Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Party Perfect!

Party Perfect

It's holiday party time! The season for festive sweaters, glittering jackets and sequined skirts! All year long we plan for this and some of us have saved last season’s bargain finds for this year’s festivities…but as we study the invitation, we wonder if that reindeer nosed sweater is really appropriate for this year’s event?   What should you wear? Oh wait! There's no dress code on the invitation! What should you do? Well, first, don't leave dress to guesswork. If you're not sure, ask the host/hostess.

Next, realize that in spite of the dress code, your attire should always reflect professional presence. Just as one is cautioned not to overdo casual Friday i.e., change only one item of clothing, dress up times should be equally as conservative. Clothes communicate powerful messages about status, authority, power and rank. Whether we like it or not, success and professionalism have developed their own image within all social circles. Our clothing is our social exchange for belonging within a certain group. According to Wikipedia, “dress codes are written and, more often, unwritten rules with regard to clothing.”  Clothing has a social significance and is an important part of social exchanges. That means you can't show up with your blinking nose reindeer sweater and assume it will be OK "because it's just so cool".  Protocol demands that you take pains to ensure you wear the proper attire and don't give away your personal power.

In her book, Etiquette in Minutes, Etiquette Expert Syndi Seid offers guidelines to selecting appropriate party attire:

Black Tie: Men should wear a single or double breasted suit jacket with a black silk bow tie, black slacks and shoes. This is commonly referred to as “tuxedo or tux” dress for civilians or "full dress uniform" for military personnel.  Women should dress in a floor length gown, one piece or separates.

Black Tie Optional: Men may wear tuxedo attire or a dark suit with a white shirt and a tie. Avoid light colored suits, sweater jackets or sport coats. Women's choices are a floor length gown, an elegant suit or cocktail attire.

Business/Smart Casual: Business casual, meaning slightly informal but neat attire is the least understood dress code because it is only used in America! It can include items such as a leisure suit, nice shirt or sweater, slacks or khakis. But, you should err on the side of caution. It is best to be overdressed than undressed. Removing a jacket or necklace can tone down an overdressed outfit, but nothing disguises denim or athletic wear! Generally, you do the following when attending a business casual event:
Men should wear a sports coat, colored or white shirt, slacks and loafer-styled shoes. Women can choose business attire, church attire, or skirt/slacks with a matching jacket/sweater or blazer. Select shoes that accent your outfit, but avoid sequined or high heeled stilettos unless that is what you normally wear.

Casual Dress: Men can dress in long or short pants and a collared shirt with a coordinated sweater or a sports jacket. Ties are optional. Women can wear shorts, pants or skirts with a blouse, sweater or jacket.

Formal: Men may wear a dark suit with coordinated tie and shirt if the occasion is before 6PM. Women traditionally wear cocktail attire, business attire or a dressy suit. After 6 PM, formal is equal to Black Tie.

Informal or Semi-formal: For occasions before 6 PM, this attire is similar to Business Casual in the United States. A coat and tie or a business suit is appropriate for men. For women, a dress suit or church dress is appropriate. Any event after 6 PM should be considered dressier. So, men may choose to wear a dark business suit while women dress in a long cocktail dress or business suit.

White Tie: Men are expected to appear in a tailcoat with a white bow tie. Women should appear in the fanciest floor length formal gown, complete with gloves should they desire!
Following proper protocol when choosing your attire is essential to establishing and maintaining the power of presence. Remember, you're not dressing to impress; you're simply and silently communicating the power of your presence.

So, when selecting your party clothes this holiday season, don't forget about protocol....because it matters!

I am Pamela Coopwood, and I am “Speaking of Protocol”

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

To Tree or not to culture the difference?!

I have a friend who has a love/hate relationship with Christmas. She loves to give gifts but tries to limit them to a certain age range to save money. She abhors receiving gifts because she feels it obligates her to reciprocate whether she can afford it or not. She likes Christmas trees and decorations but hates putting them up and taking them down. If she could, she would go into hiding and opt out of December all together. I am certain that she is not alone in this sentiment.

