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Smart Advice – November 20, 2009

Whats Your Beef? Guy Asks How To Kiss

The Corner Office Curmudgeon answers your questions on office life

Retired Island executive offers workplace advice

Call me a nerd, but I still don’t get how to handle the social-business kiss. What is the male role and what is the female role? As a male, do I lean in close and let the woman kiss my cheek while my lips come close to her cheek but don’t connect? I need specifics, because I feel awkward each time.

Don’t feel like a nerd. Most guys have the same problem. It’s kind of like playing an air guitar — you need a little skill and a lot of practice. Mostly, you have to take your cue from the kissee. If she expects an air kiss, she’ll lean forward and turn so you can slide on by. It’s a silly custom, and can lead to awkward situations. Shaking hands in a business situation
is always best.

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I’ve been offered a terrific job across town in a new firm that does work similar to the work I do now. I suspect my new employers want me in part because I know a lot about the business and can help them get up to speed in a hurry. I have no concern about taking my basic skills with me to my new job, but I’m uncomfortable with the idea that I might be asked to share — not trade secrets per se — but knowledge about the industry that I have gained with my current employer. Should I tell my prospective employer that I won’t be sharing any knowledge or understanding of the industry that I gained specifically at my current job? I’d hate to lose this new gig.

That would be a great way to get the offer withdrawn. Why do you think the new firm wants to hire you? Because you’re cute and play tennis? They’re after your store of knowledge and experience. That’s all you’ve got to sell. Take advantage of the situation and make sure they pay you well. That’s often how you get ahead in business.

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I went out to lunch with a prospective client who began asking me for advice on how to deal with some issues he was facing in his business. Before I knew it, I was pontificating and offering advice, which he was eagerly scribbling down in a notebook. At the end of the lunch, he thanked me profusely for “helping him in his business.” Now, I’m uncomfortable. I wouldn’t want it known around town that I was actively “helping” this person. Has he compromised me? How do I get out of this?

There’s no easy way out. Just hope he doesn’t name the source of all his newfound knowledge. Next time someone asks for free advice, keep your mouth shut. A consultant I knew once told me that most people value advice on the basis of what they had to pay for it. On the other hand, if he was truly impressed, can you turn him into a client rather than a prospect?

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Knowledge is power. One source of knowledge is the chatter, conversations and the like that drift over cubicle walls. Is it kosher to use what I hear to my advantage in the office? (I’m not bugging anyone’s cubicle, this is just what I inadvertently overhear.)

No, never! And if you believe that, I’ve got some oceanfront land in Arizona to sell you. We’re talking business, not lifelong friendships. You need every edge you can get as long as you don’t lie or steal. Paying attention to what’s going on around you is just one way to get ahead. Listen, store it and use it when needed.

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Have a question for What’s Your Beef? E-mail getbeef@hawaiibusiness.com or mail it to What’s Your Beef, c/o Hawaii Business, 1000 Bishop St., Suite 405, Honolulu, HI 96813. Don’t be shy, the Curmudgeon has heard and seen it all. Your anonymity will be protected.

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