Mind Your Manners: Real Career Girls Don’t Burp in the Boardroom


If you’re reading this, you’re probably a young professional. And as a young professional, everyone’s probably got an opinion on what you should be focused on. Your advice queue probably looks something like this: mentor telling you to establish goals, mom telling you to go to grad school and friends telling you to find a boyfriend (or maybe even a husband).

Author and etiquette expert Rosalinda Randall has another nugget of wisdom for you: don’t burp in the boardroom.

Courtesy. Manners. Tact. We rarely acknowledge these oh-so-important elements of character – that is until we’ve made an unforgivable workplace faux-pas. One of the biggest mistakes an emerging professional can make is being oblivious to the rules of business etiquette.

Easy-to-read, humorous and conversational, Randall’s book “Don’t Burp in the Board Room” is a must-read, as it could mean the difference between getting your foot in the door….and having the door slammed in your face. Consider this book your Business Interaction Bible as it provides the best practices for addressing “uncommonly common” scenarios we’ll all inevitably run into at one point or another in our careers. Success is rooted in the basics, and applying lessons from “Don’t Burp in the Boardroom” will help emerging professionals develop the personal brand equity that’s essential to thrive in their career.

I had the opportunity to chat with Ms. Randall about her career and book!

How did you go about pursuing a career in etiquette consulting? 

Fit and flexibility. 
Fit: I lived it! It was a natural course to take. I thank my parents for demonstrating and instilling, how to be polite, respectful, considerate, humble…I had that down, all I needed was to learn about the nuances, like the uses for the multitudes of forks, which was my bread plate, how to use a finger bowl and such. 
Flexibility: It was important to me to be spend time with our two sons, attend their school activities, and most importantly, to have freshly baked cookies in the house. It also allowed me to be in control of my schedule and have the best of both worlds. Building my business at a pace that was convenient for me. 

What inspired you to write “Don’t Burp in the Board Room?”

I had a lot to say. I didn’t realize it until I began writing. It was also an impactful way to spread the word about civility. I was also encouraged by mentors; not only as a way to get noticed, but to build credibility and to distinguish myself. Writing the book did more than that. I knew that it wasn’t going to be a “this is how you do it” style because I don’t believe there is only one way of handling a situation. It gave me the opportunity to believe in and become even more confident that I had to be true to my style; this allowed the words to flow. 

I especially love the portion that touches on dealing with multi-generational differences in the workplace. How can one create harmony when they feel that their older or younger colleague just doesn’t “get it?” 

Creating harmony between generations can happen if they drop preconceptions they may have about each other. “They’re old, they won’t get it.” Or, “Why bother, that generation can’t focus for more than thirty seconds.” Conversation and/or collaboration is shut down.
I typically refrain from using “should” and “must”, but in this case, both sides “must” make a few allowances and compromises. For example, older and younger coworkers are working together on a project. Younger is aware that older (generally speaking) is not a fan of constant phone checks; Younger can consider checking their phone less frequently or excusing themselves to check their phone. Similarly, Older can overlook the frequent phone checks or suggest a break now and then, allowing time for phone checks. 
Older can avoid saying things like, “It’s always been done this way.”; “That won’t work.”; “No one is going to understand that.” = all negative. 
Younger can avoid saying things like, “That’s outdated.”; “You sound just like my mom.”; “I’ve never heard of that, so it won’t work.” = all negative. 
Listen. Clarify. Consider. 

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in business etiquette in recent years? 

There are a few workplace annoyances that I hear most often, the top two are lack of response. Be it to an invitation, a phone call or an email inquiry. The second is lack of awareness. Examples are, cell phone use while in conversation with someone, interrupting conversations, and the disappearance of using “please” and “thank you.” 

Can you recall the most impactful display of workplace etiquette you’ve witnessed?

Insight to a colleague’s quirk. Upon entering “Agatha’s” cubicle for a meeting we had scheduled, I was greeted by a peek-a-boo thigh due to her foot being positioned upon her desk for an afternoon toe nail clipping. Her remark to me was, “Hi, I’m almost done…haven’t had time for a pedi.” I hoped that she wouldn’t want to shake hands; she didn’t.

Is there anything else that you’d like the Ms. Career Girl audience to know?

When you whole heartedly believe in what you are doing, what you stand for, who you are, the road is clearer, as is the decision-making process. This is not to say that it will always be the right decision or that you won’t have to humbly apologize now and then. 
In fact, I am by nature stubborn; terrible quality for those around you, but I find it to be a positive quality when you are representing yourself and your company. 
Listening to successful people is essential, however, you are not them, they are not you. Common sense dictates that not everything that worked for them or the steps they took are necessarily right for you; perhaps not at this time. 
Doing things “your way” could delay you from getting from point a to point b, but you can learn so much about yourself along the way. Because of this, I have no regrets in doing it my way, always tactfully of course. 
Lastly, you may have to distance yourself from certain relationships, or even end them. Doubters, condescending comments or attitudes of indifference does not mesh well with positivity, motivation and joy. I ended two long-term relationships. As difficult and sad as it was, it proved to have a huge impact in my life.
Rosalinda Randall is an etiquette consultant and author. “Don’t Burp in the Board Room” can be purchased on Amazon or at Barnes and Nobles. Follow her on Twitter at @rosalindatweets!

Jessica Washington

Jessica Washington is an emerging communications professional with an "insatiable appetite for success." She is currently the Communications Manager at the Harlem Educational Educational Funds (HEAF), a non-profit dedicated to providing underserved students in NYC the resources they need to succeed, beginning in middle school. Jessica is a graduate of St. John's University where she obtained her B.S. in Public Relations. When she's not "on the clock," she especially enjoys traveling, blogging and live music. As a MsCareerGirl.com columnist, she hopes to provide insight to 20-somethings who aspire to start a career in communications. You can find her on Twitter @rhythmnviews!

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