We know what a bad habit is, no? We all have a number of those. Let me tell you about one of mine.
I have a sweet tooth (no, not the type you are used to. That’s not a bad habit). I like to always be chewing on something sweet. As things changed and I swapped university lecture rooms for the office, I realised that I couldn’t just continue this way, going everywhere with my mouth working as if I was advertising bubble gum.
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Something had to change. But I found it difficult to adjust at first and so I looked for something I could put in my mouth; something that wasn’t food, but that would keep my mouth busy till such a time as I could indulge.
I settled on toothpicks. It wasn’t too long before I realised it wasn’t really a smart decision. I could walk anywhere with chewing gum in my mouth and, depending on my chewing habits, you would have to be real close to me to know I had anything in my mouth.
With toothpicks? Not really.
And then, I heard a story that made me cringe. Whether true or not, the story goes thus: a particular oil company was recruiting. As is usual, thousands of people sent in applications. They screened, and still hundreds made it through to the examination stage. After the examination, most of the applicant were dropped; only three young men scaled through.
Let’s call them Peter, Paul and Mark.
So the three of them were invited for an oral examination/interview. They were told to come on the same day, same time. Instead of a traditional interview, they were invited on a tour of the facilities. They were shown around their prospective workplace and told that they were the best of the lot, but that only two out of the three of them were really wanted. They walked on and prepared mentally for whatever task would be required of them.
After a long and winding walk, they were asked to the cafeteria for a meal. At first they declined, thinking it was a trap, but they were encouraged to relax and eat. And they did. At the end of the day, they were sent home with some money to cover their transport expenses, and as said, only two of them were called back. The third was told he didn’t make it.
Why? Bad habit.
After the meal, he had picked up some toothpicks and placed them in his coat pocket. Imagine that. That is something I would have done. That is something a lot of us would do without a second thought. Yet, it is improper.
It’s just like knowing what hand to hold what cutlery in. My secondary school table manner training serves me well in these situations. You would be shocked at how many adults have no idea how to handle themselves and cutlery in formal settings; when to keep your tea cup upright and when to upend it.
Remember Pretty Woman?
There is a scene in there in which Richard Gere’s character, Edward Lewis, takes Julia Roberts’ to a seven-course or so dinner. Things got awkward rapidly because she had no idea how to behave, or what cutlery to use for which meal. You see, it was hazardous for Lewis because he was meeting some high-end clients and trying to create an impression. They scaled through, though – but just barely.
Employers, especially in corporate circles, should take responsibility for training their staff in such matters. No disrespect to anyone, but not all secondary schools give that to their students. There are schools and institutes that even adults can enroll in and get trained in such matters.
Maybe we used to live in a society where such things were not important, but there is need for such now. Black-tie events and corporate dinners are all over the place these days and the last thing any employer would or should want is to be misrepresented by one of their staff.
And some more things: I would like to see some of my colleagues stop chewing on their fingernails in public, sucking their thumbs, or playing with their inner ears. While a bad habit may be overlooked when amongst friends, they won’t when in a meeting with a client or the CEO of a bank.
Conduct yourself properly. Life is short. Wear a tie.
Or not. Just learn etiquette.
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