Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Nearly everyone has a story about someone at work who has been rude.
Perhaps it was the boss who sent a snippy e-mail or the co-worker who made snarky comments, but workplace civility often seems to have gone the way of the typewriter.
The deeper issue with workplace rudeness is how it affects the bottom-line success of a business. A2011 study found that workplace rudeness caused 48% of workers to deliberately slack off and even affected their interactions with customers.
It also caused internal strife as workers reported spending time worrying about a rude interaction or lost work time trying to figure out how to avoid an uncivil co-worker.
Ron Ashkenas, a senior partner at Schaffer Consulting, says reliance on technology has spurred more workplace complaints of incivility.
"It's difficult to pick up social cues when you're always communicating virtually and aren't seeing someone face to face," Ashkenas says. "Without picking up on cues, you may just plow on without realizing how someone else is reacting."
Young workers often are cited as sending texts instead of communicating in person or via phone, which some older colleagues find rude. But Ashkenas says no one age group holds the record for uncivil behavior, and all employees can improve their interactions.
Young workers can help improve perceptions by putting down their smartphones in meetings and focusing on what their teammates are saying, says Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success.
He also suggests that young workers push themselves to get away from their cubicles and e-mail. Instead, they should meet with the boss or co-workers in person.
"If you rely too much on technology for communicating, it will be hard to build strong interpersonal relationships," he says.
Ashkenas says that he has experienced his share of rude workplace behavior, such as one person who sent him an urgent e-mail requesting information.
The request required Ashkenas to work feverishly to pull to together the information from several different sources, but he managed to respond quickly.
The response? Nothing.
"I got no feedback. No thank you," he says. "Two weeks later after I sent a note asking if they got the information, they responded with 'Oh, yeah.' It was like it had fallen into a cyber black hole."
Too many people have become focused on clearing the decks of their own workload, which means firing off e-mail requests without any real thought about how it will affect the receiver, Ashkenas says.
"It's like the person who sends out a mass e-mail asking for ideas on how to solve a problem," he says. "What you're really doing is getting other people to do your work."
Ashkenas and Schawbel offer several suggestions on how to avoid being seen as rude at work. Among their ideas:
• Not everything is urgent. While we have become a 24/7 culture, don't expect colleagues to respond immediately to everything.
Make it clear if something is urgent, but don't put deadline pressures on them that are unnecessary. If a request is made, respond with feedback or a simple "thank you."
• Don't cut corners with texting or instant messages. Emoticons or text abbreviations are irritating to those receiving them. "You need to be professional in the workplace regardless of how you communicate," Schawbel says.
• Watch the cell yell. People often talk loudly on their cellphones at work, and Schawbel says he personally finds it annoying to listen to long personal conversations with significant others or friends.
• Set boundaries. Meet with a team to discuss proper protocol such as to when work should be considered urgent and what workplace behaviors are considered rude.
What does it mean to treat someone with respect and courtesy? What can be done when rude behavior takes place?
Experts say if you're not sure if your behavior may be discourteous, you simply should think about some of the rude behaviors that you find annoying. Then make sure you're not doing the same to other people.
Often just becoming more aware of how your actions affect others can go a long way toward alleviating workplace rudeness.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Why the Best Leaders Open Doors
It's amazing how life's most important lessons sometimes seem to come from the most unexpected places. Read on for how Bill Treasurer learned a key leadership lesson from someone who isn't even close to voting or getting his driver's license his latest column I did for Gannett/USA Today....
What makes a good boss?
The question was posed on Twitter recently, and here are some of the responses:
• "A good boss treats employees with respect, works as hard as everyone else, solves problems quickly and fairly," Pop Culture Nerd says.
• "A good boss listens!" Matt Eventoff tweets.
• A good boss "mentors her (or his) employees" while providing ongoing opportunities for professional development, Jeana Harrington says.
Those seem like reasonable requests, but too many bosses fall short. They get caught up in complicated leadership theories or make trite declarations without any intent behind them.
Bill Treasurer, author of Leaders Open Doors, says he learned a key leadership insight when his son was 5 years old.
Treasurer's son, tapped to be class leader one day at his preschool, noted that his job meant he "opened doors for people," Treasurer says.
"That really said it all right there," he says. "It was so simple. But that's what real leaders do. They open doors for people."
