Posts Tagged ‘business ethics’

Leader driven Harmony #37: Eating, Drinking & Business

by Mack McKinney on August 12, 2011

What should you eat at a business meal or social gathering?  Do cultural sensitivities really matter these days?  Here are some basic, common-sense rules for business dining etiquette:

  • Don’t eat sushi around squeamish people whose faces turn fainting-white when you mention that raw fish is on the menu.  Those people are as rare as the fish, thank goodness (I love sushi and sashimi).  Just be sensitive and watch their facial expressions when the menu is discussed.
  • Don’t eat pork when dining with Jews or Moslems (or with both – – – yes, it has happened to me).  Just the idea of pigs can make some people nauseous.

Should you drink alcohol at business functions?  Some business gurus say drinking is OK and then others advise total alcohol abstinence!  My answer is . . .  yes, you can drink, but with a few caveats.  First let’s discuss the cultural issue.  In many cultures, business meals are occasions to get to know people.  Alcohol is viewed as the universal social lubricant.  And only after the other party gets to know you and likes you, will they have meaningful business discussions with you.

If you are dining with people from Western Europe, the Slavic countries of Eastern Europe, the Scandinavian countries, Japan, Korea or China, bring a spare liver!  Drinking alcohol is likely to be an accepted part of the business experience and you’ll seem odd if you don’t partake at least a little.  Sorry but I don’t make the rules of international business.

With other groups of people, in the US for example, you have more options.  Here are some basic guidelines:

  • If everyone else is drinking and if you would like a drink, then have one.  But limit it to one or two drinks throughout the activity.
  • If you don’t drink, say so and don’t drink!  You don’t owe anyone a detailed explanation but if you feel obligated to explain, say you are slightly allergic to alcohol and it upsets your stomach.  That should settle it.
  • But if you are hosting a guest at a business dinner (prospective employee, client, possible teammate, etc.), you should order a glass of wine.  Period.  Do this either when initially seated or with the meal but do it.  Do this whether you drink alcohol or not.  You do this to clearly indicate to your guest(s) that their having a drink is fine with you.  Words won’t communicate that point nearly as well as your $7 glass of red wine.  And if there is a toast, you have something to toast with (you can put it up to your lips and then set it down).  If you don’t drink, let it sit and get tossed after the meal.  If asked why you didn’t drink it, say that you didn’t like the taste (they won’t know if you tried it or not).

One more rule here:  If you are a US defense contractor, you’ll need to deduct the cost of the alcohol from the total receipt, showing it separately.  It is not an allowable expense in most cases.  Your company may or may not reimburse you for your drink.  And they can only deduct half the value of the business meal anyway in most cases (thank you IRS).

Who should pay for the meal?

  • If the meal is with teammates (other firms) and they will have the chance to reciprocate rotationally at their facilities, then the host organization should pay.  This should be by prior arrangement among the principles.
  • You, personally, should pay if . . .
    • You invited the others to dinner and no Dutch Treat (each person/team pays) arrangement was discussed.
    • You are trying to win the business of the guests and they are not government employees.  Most US Federal and State government employees are prohibited from accepting meals or gifts of any kind.
    • You are trying to win the business of the guests, they are from other firms, and those firms do not prohibit their employees from accepting gifts (including meals) from potential suppliers (like you).  Some firms’ ethics policies prohibit their employees from accepting meals or “anything of value”.  Other firms prohibit anything above a dollar limit, $25.00 for example.  And some firms have no policy at all on this subject.
    • Split the check if your firms are of comparable size, you will benefit equally from any subsequent business, you are not on an expense account and are expected to be frugal with the company’s travel budget, the other side sincerely offers to help pay, and there is no expectation of future meals out like that one (no expectation of reciprocation “the next time”).

In short, use your common sense regarding eating and drinking at business functions.  And if you drink, limit yourself to one or two drinks.  When in doubt as to the appropriate behavior, ask the financial or legal people in your organization.  And I’d ask them either before or after a trip: Calling their cell phone, from the restaurant, late at night, might get you an answer you DON’T want!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Integrity – Looking oneself in the mirror

by Matthew Carmen on September 13, 2010

This past week I took a vacation, to Hawaii.  I tried to focus on the much-needed relaxation, keeping my mind free of business and the stresses of life; and for the most part, I did.  One work-related thought lingered on, however: integrity in one’s work.   I began to notice integrity – in its various forms –  all over the islands, and kept thinking about how core it is in business, specifically in the consulting and financial worlds where I practice.  Integrity is the one thing that every person should have.  It doesn’t matter what job, economic status, social standing, or any other measure people use to “judge” each other, integrity should be the main benchmark as to one’s character.

The only place I did not see complete integrity was at the USC-University of Hawaii football game.  One of our players (I am a proud USC alum) slammed the opposing quarterback with a truly illegal hit – not exactly playing with integrity, right?  The UH quarterback was knocked out of the game, and when I left the islands on Tuesday, he had still not returned to practice.  The USC player has to look into the mirror and examine his actions, his integrity in question.

The people in the service industry, hotels, restaurants, museums and other places, seemed to do their jobs with integrity.  They were all very helpful, pleasant and seemed truly to enjoy their jobs.  This could be that they were happy to have any job in today’s economy, but I don’t think it was that simple.  It could possibly be tied to the cultural differences in the islands versus the mainland, but again, I don’t think so.  I just think that the people I dealt with actually enjoyed their lives as they were.  What a great place to be in.

Everything I witnessed got me to thinking about integrity in business.  Let me state clearly that I believe the great majority of people – probably more than 98% – hold integrity high on their list, and incorporate into their work accordingly.  What is unfortunate is that the small minority of people that lack integrity are the ones who make all the news.  I go into dealings with people – meetings, XXX, XXX, etc. – with the assumption that those people are honest, forthright and willing to stand to their word.  I hope that people inside and outside of the business world look at me this way in return.  When I make a claim to someone – say a client – I back it up, and if questioned, I’m ready to address it right away.

Integrity and Relationships

Doing business is establishing and growing relationships, and these relationships cannot be strong if not forged with integrity.   For example, my company seeks long-term relationships with all of our clients, essentially becoming a trusted advisor to their organization and solving datacenter, connectivity and IT financial challenges.  Clearly, if our firm is viewed as lacking in integrity, these relationships could not flourish, and the company could not and would not be in business.  At the end of the day, a person has only his or her word, and must operate with integrity to ensure trust.  If they choose to conduct themselves otherwise, there is no need to trust or deal with them.  There are too many people and companies that do things the right way to work with those who do not.

Conclusion

I learned two things on vacation.

  1. It is really important to actually take vacations and clear your mind of professional stress, etc.  Upon your return, you may come up with some new ideas that will revolutionize your business and dealing with clients, co-workers, and management.
  2. I do know that if you don’t have integrity and the internal fortitude to use it, you might as well give it up.  You will never move up in your chosen field or establish close and trusted relationships with people, professionally or personally.  Lastly, look at yourself in the mirror, if you aren’t happy with the person you are looking at, figure out why that is and work on transforming that view into one you like.