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Posts Tagged ‘professional reputation’

Asking For Too Much Damages Careers

I recently interviewed a candidate who asked for a lot of ‘stuff’ during the interview process. He wanted compensation, perks, accommodations, and benefits that were way outside the norm. I’m assuming he was employing the adage we’ve all heard, that “it can’t hurt to ask.”  Unfortunately, it can hurt to ask.asking

When forging new relationships, we watch (judge) people. We’re trying to figure out who they are and how they are. Are they the person they claimed to be during the interview process? Are they trustworthy? Did I make the right decision in bringing this person into my team, organization, and life?

Requests always make an impression. When we’re building new relationships, requests make an even bigger impression. Candidates who said the commute wouldn’t be an issue, but complain about it two weeks into the job, cause managers to doubt their hiring decision. Coworkers who consistently ask for extensions to deadlines, appear unreliable.

People watch us and silently judge, making assessments about our commitment, reliability and even character. Don’t make people question you. Make reasonable asks.

 Five ways to make reasonable requests:

  1. Vet your requests with people who know your company, manager, and/or industry, before making them. What is a reasonable request in one organization, might not be in another.
  1. If something is important to you, ask for it during the interview process or at the onset of new projects and relationships. Don’t wait. Waiting to ask for things, until after you’ve started a job and are comfortable with your manager, can damage your relationships and reputation. Managers don’t like bait and switch, even when it’s unintended.
  1. Don’t ask again, once you’ve received an emphatic “no.” I worked with someone who asked for something during the interview process. I said “no” and explained why. He asked again after being hired. This annoyed me and made me feel like he didn’t listen and would push me on this and on other things.
  1. If you aren’t sure that what you’re asking for is reasonable, say so. Tell the person you’re asking what you want and to please tell you if it isn’t a reasonable request.
  1. Ask for feedback on your requests. If you’ve seen me speak, you know I’m a proponent of telling people, “If I do anything that damages our working relationship or makes you question me, I hope you’ll tell me. I promise I’ll take your feedback graciously, and say “thank you.””

Ask for what you want, within reason, be up front when relationships begin, and build your relationships rather than break them.

It can’t hurt to ask, right? Wrong. Requests make an impression. Make reasonable asks. Repair a relationship, when you’ve asked for too much.

asking


Unhappy at Work? Know When to Go

There’s when things end and then there’s when we physically leave, and the two rarely coincide. Sometimes it takes six months, a year, or even longer for our body to catch up with our brain.unhappy at work

Knowing when to leave a job, a relationship, and even a party is a skill. If you’re unhappy at work, have asked for what you want, and know you can’t it where you are, develop an exit strategy and act on it quickly.

When you’re checked out, people know. Unhappiness shows up in our performance, attitude, and body language. And quitting and staying is bad for your career, reputation, and business relationships.

If you’re unhappy at work and are ready to make a change, there are a few actions you should take to keep your reputation intact while you make a transition:

  1. Make sure you’ve fully investigated your options at your current place of work before deciding to move on. Share your desires in a positive way, with people who can help you get what you want. Saying, “I’d really like to do _________, or I’d really like to work in the ______ department” will get you much further than saying, “I’m underutilized, undercompensated, and unappreciated.”
  2. Do your job and do it well. Don’t go missing in action.
  3. Only commit to things you know you can and will do, and keep your commitments.
  4. Confide in people about your unhappiness and future plans who are outside your current place of work. People talk. Assume anything you tell someone at work will be told to someone else.
  5. Take at least one action every day towards getting what you want. It can be easy to get into a rut when job hunting. Stay in action.

If you’re unhappy at work, it’s probably time for a change – either within or outside your company. Ask for what you want in a positive way. Do a great job on a daily basis, regardless of how you feel. Confide in people outside of your workplace. And take one action every day towards getting what you want.

Know when to go.

unhappy at work


Give Yourself A Break – You’re Not Supposed to Be Perfect

give yourself a break

Last week had some really, really terrible moments. Our office WIFI went out during a webinar. Not even the phone worked. I took on a commitment I knew I shouldn’t have, and it required too many long nights, flights, and time away from my family. And I self-medicated with chocolate, and possibly coffee cake, and maybe pizza. There’s more, but I don’t want to bore you.

