Each week, Inc. staff writer Nadine Heintz (Miss Management) will help you tackle office etiquette problems both big and small.
Dear Miss Management,
Someone close to me makes a regular habit of walking out of a restaurant with a toothpick in their mouth, and leaves it there for some time. I was always taught that this socially unacceptable behavior. I can't help finding this practice very distasteful and unattractive. Am I the one who needs to change?
Aghast in Atlanta
There's nothing worse than having a piece of food lodged between your teeth. However, it's unacceptable to remove the offending morsel in public, let alone nibble a toothpick for a protracted period of time. Unfortunately, restaurants perpetuate this bad behavior by placing toothpicks by the front door, next to the matchbooks and mints, practically begging customers to start picking away right on the sidewalk. Instead, people should excuse themselves and attend to the problem in the bathroom. Discretion with any sort of hygiene matter is key, especially if you're attending a business lunch or dinner.
That said, I have a feeling that your acquaintance may be using a toothpick out of habit rather than out of necessity, kind of like smoking an after-dinner cigarette. Depending on how comfortable you feel with the offender, you might consider mentioning your disdain the next time you leave a restaurant together. If it's your boss or a coworker who's doing the picking, however, it's probably best to stay mum. At least you'll rest easy knowing that you're right and they're wrong.
Have a dilemma for Miss Management? Send her an e-mail and check back here Tuesdays for the answer.
Last updated: Jul 27, 2004
The Goods is focused exclusively on products and services for business owners. We won't ignore the latest netbook or the hottest smartphone, but we'll also examine the services, software, and Web-based tools that can help make your business succeed. NADINE HEINTZ, a senior editor at Inc., edits The Goods, as well as Quick Hits. Send suggestions, comments, and deals to firstname.lastname@example.org.