There are a number of critical business skills that are all too often overlooked in school, training, and in practice. People know when others are good at their jobs, but often can not explain why. Each Monday I will tackle one of these skills. This week: The Work Lunch.

Regardless as to whether it is an informal lunch with your buddies or a formal dinner with your boss’s boss’s boss, the Work Lunch is a place to showcase your latest achievement, impeccable manners, and superior networking abilities.

Be positive — No one likes a negative Nancy. Especially at formal occasions with coworkers and managers, you should work on framing your work positively. People may not remember what you said, but they will remember the tone. Even if you are going to lunch with some buddies expressly to bitch about your boss, try to say at least one good thing.

Manners count — Do not shovel food into your mouth as if you have never eaten before and likely won’t eat again. Take one bite at a time, chew, swallow, take another bite. Do not talk with your mouth full. Do not spit out food that you find unappealing. Use a napkin. Say please and thank you. I would think all of these things go without saying, but I have seen some atrocious manners at lunch. Don’t be that person.

Network! — Remember, today’s colleague can be tomorrow’s client, prospect, or boss, so you don’t want to blow off every group lunch at Chipotle to eat your Lean Cuisine in your cube alone in peace. In addition, you need to make a positive impression on the people who make decisions about your performance and compensation. As any high-level executive will tell you, success is less about the work you do than the people who know about your work. Make a point to talk to your superiors, if present, to make them aware of your existence. Have a non-work conversation with your boss. Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know or get to know someone else a little bit better. Next week, I’ll cover networking in more detail.

Drink in moderation — Though the days of the three-martini lunch are over, it is not unusual for alcohol to be present at corporate sponsored events. It is completely appropriate to drink if others are drinking, but know your limits. Personally, I don’t have more than one drink at a company event because my brain-to-mouth filter gets lazy and does not catch every unfortunate thought before it escapes my lips. You don’t want to be talked about the next day or find yourself in an awkward situation based on something that popped out after three beers at happy hour. And in the age of smart phones, you don’t want your client to see a video of you slurring the words to Nelly’s ‘Hot in Herre”.

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