Some days are going to be terrible. It’s so easy to feel like we’re screwing things up and that we are indeed a screw up. Give yourself a break. The thing to know and remember, in the moment, is that you’re not terrible. You’re a human being, doing the best you can.

Here is a list of ways to give yourself a break and as a result, do your best work. I’ll admit, I’m working on doing these things too. Every day, I’m annoyed that I’m not perfect. I want to be a combination of Sheryl Sandberg, Mary Poppins, and Kate Middleton. I’m not. I’m a business owner, working mom, who hasn’t seen the inside of a gym in over a year, and dreams of nights at the Ritz Carlton, by myself.

Nine Way to Give Yourself a Break:

  1. Set realistic deadlines. Set yourself up to win and look good.
  1. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to do this,” before agreeing to any new commitment.
  1. Turn off the alerts on your phone and laptop. You’ll be more focused and get more work done.
  1. Ask for help. If there is someone who can help with a project (and it won’t make you look bad), let them.
  1. Go to bed earlier than you think you need to.
  1. Take a day off. Your company offers vacation time for a reason. People do better work when they take time to relax and rejuvenate.
  1. Take time for yourself, even if it’s 30 minutes.
  1. Drink more water and make sure you eat breakfast and lunch. I’m starting to sound like your mom.
  1. Say “thank you” more and “I’m sorry” less.

Some of these things are business focused, some are personal. You bring yourself – your whole self – to work. It’s why you’re good at what you do. People want to work with real people. And real people over commit, make mistakes, and spend too much time on Facebook. Give yourself a break.

manage your career and reputation


Know Your Reputation; Manage Your Career

career management

At some point, you’ll get passed over for a promotion, project, or piece of work, and no one will tell you why. Why should they? There is little incentive to deal with your likely (human and normal) defensive response. It’s easier to say nothing.

The problem is that this lack of information gives you no ability to manage your career.

Most people get almost no feedback at work. “Good job” isn’t feedback. Neither is, “You seem distracted.” And being told, “You just weren’t the right fit,” is utterly unhelpful.

If you want to manage your career, you need more information. Getting this information might seem scary. You might be thinking, “What if I don’t want to hear what people have to say? What happens if I hear something really bad?” People are so hesitant to give feedback, they’ll be ‘nice’ to you. You won’t hear anything you can’t handle.

There are people in your life who will tell you the impression you create, what you’re like to work with, and why you might not have gotten a job you really want. They’ll tell you, if you ask and make it safe to tell you the truth. Making it safe means you can’t defend yourself. No matter what the person says and how hard it may be to hear, you must respond with, “Thank you for telling me that,” even if you’re convinced they’re wrong.

The easier it is to give you feedback, the more feedback you’ll get. The harder it is to give you feedback, the less you’ll get. Remember, no one wants to deal with your defensive response. It’s easier to say nothing.

Identify five people in your life who care about you, who you trust. They might work with you now, but perhaps not. Don’t overlook your friends, family, spouse and past co-workers. Tell each person, individually, that you want to know more about the impression you make and what you’re like to work/interact with. Do this over the phone or in-person. Emailing the request doesn’t demonstrate seriousness. Ask the person to schedule a conversation with you. Send your questions in advance, so the person is prepared. Have the scheduled meeting; don’t cancel it, even if something important comes up. Consider asking: The first impression you make; what you’re like to work/interact with; the best thing about you; and one change you could make. Say, “thank you,” for the information and not more. Don’t underestimate the power of your emotions. Everyone gets defensive when receiving feedback. Defensiveness can be off putting and scary to others. Don’t do anything to limit future feedback.

Ask these questions a few times a year. You don’t necessarily need to make any changes, based on what you learned. The point isn’t to act on the information, it’s merely to have it. Information is power, and power is control. You can now choose how to act vs. working in the dark.

