Workplace Dangers: Manipulative People
The most dangerous of all workplace dangers, the manipulative coworker has mastered the art of aggression disguised as helpfulness, good intentions, or working "for the good of the company". Here's how to survive...
1943 Tips for Hiring Women
This is a section of a 1943 pamphlet prepared by a mass transportation trade magazine that outlined "how to use [women] to the best hiring advantage. The seminar question is... if you put aside the "little lady" tone and the sweeping generalizations you ought to expect from 1940s public discourse, how do you react to the tips themselves?
What NOT to say to Pregnant Women around the Office
Now that Miss Minchin has stepped over to the other side of motherhood, she has become much more aware of the awfully insensitive, ignorant, or downright rude things that some people seem to spontaneously utter to women who are expecting. Below are the top things one should never say...
20 Business Books they expect you have read
In the interest of your time management, and just in time for holiday hinting, BWFSandSC present our crib notes for 20 commonly cited business references, to help you keep up with the herd and select which of these texts will get your precious time
The Office Cocktail Party
How to drink • There is no rule against it, but be mindful of your behavior. Act as if you have seen alcohol before, and are capable of buying it for yourself. It may be open bar, but it is not your sister's wedding. • Use the cups the caterers brought. Bringing your own cup went out with gatoring at the Delta House. • It is unnecessary to comment on the caliber of wine being served....
Aug 13, 2012
Jan 10, 2012
Jon Younger, of the RBL Institute, offered a strong summary of the tool's purpose, along with guidelines for its use a few years ago in The Huffington Post. At the Finishing School, where some of our best friends are Managers, we are strongly in favor of employee engagement in general. It used to be a fundamental component of staff development, and was known in our day as ... Management.
American business is less about forming long-term relationships these days.
There is plenty to read on Stay Interview technique -- much of it strangely similar, and nearly all of written for the Manager.
Your faculty would like to complement Mr Younger's advice (and other postings of similar verbiage) with advice and encouragement for those being interviewed -- as well as a healthy dose of skepticism. Like performance reviews and promotions, these techniques can range from discovering hidden capacity to Exhibit A for moving you down the stacked-ranking list.
The sample questions we have seen for this exercise tend to be more "on the money" than you may be ready for. The Company goals may be to determine who will stay more than who wants to stay. Your answer may be the catalyst for new opportunities, but nearly all in the form of action items for you. It may be the source of new openness between you and Management; it may also force a response like... "that will probably never change." So consider your answers carefully.
Take your time - If you are not offered the time to take away the questions and answer them on your own, ask for it. Your gut response is probably honest, but needs to be refined (even professionally spun, if you will) in order to be useful feedback.
Use "I" messages: Still helpful advice in most interpersonal situations. By answering in terms of yourself, you a) own the experience, however subjective, and b) avoid putting management on the defensive, which never works in your favor.
Be professional: Putting the first twp tips together helps you achieve this one. When the Question is "What do you like about your job?" and the answer is "nothing," you need to find a non-threatening way to tell the truth. The same embroidery you put to your resume might be what you draw on now.
|needlework by mwashin|
"Pays the bills" = financially rewarding
"Close to home" = flexibility
"Good teammates" = "Good teammates" Management loves this feedback, actually. It says that they made many good hiring decisions, and that you are a team player
Don't oversell: at the same time, though, don't feel obligated to write a college admissions essay. Bullet points are fine. They are going to force you to talk it out anyway, and with minimal talking points, you can adjust your response to best suit the tone of the meeting, without having to commit to something you wrote last night over a gin and tonic.
Don't ask for the impossible: A 20% raise would make all of us like our jobs more, but that is unlikely. Now you have given your manager an impossible goal.
Don't ask for the undeliverable: That is, if you say you'd like to learn the budgeting process, be prepared to be delegated to.
In both cases, you can open yourself to an easy win, such as getting a mentor, or leading a small workgroup, that solves problems other people have expressed in their stay interviews.
According to much of the Manager-focused information on this engagement tool, your being asked to participate in a Stay Interview is to be taken a compliment. Most of this information identifies "top performers" as the first people to interview about why they stay. So take it in the spirit it is intended, and try not to pine for the days when Management knew why you stayed, because that was their goal all along.
Dec 25, 2011
This is not Miss Bender's usual lecture about the paper trail -- of the CYA/Kumbaya variety. We'd like to go a little wider and deeper in today's class. These are habits you need firmly established before you need them. Because you never know when you are going to be deposed.
Let's review some examples of a email reply, with attachment.
