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The art of giving negative feedback: A 7-step approach

Business Management
March 21 2012

Giving feedback is an important management task but certainly not an easy one—especially when the feedback isn’t all sunshine.

Negative feedback requires a manager to motivate, counsel and criticize in a way that alerts employees to where the problems lie and what must be done to solve them. Fortunately, it’s a skill that can be learned.

Follow this seven-step method whenever giving negative feedback:

1. Tell it like it is. Don’t sidestep the issue; be straightforward and tell the employee exactly what your concerns are.

Example: “I’m troubled by the way you deal with customer complaints.”

2. Give feedback immediately. Feedback is most useful when given at the earliest opportunity after a particular incident. Effective feedback allows the recipient an opportunity to correct behavior right away.

3. Paint a specific picture of how you view the situation. Describe what you see happening by using objective details, not subjective opinions.

Example: “When you get calls from irate customers, you become short with them and you don’t try to hide your own irritation.”

4. Give the lowdown of the outcome. Make sure employees understand the connection between their behavior and the negative results. This lets employees know that they can control the consequences.

Example: “I’ve received letters from customers threatening to stop using our company if they continue to receive such poor treatment.”

5. Give credit where credit is due. That way, employees will know what actions to repeat in the future. Plus, they’ll know that you appreciate the effort to do it right.

Example: “I know it can be frustrating, but I’m pleased to see that after you quickly pinpoint the problem, you immediately make a return call.”

6. Reiterate performance expectations. As a manager, it is important that you try to make employees understand what it takes for job success.

Example: “Understand that good customer service begins with fielding the complaint; it isn’t just the end result of solving the problem. Frustration-management skills are important in this department.”

7. Use feedback as a means of change, not punishment. A positive reaction is a more likely result when you correct negative behavior rather than punish the offender.

Constructive criticism: 4 helpful hints

1. Beware of communicating your frustration and anger. Otherwise, the recipient will likely feel frustrated and angry, too, and therefore, less receptive to your message.

2. Be flexible. Most situations don’t require you to dictate exactly what needs to be done or how. Giving employees room to maneuver and allowing them to make changes on their own reduces resistance to following your feedback.

3. Make your point right away. Otherwise, you risk losing focus on the feedback with too much small talk or overwhelming the employee with too many details.

4. Put the feedback in writing. It helps reduce misunderstandings, allows you to perfect your message before sending it and is a smart legal move in case of a lawsuit.

More Articles on Networking

Networking for Success: Navigating the Business Cocktail Party
Strengthening Your Client Relationships – and Your Muscles

Keep your Business Communication Skills Sharp: The Latest in Social Networking

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French Fries – How Do I Eat Them?

Emily Post
Cindy Post Senning, January 26 2012

There are many foods that present a classic dilemma for diners young and old. The question is, “fork or fingers?” The answer is sometimes definitive – you definitely eat your peas and mashed potatoes with a fork. That’s a no-brainer. But how about french fries? It’s a sometimes fingers/sometimes forks answer: If the food the french fries are served with is a finger food – a sandwich or a hot dog on a bun – you can eat the french fries with your fingers also. If the food is a fork food – steak or a broiled chicken cutlet, for instance – then you eat the french fries with a fork.

One other basic rule of thumb has to do with ketchup and gravy. If you’ve smothered your french fries with either, you should use a fork to eat them.

However you manage them, french fries can be pretty delicious. Enjoy!

 

More Articles on Dining Etiquette

Dining Etiquette – How to Handle 5 Sticky Situations
Formal Dining Etiquette Rules You MUST Know

Dining Etiquette with Diane Craig of Corporate Class Inc.

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Is it rude to go to the bathroom during dinner?

Globe & Mail
Chris Nuttall-Smith, April 14 2012

The question

My wife and I have the same argument every time we go out for dinner. We’ve been having it for 27 years. She says it’s rude to leave the table to use the facilities while there’s food in front of you. I say if ya gotta go, ya gotta go. Is there some sort of rule I haven’t heard of? Because, aside from my wife, I’ve never heard anybody else complain.

 

The answer

If you’ve got to go, I suppose you do, though I can’t help wondering why, after 27 years, you haven’t just learned to squeeze in a good tinkle immediately after ordering your food. (We are just talking about tinkling here, correct?)

As to whether there’s a rule: No, there is not. But if you leave the table with a plate of food in front of you, the food gets cold and your wife has to eat alone. Plus, with apologies to the overactive-bladder set, there’s something just kind of weird about taking four bites of food and then heading to the loo.

