Letitia Baldrige's Complete Guide to Executive Manners

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9780892562909: Letitia Baldrige's Complete Guide to Executive Manners
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After sixteen printings in its first edition and two in this updated version, this bestseller remains America's most complete guide to the hidden asset that isn't taught in business schools -- the personal behavior that can make you or break you in today's competitive workplace. Letitia Baldrige takes the reader from the first interview and first day at work through all the complex knowledge we need to maneuver through the ranks and rise to the top.
* The ten major problems at work that never existed before, but which everyone from trainee to CEO must learn to handle today
* The twenty-four hallmarks of those who "work smart" today
* Which behaviors accepted a short time ago may spell disaster today
* The new codes concerning dress...language...socializing with colleagues...behavior when traveling and at conferences or meetings
* What degree of informality is acceptable today -- and with whom
* What you must know about the new manners relating to diversity...plurality...family values...sexual freedom...and substance abuse problems...about hiring and firing...and much more
* A total update on today's business entertaining, from lunch with a guest at your desk to planning parties for thousands
* Running meetings, from interoffice to international
* Corresponding in every form, from traditional to high-tech electronics...forms of address...Plus the hidden rituals of business life that a polished professional on the rise must learn to handle with poise and confidence
As life at work becomes increasingly pressured, everyone needs to know more about improving interpersonal relations. You'll learn exactly what to do, what to say, and how best to present yourself, from this extraordinary guide. Plus -- it's good reading!

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About the Author:

Letitia Baldrige's books on manners have sold over two million copies; her previous guide to executive manners sold over half a million copies worldwide and has had sixteen printings. This is her thirteenth book. In her diplomatic career she served in the American embassies in Paris and Rome; in the White House she was Jacqueline Kennedy's chief of staff. She has served as a marketing consultant to many major international corporations and holds three corporate directorships. She produces management training seminars on business behavior for major American companies and professional institutions and writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column and a monthly national magazine column. She is a regular on major network TV programs. Letitia Baldrige and her family live in Washington, D.C.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

The Executive at Ease on the Job

Everyone has qualms when they're starting out in the business world. Even senior managers who have excelled in the workplace for decades confess to concern when plunged into strange, new territory, entering unknown situations, dealing with strangers about whom they know nothing other than their brief bios and some second-hand opinions.

The purpose of a book like this on human interactions and behavior is to give you information that can become a useful set of tools to help make life at work easier and more successful.

Everyone who goes to work wants to feel at ease (or "socially comfortable") in his or her surroundings. An executive known as someone at ease is a person who makes others around him comfortable too.

No one wants to be conspicuous by acting unsophisticated or unknowing. A person at ease walks with grace through the workplace. He thinks about other people, and that unconsciously takes his mind off himself and gives him poise. The fact that others get along well with him is not defined by his designer-made clothes or car of the moment. Rather, it's defined by something as simple as using three common phrases that are automatic, instinctive parts of his everyday vocabulary: "Please," "I'm sorry," and "Thank you." It's that simple. He doesn't have to own Cartier panthère cufflinks, know how to gossip in a foreign language, or choose the perfect wine every time in a restaurant.

A cold,
ill-at-ease person would say to an employee, "Sorry, but you're going to have to stay tonight until you've analyzed this report and made the required number of copies. We need it for tomorrow's seven o'clock meeting." An at-ease executive would say, "Jim, I hate to have to ask you to stay late to finish the report and the copies tonight, but you're the only one who knows how to make sense out of this. We'll make it up to you for messing up your evening, I promise."


There is no rest when you are helping to manage a business. You have an excess of responsibility. You must motivate and guide people; watch over their safety, benefits, and health; realize profits; keep morale high; and avoid any criticism of the firm for exploitation of its employees or racism, sexism, or discrimination.

Luckily, a good manager usually has a good mindset, a positive attitude that is inherent in his actions toward the company, its employees, and the common goals they all share. This attitude is natural and automatic. A good manager does not have to force himself to summon up superhuman strength or a feeling of compassion, or dose of courage, to handle the inevitable people problems that arise in day-to-day work situations. He handles them quickly, fairly, and with insight and understanding.

A good manager is constantly concerned about the morale of the people on his watch. His employees, in turn, care about his morale, too, and enjoy doing a good job for him. That's teamwork!

Here are some of the components of an executive's behavior that make others want to be on his team:

Knowing When to Say "Please"

Whether you're asking the waitress at the diner to bring you another cup of breakfast coffee or asking your secretary to go to the copy machine, "please" should come forth without self-prompting or even consciously thinking about it. Hollywood, unfortunately, has set a bad example: Network TV shows feature sitcom stars yelling orders to people in their offices as well as waiters or shopkeepers. (There's never a "please" at the beginning or end.) You should view with dismay America's favorite child TV stars ordering around their teachers and parents in their shows each week. These kids would last about four days on a job in the business world.