Holidays can be expensive and stressful, but a few Christmas protocol pointers will help you hang onto your holiday cheer.

What is the protocol for Christmas trees? Ultimately, there is none. Displaying evergreen trees in homes during winter months actually predates Christianity.  But many people think that the Christmas tree originated in America. But in actuality, the oldest record of a decorated Christmas tree is from Strasburg, Germany in 1605 and it was ornamented with apples, nuts, and other edibles! And we don't see a record of a decorated tree in America until 1747, but even then, it was linked to German tradition, as it was displayed in the German Moravian Church's settlement in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. So, whether you display a fully decorated tree or no tree at all is a matter of personal choice. Any religious meaning or protocol attached to it is based on the memories of one’s own ancestral heritage or familial customs.

What is the protocol for decorations? Like the Christmas tree, whether you choose to decorate or not is a personal choice. This is not true, however, when it comes to taking them down. For outdoor decorations, it is a matter of etiquette to put them away shortly after the holidays. Your neighbors should not have to battle wind tossed elves and singing Christmas lights year round.

What is the protocol for gift giving? Gifting is used to celebrate a person, an event or accomplishment, or to commemorate an agreement or occasion. Different regions, countries, and cultures have their own history and significance for Christmas gifts. For example, many American Christians believe Christmas gifts are symbolic of God’s ultimate gift of Jesus to redeem mankind. This follows the tradition of the Magi who brought gifts to commemorate the birth of Christ. Conversely, cultures with different belief systems may assign a dissimilar value to gift giving or choose not to exchange gifts at all.

Regardless of cultural beliefs, the accepted protocol is that when you receive a gift, to offer something in return. However, there are some protocol considerations which are exceptions to this rule.

1.  Some people give “just because” and want nothing in return. If you can't or won't let this act of kindness slip pass without reciprocation, keep a small stash of generic gifts to give in return!

2. Remember that gifts are not tied to price tags! It is bad protocol to assess the value of a gift or to suggest or hint that you are even thinking about it. Conversely, don’t belittle your gift with statements such as “it’s just a little something,” “I didn't have much money,” or worse, “you can return it if you don’t like it”. The last phrase more or less obligates the person to keep the gift to avoid offending you.

3. It is okay to give a gift to one person within a group. Gifts should be given in proportion to the relationship you have with a person. It is awkward and embarrassing to give a gift to people you barely interact with. If you wish to be selective in your gifting, present your gift outside of the group environment. Also, make sure you know the company policy before gifting your co-workers and/or boss. Avoid giving gifts with the company logo if the gift is not from the company as this may be considered poor taste.

4. If you're invited to a private home, good protocol indicates that a small gift is appropriate. But, never ask the host to display or use your gift for the evening’s events. Remember, it is their gift to use or display as they see fit.

5. If you are gifting overseas or to people from a different culture, avoid giving gifts that their country is famous for (ex. beer in Germany or cheese in France). Give items from your culture that conveys thoughtfulness and goodwill without being offensive. Also, be sure to understand the importance that a culture places on specific gifts. Don't assume what is significant to you will carry the same sentiment in another society. If you are presenting a gift to a business associate, research the gift beforehand. If the person is a close friend, consider asking them about their culture's protocols.

6. Finally, visitors to America are briefed that Americans open a gift immediately. However, remember that other traditions or cultures may have different protocols for opening gifts.

I am Pamela Coopwood, and I am “Speaking of Protocol”


Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Point of Protocol: The TRUTH about the turkey!

A Point of Protocol: The TRUTH about the turkey!: According to a recent news report, a certain brand of turkey refused to respond to the chemical concoction used to fatten them up for prop...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The TRUTH about the turkey!

According to a recent news report, a certain brand of turkey refused to respond to the chemical concoction used to fatten them up for proper consumption this year. This means people who eat these turkeys may not gain the customary ten pounds this holiday season. Think of the repercussions of this audacious event. If we don’t gain, then everything associated with these turkeys will actually lose!