Listen to your wife, bub. She’s a good and patient woman. And maybe lay off the pre-dinner Super Big Gulps, too.

More Articles on Dining Etiquette

Dining Etiquette – How to Handle 5 Sticky Situations
Formal Dining Etiquette Rules You MUST Know

Dining Etiquette with Diane Craig of Corporate Class Inc.

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The 12 secrets of dining out with kids

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Globe and Mail
Dave McGinn, March 13

There’s a war on bringing kids to restaurants, and parents are losing the battle. Last month, Grant Central Pizza, in Atlanta, printed a note on its menu banning crying children from the restaurant. In July, a Pennsylvania restaurant banned children under 6, crying or no crying. Even many restaurants with no bans don’t exactly roll out the welcome mat for families. Taking your kids out to eat can be a fraught experience, but it doesn’t have to be. You just have to know how to do it properly.

TIME

You can bring kids to any restaurant, so long as you will have paid and left by 8 p.m. After that you’re trespassing on grown-ups-only time. Turns out 5 p.m. can be a happy hour for families, too.

TIPPING

When you bring your progeny out to eat, you’re asking more than usual of wait staff (See: WAITER) – replacing spilled juices, picking up dropped toys, bringing you crayons, speeding things up just enough so that you can still make it home in time for bedtime. Such service deserves an added reward. Leave a gratuity of at least 20 per cent. And if there’s salmon mashed into upholstery or peas all over the floor, consider throwing in a little extra.

WAITER

The best ally you have. Make friends immediately. Be very courteous and grateful. And ask for something to nibble on as soon as you’re seated.

ORDERING

Do it quickly. It’s best to call ahead to see if the restaurant has a kid’s menu. If it doesn’t, consider ordering a meal for yourself that your kids might opt to eat if their meal isn’t to their liking. And if your kid is a picky eater, now is not the time to force porcinis on them.

CRYING

Babies cry at restaurants, because babies cry everywhere. You have one minute to soothe them at the table. After that, take them outside (See: OUTSIDE) or to the bathroom as a courtesy to other patrons.

OUTSIDE

Your refuge when problems – crying, hyperactivity, garden-variety fits and full-blown tantrums – cannot be quickly solved inside.

MAKING A BREAK FOR IT

Lasso that toddler immediately. This is a restaurant, not a playground. Provide distractions. (See: DISTRACTIONS)

DISTRACTIONS

Never leave home without packing essential diversionary objects, be they colouring books, a favourite toy or an abridged Anna Karenina. You will need to keep your children occupied. It’s not the bartender’s job to supply you with markers.

TEENS AND CELLPHONE USE

Absolutely forbidden. Use this outing as a chance to instruct your teens on proper dining etiquette. (But be sure to make this clear before you arrive.)

DESSERT

Not a given. Dangle dessert as a reward for good behaviour. (Remember: You may need to make a break for it.)

STINK EYE

Other diners may give you the dreaded stink eye for bringing your children along. Offer them a smile and then ignore them. Unless your kids commit an actual restaurant offence it’s the stink-eye givers who are in the wrong.

TABLE SELECTION

Ask for one close to the bathroom. You’ll be glad you did.

 

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Modern Etiquette: A Playbook for Modern Business Dining

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Reuters
Pamela Eyring, February 27th 2012

The ways in which business gets done in today’s global marketplace is evolving at a rapid rate. Even in the midst of new paradigms and emerging technologies, one thing remains constant: big deals often come together over meals.

Given that a simple faux pas at the table can make the difference between being shown the money or the door, it’s time to review the Do’s and Don’ts of Business Dining. 1. Be On Time.

Timeliness is among the first and most significant impressions you can make at a meal or event. If you are the host, being there first to greet your guests demonstrates a level of professionalism and consideration that will be noticed and appreciated. Similarly, if you are a guest, arriving on time makes a very positive statement about your expectations for the meal and the relationship. No matter what Hollywood or style gurus might have you believe, nothing demonstrates a lack of respect more than being “fashionably late.” 2. Turn Off All Devices Before Being Seated.

Whether you’re the guest or the host, your dining companions should have your undivided attention during your time together. Your phone should never leave your pocket or purse during a meal, let alone see the top of the table. This is your chance to demonstrate that you value your companion enough to give 100 percent of your time and attention during the meal. 3. Follow Good Form.