A Hogan Assessment Systems study found that the worst quality in a boss is arrogance, while great bosses are trustworthy. Bad bosses also are seen as manipulative, micromanaging, passive-aggressive and distrustful of others.
Bosses who focus on providing opportunities for others are the most memorable, Treasurer says.
"Think about the people you admire, the people who have affected you most. Those are the people who give you a shot, who give you a chance to prove yourself," he says.
These are not the kind of leaders who tout an open-door policy or some other leadership gimmick, he says.
"You do need to mentor other people, but you've got to be strategic and think deeply about what you do and having an open door lets people distract you all the time," Treasurer says. "The people who talk about an open-door policy are often immature leaders because they're not focused."
Research from Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the University of Utah finds that teaching better methods or skills to workers is the biggest part of what makes a boss effective.
Treasurer says leaders need to spend more time getting to know their workers better so they can understand a worker's motivations and career goals. Once that is understood, then the employee and leader can work together on achieving the objective.
While leaders work with employees to develop skills and reach goals, Treasurer says they also should look for ways to make employees afraid.
He clarifies that he's not talking about fear through intimidation or threatening job loss, but pushing a worker into areas that may scare them professionally or push them out of their comfort zone.
"Growth and comfort don't go together," he says. "It may not endear you to them, but you've got to help them confront uncomfortable things. Have the courage to tell them the truth when they need to hear it."
Treasurer had his own uncomfortable moment: A boss told him that while he thought he was doing a good job, he also "thought I was becoming a bit of a brownnoser."
"He was willing to say that thing to me that made me uncomfortable, but he did it because I needed to hear it," Treasurer says. "The boss who is willing to confront those uncomfortable truths with you can end up giving you more confidence."
Treasurer says any leaders wanting to make a difference for workers should do these things:
• Push workers to stop playing it safe.
"Too many bosses talk about 'you better be careful' or 'you better clean that up,' and that's not telling workers to take a risk," he says.
• Keep the best days in front of them.
"You can't be reliving the glory days of the past," he says.
• Stop using the word "problem." Instead, talk about "challenges."
• Not lead through fear.
"A common response from leaders these days is to talk about what keeps them up at night," Treasurer says. "They're transmitting fear and anxiety to their people. They're too focused on what they need instead of what others need."
Treasurer, who says his all book royalties will go to "organizations that open doors for people with special needs" notes that leaders should never underestimate the power of providing opportunities to employees.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Friday, April 26, 2013
Why Your Neurotic Colleague is So Valuable
There's lots of advice out there about how you have to develop an elevator pitch, use self branding to communicate your message and speak up in meetings to make sure the boss doesn't forget you.
But what about the introverts who quietly do their jobs every day, who keep companies humming along without saying much?
This story I did for Gannett/USA Today shows that managers would be remiss in not realizing their value....
Are you the type of person who works quickly, is open to new opportunities and plans for best-case scenarios?
Or are you the type who works slowly, strives for accuracy and feels anxious when things go wro
Your answers not only give insights into your strengths but also can help you — and your bosses — understand what best motivates you to achieve results. The topic is explored in a new book, Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and Influence.
Authors Heidi Grant Halvorson and E. Tory Higgins say that the old carrot-and-stick approach of motivation doesn't work. The reason: Different people have different motivations. Using the wrong approach can backfire and lead to failure.
If you're someone comfortable taking chances but often without a Plan B, you're considered a promotion-based person. That means inspirational role models motivate you, and you become more engaged when you hear about a high-performing salesperson. You feel dejected when things go wrong.
On the other hand, those who have top-notch analytical and problem-solving skills, are stressed by short deadlines and are uncomfortable with praise are considered prevention-focused. Strong cautionary tales that show lessons learned after a wrong approach motivate them best.
People who are promotion-focused people often thrive in more creative careers, such as musicians, copywriters, inventors and consultants, Higgins says. They thrive in jobs where they are rewarded for being innovative, and practicality isn't a top priority.
"They are eager and enthusiastic and willing to take some chances," he says.
The prevention-focused often do better in more conventional jobs such as administrators, bookkeepers and technicians.
"It's more natural for them to be vigilant," he says.
The key for managers is employing both kinds of workers then playing to their strengths by using the right kind of motivation, Higgins says.