The gym will not realize the substantial increase in people who pay them a retainer in case they ever decide to work off those few extra pounds. The doctors will lose revenue because high blood pressure and other obesity related illnesses will decrease!  Drug companies won't be able to sell beta blockers or appetite reducing agents, and their income stream will be reduced to mere pennies on our dollars!

Magazine readership will wane because there won't be a need to read about how to “lose ten pounds of flab in 3 days!" Advertising sponsorship's will lose because with fewer people browsing the magazine section, eye catching headlines will be scrutinized by ardent readers instead of sensational impulse buyers.

Then, because magazines are floundering, internet usage will reach all time highs, giving the government leverage to tax its usage. The people who can't afford it will be unable to access what has become the primary source of vital information. As a result, the economy which thrives on its growing middle class will actually see a decrease in its educational standing. More people will move into the global marketplace ill-prepared to govern, to make sound decisions, or to function in a civilized society. Ultimately, all of the expected and accepted rules of protocol will be lost as we spiral downwards and further away from the civilized society we all have grown to know and trust.

I say we stop this madness by demanding that protocols be enforced to ensure that the chemical balance in our meats is never lacking again. We must unite and demand that just as there are standards of conduct for humanity, there must be standards that reverse the trending towards an uncultured society!

First, we must understand that a civil society must not be deterred from its existence by allowing an entire generation to be dependent on the electronic media for its intellectual property. The importance of traditions and values must be passed down generationally by the retelling and subsequent reinforcement of etiquette and manners. This will cause a surge in concern for the well being of our neighbors, and rekindle a sense of responsibility for a government that is governed in accordance with common sense and morality.

Then, the news that reaches newsstands will give equal coverage to things that pertain to a civilized society, which, in turn, will diminish the unnecessary laws which intrude into the simplest aspects of existence. Everyday living will be simpler because life will hold more value than the accumulation of things, resulting in a decrease in crime. The reduction in crime will diminish the fear of venturing outside. Neighbors will be more than the people we talk about. They will be people we talk to!

As we meet more people, our primary relational cores will be strengthened, and the internet will be just another recreational venue because we will get the most value and information from going outside to socialize person-to-person and voice-to-voice with others. As our outdoor activity increases, doctors and pharmaceuticals will once more be focused on preventative medicine rather than masking symptoms for diseases they can't cure. Gyms will resume their place in schools and as training and recreational facilities.

Then, we will not need to worry about the leanness of our turkeys because everyone will realize that fresh and lean is better for everyone, including our foods! And when we gather around the table in our more civilized society, the rules of protocol will always lead to expected etiquette's and acceptable manners that give us all so much to be thankful for!

Happy Turkey Day!

I am Pamela Coopwood, and I am “Speaking of Protocol”

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Excuse me, but is your rudeness interfering with my rights?!

“If I hurt your feelings in any way I just want you to know from the bottom of my heart that I don't care.” Author Unknown

The world is tired of people. Tired of serving them. Tired of pleasing them. Tired of being polite! We see this everywhere but are still surprised when volunteers, public servants, or health care professionals disrespect people.

I experienced this firsthand during a recent doctor's visit. As man approached the receptionist, she acknowledged him by shouting, "What are you here for?" Stunned by her rudeness, everyone looked up as he, in turn, answered her in a quiet and controlled voice. Ignoring obvious social cues, the receptionist loudly repeated the purpose of his appointment. Those of us who understood simple courtesy looked away to minimize his shame. Others, fully engaged in his private affairs and unconcerned about the rules of protocol and etiquette, gawked or laughed as they waited to see what would happen next. To their disappointment, he maintained his composure, finished his business and took his seat.

It takes very little to destroy another person’s dignity. An offensive greeting in an intimate setting is perhaps the worst form of public humiliation. How sad that some medical personnel and other guardians of privacy information are not polite or discreet when serving patients and customers! According to Dr. Jenna Ward, senior lecturer in organizational studies at York University, “Most medical receptionists receive little training in handling people or in diffusing high-pressure situations. Yet, they are the stitching that holds a practice together, emotionally and administratively...mistakes could result in serious health implications for the patients.” Thankfully, professionals can learn common courtesies and appropriate behavior through protocol, etiquette, and customer service training.