Practicing good form at the dining table is a subtle but effective way to demonstrate your level of professionalism. Simple rules to consider include the following:

  • Always open your napkin and place it on your lap below table level. Keep it on your lap at all times, not tucked into your collar. If you need to leave the table for a period of time, place it on the seat of your chair. At the end of the meal, place it loosely to the left of your plate.
  • Use flatware (cutlery) from the outside in. Once you pick up and use a piece of silverware, it shouldn’t touch the table. When you are finished with your meal, place your knife and fork on the plate so that the handles are on the lower right edge (20 after the hour on a clock) and the tips on the upper left (10:00). This allows a waiter to see you are finished and assists during the removal of the plate.
  • Never “borrow” food from another’s place setting. When you are seated, assess your setting with BMW (Bread, Meal, Water) in mind. That is, your Bread plate is always on your left, your Meal is in the middle, and your Water is always on your right. This will save you the embarrassment of inadvertently using or drinking from your companion’s place setting. 4. Savor The Opportunity And The Meal.

While you may be on the clock at work during a business meal, don’t let the clock dictate the pace of conversation or the speed with which you enjoy the dining experience. Instead, focus on making the most of this opportunity to connect and build your business relationship. If you are hosting, never pressure or hurry your guest in any way. They should feel like a welcomed and wanted guest. 5. Mother Knows Best.

Remember what your mother taught you. That’s right! All those bits of motherly advice still apply: sit up straight, take small bites, chew with your mouth closed, never talk with your mouth full, participate in the conversation, keep your toys (i.e. your phone, purse, notebook, etc.) off the table, and for goodness’ sake, be nice to your server.

While knowing how to conduct oneself at the table may seem small when negotiating an important deal or discussion, in reality, it’s a valuable asset. No matter where you go in the world or how high up the ladder you climb, discerning business professionals will always recognize and respect your professionalism.

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How to look good when you step down from a job

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Globe & Mail
Leah Eichler, December 23 2012

When Andrea Jung steps down as chief executive officer of Avon Products Inc., she will end her reign as the longest-serving female CEO at a Fortune 500 company.

Last week, the global cosmetics company announced that the Toronto native, who has carried both the CEO and executive chairman titles since 1999, will step down as chief executive when her successor is found. She will keep the position of executive chair for two years and will have a role in choosing the new CEO as Avon separates the two roles.

From a historical perspective, few companies appear as synonymous with women in business as Avon, which give women the opportunity to earn money as early as 1886. With 6.5 million independent sales representatives in 100 countries, it’s safe to say that Ms. Jung served as a role model for many aspiring women.

But maintaining a positive image includes more than simply sporting the right lipstick and Ms. Jung’s graceful and professional (albeit slow-motion) departure offers some lessons on how to look good while you step down – lessons that do not apply exclusively to women.

“Your legacy in an organization, your ability to lead and be graceful under fire is essential for men and women,” observed Lynn Harris, who runs an executive development practice in Montreal and wrote Unwritten Rules: What Women Need to Know About Leading in Today’s Organizations. “I don’t see a gender issue here,” she added.

Avon’s decision to replace its CEO comes on the heels of a string of bad news for the company, including poor sales in key markets and two investigations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. To her credit, Ms. Jung acknowledged her faults quickly, and by putting the company’s reputation before her own, she managed to avoid a personal backlash, said Michael Crom, executive vice-president of Dale Carnegie Training in New York.

“With some of [Avon’s] recent bad press … as well as significant drops in sales, [Ms.] Jung was able to admit that under her watch, the company had entered a downward spiral,” Mr. Crom said. To maintain her image, he said she should continue to be honest and upfront about her mistakes and speak out about how Avon can move past them.

While fashioning a smooth exit remains a skill both men and women must hone, it can be difficult to remove your emotions from the situation. Unfortunately for women, when emotions get involved, it does not go unnoticed.

In comparison, consider Carol Bartz, who was dismissed as Yahoo Inc. (YHOO-Q15.01-0.34-2.25%)’s CEO in September by the company’s chairman. After her exit, some questioned if firing Ms. Bartz by telephone was the most prudent approach, but that point paled in comparison with the expletives she directed at her former employer.

While both men and women can become emotional at work, gender stereotypes continue to determine what is acceptable and not acceptable behaviour. A similar exit by a male CEO might not have been perceived as badly, Ms. Harris noted.

“What seems to be acceptable is for men to shout and swear and bang the table. If women do that, they are out of control, overemotional and a bit of a bitch,” she said. While Ms. Bartz’s response would still have drawn attention had it come from a man, it’s unlikely to have had the same viral impact.

