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Business etiquette tips for the holidays

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The holiday season is the time when business etiquette skills can help individuals and organizations show their professionalism.

"The holidays can be times of peril. It is easy to make a misstep by sending the wrong holiday card, selecting inappropriate gifts for clients and co-workers or having too much fun at the office party,” said Lydia Ramsey, business etiquette expert and author of the newly published e-book, “Business Etiquette for the Holidays — Building Relationships amid the Perils of the Season.”

“We want to make sure that our actions during the holidays are conducted in a manner that is both polished and professional," Ramsey said. "Every year, as the holiday season approaches, many of us are excited, eager and overwhelmed by all that lies ahead.”

Here are Ramsey's top 10 tips for navigating the perils of the holiday season:

• Select the appropriate holiday card for each client. Be sensitive to their religious beliefs. Your Jewish client does not want to receive a card that says "Merry Christmas."

• Sign your name to every card, even if your name is printed on the card. This is definitely not the time to include your business card.

• Do not use computerized labels on the envelopes. Your client will be made to feel like one of the herd. Right away, you give the impression that this is not personal.

• E-cards are a no-no. As quick and efficient as they may be, they are impersonal. E-cards also have a very short shelf life. They are read and deleted immediately. Your paper card may be on display in someone's office for weeks.

• The office party is a mandatory event. You had better be in the hospital or out of town at grandma's house if you fail to show.

• Watch the alcohol. While it may flow freely, be sure to eat more than you drink. Have that second drink when you get home so you don't risk saying or doing something you will regret when you return to the office, assuming you still have an office to go to.

• Be cautious about giving corporate gifts. Know the policy of your client's company regarding the receipt of gifts.

• Plan how you will exchange gifts with co-workers. It is best to involve everyone in the process and to be sensitive to other employees' financial situations. Their holiday budgets may already be stretched.

• When you host a business meal, be sure that the wait staff knows to bring the check to you so there are no awkward moments. Better yet, have the maitre'd make an imprint of your credit card upon arrival and tell him how much you wish to add as a tip. Sign the receipt on the way out.

• When people start toasting, be aware of the etiquette of toasting. The person being toasted does not rise, raise a glass or drink to the toast. However, when you are the recipient of a toast, you are expected to return the toast. If there are lots of toasts being offered, don't feel obligated to drink to every one of them. Simply raise the glass to your lips and give the impression of drinking.

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