Tuesday, February 14, 2012

5 Clever Comebacks for Frenemies at Work

The idea of a frenemy may seem like a new concept, but the word, which blends friend and enemy together, first appeared in print as early as 1953. The article entitled, "Howz about calling the Russians our Frienemies" was posted in the Nevada State Journal and illustrated the point that enemies often disguise themselves as friends.

What was once political jargon is now a common reference in the workplace, and it's no wonder: The amount of time people spend at work today has left many friendless outside the office. The modern, informal corporate environment actually promotes professional and personal crossover. But sadly, not everybody plays nice in the sandbox.

For those coworkers who pal around and then undermine your authority, question your competency and pick boardroom fights, be prepared with these clever comebacks: 

To combat accusations: 
  • I don't know if that's an accurate characterization. If it turns out that I've made an error in judgment, then I will take action.
  • Right now we need to focus on this issue. There will be plenty of time to assign blame once we've implemented a solution.
To sidestep an insult masquerading as a compliment: 
  • Thank you. I work hard, and truly appreciate that you've noticed.
  • Thanks. I often wonder if I'm doing all that I can do. Your feedback is encouraging.
To squelch rumor spreaders: 
  • I need your help to clear up a potential misunderstanding. It seems conversations are occurring about me that aren't factual. What can you tell me about your participation?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How to Protect Your Image with Magical Phrases.

The best leaders exude confidence and always seem to have a good
answer for even the most complex questions. What's their secret? In
some cases, it's the teleprompter, but for those leaders who never
seem to lose their cool in face-to-face interactions, the answer is
just as simple: They have learned how to buy themselves time to gain
composure before articulating their answer. It's an image-saving
strategy that's known by many as the most magical ingredient of
communication—the transitional phrase.

It's short. It's pithy. But more importantly, it's diplomatic. And it
helps you move away from a seemingly negative question or insinuation
to a decisively positive message. You can use transitional phrases
when talking to disgruntled employees, the media, customers and even
family members. The trick is to have a handful of phrases in your hip
pocket, ready to go. Practice delivering them when times are good so
they'll roll right off your tongue when times are bad.

The following examples will help you gain control over any
conversation or email thread—and keep it:

•       That's an interesting perspective.
•       Thanks for surfacing this important issue.
•       Let me give that some thought.
•       I wouldn't say that.
•       Not exactly, let me explain.

You should also be prepared to kick a question back to your accuser,
something like "Industry experts usually have a lot to say about this
one, whom do you align your viewpoints with?" This will give you extra
time to collect your thoughts as your opponent racks her brain trying
to recall the name of any noteworthy expert.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

5 Ways to Manage Perception with Words

1)    Whenever you need to leave the office, tell your boss you have an “unavoidable conflict.” Offering justifiable details now will make it harder for you to be obscure in the event you need to sneak away for a job interview later.

2)    Never tell your coworkers that you’re “working from home.” Say instead, “I will be offsite for the rest of the day” or “I’m working remote.” These options convey a more sophisticated landing-on-the-moon impression as opposed to lounging-on-the-couch.

3)    Avoid the phrases “good question” and “great question” when addressing a group. It sets up an unintentional grading system. Good equals A; Great equals A+; and no comment equals F. If a team member asks a question and doesn’t receive praise, s/he might not ask another one. Plus, if you say, “great question” to everyone, it negates the entire system. Use objective responses like, “thanks for bringing that up” or “perhaps others were wondering the same thing.” You’ll appear impartial and encourage dialog.

4)    Steer clear of emotionally charged words like “love.” Even though it’s a positive emotion it can be too serious for professional dialogue and put you closer to the individual than you want.

5)    Whenever you’re asked a question you can’t answer, instead of offering an “I don’t know,” say, “we’re giving that some thought.”

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kill Email, Save No One

CEO Tierry Breton may be the first brave soul to ban the use of internal email, but he won’t be the last. And sadly, he won’t solve anything. Within 18 months his 75,000 member staff will stop sending one another email and instead rely on instant messaging and chat-style services similar to Facebook (read more).

There is no doubt that technology has done wonders for the field of communications. It has brought us increased messaging speed and an insatiable appetite for content. But, what it hasn’t done is reinvent the wheel. At the core, humans still have only two ways to communicate: speaking and writing. 

Leaders like Breton are prone to seek technology solutions for communication problems. They want to free employees from inbox bulge and find a way to streamline business decisions. But, the problem with email isn’t technology; it’s the writer.

Top netiquette mishaps include:

  • Hiding the point beneath endless paragraphs of background information
  • Using a dull, non-actionable subject like “MDT Brochure Supplement”
  • Berating readers with a thinly veiled, snaggletooth tone 

Intentions are good, but since email robs users of what experts agree are the most important elements of effective communication—tone and nonverbal expression—everyone is at a disadvantage. Unfortunately, these persuaders, which are so vital for influencing change and building relationships, are not only lost through instant messaging, they’re even less valued.

So, with more than 107 trillion emails going out this year, let’s wish Mr. Breton luck. But for those of you stuck battling the inbox dilemma, find a little hope with Hush Files

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Worker-Bees Know Best

Well-intentioned leaders who are called upon to fix a broken division, process or team are often ill equipped to handle the communication complexities hidden beneath the problem. What seems like the right move, typically backfires and lost ground cannot be recovered.

For example, the fix-it leaders have a tendency to congregate, behind closed doors, with the broke-it leaders speculating on solutions while ignoring the worker-bees who live within the mess. This creates a perception problem that divides everyone. A better approach is to go straight to the source of knowledge and build allies. So, the next time you find yourself in the fix-it role, adhere to these guidelines and watch as everything falls into place: 

  • First, quickly determine who the most influential people in the division/process/team are (whether they have a positive or negative attitude). Schedule time with these individuals and listen to their ideas. These people are your change agents or possibly your change blockers and the stronger your relationship with them, the easier your work will be.
  • Next, collect all of your notes from individual discussions. Lay them out on the table, ignoring names and titles, and look for consistent themes across all of your conversations. Issues that are brought up repeatedly are your highest priority.
  • Look for “easy wins” and make quick decisions for positive change. For example, if the pop machine is broken, order a new one. This will help you build immediate credibility with employees. 
  • Finally, when you ask employees to embrace a new process, help them visualize what their day will look like once the process is in place. Show them the benefits and then describe the work required to make that a reality.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Too Many Turkeys

Negotiating your way through the holidays isn’t easy.  These days everybody has to borrow time from Peter to spend a little with Paul. If the list of loved ones clamoring for your Turkey Day attendance is longer than Pinocchio’s nose, take heart. In just a few simple steps, you can gain control of your holiday cheer:
  1. First, sketch out what an ideal holiday will look like for you. This way you'll have something to bump it up against when objections surface. It could be as simple as, "this year I want to sleep in, drive fewer than 100 miles and take the kids to see a movie."
  2. Second, craft your message, one that reassures family members that you love them, but also establishes the reality of life (i.e., kids, fatigue, etc.). If possible work in a few football analogies or famous movie quotes. For example, "I want to attend your dinner more than anything, but I'm holding myself to a short travel schedule. Really mom, I don't have much time. I'm supposed to get down to the school auditorium to direct a Christmas play."
  3. Third, communicate your plans well in advance. Your family needs time for the news to sink in. Perhaps even announce next year's plans at this year's festivities. Send at least four reminder notes throughout the year with several smiley faces and xoxo's. The sooner you set expectations, the easier it will be for your loved ones to get past that short end of the stick you've asked them to stir the pot with. 
  4. Finally, adhere to your plan. If you cave this year, they'll expect you to cave every year.