Q: We recently hired a wonderful research guy who was born and raised in another country but received his PhD in the United States. The problem is, I find it uncomfortable to have him join us when we bring clients out to lunch or dinner because, to use an American term, he eats like a pig! What should I do?
A: Normally, I would suggest talking to the individual in private to help him realize that his table manners are an issue, something he may well not be aware of. In this case, however, simply talking about the problem isn’t enough. If you are going to talk to him, you should be ready to offer a plan to teach your colleague how to eat without grossing out other people. Try offering him a book on table manners or suggesting that he attend a local workshop on the subject. If you and a couple of other co-workers are willing, you could even offer to give him some pointers yourselves. The key here is that he believes you are talking with him out of a genuine concern that everyone has the best chance to be successful and not because you are trying to embarrass him. Another way to deal with the problem without singling out any person would be a company-sponsored training session for the entire firm on table manners and business social skills. Whether you choose to address the problem on your own or through company channels, however, the situation needs to be remedied: Left unchanged, your employee’s off-putting actions are certain to cost your business in terms of lost work and opportunities.