What They Say When You’re Not There: Managing Your Reputation Training


Good Business Etiquette is Fast and Easy

business etiquette

You may not impress everyone you meet, hit every deadline, and consistently knock it out of the park. Bad days and breakdowns happen. But there are a few business etiquette practices you can consistently do to make you easy to work with and to present yourself in a professional and credible way.

Business Etiquette tip #1: Listen to your cell and work voicemail greetings. Have you recorded a personal greeting that assures callers they’ve reached your phone? If the message says, “You’ve reached 303-863-0948, callers may wonder if they’ve called the right number and are likely to hang up and call back. And make sure the greeting doesn’t sound as if you recorded it while you were outside waiting for a bus, or standing in line at the grocery store, or under water. You get the point.

Business Etiquette tip #2: Make it easy to contact you. Include all of your contact information at the bottom of your outgoing and reply emails, in a clickable format (versus a non-clickable image). Don’t make people search for your contact information. Oh, and spell check your salutation. I’m amazed at how many spelling errors and typos I see in people’s contact information.

Business Etiquette tip #3: Turn off your out-of-office voicemail and email messages when you return from a trip. Telling people that you’ll be back on January 3rd, in March, makes you appear checked out.

Business Etiquette tip #4: Don’t wear perfume or cologne to work. It likely bothers someone but s/he won’t tell you about it.

Business Etiquette tip #5: Want to avoid people asking you, “Did you get my email?” or sending you yet another email? Reply to all emails, letting people know you received their message and letting them know when you’ll respond. That could read something like, “I received your message. I’ll reply with an answer by Friday.”

I could go on – eating smelly food in a cubicle, taking phone calls via a speaker phone from a cubicle, stealing other people’s lunches out of the refrigerator, taking up two parking spots, almost finishing the coffee, but not making more, borrowing someone’s chair and returning it at a different height, leaving conference rooms a mess, ending meetings late so a posse of people wait outside to use the conference room, flushing the toilet while participating in a remote conference call, but this is a good start. I’m looking forward to listening to your personal yet succinct voicemail greeting soon!

Leave a comment and tell us your easily fixed, work-related pet peeve!


To Manage Your Professional Reputation, Learn Who’s On Your Team

Manage your professional reputationYou will be passed over for jobs, projects, and second dates and never know why. Being passed over isn’t necessarily a bad thing, not knowing why is problematic. If you don’t know why you’re being passed over, how can you be prepared for next time?

Organizations are political. People talk. You’ve undoubtedly already experienced this.

If you want to manage your professional reputation, one thing you must know is who talks about you and what they say. How decisions get made in organizations isn’t always obvious. There are the obvious channels of decision making, like your boss and your boss’s boss. But there are also the people who talk to your boss and boss’s boss and have an opinion about you, who you may not be aware of.

Everyone in an organization has people they trust, who they listen to and confide in. Who those trusted people are isn’t always obvious. When you’re being considered for a new position or project, the decision makers will invariably ask others for their opinion. Knowing who does and doesn’t support you in a future role is essential to managing your professional reputation and career.

I don’t want you to be nervous, paranoid, or suspicious at work. I do want you to be savvy, smart, and aware.

It’s not difficult to find out who can impact your professional reputation at work, you just need to ask the people who know. Start with your boss. S/he likely knows and will tell you, if you ask.

To ensure you know who can impact your professional reputation, tell your boss:

“I really enjoy working here. I enjoy the people, the work and our industry. I’m committed to growing my career with this organization.”

Then ask:

  • Who in the organization should I have a good relationship with?
  • Who/what departments should I be working closely with?
  • Who impacts my professional reputation and the opportunities I have?
  • What skills do I have that the organization values most?
  • What contributions have I made that the organization values most?
  • What mistakes have I made from which I need to recover?

Your manager doesn’t walk around thinking about the answers to these questions. If you want thoughtful answers, set a time to meet with your boss, tell him/her the purpose of the meeting – to get feedback on your professional reputation so you can adeptly manage your career – and send the questions in advance, giving your boss time to prepare for the meeting. You will get more thoughtful and complete answers if your boss has two weeks to think about the questions and ask others for input.