So, how should we respond when we come upon a rude medical receptionist? And, what should we do if our business is broadcast to the waiting room?

1. Get a copy of The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and make sure you understand your rights. HIPAA requires that providers, such as doctors, nurses, pharmacies, hospitals and nursing homes keep your health information private, even at the check-in window.

2. Remember, you deserve civility. Proper protocol and etiquette demand it. The receptionist should be friendly and polite at all times. You should not be made to feel that your presence is a burden, period.
3. Follow the posted instructions. It is annoying to answer the same question repeatedly when a few moments to read the signage would answer most routine questions. After reading, if you need assistance, ask. Simply state that you HAVE read but have further questions!

4. Guard your privacy. If your response is better answered in private, you can say, "I would rather not answer that here. But, if we can speak privately, I will gladly provide the information you're requesting." Alternatively, state you would rather discuss your health and medications with the doctor in a more private setting. Then, wait for further instructions or request to see a manager. Yes, even doctor’s offices have managers and supervisors!

5. Acknowledge the breach. If you are subjected to loud or embarrassing questioning, quietly state you would like your information to be kept confidential and not discussed in a public area such as the waiting room.

6. Don't return rudeness. A courteous response will lend to your credibility if you are forced to complain about the problem. Others will also attest to the fact that you did not do anything to provoke ill treatment.

7. Inform your physician. They know the value of a good reception and cannot afford to lose patients because of ill-mannered or discourteous front desk personnel. Keep in mind, more than one person has completed medical school! If the problem persists, take your business elsewhere.

Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you - not because they are nice, but because you are.  ~Author Unknown

I am Pamela Coopwood, and I am “Speaking of Protocol”

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Did you get caught??!

There is a lie being whispered into our heads these days. It says “nobody cares, you can just do what you want, and no one is paying attention”. It is a lie. People are watching and there will be consequences! The choices made to do something, be in a particular place, say a certain thing or phrase, all have the potential to cause regret and grief later. Character takes a lot to build but very little to destroy, or as political activist Thomas Paine states “Character is much easier kept than recovered.”

Recently, several incidents in the media have highlighted how a slip in judgment can snowball into a loss of community respect and public humiliation. If what you are in private or the places you frequent are questionable, or even the demeanor you display under pressure is mean and nasty, it will change the way people view you. Your professional character will be questioned regardless of past accomplishments or family background. It will not matter that to you, past behavior was just a stepping stone into your future, nor does it matter whether you felt responsible for the ethical activity around you or that you felt disrespected in the vilest way. Your actions, your presence, your response must always portray moral character, fortitude and professionalism.  Another author put it like this “How horrible it will be for those who try to hide their plans from the LORD. Their deeds are done in the dark, and they say, "No one can see us" and "No one can recognize us."  Here's a tip: someone is always watching, someone always sees, and in today’s environment, someone is always willing to not only record and post it, they will also “tag” you with full disclosure!

Professional presence like character is powerfully transparent. It withstands past scrutiny and responds appropriately to present circumstances and public disclosures. “The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out” ~Thomas Babington Macaulay

I am Pamela Coopwood, and I am “Speaking of Protocol”

photo credit: via photopin">">photopin 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

No time for Masquerading!

Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.~ Kurt Vonnegut Jr

Costumes tend to lend a sense of false security! What other time are we encouraged to be liberated behind a mask or an array of clothing, to release our inner inhibitions, all under the guise of fun?! But, the Account supervisor who donned her favorite purple “Lady Godiva” cape is probably rethinking her decision after she showcased her costume in full regale sans undergarments at the post work office party… or make that sheer flesh toned undies! Not only were her private parts on display but her professional standing and morality as well. Indeed her fall from grace had much to do with her fall from respect in the eyes of her coworkers, her superiors and her team.

Although this is the time of year when we are certainly allowed to contradict and poke fun at our everyday demeanor with fake tattoos, outrageous hair and/or earring ornaments, we must also bear in mind that even fun can become a threat if an unspoken protocol and/or expected behavioral boundary is crossed. Rather to err on the side of modesty than to be caught resembling the emperor without enough covering and lacking the wisdom to realize that the world is laughing at, not with you.