Fortunately, the real world bears little resemblance to the screen world, because no matter how bad the manners around us seem to be, most children come to learn that when they grow up, their jobs will depend on how well they behave, not how much they can get away with.

How Many Times a Day Should One Say "Please?"

If you are in the business world, it's impossible to count the number of times. When you make even the slightest request of someone, you should begin or end it with "please." For every favor you ask, "please" should be the entrance or exit word.

To your spouse: "Please help me entertain the boss at Sunday lunch. I need your help."

To the taxi driver: "Take me to La Guardia Airport, please."

To the hotel cashier: "Please give me my bill for room 803."

To your secretary: "Please fax this to John Garrett, with a copy also to Joan Scribner in New Orleans."

To the waiter: "I'd like to see the wine list, please."

To the CEO: "Please note his criticism of our strategy plan in the second paragraph. It's pretty strong."

Knowing How to Apologize

(See also "Letter of Apology," Chapter 7)

The short phrase "I'm sorry" means so much to the person to whom it is addressed, even when you have to push yourself to utter it. Whatever your motivation, when an apology is called for, make it! For example:

* If you misdial someone on the phone, say "I'm terribly sorry, wrong number," rather than just slam down the receiver in the other person's ear.

* If you do something really hurtful, such as forgetting an appointment:

* Telephone your sincere apology.

* Follow it up with a personal note of apology.

* Send flowers or a gift of some kind, such as fruit, wine, or candy, to reinforce your apology.

* If a stranger does something nice, like picking up something you just dropped on the street but didn't notice, tell him with a warm smile of appreciation that he has really "made your day."

* If you arrive late at a meeting, apologize to the chairman or the host and to the others you have kept waiting.

* When you give someone in your office too much work to do on an emergency basis, use all three of these phrases:

"Please do it."

"I'm sorry to have to ask you to do this."

"Thank you very much for doing it."

* If you do something like bump a person as you move rapidly through a hallway, react quickly with a sincere "I'm really sorry. I certainly didn't mean to do that." (Your words will diffuse the hostility your act may have engendered.)

* If you cause damage to a colleague's possession, apologize profusely, then offer to have it fixed or replaced. For example, when you're a guest in a co-worker's, client's, or your boss's home:

* If you stain your host's good tablecloth at dinner, arrange to take it to the best dry cleaner available.

* If you spill something on his pale-colored carpet, arrange to have it professionally cleaned.

* If you break something, arrange to have it repaired at the best repair shop in town.

No matter what damage you do in someone else's home or office, always do the best you can to make amends -- and write a good letter of apology.

Knowing How to Say "Thank You"

(See also "Informal Business Letters" and "Letters of Acknowledgment and Thanks," Chapter 7)

We should thank people a lot more than we do -- automatically -- but if we think about what we are thanking them for, we'll be more sincere. Some examples of the kinds of situations in our everyday lives where a little expression of gratitude can be very effective:

* When someone goes back to your office to get your glasses for a meeting

* When someone from the mailroom brings you the mail

* When a gas station attendant finishes filling your tank with gas

* When someone opens a door for you or holds the elevator door for you

* When someone serves you in any capacity, whether it's your secretary who brings papers to your desk or the person in the employee cafeteria who hands a plate of food across the counter

* When anyone gives you a gift of any kind

* When someone does a favor for you

* When someone praises you

Ways in Which to Say "Thank You" for Substantive Favors or Gifts

* Spoken. Convenient if you happen to run into the person. Careless and not very effective.

* Telephone. Effective, but only if done within twenty-four hours; if the call is made after that, it seems like an afterthought, not a sincere gesture.

* Written. The most effective, because it's on the record and can be shown around and reread.

Compliments -- The Best Way to Accept and Give Them

(See also "Acknowledging a Compliment," Chapter 7)

Nothing is more affirmative than a compliment. Naturally, that compliment should not be exaggerated, snide, or phony, because then it turns into a negative gesture.

Say it from the heart.

A Smart Manager Compliments The Staff

Employees may feel they're doing a good job, but they don't know it until they hear it. Praise your staff when they do good work -- when they get things done on time, when they make an extra effort, when they deserve special recognition. Sure, you may see to it that they get a raise the next pay period, but say it with words, not just a personnel action for increased compensation. People need encouragement as they progress in their job. Of course, you should correct any errors or laxities in their work, but how about telling them what a good job they've done on this and that?