1) subject line: none. No message text
2) subject line: "spreadsheet". message - "Here ya go." or... "per our conversation," (however formal your environment tends to be)
3) subject line (name of attachment): message text:
Three months or 3 years after that report has been cited as evidence in a business issue, you will be glad you chose #3.
I acknowledge the tedium of email. It is actually more annoying than business by phone (if that is possible) and can be terribly time-consuming. In the corporate arena, especially, we are buried in it, and without secretaries to weed it out for us. Most days, it seems the only way to get through it all is to reply-yes, reply-no, reply-see attached, reply-please reschedule... and you already made a macro to insert "Please." F12 is nice for that.
Take this Pop-Quiz
Pull a history of the last 6 month's emails on any given category of your work. (If you are not yet using Outlook categories to reference your email, please set aside additional time to read this). Based on what you find, could you put together a reliable discovery-worthy history of events, using only these official business documents you yourself created? Then I urge you to begin tomorrow, writing business emails so complete you could come back to work after a traumatic brain injury and still know what you were doing last week.
These do not have to be baroque in style -- heretofore, forthwith, whereas -- or even particularly long. They need to be
Thorough - if you need a template, try this:
- The Big picture this pertains to.
- The central message of this email.
- Action on the part of the reader.
- Next steps for the sender.
Date and Time stamped - the easy part is done for you already. What you also want to include are points of reference that can be useful, such as noting to Brenda that the report was run "a few minutes" before the time stamp on the message. The action came out of "today's call," which likely has minutes or notes stored elsewhere. Date your attachments whenever possible, also. If it is later modified, its properties will tell you that; the date in its name can signal when it was created, run, or what it refers to (Annual_Report_2010). If you develop a consistency for your own dating convention, the document name will have immediate meaning for you and your recipients.
Cross-Reference - Refer to supporting documents, work request IDs, meeting minutes, and the like by their full names. This will be exceptionally handy even if no one seizes your records. If the email is internal only, consider linking directly to shared documents from within the message so they can be retrieved immediately.
Recycle - Another handy tip for general productivity, and a sure thing for keeping the story straight. Copy statements from your minutes, right to your action items, to your progress reports, your dashboards, your email messages. No telephone game here -- and in a desktop search, you'll find all the documentation that pertains to that item. (And if you are not yet using a desktop search tool besides the one your operating system came with, please set aside additional time to read this. )
Learn how to make a quick and relevant timeline out of your email archive. Test yourself on a project some time back -- a year ago, even -- by making a 1 page document of key actions, milestones, decisions based only on what you can retrieve from your email. Management is easily assuaged by
mm/dd/yyyy: PERSON takes ACTION - QUANTITATIVE RESULT
mm//dd/yyyy: AUTHORITY decides to DO/NOT DO
In which case, please set aside additional time to read this.
Happy New Year from the Business Women's Finishing School & Social Club.
Tell us what's on your mind.
Oct 6, 2011
"I'm at my wit's end," Chambers' letter began, "so I thought I would pen a quick relatively snarky post."
We at the Finishing School do appreciate the snarky. We even appreciate the stomp around and overturn the water cooler. But even at the highest levels of the faculty, our motto is... When you want to stand on the table, write a helpful post instead.
Here are a few ways to do just that. Comments are welcome.
2. Appeal to the diva/star/megalomaniac in the other, otherwise known as "sucking up." Best to be subtle here. And be sure to insert your request! A shame to waste a good suck-up.
3. Bargain/horsetrade. In order to do this you need to cultivate something the other might want, and make it known that you have it, and MIGHT share it, but only with certain kinds of people.
4. Threaten to escalate. This is akin to "I'm telling mom on you" and may be laughed at and/or may irritate the "mom" in question, so be sparing with the use of this one.
5 Public shaming. This doesn't need to involve the press. It may involve a weekly meeting where many are in attendance. It can be effective but can backfire.
6. Build coalitions: harness the power of many in your favor. Be prepared to give back to the coalition you've built (see bargain/horsetrade).
Ms Chambers may be somewhat tongue in cheek. She may also have something here. What works for you, when you need to influence without any authority?
Sep 14, 2011
"… At first I didn't feel that I had much to contribute to the conversation, but I have been considering your questions and I wanted to follow up. I really like working here and being part of the team. I want to see us grow and be successful. If I were in your shoes, I think I might want to focus on bringing in some new skill sets to round out the team. We have some great technical minds in our leadership, and a great group of people doing the work. I think for the next set of hires it would be important to round things out by bringing someone in with some outside experience in (fill in the blanks: managing teams, building a business, etc)..."
