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“No Thank You Please” — And The Importance of Directives

Just after the start of the new year, I came across this story in my Facebook timeline about a school in North Carolina where teachers were discouraged from using “please” and “thank you” in communication with students.

Coined as No-NonSense Nurturing, the idea behind the initiative is the teachers shouldn’t say “Please” or “Thank you” for students doing things where participation isn’t truly optional.

Manners is something to be taught at home, not school. Manners are a sign of respect, deference and sincerity. Asking a child to “please sit down” or saying “thank you for not calling out during class” is a misuse of manners. It leads to children not understanding authority and structure.

I was fascinated by the premise and agreed with sentiment … I immediately wondered how and if this could work at work.

  • How often do we say “please” when the other party really has no other option but to comply?
  • How often do we say “thank you” to someone for doing something that is routine or required?

This isn’t real or good manners.

It is passive-aggressive. It is inauthentic — and people see right through it! It creates resentment and division more than it fosters collaboration and teamwork.

More than any other time in our history, we are seeking authentic and honest connection at work.

How can we get there if our communication is laced with insincerity, noncooperation and manipulation???  Because that’s what these unnecessary “pleases” and “thank yous” are … Manners wrapped in rudeness.

After mulling around these thoughts, I started a little experiment … I stopped saying “please” or “thank you” when compliance isn’t optional or when I’m not sincerely grateful.

A little over a month into the experiment, I am really enjoying it!

With every clear, succinct directive, I feel better and better because I know my communications are more clear and candid without the fluff. It’s great!

On the recipient’s end, it has been pretty uneventful. No one has declared me as rude or bossy or lacking manners. No one has pushed back, either … It seems hardly anyone has noticed.

Which now has me wondering … Do manners even matter at work?

Tell me what you think. Please. And thank you.

Don’t Major in Minor Stuff

There’s a lot going on this week. The Oscars were Sunday night and Black History Month ends this week while Women’s History Month begins … and today is Leap Day!

I was trying to figure out how to converge all of this into a meaningful blog post when I started seeing a bunch of posts on Facebook and Twitter about Billy Crystal in “black face” at the Oscars this year. This was in reference to his wearing dark make-up and impersonating the late Sammy Davis Jr. in one of the opening skits for the show.

I was really upset and annoyed by this because 1) I love Billy Crystal, 2) I love Sammy Davis Jr, 3) costume make-up is NOT the same as “black face” and 4) there are much more pressing issues facing minorities than this!! Like seriously. People are actively campaigning and lobbying to essentially turn back the clock on our rights in America … and we’re up in arms about Billy Crystal as Sammy Davis, Jr?!?

Chile, please.

I was ranting about this with one of my closest friends when she shared a favorite quote …

Don’t Major in Minor Stuff

As minorities and “protected classes” of people, we often let ourselves get rope-a-doped into this. We focus on minor things like the guy in the cubicle next to us who greets “Whassup, brother” — instead of the major things like the company having no women or people of color on the senior management team. We get mad when we’re seven months pregnant and the boss asks us to create a plan for how work will get done while we’re on maternity leave — instead of being mad that the actual maternity leave is only 4 weeks and completely unpaid. We major in the minors.

Not every issue worth throwing down the gauntlet for. Not every issue is worth the time and attention required to solve or resolve it. Not everything is major.

This isn’t to say there are not real issues in workplaces surrounding stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination. There are. I know because I have faced them and continue to face them. Sometimes they are overt, other times they are more subtle and other times they rumble so far beneath the surface that you can never quite put your finger on it but you know that you know that you know that it is there. I get it …

But there are times when it is just the organization’s culture or the supervisor’s personality or even your own personality that result in these conflicts. We label it as prejudice or discriminatory behavior when it’s really just “bad fit” and we start to see a pervasive patterns where they do not exist.

So how do you know where the line is?

  • As an employee, it is important to understand what discrimination is. It occurs when an employee suffer adverse impact or is denied opportunity based on their being a member of a protected class. Adverse impact is when standards or procedures applied to everyone lead to a substantial difference in employment outcomes unrelated to successful job performance for a protected group. It is important to remember that adverse impact is not automatically unlawful or discriminatory. Some stuff just goes along with the needs of a particular business. You need to stay open to this possibility because sometimes this happens and there is nothing an employer can or should do about it.

 

  • As an employer/manager/HR person/leader, you need to be sensitive to the potential unintentional discrimination caused by adverse impact in your organizational structure, policies, procedures and practices. Because we all know these things exist! We have a responsibility to identify and confront these issues head on — then work to reverse the issue when possible. This is what truly “seeking diversity” is all about. Otherwise, we end up majoring in minors by focusing on the celebration of various things without having the variety of people there to actually enjoy it.

