Let's Talk Work

because there are two sides to every story


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Comfort or support, in private or in public.

I feel a need to comment on this most recent allegation of being ‘violated’ in some way by the beloved Joe Biden. First, this presumed incident took place 5 years ago. Why now?

This Nevada politician was getting support from Biden, not affection. Does it take 5 years to suddenly feel inappropriately touched or kissed? Really? What’s changed.

We cannot put Biden in the same category or even sentence of those who have set the fires of the me#2 movement. A lesson learned long ago and sadly too often personally, and of course, in my work in HR and forever training in, and training of, and writing policies on sexual harassment – there are some very practical points.

First — if something makes you feel violated, harassed or simply uncomfortable – say something. SAY SOMETHING – at that moment to the person(s) who made you feel that way; even if you need to take them to aside to avoid humiliation or embarrassing yourself or them. Most times, that person may not realize that their own long-lived tendency towards affectionate behavior may be offensive to anyone, particularly if no one has voiced their discomfort to them.

Second — I am aware of many people who don’t like to be hugged, or touched by anyone. That goes beyond a personal space issue. It’s their own nature that should be respected. Of course, casual acquaintances may not be aware of these boundaries. But if we are at all conscientious of others, have any sense of emotional intelligence – we may be able to sense that hesitation by others, through their own cues. Do they hug back or hold back? Do they consent or do they cringe? We’re not all family or BFFs and in professional scenarios – but many of us (me included) may extend our own congeniality to others because it’s in our nature. We need to be more self-aware in order to recognize the nature of others’.

Lastly – why now? This woman who is now being interviewed because of her accusations is getting a lot of publicity. Is that what she is seeking? If she asked for or was offered support by Joe Biden in her political endeavors back in 2014 – would she not have already been familiar with his personality, his essence, his integrity? But seriously folks – what is behind this accusation? Are there some behind the scenes efforts to derail his prospective 2020 run for president? No matter, this conversation can be continued – and should have no political boundaries as it doesn’t matter within what context these alleged incidents occur. In the workplace, outside the workplace but in business events, in family gatherings, in our academic institutions (grade school and beyond).

If it bothers you, it may likely bother someone else. Say something. If it continues, say it again. If it happens yet again – then speak up a bit louder. Don’t wait five years to say something. Maybe it didn’t feel so inappropriate at the time. What’s changed?


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Professional Presence

Telling It Like I See It – Observations at a meeting.

As soon as I walked into the room, I immediately recognized who the presenters/speakers were. Not because I knew already knew them. Not because I saw photos in advance. And not just because their attire was the most professional in the room, but because of the way they were poised; they remained standing and smiling and quite approachable. Making eye contact or simply saying good morning as each person checked in. They had shown up, and they shined. Yes, I am referencing a book by my friend, Catherine Johns. (Show Up & Shine)

For the record, I am not a banking-attire kind of girl. I prefer nice clothes that are a step or two above business casual and at times – another step or two beyond that. But I do notice others. I notice because I’m one of those people who may change clothes 2-3 times before leaving for work or to attend a professional event – meetings, seminars, general business gatherings. Granted, if I were going on a job interview or a client presentation, I would certainly up my game. But at the same time, I will choose something to be comfortable enough but still confident. It’s like why I choose more subtle glasses (that I must wear in order to see) so that when I walk into a room – I walk in, not my glasses — though I admire those who can flaunt their funkier frames and wear them well. I just can’t.

Back to this meeting – though not an isolated observation. This was a professional meeting of professionals who work in a profession-specific field among various industries. This is a monthly gathering that provides a platform for speakers from relevant experts or vendors to discuss topics that may be of a general interest to this audience. And at the same time, these speakers may gain a new client in the process, or simply, a new respect for whom they represent.

Anyone who belongs to this organization already knows – a lot of effort goes into their program planning, and they do a really nice job of organizing and communicating for its members. These types of meetings are also opportunities for networking, for collaborating and gaining new knowledge and perspective. If I was a stranger to this group, might not ever guess some worked in their said profession. I wondered about the industry or company they represent. How casual is casual for them? And, would they be scrolling on their cell phones continuously and commenting with notification beeps for all of us to hear, if they were part of a meeting at their own organization? Where have our manners gone?

I work in a profession that is often disrespected or dissed, if not feared, inside an organization. A profession and job that should have a seat at the so-called table, but for some on this day, I wondered if it was a picnic table. Activewear? Sure, if one works in a health club or gym or a physical environment; especially if the clothing had a logo from their company — then totally appropriate. Sloppy or unclean clothes, or flipflops, regardless of weather is simply inappropriate. And while these meetings do take place in the morning, when we show up, we should not look like we just woke up. These are occasions to represent one’s organization or industry, and oneself. These are good opportunities to express one’s own knowledge or expertise or interest during the Q&A portion of any meeting. That’s when all eyes are on YOU. Even for a moment. That moment could be the lasting impression of what may have been a first impression, good or not so good. We never know when we may need to rely on this same network or association to find a new job.

My observation is not only about professional appearances, or the lack of. It includes the fact that sometimes our behaviors are poorly timed, or poorly stated. Becoming argumentative with a speaker is simply ill-mannered, particularly among our peers. Questions that may be too explicit or telling of a scenario in one’s workplace may be best left for after a meeting. Speakers often stay after a scheduled session just for this purpose. We certainly don’t want to disclose a confidential matter during such a meeting. The best questions to pose in an open Q&A are those that you could be more general in nature, or that most of us might have on our minds as well.

