In an attempt to teach and instill good manners in me, my parents read me two books (repeatedly) as a child. One was What Do You Say Dear, by Maurice Sendak and the other was Manners Make People Nice To Know. The latter, a much older book contained drawings of well-behaved children showed the perks that came with being good. Evidently the manners I was taught through these books stuck. I always knew to thank my host who paid for expensive lunches and dinners. I was polite. I smiled a lot. My parents would be proud.
Mr. S., our temperamental Japanese consultant from last week was evidently not read such books. I realize etiquette differs from country to country. I respect this. Differences aside, I firmly believe manners and etiquette are crucial in business success whether the issue at hand is knowing local customs when dining out or being mindful of certain gestures. It was the latter; a certain gesture Mr. S. used frequently that got him in hot water.
It started innocently enough. When pointing to a line on a balance sheet, Mr. S. extended his long middle finger to point out a number. Eyebrows shot up among the Americans and they looked at me quizzically. I knew what they were thinking. The collective question on everyone’s mind was, “is this guy flipping us off?”