Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dining with the Boss, 101

Dear Charles the Butler,
My wife and I have been invited for the first time to my boss’s house for dinner. We are both very nervous. We live a casual lifestyle, but my boss and his wife live very formally. Tips please!
Nervous Couple

Dear Nervous couple:
Going to your employer’s for dinner is stressful at the best of times. But alas, one must overcome social fears, especially if one wishes to succeed in long-term business relationships.

Etiquette is about confidence building, allowing you to be comfortable in most situations. As a child, my parents laboured tirelessly to teach me table manners — no fingers even for chicken wings! I fought them both tooth and nail.

Soon enough I noticed that when I went to my friends’ houses for dinner, their parents would say, “Why can’t you learn to eat correctly like Charles?” And that made me feel proud and confident.

Here is all you need to know to enjoy dinner with your boss — with confidence.

1. Take the time to learn how to correctly hold and use a fork and a knife — and practice, practice practice. If at any point you don’t know what to do, take a deep breath and follow the hostess.

2. Read the newspaper for one week prior to the dinner. This will allow you to be aware of what is going on in the world and add to the discussion.

3. See what the dress code is. If it’s not clear don’t be afraid to call and ask. If you are dressed appropriately you will feel more comfortable at the dinner.

4. Last but never least, be yourself! Don’t put on any pretence — being sincere and genuine is by far the most important. Now go and have a great time!


  1. It would be very helpful if "the boss" read this column and realized that a good host endeavours to make his/her guests comfortable.
    I believe that you have done an excellent job advising this couple!

  2. Using a knife and fork--now that could use some more explanation. Do you do as people do in the US and cut with the knife in your right hand, and then switch the fork to your right hand to eat. Or, the more continental style when the knife stays in the right hand and the fork in the left hand, upside down?

    Of course, being confident makes the situation mute, and practice can lead to confidence.