Posted by aostler on Mar 11, 2011 in Advice
Have you ever found yourself feeling like you aren’t in the loop at work? Maybe you have a hard time understanding what your duties are at your job, or perhaps you just have a hard time dealing with coworkers and seem to always run into conflicts at work.
If any of these problems happen to you, you may need to take a look at how effectively you are communicating in the workplace. Communication is vital to any job, and without good communication, a lot of bad things can happen. Dealing with conflicts is a part of any job, and keeping yourself in the loop and knowing what’s going on is essential to excelling in any job or career. How can you improve your communication skills you may ask? There are several ways, of which I’ll name a few:
Remember to listen to people instead of trying to talk over them, especially when it comes to your boss or manager. If you don’t listen, you may miss critical information about how you’re doing, what your assignment is, or other critical knowledge that will really hamper your work performance. Take notes if necessary when listening, but make sure to learn this very important skill if you want to succeed in your job.
When you face a conflict in the workplace, resolve it with humility and honesty. Remember that conflict, like communication, is a two-way street, and both sides usually have something that they can improve on. If you’ve done something wrong, own up to it, apologize once if necessary, and then move on, resolving to do better the next time. Avoid apologizing too much, as that just makes you look like you want pity or attention. Also remember that everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect, no matter what they might say. Be prepared and ready for conflict, so that when it happens, you’re not caught with your pants down.
Another thing to remember is that it’s not good to communicate too much or not enough, and there is a balance that needs to be met in your communication with your boss. If you don’t communicate enough with your boss, he or she won’t know what’s going on with you and may question what you’re doing, as well as if you really care about what you’re doing. On the flip side of that, if you communicate way too much, then your boss may become annoyed and want to flick you out of his or her face like an annoying fly. In general, it’s better to communicate with your boss whenever an important question comes up and you really need help with it, or if you are low on work and need another assignment to work on. Use your own best judgment though, as every situation is different. Go with your instincts, and you should be able to tell with body language and verbal responses from your boss if you’re communicating too much or not enough.
Of course there are many other aspects of communication in the workplace that I haven’t gone into here, but one of the most important things to remember is that effective communication is essential to every job out there, whether you’re working from home, a part time job, or are in your full time career. Stay positive in your job, listen, and make yourself heard where appropriate, and you will be off to the right start when it comes to effective communication in the workplace.
Posted by Erik Even on Aug 13, 2009 in Employment
Some are from the Internet, and some are from my mind alone: the Top 13 Excuses for Being Late to Work:
13. My Mom didn’t wake me up on time. She doesn’t like to come into the basement.
12. Starbucks was out of caramel macchiato syrup. So I went home.
11. When I woke up the morning, I was still tied to the bed and the whore was gone.
10. My left turn signal was out, so I had to make all right turns to get to work.
9. I’m [insert religion here], and we don’t recognize Daylight Savings Time. We call it “Daylight Satan’s Time.”
8. I had a headache and did not want to give it to anyone else.
7. There was a parade, and Ferris Bueller was singing “Twist & Shout.”
6. This morning my wife was getting pregnant, and I wanted to be there.
5. I’m late because nothing’s more important to me than our beloved Alaska. In fact, I quit!
4. Sorry, I have the swine flu, and I had to stop and buy these surgical masks for everyone else in the office to wear.
3. I thought we had Columbus Day off.
2. Don’t oppress me with your White male notions of linear time!
1. I was late today because I was reading “late for work” excuses on my computer.
Got any better excuses? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by Erik Even on Aug 6, 2009 in Advice
I return now to my lone, quixotic campaign to help stop dumb people with business degrees from trying to sound smart by using heinous business jargon.
Plug-and-play. This term has a technical meaning we need not worry about here. Microsoft introduced the term as marketing jargon in the ’90s, to imply that you could plug a printer or modem into a Windows PC, and have it work automatically, without loading software or changing settings. You know, like a Mac. On rare occasions, Windows plug-and-play actually works.
Business folks use the term to mean a process or product that is easily initiated or installed, and that works right away. Now think — have you ever experienced such a thing? Of course you haven’t. It doesn’t exist.