People often display behaviors or personality in corporate training sessions or meetings of this sort, that are surprising, and not in a good way. How we behave, treat others, present ourselves in any professional scenario is important, to our careers and our reputation. When one doesn’t care what other people think of them, it often speaks louder than words. We all need to take stock before we leave the house; take a good look in the mirror, be prepared, stay off cell phones, be on time and be civil. Civility. Another subject for another time.  thUM5LGPTF

 


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Caring for Customers

What does it take to make a customer simply feel acknowledged? It shouldn’t take much. Occasional customer service training, reinforced through recognition or rewards would certainly help.

keep-calm-and-just-do-your-job-5

Shopping recently in a widely known discount retailer – I left there just as aggravated as I was last time I shopped there; the time I said I would never return. Ha.

Here are a couple of observations while shopping and attempting to check-out. I wonder how many could relate, from one side of the cashier lane or the other.

  1. Employees apparently assigned to do stocking — instead socializing and taking their sweet time to do the job. Revisiting a couple of aisles for my missed selections – I noticed this with 2 different groups  — both working in pairs; both socializing with each other; and both still having unpacked or shelved the products.
  2.  Cashier light is on, which would make you think the lane is open. But – when the cashier is seemingly hiding out, leaning back while scrolling on her cellphone where she can’t be seen unless you try hard to, just didn’t seem like she was ready to check anyone out.
  3.  When a colleague is called to help with a price check and I watch as they slowly stroll towards our lane to ask ”what’s the problem” and then disappears for the longest time. I decide to close my purchase and not wait any longer. Just as I am checking out, the cashier notices the floor person far in the distance, who is chatting with two other people (coworkers) with my product just hanging over her shoulder. Absolutely no urgency to return to the cashier lane; completely ignorant of the line accumulating behind me and that an already prolonged wait was long enough.
  4. Never any eye contact, never any thank you. Just a low-battery robotic stance.

Needless to say, I left without the product and walked by this floor-person still in her chat circle with my product still over her shoulder.

I will not disclose the retailer here. You might guess. I will share my complaint directly with a store manager. But my point is – why is there no expediency in anything? Obviously, there doesn’t appear to be any true customer service/care training, and why isn’t good service a mandated expectation of employees? Is everyone watching everyone else’s back? Are all such staffers of the same “I don’t give a damn” attitude so no one even watches out for one another? What is their mindset? Seems to be only for a paycheck, in my view. I wonder, so I vent. Please chime in if you’re willing.

 

 

 


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Civility

Several years ago (2002) I met an author – Giovinella Gontheir: RUDE Awakenings. I was first attracted to the title of her book simply because it sounded like the name of a business I once wanted to start (Brewed Awakenings) a coffee and wine bar. I met her during a workshop I was attending on Civility in the workplace, and was able to continue a relationship for a bit of time afterwards.

Gontheir spoke of a systemic change that was required throughout an organization; from the way performance was measured and appraisals conducted; to policies on conduct in the workplace.

Civility is imperative in any business environment: or workplace. Employee and customer retention, productivity and morale – all being impacted by so much Incivility.

Too often, the impact of incivility is felt through many threads of contact rarely thought as being uncivil: one being too casual of a dress code. Now, how can that be in the same vein as being civil? One way is determining what is too casual for a workplace. When could ‘casual dress’ be confusing? Well, beyond suggestive clothing (too provocative or slogans on T-shirts), there is a lack of specificity on such policies in the workplace. Casual ‘Day’ in some organizations may revolve around a theme (such as Hawaiian shirts or support of a local sports team). That actually contributes to camaraderie. However, when the clothing in the office can become too casual without some guidelines. Basically, respect for each other, for the organization and the customers it serves, is often reflected in the attire worn by employees.

Other opportunities that civility is challenged:

  • Meetings. Being civil in meetings starts with being on time. Proper decorum. Balancing your own contributions with that of others, instead of monopolizing the time and effort.
  • Communications. From basic telephone calls to speaker phones to voice mail messages to cell phones to emails; all can be easily misinterpreted or ill-conceived.
  • Body language. How one sits at a meeting or training session: slouching or nodding off of course is disrespectful and shows a lack of interest. Rolling eyes and folded arms and convey other messages, even unintentionally.

Yet systemic change doesn’t happen from the ground up; it happens from the top down – and then it takes a real effort. Leaders need to ‘Walk the Talk’; put things in writing, be an example to others. Beyond dress codes or expectations, it’s in the manner in which we speak to each other. Are we abrupt or attacking when talking with one another? Or, are we addressing someone as they are a brand new contact and we want to make a good impression and give the benefit of the doubt? Can there be a happy medium?

We wonder what your organization has done, at least internally, to promote civility in the workplace. We often talk about improving customer relations and service levels. Why not start from within?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs implemented an organization-wide cultural change initiative more than 10 years ago. After receiving feedback from employees that low levels of  employee feedback that low levels of civility affected their level of job satisfaction, it has since been utilized by over 1,200 VA workgroups to establish a culture of respect and civility throughout their entire organization.

Civility  is an essential behavior of all employees in all organizations. These are the interpersonal “rules of engagement” for how we relate to each other, our customers, and our stakeholders; the fundamentals of courtesy, politeness, and consideration.

Respect connects us at a personal level. It reflects an attitude developed from deep listening and understanding, cultural and personal sensitivity, and compassion. It honors all the participants in an interaction by creating a safe place to have difficult conversations and leads to an environment of honesty and mutual trust.

Engagement is the result of respectful relationships within an atmosphere of trust. It provides all staff with the charge, the parameters, the training and the support to make decisions “on the spot” in the best interest of the veteran.