Vancouver city staff are being trained in the finer points of international protocol
Over 600 employees at the City of Vancouver have been issued their official Olympic gear and are busy preparing for the throngs of dignitaries and visitors about to descend upon us in the coming weeks. This includes attending special classroom training on the do's and don'ts of Olympic protocol. Almost every City department will be affected by the Games, as hundreds of employees are seconded to work at various Olympic venues throughout Vancouver. Given there is a good probability staff will be rubbing shoulders with some of the world's elite politicians and royalty, it is essential they understand the ABCs of international protocol.
CityCaucus.com has obtained a copy of the official Olympic protocol handbook that City employees have been provided with over the last several weeks. The guide covers everything from the proper way to smile to when bathroom breaks are appropriate. The 120+ page guide book is very slick looking and has raised the ire of some employees who think it is simply overkill.
Some of the best advice to staff comes in the form of how to dress. The protocol guide provides a number of helpful hints to ensure some of the more slovenly employees shape up:
It is important to wear clothing that fits properly. Never dress in clothes that are too tight, they may make a slim person look gaunt and a large person look heavier. Make sure all attire is clean and pressed. Dress shirts may stain easily. Some protocol personnel carry extra shirts with them. Avoid wearing short socks. If they are too short, they may show bare leg when you sit down. Wear knee-high socks or stockings that reach above the calf. Socks should match pant colour. Accessories such as jewelry should be conservative. hair should be kept tidy yet stylish.
So you think you have a million dollar smile? Be careful, a bit too much smiling might get you in hot water with the President of Morotania. Here is what the guide says:
A smile denotes warmth, openness and friendliness. Smile "gently" and with sincerity. Be careful not to overdo it. False smiles can look artificial, and never-ending smiles may invite suspicion. A frown or a furrowed brow suggests anger or worry, even if your words are positive.
This guide is clearly full of very useful information that all employees should know, however, if you're not familiar with issues of protocol, it may all seem a bit bizarre.
Thinking of getting chummy with the Prince of Ulekestan? That's a no no:
You may get close to certain dignitaries and spend a great deal of time with them. But remember, you are not their friend and you are on duty. Be friendly and polite, but keep a certain reserve.
In section 17 of Appendix 17, the City cover issues related to handling bathroom breaks:
You'll be busy throughout the day so it is important that you keep hydrated by drinking lots of water and fluids. When you have an extra minute or it is convenient, use the toilet because you never know when you'll next have a break.
I'm pretty confident that not listening to that last bit of advice may well end up creating some sort of an international incident - or is it accident? In a section titled "Look Your Best", the City tries to ensure staff always put up a brave face despite some possibly adverse conditions:
Look your best - smile, be confident, cheery, upbeat, positive. even if you are nervous and unsure if what you are doing is correct, do not let the dignitary see that side of you.
As for how to handle the distribution of business cards:
Remember to exchange business cards as a courtesy and a communication aid. Present and receive business cards with both hands (typical in Asian countries). Be sure to have the side with the host language face up. Never use your left hand to offer or receive a card. The left hand is reserved for "unclean" functions in Middle Eastern cultures.
It must take City staff hours to memorize all the finer details laid out in the guide. This is especially true when it comes to the colour mugshots of the city councillors that was slipped into the appendix section. If you see a councillor walking in your direction, you'd best know their name!
Vancouver has one of the best protocol offices in the country – bar none! It takes its job very seriously, as any goof up could well become an international incident. That said, although the guide is well laid out and researched, it has clearly caught some folks off guard.
I for one think it should it is a must-read for all the current civic politicians on council who could actually learn a thing or two about etiquette. Do you recall the tip which refers to wearing the same coloured socks as your suit? Well, we'll thought you'd enjoy this excerpt from the Globe and Mail's profile on Mayor Robertson from last weekend:
...on a warm January day, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson tucks his grey suit pants into his blue dress socks, dons a helmet and sets off from his two-storey home near City Hall.
UPDATE: After first indicating they wouldn't do it, the city has now posted the protocol handbook online. Check it out here.
- post by Daniel