Terry Corbell, The Biz Coach
By Terry Corbell
Business Consultant

If Your Boss Invites You to Dinner, Make a Great Impression


Checklist: 13 etiquette tips



Whether you’re invited to the home of your boss, a prospective employer or a business associate, manners are important.

Things aren’t always as they seem. Be aware you’ll have to impress everyone who is attending. How you behave and dress is a paramount consideration.

For instance, if you’re invited to your boss’s home for dinner, your boss might want you and your spouse to meet his or her partner.

Trust me, before the evening is over your boss will want to discuss you with the spouse. This question will be asked like this, “What do you think of my employee, honey?”

ID-100364975Another reason for inviting you to dinner might be to impress you and your spouse, or to get a better read on you and your spouse in a social setting.

It’s also an opportunity for your spouse to learn about your employment situation, and will probably want to opine after you leave.

Such concepts apply to any dinner situation that affects your livelihood.

To make a great impression, here’s a checklist:

1. RSVP within a day or two

From the French phrase, “Répondez s’il vous plait,” means “Please respond.” Think of RSVP as an invitation or a “Reservation for a Significant Valuable Person.”

Respond appropriately – quickly as possible.

2. What to do if you have food allergies

If you or your partner has significant food allergies, delicately inform your host right away. A good host will want to know to insure success from the evening.

Should you forget to inform your host, don’t mention it at dinner. Do your best to eat around the entrée.

3. Dress well

Unless the invitation indicates the preferred attire, it’s better for you to be over-dressed than under-dressed. Show respect by dressing well.

After you arrive, it’s much easier to dress down than to dress up. So make a positive impression.

4. Don’t expect parking arrangements

For dinner parties at a home, parking arrangements are made by the guests. Don’t be surprised if you have to park on the street.

5. Appear on schedule

Timeliness for a dinner party is more important than it is for a cocktail party. Don’t be late. Your host will expect to serve the dinner at a certain time.

On the other hand, don’t be early. Your host and hostess are likely to be hustling at the last-minute preparing the dinner. Don’t inconvenience them.

The bottom-line: Don’t make the host wish you weren’t invited.

6. Bring a small gift

Show your appreciation and respect by bringing a small gift. Include a note. This is especially important if other guests are attending so the host remembers your manners in bringing a gift.

7. Compliment your host on your meal

You’ll never go wrong in complimenting your host. Your compliment will be appreciated.

8. Offer a toast

Even if you’re a nondrinker like me – near the end of the meal – it’s a good idea to toast the host and hostess – if no one else has. Your panache will be appreciated.

9. Avoid disagreement, controversy or business topics

That means no shop talk and no discussion of politics or religion. Keep it a happy occasion for your host.

Even if you’re hoping for a promotion, don’t discuss it. Keep it detached and positive.

“Manners are the ability to put someone else at their ease…by turning any answer into another question.” 

-Tina Brown

10. Converse with the people on your left and right

The host has reasons for assigning seating at the table. It’s expected that you chat with the people on your side of the table – with the persons on your left and right and vice versa.

Don’t ask to trade seats in order to talk with someone else, and don’t lean across the table to talk with someone else.

11. Don’t over imbibe

Your host and hostess will see over-drinking on your part as very bad judgment. They want the dinner to be a happy occasion.

They’ll want you to arrive home safely. Nor do they want to be held liable if you have an accident after the event.

12. Don’t over-extend your visit

Read the room. When someone mentions it’s time to go or they have a big schedule the following day, take it as a clue to graciously thank your host and hostess and leave, too.

It’s important to be empathetic. Imagine if it were your dinner party and you anticipate a big cleanup that night. You’d hope for people to exit in a timely fashion.

13. Promptly mail a handwritten thank you note

Don’t be gauche by sending an email or text. Ugh. Mail a well thought-out thank you note. Pave the way for more invitations.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are tips for better relating to your employer:

Tips for Dining Etiquette with Your Boss or Anchor Client — Whatever the important business occasion, it’s helpful to hold your meeting away from the tense hustle and bustle of a corporate setting. The right ambience for deal making is often an opulent restaurant with sumptuous food. That’s been my preference.

The Professional Way to Disagree with Your Boss — If you value your job and reputation, there are productive ways and unproductive ways to disagree with your boss. Here’s how to do it professionally.

11 Tips for a Better Relationship with Your Boss — Whether you want a happier work environment or lay the groundwork for a raise, promotion or transfer, you must create opportunities for success.

7 Steps to Convince Your Boss to Give You a Different Job — You might think you’re in the wrong job. Perhaps you are. Is it a case of being over-qualified or under-qualified? Or do you want a promotion?

How to Manage Your Boss to Benefit You and Your Employer — If you’re like many professionals, the concept of managing the boss might seem strange. It’s really about maximum communication and earning a deserved reputation of being a strong performer.

Dos and Don’ts of Advancing Your Career via Your Boss’s Boss — You can improve your career prospects by maximizing your communications – with your boss’s boss — if you respect the process. Not only will such opportunities optimize your prospects, they will give you a broader perspective about upper management’s concerns and insights.

“Manners are the ability to put someone else at their ease…by turning any answer into another question.” 

-Tina Brown


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





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Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.