- stick to the facts as she knows them
- avoid getting emotional so she can be as objective as possible
- focus on what positive changes she'd like to see within the group and explain their business benefit
Your sticky situations and request for advice are handled by real working professionals at the leadership tier.
Jun 8, 2011
Senior Thesis Proposal, Pam Beasley Halpert
They are not new to the world of work, just to your world of work. Help your new colleagues feel welcome and prepared without being overwhelming or condescending.
Having new people around is a little like having the Boss listen in on your meeting: you are bound to be a lot more polite and discreet than you would ordinarily. Suppressing the daily grouse can also make you want to avoid the new people, and that is unfair. They are nervous, and lonesome, and eager to please....with very little to do while they watch the rest of you scramble around complaining in your secret insider language. Try a little niceness.
"How's it going?" is a simple conversation starter that lets them take charge of steering the conversation. A couple of moments in the day where they don't have to answer "I don't know" is a nice gift that costs you nothing.
Remember the personal questions. Again, on the size of their family, the town they live in, and the source of that wall calendar there.... they are experts.
Invite them along to meetings and phone calls, even if you think they are tortuous and repetitive. Every opportunity is a new opportunity, and you just may discover they have some background/inside info on the topic at hand. This technique works best when you can brief them ahead of the meeting, and de-brief afterward, but you may not always have the time. If you have to choose only one, choose the pre-brief, so at least they understand what is happening.
Never say it's tortuous and repetitive. Self-discovery is another of the small joys of the new workplace.
Stop for lunch. Or even dinner.
Introduce them. The walk-around is over-rated, but it does work. What else works is simply introducing them to people you are standing there talking to. You should do this for at least 6 months, at which time the no-longer-new should be responsible for, "We haven't met. I'm...." This is a good practice for you too, because there are new people... everywhere.
We are interested in hearing your New Kid stories, and Visiting Remote Worker stories. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your Best and Worst. Confidentially is always protected.
Counterparts: Foreign Exchange Students of the Workplace
May 27, 2011
Parents in our student body may have already explored this topic. Your Miss Bender is on field research this week, as a spinster businesswoman with little other-life experience. Living through the eyes of a 4 year-old this week is a fascinating look into how we get here. Give me the princess until she is 7.... and I will give you the Chairwoman of the Board.
If you live within a mile of a 4 year-old girl, you understand the pull of Princesses. I gave up trying to explain it years ago. I accept that for most of this demographic, the world is painted in lavendar and pink, and everyone wears a crown. A fraction of the group who don't actually believe it go along with it out of cultural deference, and the rest of them go horsey or live as boys. (Don't start writing your letter yet; I am just getting started)
I am not against princesses, and I am not going to blame Disney for them. A girl's gotta be what a girl's gotta be, and if it involves unicorns and rainbows, so be it. When you draw a girl's smiling face in sidewalk chalk, and your 4 year-old charge asks, "Can I draw her crown...?" you are up against a new kind of reality. (4 year olds say "drawl," as you know)
Among the library books we read (in our matching pink reading chairs while one of us was dressed as Belle) this week is Princesses are Not Perfect, whose author has just found this post through her favorite search engine, and will be writing within the hour. The surface message of the story is meant to be that you don't have to excel at everything you try -- in fact most people, even princesses, can not do everything perfectly.
Inside Princess are NotPerfect, I found a more confusing layer of messages, and a generation of Women Who Do Too Much in the making. It happens like this.
Each of 3 princesses has a specialized skill. One is a gardener, one a baker, and one a builder, in an interesting push against gender-specific occupations. While planning the big party, the builder announces that she is tired of always doing the same job, and what if she tried doing the baking this year? The other princesses are uneasy about working outside their sphere of expertise, but convinced they can excel at whatever they try, they agree to shift duties.
Hilarity ensues, as you might expect -- the builder gardens with a chainsaw, the baker slathers glue like frosting, and the gardener pours flour onto the kitchen flour and rakes in the ingredients. Each makes a hopless and imperfect mess at her contribution to the party.
Confusing message #1 - you have perfect...or a mess. Nothing in between.
They each lie to the others about how great the project is going and go to their separate beds.
Confusing message #2 - Never ask for help from people who could.
Stressed beyond sleeping, each princess paces, and tosses, and drinks relaxing liquids, thinking about...
not how they will explain what happened to the chairs, the cupcakes, or the centerpieces they attempted, but sensing what a horrible mess the other princess must have made working on their part.
