The Virtuous CIO  

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April 8, 2010 — The Business Dinner, Part 3

At the conclusion of the business dinner we come to what may be the most sensitive part of the meeting. If you have been invited to the dinner and apparently no one has made arrangements for picking up the check, now is the time to pay careful attention.

If your company has explicit rules for accepting or buying meals with vendors you need to inform your host at the outset. Most state and federal government agencies have stringent rules which are designed to prevent any conflict of interest. Many of these rules are enshrined in law, and you obviously don't want to step outside of that set of guidelines, regardless of what you may think of them.

If the check comes and everyone at the table starts looking around uncomfortably, just grab the check and pay it. You can always settle with your boss or with other participants from your company later. Many business people, particularly in the sales and marketing area, play the game in which they will try very hard to stick other departments in the company with a check for business dinners. In this way, normal business expenses do not show up on their budget and it leaves them looking good. Actually I find this to be a rather despicable practice. If your boss lets you pick up the tab and is not willing to reimburse you from company funds, you should take this as good incentive to get your resume up to date. I would not want to work for someone who pulls things like that, and I would immediately begin looking for a new home.

If someone from your company is not willing to cover the cost of a business dinner, they probably attended for the wrong reasons and may not necessarily have the best interests of the company at heart. From a business, management, or career perspective be wary when working with these people in the future. They are often looking out for themselves. The company and you, in that order, have a lower priority.

In addition to being plain good sense, grabbing the check may be a career enhancer. It demonstrates to everyone present that you do not like to play games, and are not interested in embarrassing your coworkers or vendors. It also shows good leadership. People remember these things.

So, enjoy the business dinner. Work toward successfully concluding the business. As I finish writing this, I am getting ready to leave for a business dinner myself.