“One of the things I love about Carol Bartz is she goes against social stereotypes but she has to pay the price for that, which she is happy to do,” Ms. Harris said.

Taking a combative approach may be Ms. Bartz’s signature style, but it comes with consequences. Emphasizing that your online reputation lives on forever, Mr. Crom observed that the top hits in a Google search of “Carol Bartz” are articles critical of her behaviour, whereas many articles about Ms. Jung carry a more positive spin.

Ms. Harris advises soon-to-be leaving executives to seek help if they need advice on how to carefully manage their exit strategy, because it demonstrates their leadership capabilities.

“When you are in your next leadership position, you don’t want that legacy following you that you didn’t have the emotional resilience to manage your exit well,” she warned.

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Can I ask my dinner guest why she didn’t touch her food?

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Globe & Mail
July 9 2012

The question

If somebody at a dinner party hardly touches their food, should I ask them if they didn’t like it? That’s what they do in restaurants, but my girlfriend says it’s rude.

The answer

As with any situation involving friends around a table, it’s a matter of context. Is this your former glow-in-the-dark-naked-Twister-league partner we’re talking about or your new boss’s uptight second husband? Is the setting light and casual or more formal than that? Either way, I’d probably ask: quietly and discreetly in a more formal situation, loudly and accusingly at a casual dinner with friends. (“What, so now you’re too good for my tempeh and mung sprout soup, punk?”) Whatever the problem, your job as host is to try and show your guests a good time. Maybe that means fetching them an aspirin, offering something else to eat (within reason, of course) or getting them a fresh plate without the half-eaten tomato hornworm on it. But you’re never going to know until you ask.

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Can we bring wine to a party and not share?

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Globe & Mail
January 7 2012

The question

Over the past few years, my wife and I have become wine snobs and regularly drink $40-to-$50 bottles. Our problem is when we go to friends’ homes or any party. We stand out because we bring our own stemware and people are always curious about what we are drinking. Our bottles are hard to protect in a sea of lower-end wines and we stand out as unfriendly if we do not share. How do you handle this?

 

The answer

Have you ever thought that the reason you “stand out as unfriendly” is that you are unfriendly?

When you bring wine to a party, your wine becomes the party’s wine. That’s why a party is called a “party” instead of a “drinking at home alone.” For events that don’t involve a meal, the solution is simple: A good wine-shop consultant will happily find you amazing bottles for $15 – bottles that you’d struggle to differentiate from the $50 stuff. Bring three of those and open two (one should be given to the host as a gift). Now you have enough to drink and enough to share and it cost you the same. If it’s a dinner party, the cook might already have wines selected for the meal; be sure to ask in advance. As for the fancy glassware, leave it at home, bub. Nobody brings their own stems to a party without looking like a total jerk.

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Am I obliged to be friendly with strangers at my table?

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Globe & Mail
February 17 2012

The question

If I’m forced to sit at a communal table in a restaurant or at a large gathering, do I also have to socialize with the strangers seated around me?

The answer

While you have no duty to ask after your tablemates’ families, health or take on the Canadian economy’s crippling productivity gap, you should at least look them in the eye and say hello when you first sit down. You should do this because, if you don’t, you’ll look tortured and pathetic or, worse, like someone from Toronto – I have seen diners here do everything short of install Plexiglas partitions to prolong the illusion that they’re not sitting next to people they don’t know.

Besides, communal seating isn’t all bad. That renaissance degenerate with the greasy hair and scabid-looking skin who’s eyeing your potted salmon from across the table might actually be charming and lovely or even one of the members of Nickelback. You could be sitting with a rock star (or a member of Nickelback). If you don’t say hi, you’ll never know.

 

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Mind Your Manners While Dining Out

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Mercerisland
February 16 2012

Last Saturday I volunteered as a server and wine steward at the Matthews Estate Valentine’s dinner in Woodinville. It was an opportunity to keep my server and customer service skills sharp. As a journalist covering the restaurant industry, it’s my job’s version of continuing education.

I worked under the direction of Eric Swikard and Jenna Barnett, who are engaged to each other, appropriate for the Valentine’s dinner. Swikard, the brand ambassador for Matthews’ sister winery Tenor, was in charge of the wines. Barnett was the chef for the night. Together they are Ken and Barbie but with substance and a refined palate to boot.

Swikard leaned over during dinner service to rhetorically ask, “Isn’t she the most beautiful chef?”