The best way managers can tell the kind of employee they are dealing with is by looking at whether the person seems to be an optimist or a worrier, Halvorson says.
"How do they respond to your suggestions when you suggest something new? Are they enthusiastic, or do they chime in with their own ideas? If so, that's promotion-focused. Do they seem uncomfortable and argue for the old way of doing things? Then that's prevention-focused," she says.
Halvorson says employees also can use their own predisposition to be more successful at work.
If you know you're a creative type who responds well when you feel like you're making progress, you can let the boss know that acknowledging small wins keeps you motivated. Or if you do better when you have more time to get things done correctly, let the boss know you like honest feedback.
"My experience with managers when leading seminars or consulting is that they reallywant this information," Halvorson says. "When you phrase it as 'This is what works best for me' rather than 'I need you to do this,' it can be a really productive exchange."
Halvorson and Higgins say they hope the research will help managers better understand what they need to do to motivate workers — and what workers can do to motivate themselves.
"Motivation is not one size fits all," Halvorson says. "Promotion- and prevention-focused people work very differently, but they can both be very successful when given tasks and feedback that fit with their motivational focus."
Friday, April 19, 2013
6 Ways to Ensure Meetings Don't Suck
I recently was asked if I would run for a community board position.
I declined with a polite, "No, thank you."
The reason? I know this particular board has meetings. Lots and lots of meetings. With people who don't know how to shut up and drag in everything but the kitchen sink once they get wound up.
There has to be a better way to conduct meetings, right?
Read this latest column I did for Gannett/USA Today....
"If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be
— Dave Barry
Many people feel the same way as humorist Dave Barry.
The complaints heard most often about meetings are that they're often unnecessary, don't accomplish much and are too long.
Matt Eventoff, owner of Princeton Public Speaking, says that meetings are becoming less productive and more annoying with the availability of smartphones and other technology gadgets that participants are using while they meet.
"Text messages and emails are a constant distraction," he says. "People start reading and writing on their smartphones as they wait for their turn to speak — if it ever comes."
A Clarizen survey finds that 57% of respondents admit to multi-tasking during meetings, and that could be because they envision the work piling up on their desks. Almost 1 in 5 workers in a Jive Software study say that meetings prevent them from getting work done.
To further add to the frustration for workers, the Clarizen survey finds that 59% say preparing for a status meeting often takes longer than the meeting itself.
Eventoff says that executives feel the pain, as well.
He says they tell him they often spend the majority of their workday in meetings with no break times to return phone calls — or even go to the bathroom.
"When I've asked them when they actually do their work, they say they get it done at night," he says.
So what's the solution to making meetings more effective? Eventoff advises:
• A call-to-action agenda. It's not enough to have a general agenda that gives the meeting time and who will attend.
It's critical that the purpose of the meeting be clearly stated and that you get participants thinking beforehand about what they need to do to be prepared.
• A determination of what success will look like. Is a decision needed? Does a document need to be written?
"Even if you don't achieve every objective, have clear objectives laid out, in writing, and discuss where you are with each before the meeting ends," Eventoff says.
• An assignment of responsibilities. Always state out loud during the meeting who will be responsible for things like follow-up or other specific actions.
"Articulate this out loud," Eventoff says. "Assumptions are a dangerous game."
• A 45-minute limit. Meetings that are scheduled for an hour don't give participants the time to take care of other business before the next meeting and lead to people walking in late to the next session.
That only causes distraction and frustration — then causes that meeting to run late. The problem will snowball as the day goes on, forcing people to work after hours to get their work done.
In addition, Parkinson's law, which states that work will expand to fill the time available for it's completion, will kick in if meetings are allowed to last for an entire hour. Limiting the time will help keep participants on topic and curtail the windbags.
• A trust in the team. Scheduling too many meetings for constant status updates, brainstorming sessions and general business prevents employees from taking the initiative in their work.
Eventoff suggests cutting back to two formal meetings a week to see what happens.
"Meetings oftentimes remove personal accountability because you're not letting the employees make any decisions for themselves," he says.
• Conciseness. Employees should be encouraged to keep their remarks short and to the point, and some companies have found asking everyone to stand during a session helps long-winded colleagues trim their comments as they begin to experience aching feet.