Confusing message #3 - Delegation = disaster. Just do everything yourself.
Each gets up in the middle of the night to work will her tools, as"the only thing" that will calm her.
Confusing message #4 - People want you to rescue them. No, they really do. And you're the best at it.
No one questions the turn of events. They are all grateful, and the village children have a wonderful party. Confusing message #5 - Stay in your box.
The line in the story is "do what you love," which is also a good positive message. Unfortunately, it is written like this (emphasis mine):
"Princesses," said Princess Allie, "are good at what they love." (in fact, perfect at what they love. And terrible at anything else.) "You don't have to be good at everything to be a princess." (but you do have to be a princess).What a nice story it would be if they had helped each other learn a new skill and produce something original and good, if not perfect. If the cupcakes were decorated with real roses, and the chairs filligreed like wedding cakes, and the centerpieces architectural wonders of climbing topiary and hanging baskets. What if we let ourselves try something new and celebrated the experience rather than the outcome.
Mar 30, 2011
Came across your web page and "ask a manager" section particularly interested me.
Here's my query: hope I get some guidance.
An overview to my profile:
I am an MBA graduate.
An HR professional (Based abroad)
I've worked for 5 yrs with mostly start-up organizations. Throughout my career I made sure that I give my best to the organizations (for which I did win loads of accolades as well).
To the best of my knowledge, I've always had positive feedback about my work and personality.
I got married in 2008; due to demands at home my work suffered and I was fired (without any prior warning). The markets crashed soon after and unemployment prevailed for most of the year in 2009. By the time the markets got greener for jobs, I got pregnant and had to continue staying at home.
My child is 6 months old now. I am ready to work now.
I am not clearing any interviews in spite of most interviews having indicated good outcome.
Most difficult questions/situations interviewers present me with are :
•why a junior position if I apply for non senior positions (after being a senior manager) ;
•why did you leave your previous job ?(gets tricky if I tell them the truth and will get messy if they find out that I was fired!).
•Some state I am too qualified to start off again at a junior position.
•Could it be possible that my previous employers are giving a negative feedback. (Is it possible that a company reference checks with my previous employers without my knowledge? )
As we say in the service business, you are only as strong as your last encounter. It can be difficult to bounce back from a termination, though you say you are “ready to work.” Let’s see if we can emphasize this aspect of your candidacy in your next round of interviews.
In this market, of course, most candidates are more than ready to work, and many are laid off from senior high-paying roles and competing for junior positions. You have your work cut out for you. The market also works in your favor in one way: most candidates have a gap between their most recent employment and the present day. You may have the advantage in some cases of being assumed laid off, rather than terminated, and you are under no obligation to reveal that in an interview.
When the question arises, meet it honestly. You may even use it as a selling point.
Never Stop Learning
If this is also a situation where you are applying for a role junior to one you held before, or seem more naturally qualified for, you can also add, “I may not have been ready for that level. In my current job search, I am looking for opportunities to refine my current skills and better prepare myself to return to the senior role.” Again, a question back keeps the conversation flowing in a feel-good direction. “Can you tell me about professional training or mentor opportunities in your organization?”
I was once surprised to be listed as a reference for an employee I had terminated. It had been years before, it was for cause, and with warning... and I bore no grudge. I gave the HR screener who called me all the positive feedback I could about the candidate’s skills and talents. And I did say, “You should know that I did terminate 'Isabel,' though it was many years ago. You may want to ask her about time management and meeting performance goals, which had given her difficulty. I expect she has developed since then and has some strong ideas about how to help others with that challenge.”
Mar 22, 2011
I long for the days when job offers were made over the telephone, rather than through email. When you were courted by a company that wanted to hire you, rather than having to remind them – “Hey, you have a job to fill, remember?”
Perhaps it is the economic downturn that has left the state of human resources and recruitment in such a mess, as those folks along with the sales and marketing teams are usually the first to be escorted to the door. Perhaps I have unrealistic expectations (that has happened before).
Perhaps you should be the judge.
I would not consider myself to be actively "in the market" for a new position, but I am always open to an opportunity to better my situation. When a co-worker recently departed my company, she mentioned that there may be an opening for me at her new place of employment, and encouraged me to apply. She would be happy to refer me, she said. So I applied.
Yes, actually, I do.
Since my initial phone screen was actually with the hiring manager, rather than a human resources professional, I had never been appropriately "screened" for this position. So like any good recruiter, my interviewer attempted to obtain my salary requirements before sending me off to meet the masses. However, I was already sitting in front of her, and had taken the day off to go to this interview. The last thing I wanted was for it to be over before it even started. I did as any prepared candidate would do: I side stepped the issue and we moved on.