“Plug-and-play,” when it comes to business, is a lie. Don’t use it.
Turn-key solution. Means the same thing as plug-and-play. Does not exist, no matter what the salesperson tells you. The closest thing I ever encountered to a “turn-key” solution was WordPress — and it still took me a week to get a blog properly going.
Dynamic metrics. This also may have a highly technical meaning, but business people use it to mean “measurements taken while a process (such as online advertising) is operating,” as opposed to taking measurements when a process is ended. I hereby grant permission to IT pros and data analysts to use this term. Anyone else — you sound like an idiot. In fact, the next time you hear a non-techie use this phrase, ask him or her what it means. It’ll be amusing.
Right-sizing. Right-sizing = downsizing = FIRED. Never let anyone euphemize firings. Make them feel the guilt.
Synergy. The absolute nadir of corporate buzzwords. It means “different entities that cooperate, and become more than the sum of their parts.” This word has been overused to the point of meaninglessness. In practice, it means Company A bought Company B, and now the employees at Company A are not allowed to use any product made by Company B’s competitors. But they will pay full price.
Instruct your secretary or assistant to stab you in the hand with a fork every time you say “synergy.” You’ll learn. Same thing goes for “mediums” and “irregardless.”
Got any hated corporate gobbledy-speak of your own? Let is know in the comments!
Posted by Erik Even on Jul 21, 2009 in Advice
From the Tubes — a Management-to-English translator:
That’s very interesting. I disagree.
I don’t disagree. I disagree.
I don’t totally disagree with you. You may be right, but I don’t care.
You have to show some flexibility. You have to do it whether you want to or not.
We have an opportunity. You have a problem.
You obviously put a lot of work into this. This is awful.
In a perfect world… I won’t give you any resources or guidance. Just get it working and get it out the door.
Help me to understand. I don’t know what you’re talking about, and I don’t think you do either.
You just don’t understand our business. I hire experts like you and then ignore their advice.
You need to see the big picture. The CEO thinks it’s a good idea.
If you do want to discuss it further, my door is always open. Go f— yourself.
I appreciate your contribution. Go f— yourself.
We’re going to follow a strict methodology here. We’re going to do it my way.
I didn’t understand the e-mail you said you sent. Can you give me a quick summary? I still can’t figure out how to work the e-mail program.
Cost of ownership is a significant issue. We want all of the benefits and none of the costs.
We have to leverage our resources. You’re working weekends..
Your project is on hold. Your project is canceled.
Wrong answer. You didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear.
You needed to be more proactive. You should have protected me from myself.
I’d like your buy-in on this. I want someone else to blame when this thing bombs.
We want you to be the executive champion of this project. I want to be able to blame you for my mistakes.
We need to syndicate this decision. We need to spread the blame if it backfires.
We have to put on our marketing hats. We have to put ethics aside.
It’s not possible. It’s impractical. It won’t work. I don’t know how to do it.
It’s a no-brainer. It’s a perfect decision for me to take credit for it.
I’m glad you asked me that. My boss told me what to say.
There are larger issues at stake. I’ve made up my mind, so don’t bother me with the facts.
I’ll never lie to you. I’ll lie to you.
Our business is going through a paradigm shift. We have no idea what we’ve been doing, but in the future we shall do something completely different.
Human Resources. A bulk commodity, like lentils or cinder blocks.
The upcoming reductions will benefit the vast majority of employees. The upcoming reductions will benefit me.
Got any more? Post them in the comments!