Saturday’s dinner was a reminder of proper dining etiquette. It is also a reminder of the rigors of the restaurant industry. Timing and teamwork are of the essence. Patience and pressure tug at each other all night. Anticipation of guests’ needs as well as sensing their apprehensions is critical to successful service.

It’s humbling to experience dining from the producer’s perspective. And I only had to pour wine and clear plates for 24 guests. My hat’s off to restaurant professionals around the world.

And that’s the first dining etiquette observation and a personal pet peeve; please remove your hat when you sit down to dinner. I get it, you think you look cool in your hipster knit cap or period fedora.  You don’t. And it’s rude. Hats were created to protect men and women from the elements. Don’t bring the elements tableside. The attention it brings to your table is unbecoming.

Also unbecoming is waving arms, screaming across the room or snapping fingers to get the attention of your server. It is not advised unless you want soup on your fly–the fly on your pants. Most experienced servers are adept at reading tables, picking up on cues whether guests require attention or privacy. If your table requires attention, make eye contact with your server or gently flag the closest front of house staff and ask for your server.

While addressing servers, don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to your mother. Lewd, crude, misogynistic, condescending, offensive or oppressive language is off-limits. Treat the staff with respect and the service will reflect that.

Much of the arm waving and finger snapping are by guests who think they are neglected. Serving a round table of eight guests calls for etiquette. Women are served first followed by the men. Call it chivalry, call it old-fashioned–I call it proper manners. Gentlemen, I did not forget you. Your wine glass will be filled after all the ladies’ glasses are filled.

About the wine: drink responsibly. Know your limit lest your companions know you don’t know your limit. At winemaker dinners odds are there will be plenty of wine. Pace yourself. There will be plenty of wine if you want to revisit a particular wine later.

At finer restaurants with dedicated wine programs, wine is often served in fine crystal glassware with large bowls. Wine glasses will be poured a third, even a quarter full of 5 to 6 ounces of wine. I prefer 5 ounces of wine in a large wine glass than 5 ounces in a small glass filled to the rim. The large bowl allows the wine to aerate, open up and grow in complexity. You are not being stiffed when your wine glass is a third or a quarter full. It doesn’t mean you are a pessimist, either. Once you are done with your first glass, politely ask for a refill. Most restaurants will oblige unless you appear intoxicated.

To help pace your drinking, eat the food. I know it sounds like obvious advice. Unfortunately, guests who drink more than they eat present symptoms of intoxication by about the third course.

Make reservations if a restaurant offers the option, even when you think there will be plenty of tables available when you arrive. Most restaurants will hold a table up to 15 minutes after the reservation time. If you are running late, call the restaurant to advise them of your schedule.

When making reservations detail dietary preferences, restrictions and allergies. Most restaurants will be accommodating. The more notice you give the restaurant, the more accommodating they can be.

Should you decide against dining at that restaurant, cancel your reservation as soon as possible. Failing to cancel your reservation is like committing to your college roommate’s wedding and failing to attend.

Much like you had to coexist with college roommates, be mindful of your dining neighbors. That means speak in the appropriate volume, don’t answer your mobile phone and refrain from excessive perfume or cologne. Diners around you probably don’t want to hear about your job, business deal, romantic life or family life.

“Don’t wear so much perfume or cologne so people can enjoy the smells and tastes of the food,” said Faith Ramos, who has worked in fine dining restaurants across the country, including Campagne at the Pike Place Market. “You are at the restaurant to enjoy the food.”

Graciously leave at a reasonable time. Don’t overstay. Just like you wouldn’t want guests you entertain in your home to stay two hours past your bedtime, you don’t want to be the restaurant guest who is left two hours after everyone else has left. If you are thinking, “But, who would …?” Yes, that happens more regularly than you would think.

The end of this column brings me to the end of the evening; remember to tip your servers. For the record, I do not accept payment (including gratuity) when I work functions such as last Saturday’s dinner.

Restaurant professionals work extremely hard. Front of house staff are often paid minimum wage. They rely on gratuity to make a living. Furthermore, they are required to tip back the host/ess, bus people, the wine team and in some cases the kitchen staff.

Your gratuity is critical to a balanced restaurant ecology. Around 18 percent is standard these days. Restaurant professionals are consistently the most generous tippers, sometimes leaving 33 percent and in some extreme cases 50 percent gratuity. If the service warrants it, don’t be afraid to be generous. It’s good karma.

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