The interviews went well. I learned that a previous candidate had refused the position -- for personal reasons, I was told. Hmm.
Were there other candidates? No.
Would there be? No.
“We don’t give out that information.”
“How will we get anywhere if you don’t give out that information?” I replied.
“We ask the candidates to tell us what they are making and then go from there.”
Yes, well, I will not be doing that. Perhaps a different tack.
“Well, I think this position may be paying in a range of x to y. However, I already make more than y, so were you to make me an offer in that range, I would be disappointed, as I’m sure, so would you. Is this position paying x to y?”
“We could be competitive with that.”
What does that mean? “You must have a budget for the position.”
“Yes, we do.”
“And what would that be?”
A little giggle on the other end of the phone. Seriously, she laughed at me. She indicated that she would need to speak to the hiring manager before she could provide me with any concrete information.
Since I was sure I had blown it, I called my reference to let her know what had happened. She didn’t like what she heard and relayed this event to the individual who had recruited her: the manager of the recruiter I was dealing with. Imagine my surprise when that afternoon, I received a call from the manager of human resources for this company.
“I just wanted to get some feedback from you on how the process was going.”
I proceeded to have a nice conversation with this woman, who, wonder of wonders, disclosed to me the range for the position. How refreshing!
I thanked her for the information, as price communicates something about a job. It tells you about the level of discretion this position will have, the qualifications expected and where it sits in the organization. Clearly, a job paying $50,000 is not going to have the same level of decision making and autonomy attached to it that a job paying $100,000 will. She asked me not to disclose to the recruiter that we had this conversation, and to "let the process play out." I agreed.
The recruiter eventually phoned me back and indicated a range that the hiring manager would be willing to offer. I thanked her as well, and indicated my availability for a second round of interviews.
“My scheduler will be in touch.”
Three business days pass, no word. The day before the interview was targeted to be scheduled, I prompted her with an email. “The schedule came out today. Didn’t you receive it?” Actually, no I didn’t. I adjusted my schedule so I can attend the second round with members of 2 functional areas that I would be supporting.
Today, I received an email that read as follows:
"both Jim and John enjoyed meeting you. It was also nice to see you again.
I met with Joe Hiring Manager this morning and we are working on putting together an offer for you.
I will be in touch soon."
The Wicked Recruiter: Waiting for the Offer...
Mar 15, 2011
A story comes to us this morning that Spokesduck Gilbert Gottfried has been dismissed by Aflac for a steady stream of tweets making light of conditions in post-earthquake Japan. We might all agree to cry "Too Soon!" on this play; when you are the voice of an insurance company.... well, that just won't do.
Oh, our Tweets will undo us, won't they? Tweets are the new Send-All email gaffes we all made 15 years ago. We all have a story of accidentally sending to an entire distribution list an off-color joke or response to the company meeting. And that was just an extension of being caught passing the slam-book from row to row.
hold you personally responsible for what you do. This post is for the management. Because it can be difficult to know when something requires crisis communication... and when you are just doing more damage. The public does want to know you are in control, yes. They want to feel confident that "you people" re not running some "kind of show." A PR crisis is what company spokesmen train so hard for, like raw recruits who just want the chance to show what they got. And as we have become accustomed to the pattern of Incident, followed by on-line polls by so-called news agencies asking what we think of Said Incident, and whether Offender should Apologize, then Formal Apology and Eventual Firing... we may be losing sight of the scale of crisis.
We must praise this story on the American Red Cross -- an organization with its share of public image trouble, since every time America gets inspired enough to give them blood, they seem to have trouble handling it. (reference one, and reference two). In this case, a cooler management head prevailed, and a simple "I'm so stupid" acknowledgment and a joke at their own expense put the entire matter in its right place in the news cycle. Even the other company implicated found the opportunity to come out ahead (and let us know there is a thing called beernews.org).
Whether the Tweeting employee was more strongly disciplined behind closed doors, we don't know, and don't need to. We are glad to know that not everyone gets fired for every boneheaded error, however public -- that there are still Ones to Grow On , even for our media-savvy Media Specialists. The Red Cross's official spokeswoman masterfully addressed the public "concern" while reminding us of the brand and the mission: “We are an organization that deals with life-changing disasters and this wasn’t one of them,”she said.
Please remember that blood products have a short shelf life. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies needs blood every day. For the catastrophes, cash is better. Give what you can, whenever you can.