Posted by Erik Even on Jun 25, 2009 in Advice
More heinous business jargon you should endeavor to avoid:
vis-à-vis: This is French, and means “in relation to.” (It’s actually a type of carriage where the occupants face each other.) It’s perfectly fine, if it’s used every once in a while — but when overused it’s really annoying. Although the phrase literally translates as “face-to-face,” don’t use it that way — say face-to-face or in person.
become more finite, make more finite: Some business people use this to mean “decrease” or “reduce,” or to refer to progress completing a list of goals — we will reassess as our deliverables become more finite. This is terrible. English is malleable, but not this malleable. Something cannot become more “finite,” no more than someone can be more dead or more pregnant. Don’t use this.
diversifying the brand: This phrase actually has a meaning — expanding the use of an existing brand to sell items not previously associated with the brand. For instance, when Procter & Gamble uses the “Pringles” brand to sell other kinds of snacks, or things that are not snacks, it has “diversified the brand.” Unfortunately, marketing people throw around this phrase as if it could mean anything, rendering it meaningless. If you’re going to use jargon, at least use it in a way that aids in communication — that is to say, accurately.
circle with: Intended to mean “to meet with,” as in why don’t you circle with Greg and Lacey, and get back to me.” This makes no sense whatsoever, unless you’re forming a knitting circle or a drum circle. Anyone who says this should be circling with everyone else in the unemployment line.
A note on rhetorical questions. A rhetorical question is a statement phrased as a question that does not require an answer. Why don’t we meet again tomorrow? And John, how about you put together that report? The person saying this isn’t asking, he or she’s telling.
The only problem with rhetorical questioning is overuse. If every command out of your mouth is phrased as a question, you will sound precious and silly — and seeming silly is a poor management technique. Some managers express instructions as questions to seem less like they’re giving orders, and more like they are making suggestions. But are you making suggestions? If it’s an instruction, use the imperative — be here at 8am tomorrow, not can you be here at 8am tomorrow?
For some reason, it is really, really annoying to answer a rhetorical question as if it were a question, especially when answering in the negative. Why don’t you finish this report for me? — Because I’m busy. This often invokes an angry retort — well, do it anyway! Respond to rheotrical questions as if they were statements. Let’s continue this after lunch, shall we? — Oh, I’m afraid I can’t. How about 4pm?
Posted by Erik Even on Jun 16, 2009 in Advice
It’s time to go back to the well, and complain about business jargon.
There is nothing wrong with cliches or overused phrases– unless you are trying to be interesting, or engage your listener/reader, or appear intelligent.
Here are words and phrases that should hit the road, especially in your writing:
Basically…. Basically, when you say basically, you’re basically saying nothing. It’s exactly equivalent to saying “um….” If you are about to take a complex topic and distill it to its basic points, then you have my permission to start your sentence with basically. Otherwise, I basically wish you would basically not use it, basically. It’s, like, not good and stuff. Basically.
Think outside the box. Once upon the time, everyone lived in a rigid little world of Mao suits and Little Red Books, and no one had a thought that defied the established orthodoxy. Then, some brilliant motivational speaker said, think outside the box! No one knew what the box was, or what was in it, but when they started thinking outside the box, it gave us New Coke, Bratz dolls and predatory mortgages! Maybe we need more in-the-box thinking. Or a new way to say “please come up with an original idea.”
The bottom line and at the end of the day… The bottom line is, there’s nothing wrong with the phrase the bottom line is…, except that on January 12th, 2008 at 4:37 PM EST, it was spoken for the one billionth time, by an executive product manager for a septic tank manufacturer in Cleveland, Ohio. It is now officially overused, and has been banned by the International Commission on Not Sounding Trite in Helsinki, Finland.
At the end of the day, we can agree that at the end of the day is not as heinously overused — avoid it anyway.
To tell you the truth…. To tell you the truth, I don’t understand this phrase at all. Were you lying before? When did this life of duplicity begin? Does your spouse know? Let me tell you the actual truth — this phrase means nothing. It’s another way of saying um…, of wasting time while your brain composes a sentence.
Going forward…. Going forward, let’s say from now on instead, from now on. Also, in the future…, from this point…, and as a result of the excellent progress we have made today…. But not going forward — it’s been interdicted by the International Commission on Not Sounding Like a Douche in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Posted by Erik Even on Mar 25, 2009 in Careers
Attending a business lunch seems simple enough — eat, talk, get back to work. That is, until you’re written up, fired, or even just embarrassed about a faux pas.
Here are some rules for business lunches (and dinners, breakfasts, brunches, afternoon snacks, elevenses and drinks after work):
Be on time. Of course, this rule applies to everything in business. Just because your schedule is messed up doesn’t mean you get to share yor tsuris with everyone else. It’s rude and unprofessional. Canceling at the last minute is bad, too.