Here are some tips for the season’s festivities that will allow you to have fun without compromising your professionalism:

1. If it calls for a costume, don’t show up as you! You will not only dampen the spirits of the other party-goers, you risk appearing snobbish, separate from the team and making everyone regret that your invitation didn't get lost in the mail!

2. Keep your fetishes and exhibitions hidden! Avoid any provocative or controversial costumes. Ladies resist wearing see-through ANYTHING!! Also nix too short or too low. Gentlemen should not use this time to make a political statement or poke fun at groups, niches or anything that could be interpreted as poor taste.

3. If you leave home in full regalia, be certain that you are not the ONLY one who is doing so! Clients should feel that they entered a seasonally festive environment not the work space of Wilhelmina Weirdo. Bring a change of clothes if there is any chance you will be called out for a client meeting.

4. Don’t call unnecessary attention to yourself with gadgets that are childish and unbecoming to you as a professional. While a fake toy whistle may be okay, a squirting boob is not. Also, if you are an Executive or CEO, skip clothing or trinkets that show off your tattoos, piercings or similar items.

5. Always remember that in this period of social media, you could be viral before you know it! Think about every repercussion of your actions and dress, not just for this event, but for your lifetime. Something’s are just too important to risk!

6. People view guests as an extension of you. If you bring a guest to a function, if necessary, discuss acceptable boundaries and behaviors before arriving at the event! Even if you are new to the company or the person is new to you, it is your responsibility that they not offend. While you may not be able to control their social interactions or manners, be prepared to leave if their behavior threatens your credibility in any manner whether through too much drink, or inappropriate conversations and/or behavior.

7. Remember, that just because you are playing dress up does not excuse unprofessional behavior. Things said behind the mask are still, things said. Never allow an occasion to “undress” your professional presence.

I am Pamela Coopwood, and I am “Speaking of Protocol”

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ethics or Etiquette?

There is a smug assumption among business professionals that if they have good etiquette, they will consequently have great ethics. Often when asked to speak on the topic of etiquette, it is assumed that cloaked within the presentation will be subtle references to ethics. Most often, it is not there. They are not the same. Although one can be present without the others, a professional presence not only exhibits both, but understands the line of demarcation between the two.

Business Etiquette is a learned but unwritten code of conduct that makes interactions predictable and professional. It originates from Protocols, which are the rules that govern a civil society. The rules combine common sense and consideration for others, into codes, for appropriate behavior in the workplace and in society as a whole.

Business ethics are the principles and norms that serve as guides for good and bad conduct in business. The guides may written as codes of conduct, or not written, but implied, as standards derived from society and one’s personal belief system. Ethical codes are important because they help us be good and law abiding citizens.

Being ethical does not make you lawful inasmuch as knowing etiquette does not make you mannerable. Stephen J.A.Ward, in writing about ethics in an article entitled “Nature of Journalism Ethics” states “Ethical questions are not reducible to questions of etiquette (what is commonly done), prudence (what is in the journalist self-interest), financial gain (what enhance profit) or law.”

Ethics governs how we practice professionalism, i.e., does it violate laws or individual rights. Etiquette governs how professionalism relates to others, i.e. manners and decorum.

Pamela Coopwood
Principle, Speaking of Protocol, LLC/ The Planned Event, LLC

Monday, October 7, 2013

Shall we dress down "Protocol" for a dressed down society?

A Point of Protocol:

“Protocol is everything.” Francois Giuliani 

Protocol, an established code of behavior, is silent but steeped in tradition and required courtesies. A breach in protocol often goes unspoken but has ruined many promising relationships. Today’s “business casual” mindset underestimates the role of protocol in business interactions and negotiations. As the marketplace becomes more culturally intertwined, social intelligence and professionalism has become increasingly important. 

Protocol and etiquette training provide the knowledge necessary to navigate with confidence and control in any business or social setting. 

Protocol...knowing right and doing it!

I am Pamela Coopwood,and I am Speaking of Protocol.