My questions today are from some of the awesome students of St. Louis University’s Department of Health Management and Policy who attended the five-course dining etiquette class that I taught last Thursday evening at the university.
Q: If a businessman is attending a business dinner with men and women colleagues, and a female colleague comes in late and begins to take the seat next to me, do I immediately jump up to assist her in taking her seat? Do I do the same if another female colleague needs to get up from the table during the meal or speaker’s presentation?
A: Let me preface my answer by saying this: Once a female is a part of the business world and participating in day-to-day business as well as related social events, she becomes what I refer to as “genderless.” She is equal to her male colleagues, unless she holds a higher position. As an equal, she should not expect to have a door opened for her by one of her male colleagues, nor should she expect them to stand for her when she arrives at the dining table, especially if she is late. However, if it appears the table is so crowded that she may actually need help getting into her chair, then her colleague (male or female) should stand up to assist her in the process. If it is a male colleague who arrives late and the table is very crowded, then a male or female colleague should stand to help move their own chair to allow the male to take his seat. The business world should be a world of mutually polite and considerate males and females.
Q: Can a male remove his suit jacket during a business dinner if he feels more comfortable not wearing it while eating?
A: No. Removing one’s suit jacket, male or female, during a business dinner is not appropriate. Doing so presents a less-than-professional impression.
If the temperature in the dining area is unusually warm for some reason, perhaps due to a broken air-conditioning system, then if, and when the host removes his or her jacket, or makes an announcement that removal of jackets is permissible or recommended due to the temperature in the room, then jackets may be removed.
Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Patrick Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.