Treat the meal like a meeting. Yes, a meal is intended to be more casual than a formal meeting. Feel free to discuss things other than business. But at some point, there’s business to be done, so do it. Don’t get distracted by the food, the atmosphere, or that super sexy server of the opposite sex.
Be careful what you say. You don’t have a Get Smart-style Cone of Silence. You never know who’s listening. Discussing firing that secretary while she’s sitting at the next table is unprofessional and betrays a real lack of class and tact. Sensitive conversations should be held behind closed doors at the office, not at Daily Grill.
Kill your cell phone. You’re outside the office, and you’re supposed to be concentrating on your lunch guest, whether it’s a client, vendor, competitor, headhunter or that employee you’re firing in public so he or she can’t make a scene. Turn your cell phone off. In fact, you should do this whenever you visit a restaurant, even on your personal time. Theaters, too. But feel free to use your cell phone in a hospital — that stuff about affecting the medical machinery is total BS.
No three martini lunches. Don’t drink alcohol at lunch. Remember, you have to go back to work. Showing up drunk is a career killer.
Who pays? The person who called the meeting picks up the check. If that’s you, pony up. If it’s not you, avoid the lobster. Never order anything more expensive than what the person paying is getting.
So get out there and have a great lunch!
Posted by Erik Even on Feb 11, 2009 in Careers
Businesspeople sure love to make up new words.
There is nothing wrong with new words, as long as they (1) fulfill a need, (2) don’t replace a perfectly good existing word, and (3) are clever and well conceived.
For instance, “emoticon” is a necessary new word, as it gives a name to something that did not have a name before. It’s easy to remember (emotion + icon) and describes what it’s describing.
But “irregardless” is a terrible word, as it means the exact same thing as “regardless.” This is a word coined out of ignorance, and it should be abolished from usage.
New words coined for use in business are added to dictionaries every year. But these words should be examined before we adopt them into standard usage, even at work.
For example, “actionable,” meaning “capable of being acted upon,” is a useful new word. There isn’t a preexisting word — one would have to say “this item can be acted upon,” rather than the shorter and easier “this item is actionable.” “Actionable” is also a legal term meaning “subject to or affording ground for an action or suit at law,” but it’s easy to differentiate the two uses in context.
As of 2009, if you use “actionable” outside of a work or legal environment, you’ll just sound like an ass. But in 20 years, who knows? “I want to you to go to the store.” “Well, I’m busy, but that’s actionable.”
On the other hand, there are absurd, unnecessary business words that just cause confusion. Like “buy-in,” as in “if you want to do this, you’ll have to get the boss to buy-in.” It just means the same thing as “agree” or “consent.” It’s unnecessary jargon, used in an attempt to sound smart. It fails.
Some business words make no sense at all. “Componentize?” As in “to make something a component?” Who uses this? What does it even mean?
Business people love to turn nouns into verbs. “Let’s dialogue with Joe about the projects he’s been tasked with managing.” What, business people don’t know how to “talk” or “assign?” Let’s just let nouns remain nouns.
Other goofy, unnecessary new words from the world of work include disintermediate, disambiguate, facetime, instantiate, mindshare, operationalize (gack!), productize (double gack!), and the entirely meaningless buzzword “value chain.”
Also, don’t misuse real words: paradigm, offline, proactive, synergy, granular, interface. If you want to meet with someone, then meet. Don’t “interface.”
In business communications, it’s a good idea to, as the saying goes, eschew obfuscation. If there’s simpler way to say what you mean, say it that way. Heavy use of jargon takes more effort, and will confuse anyone outside of your own profession.
That said, you can’t be ignorant of the jargon used by others in your work. If you don’t know what a commonly used business term means, even if you never use it, you’ll come across as if you don’t know what you’re doing. But the next time someone says “I’ll ping you with a value proposition that will drive our critical path to establishing core competancies,” just reply “yeah, you can email me with your idea how to figure out what the hell our company does.”