a first name.
  • First impressions are formed in four to seven seconds. Make sure your handshake is firm!
  • Hugs and kisses are inappropriate in the business environment (unless you’re in Hollywood). The handshake is the only acceptable physical contact between men and women in a business setting.
  • When attending business functions that require wearing a nametag, pin or stick the nametag on your right shoulder (or lapel) because the natural line of eyesight follows the right hand and arm as you shake hands and it will be easier for people to read.
  • When entering an office or conference room for a meeting, do not sit down until you have asked the person who called the meeting where he or she wants you to sit.
  • Do not put your briefcase, handbag, papers or keys on the table during a meal or meeting; place them on the floor beside you or under your seat.
  • Never let your cell phone ring during a meal or meeting; set the phone on the vibrate mode.
  • A handwritten thank-you note to your customer will distinguish you from your competition.
  • Return voice-mail, e-mail and phone calls within 24 hours. If you don’t have an appropriate reply, call and set up another time to communicate.
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