Don’t be caught off guard by a less-than-stellar professional reputation. Take control of your reputation and career. Ask more. Assume less.

Write a comment about this week’s blog and we’ll enter your organization to win 50 professional reputation bookmarks!

Manage your professional reputation


Unhappy at Work? Know When to Go.

unhappy at workThere’s when things end and then there’s when we physically leave, and the two rarely coincide. Sometimes it takes six months, a year, or even longer for our body to catch up with our brain.

Knowing when to leave a job, a relationship, and even a party is a skill. If you’re unhappy at work, have asked for what you want, and know you can’t it where you are, develop an exit strategy and act on it quickly.

When you’re checked out, people know. Unhappiness shows up in our performance, attitude, and body language. And quitting and staying is bad for your career, reputation, and business relationships.

If you’re unhappy at work and are ready to make a change, there are a few actions you should take to keep your reputation intact while you make a transition:

  1. Make sure you’ve fully investigated your options at your current place of work before deciding to move on. Share your desires in a positive way, with people who can help you get what you want. Saying, “I’d really like to do _________, or I’d really like to work in the ______ department” will get you much further than saying, “I’m underutilized, undercompensated, and unappreciated.”
  2. Do your job and do it well. Don’t go missing in action.
  3. Only commit to things you know you can and will do, and keep your commitments.
  4. Confide in people about your unhappiness and future plans who are outside your current place of work. People talk. Assume anything you tell someone at work will be told to someone else.
  5. Take at least one action every day towards getting what you want. It can be easy to get into a rut when job hunting. Stay in action.

If you’re unhappy at work, it’s probably time for a change – either within or outside your company. Ask for what you want in a positive way. Do a great job on a daily basis, regardless of how you feel. Confide in people outside of your workplace. And take one action every day towards getting what you want.

Know when to go.

unhappy at work


Wearing Too Much Perfume to Work?

Wearing too much perfume or cologne will make people scatter, or wish they could. Unfortunately, rather than tell you that you’re wearing too much, people will just avoid sitting near you. Scent is such a personal thing, like clothing, that people are hesitant to comment on it.

I suggest not wearing anything scented at work, on airplanes, or when you’ll be in close proximity with other people you don’t know well. But if I can’t persuade you to skip the scent, here are a few guidelines when putting on cologne and perfume:

• Spray the air ten inches in front of you, and walk through the mist, rather than spraying your skin.
• If you can smell the scent on yourself or people who are more than a few inches from you can smell it, you’re wearing too much.
• You should never be able to smell a person’s cologne after they’ve left a room.

No, I’m not an expert on how to wear perfume. I googled it.

The next step is to ask a few people you trust to tell you when you wear too much perfume or cologne. Give people permission to give you this feedback, and promise you won’t bite their head off when they do. This could sound something like, “I want to be sure I’m not wearing too much perfume. Would you be willing to tell me when I do? I promise I won’t freak out or jump down your throat. I really want to know.”

Let’s say you work with someone who wears too much perfume. She hasn’t asked if she’s wearing too much, and you want to say something. You could say something like, “This is a bit awkward, but the perfume you wear is a bit overwhelming. Would you be willing to wear less or none at all when you’re in the office?” This is an awkward conversation that most people don’t want to have. Consider that you’re doing the person a favor. Would you rather know the amount of scent you wear keeps other people away, or would you rather alienate the people around you?

If the relationship is a personal one, you could say, “You wear the most lovely perfume. And I’ve noticed that the smell is quite strong. Would you be willing to wear less of it?” Again, this is an awkward conversation. But you won’t die from having it and the other person won’t either. When she gets over being embarrassed and defensive, your relationship will be fine. And if it’s not, you didn’t have much of a relationship to begin with.

Use our Candor Questions to Advance Careers to find out what people say about you when you’re not there.


Be Specific in Your Business Communication – Vague is Useless

Vague is useless. Being vague is actually worse than useless. Being vague instills doubt in the people around you and reduces your credibility.