So on the extra day we have this year and as we transition to a new month where we’ll celebrate more great contributions and reflect on the progress of another group who has faced historical challenges, let’s commit to seek real diversity and understanding all year round — and stop majoring in minor stuff!

Adam & Eva

Happy Valentine’s Day!! Posts this week are all about my favorite workplace love stories. Enjoy!

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Adam and Eva were my first experience with workplace romance. They worked in Accounting. I worked on-site as a staffing manager and my desk was in their area. Smack in between them actually.

And, yes, that was as awkward as it sounds.

Adam and Eva tried really hard to keep their relationship a secret. There weren’t any policies about dating but it was clear they were both worried about the impact it could have on their job and reputation. They were successful in fooling everyone …

Except me.

First, they started eating lunch together. Every single day. The flirting, giggling and goo-goo eyes were next. Then they started bringing each other food and snacks. Then “anonymous” gifts. Then they started riding to/from work together –even though they didn’t live all that close to each other.

Boom-chicka-wow-wow!

I wondered how anyone was fooled by them. But they were fooled. So much so that other people would try to flirt with them. Especially Adam. Once, a girl from another department came over and asked him out to drinks with Eva (and me) listening just a cubicle away. His response “I’ve got some stuff going on right now. Maybe another time.”

Uh oh.

Eva was pissed. She stomped out of the office and hid out in the bathroom. When she came back, she refused to speak to Adam. She spent the rest of the day asking me to pass papers and things to him instead of walking the 2 extra feet to take it herself. When Adam talked to her about work-related things, she was curt and short with him. He asked if she would take a break with him and she refused. She called someone else to pick her up from work.

This pattern continued for a few months. Adam and Eva would be totally in love for a few days then one of them would seemingly flirt with someone else or fail to publicly declare their relationship status — and the middle school antics would start.

Eventually their supervisor caught wind of the issues they were having. She told them to cut the crap or they would be out a job. And she made good on her promise after Adam played a series of practical jokes on Eva after she went out to lunch with a guy from the logistics department. He sprinkled something on Eva’s keyboard and mouse which caused an allergic reaction and chemical burns on her hands. He was fired.

But they continued seeing each other for at least a year after that.

Go figure.

Is the HR MS Really BS?

A friend of mine decided to enroll in an online Master’s Degree program. She’s been working on the peripheral of HR for a while and wants to move into a more traditional HR role. She doesn’t have the professional experience to take the PHR yet. So she decided to get her Master’s, make the transition into HR and get certified later.

I was excited for her. Unlike a lot of people out there, I don’t balk or bicker about the value of degree programs. Brick/Mortar versus Online. Small college versus Major university … Bloods versus Crypts! Jets versus Sharks! Whatever. I think everyone loses in those battles.

All education has value. And, ultimately, the decision to pursue higher education and the completion of a 2-, 3- or 4+ year degree program demonstrates a committment to learning, a capacity for retaining practical knowledge and a basic ability to organize, set priorities and work independently. Those are highly desirable skills for any career or workplace. Combined with experience and enthusiasm, higher education should produce a level of savvy, sophistication and shrewdness that equal a formula for success.

Her courses started right after the MLK Holiday last week. We met up for lunch recently and she had her school stuff with her. I looked at the syllabus … and I was unimpressed. Later, I googled the curricumlum … and I was really unimpressed!

There were no traditional business-focused classes on there. No accounting or marketing or statistics. Not even a strategic HR class.

I asked her about it. She didn’t seem bothered. She said she didn’t want to take all the business stuff anyways — she wanted to learn HR. I tried to explain to her that HR is “all the business stuff” but she wasn’t trying to hear it.

And suddenly I became one of those people judging someone else’s degree program. It didn’t feel good.

I knew her program was a Master’s of Science, not a Master’s of Business Administration (which is what I have). I’ve encountered a few other people who chose the MS over the MBA. I didn’t think there was too much difference between the two. But I remembered them saying their programs didn’t have a lot of traditional business-focus to them either. I also remembered they struggled with strategy and analytics and financials than I did …

Is the HR MS really BS?!? Is the MS curriculum failing to really prepare its students for a career as an effective HR professional?!?

After digging a little deeper, my answer is “most likely, no.” Any degree or certificate program a person chooses needs to be thoroughly researched to make sure it is reputable and designed to prepare you for whatever you want to do with the knowledge gained once you are done. MBA vs MS vs MM vs MA — they each have value and can help advance your career. Learn the difference and all the other options available to make the best choice for you.

 

 

 

Ultimately, we all want to be a MBA though … Major Bad-Ass!!

 

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