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Sunday 13-October-13

The Business Dinner

We were recently in Siena on a short break (lovely place) and were dining in a very Italian local restaurant when a group of local business people came in. They sat down together at a long table and I looked at them, recognizing much in terms of power positions and body language.

At the head of the table was clearly the manager of the group. He was slightly older than most of the group and better dressed. The others looked frequently at him and stopped to listen when he spoke. His body language was expansive and he looked around at everyone from time to time to check everyone was conforming with group rules (in this case, listening to him and having a good time).

One one side of the manager was a younger chap, hanging on every word and interjecting boldly. He looked like the wannabe striver, busy climbing the tree. On the other side was a somewhat older man. He was more relaxed and the manager listened to him more. Maybe a more senior chap just sitting in as a representative of higher management. Maybe also someone who just hadn't risen so far, but had an appreciated voice of experience.

The age and perhaps seniority reduced down the table, with fresh-faced young tykes towards the further end. Most of the party were men. There were only two women, who sat opposite one another, at the far end of the table. They were younger and looked smart. We wondered: why you see so few older women in business groups? I suspect it's some combination of having children, the career damage from the associated break and general hitting of glass ceilings. Italy is quite a matriarchal society, though men still seem to dominate in traditional business.

It was a pattern I've seen over many years. Many who attend business dinners have families and partners to return to may act with bonhomie but really this is just more work to them and the would prefer to be at home. For younger people it's a thrill to have a free dinner and maybe get kind attention of the boss. For the team, it can help with bonding them together, though shared work achievements are generally better for this.


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