When a customer service agent answers my questions with words like, “That sounds right, I think so, or that should work,” I hang up and call back, hoping to get someone who can give me an affirmative answer. People do this to you too, they just don’t tell you about it.

Watch your language. If the answer is yes, say “Yes.” If the answer is no, say “No.” “I think so,” says neither yes nor no. Saying, “I think so” tells people you don’t really know.

A few phrases to avoid and what to say instead:

Avoid:  “That should be done by Friday.”

Instead, be specific and give a final date. “That will be complete by Friday. If I can’t get it done by Friday, I’ll call you to let you know by 5:00 pm on Thursday.”

Avoid: “Sounds right.”

Instead, be specific and say, “That’s correct.”

Avoid: “We should be able to do that.”

Instead, be specific and say, “We can do that.”

Avoid: “I guess.”

Instead, be specific and say, “Yes” or “No.”

When I teach feedback training, the biggest thing training participants struggle with is specificity. “You’re difficult to work with.” “Your clothing is inappropriate.” “I just find you to be negative.” “You did a good job on that.” “It’s a pleasure to have you on the team.” All of this is vague and thus unhelpful to the feedback recipient.  And the same is true when answering questions and making promises.

Tell people exactly what to expect. Be specific. Even if they don’t like your answer, they’ll be happy to have a clear answer.


Business Communication – There is No Crying at Work

crying at workWhen confronted with a challenging conversation or situation, everyone has a reaction of some type. Some people laugh nervously. Some people get quiet and retreat. Other people turn red. Others yell. And some people cry. All of these reactions are normal and natural.

If people didn’t have emotions we’d be androids. And while there are probably days you wish your coworkers acted more like Siri, if the people you work with don’t think more critically than your iPhone, they aren’t of much use to you.

The problem with expressing emotions at work is that it makes people uncomfortable. And often when people are uncomfortable, they don’t know what to do. They just want the situation to go away. And unfortunately in this situation, that means they want you to go away, which is not how you want your boss, coworkers, or customers to think about you.

Avoid crying at work. It makes the person across from you feel uncomfortable and helpless. Men and women alike don’t know what to do when someone they work with cries. They just want the person to stop crying or leave.

I’ve heard some people describe criers as manipulative, as if they cry to orchestrate a certain outcome. I don’t believe that. I think people who cry at work do so involuntarily. It’s their natural reaction to stress. That said, crying at work is not good for professional reputations or relationships.

Here’s what you should do if you have a crier in your office:

  1. Hand the person a tissue.
  2. Know that you are responsible for how you deliver information. You are not responsible for the person’s reaction.
  3. If the person can continue the conversation, keep talking.
  4. If s/he can’t continue the conversation, end it and talk another day. Say something like, “I can see this is very difficult, and I’m very sorry about that. Why don’t we finish the conversation another day.”
  5. If the person doesn’t leave your office, stand up and open your door. That will prompt the other person to stand up.

Here’s what you should do if you’re a crier:

  1. Don’t have difficult conversations when you’re tired, stressed, or are having a bad day.
  2. Practice potentially difficult conversations so you feel more prepared and in control.
  3. Know that nothing is personal.
  4. If you sense you are going to cry, get out of the meeting before you do.
  5. Take a walk outside to burn off stress.
  6. If you cry in a meeting, apologize and try to stop.
  7. If you can’t, excuse yourself from the meeting and circle back to the person when you’re more composed.

None of these suggestions are intended to sound cold or unempathetic. Instead, they’re intended to help criers manage their professional reputation and career. You don’t want someone to be afraid to give you bad news because they fear your reaction. Anything that gets in the way of telling you the truth makes it likely that you won’t get real feedback. And without consistent, candid feedback, you’re working in the dark.

Not knowing how you come across and how your work is perceived are the things that lead to being fired, overlooked for projects, and laid off. Make it easy to tell you the truth by managing your emotions during difficult conversations. As hard and at times seemingly unrealistic as it seems, leave your feelings in your car.


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