Complimenting Your Peers

Many of our parents brought us up according to the rule, "If you can't say anything nice about someone, just don't open your mouth." Not bad advice.

There's always something you can find to compliment about anyone. It may be the color of a fellow executive's tie, or the print of a woman executive's scarf; it might be an employee's new haircut or snappy looking briefcase; it could be the good looks of his children, as seen in the snapshot on his desk; or the amazing progress an executive in the international division has made with her weekend Japanese lessons. Open your eyes; you'll see it. Then it's up to you to comment on it. It makes people feel good; it lifts their spirits.

The people with whom you spend all day -- your co-workers -- deserve your praise and cheering up. You have no idea how much influence you can have when you make your peers happy in their jobs. It's another example of an individual' s power for good.

Compliments Are to Be Accepted, Not Rejected

Nothing can take the wind out of a person's sails faster than to have one's compliment rejected. If someone says to you, "I think the proposal you presented this morning was first-rate," the last thing he wants to hear you say is, "I thought I did a lousy job of presenting it. I left out half the strong points." The fact that you personally felt you did not do a good job does not matter. Take the compliment in the spirit in which it was given.

If people compliment you on your appearance, don't correct them and point out all the negatives. For example, if someone says, "You look particularly bright and chipper this morning," don't make a retort, "I feel terrible, my eyes are all puffy from allergies, and I think I look awful."

What is the right way to accept a compliment? "Thank you. That's really nice of you!"

When a manager walks with ease through a business day, he makes everyone around him feel more at ease in turn. When he sets an example of excellence, courtesy, and caring, others rise to meet his standards. This is true leadership, out of which teamwork develops.

If You're a Mean Person, Eventually You'll Get Caught Being Mean

It's amazing how often a person is caught in his private life, away from the office, when he thinks he's free to act as he darn well pleases. A prime example of this is the young, freshly recuited manager, top of his class at Harvard Business School, who was observed one Saturday (by the wife of the CEO of his new corporation) in the supermarket's overcrowded parking lot. The manager did not see her, however. He had recently been to his boss's home for a lunch where he had impressed everyone with his graceful manners and charm.

The young business school graduate, driving a fancy sports car and bursting with impatience, looked around the congested parking lot and quickly solved his parking problem by pulling into a spot clearly marked for the handicapped, next to the front door of the store, and shutting out a driver who really was handicapped. By the time the CEO heard the report of this incident from his furious wife, who had spent fifteen minutes trying to find a nonhandicapped parking space, he decided to fire the young newcomer while it was still legally possible. At work that week, the boss told him he had been seen by his wife pulling a fast one after lunch on Saturday. "True meanness just isn't part of our corporate culture," he explained. "You won't go very far in this company, so you'd be better off working elsewhere."

The story has a happy ending, fortunately. The fired manager found another job and proceeded to work hard on weekends and at nighttime donating his services to the local hospital. At the end of a year he was given an award as the outstanding volunteer in the suburban community, which his old boss read about in the newspaper. He got his old job back.

When You're the New Kid on the Block

When you join a company, either in your first executive position or as a transfer from another company, you might as well accept the fact that you will be an object of curiosity and probably of some suspicion as well. You might also be a hate object for someone who thought he was going to obtain the position you have been retained to fill.

Remember, time is the great healer and dealer. It doesn't matter how cool the atmosphere may be when you arrive in your job. What matters is that you take your time to establish good personal relations and proceed slowly and carefully -- the opposite of a shotgun approach. Here are some tips on how to handle yourself:

* Listen and learn, rather than do all the talking. Don't think you have to justify yourself to everyone. Spend your energies observing and asking smart questions rather than trying to let everyone know how much you know and how important you are.

* Be equally nice to everyone. The messenger may someday turn out to be your best friend in court. The receptionist may one day be able to give you the most important information of your life. The junior executive in the office next to yours whom you don't think is very important may one day be your boss.

* Don't make snap judgments about who's important, who's going to be your friend. You may change your mind about most of the people in the office, so it's smart not to form an opinion of anyone until you know them well and have seen them interact. Don't listen to negative stories about who's out to get whom, who's about to get fired, who's cheating. Resolve to keep an open mind and to make your own judgments later -- much later.

* Ask your peers to lunch, one by one (one a week, for example). Get to know them on an easy, informal basis. It will be money well invested. Assume an "I honestly need your help to learn how this company works" attitude. If you make your peers understand that you need their assistance, that you know less than they do but need to know more in order to become a good team member, you will find they will help you. They won't mind your asking for information. What does not work is arrogance; what does work is m...

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