TagToxic Workplace

The Trouble with Being Transparent

Transparent.

It’s one of the biggest buzzwords used to describe management style and workplace culture today.

Like all buzzwords, the definition of what “transparent” means in the world of work varies … For me, it is a management style and/or culture approach where parties are consistently forthcoming and clear about expectations and goals in order to achieve desired-outcomes. It is a management style and/or culture approach of openness, sincerity and collaboration.

Everyone says they would love to work in a transparent culture for a transparent manager. Everyone thinks transparent culture and transparent managers are great. Everyone assumes transparent culture and transparent management is easy.

Everyone is wrong.

If you work in a transparent culture or for someone with a transparent management style, here are a few things to expect:

  • You will answer a lot of questions on a lot of things a lot of the time. Clarity is critical for transparency.  To get clarity, you must gain knowledge and understanding. And you cannot gain knowledge or understanding without asking a lot of questions — factual questions, open questions, closed questions, recall questions, process questions, relational questions, causal questions, questions on questions on questions.
  • You will track, report and analyze metrics. Data is critical for transparency. Part of being transparent is making and sharing information to enable and explain decisions.  Costs, expenses, transactions and trends must be monitored to achieve this.
  • You will handle confidential information. Sharing is critical for transparency. To share, you have to provide information. Some of that information will be sensitive in nature. Some of it will be OK to repeat to others; some of it will not. Be sure to know the difference.
  • You will spend a lot of time with your co-workers. Collaboration is critical for transparency. To collaborate, you have to build teamwork. To build teamwork, you have to spend time together in active work and in downtime. Expect to have a lot of formal meetings as well as social events and organized bonding.
  • You will have to be available. Visibility is critical for transparency. To have visibility, you have to be accessible. You must be approachable and cooperative. You must be receptive and innovative. You must be willing and accountable. You must be enthusiastic and accepting.
  • You will get a lot of feedback on areas for improvement. Pursuit of development is critical  for transparency. To grow, you must know your weak areas and be willing to improve. To learn, you must be critiqued and coached. Not all the feedback will be good or feel good.

Cultivating a transparent culture and/or a transparent management style is hard work. It is demanding and  burdensome. It is time-consuming and deadline-driven. It is confrontational and persistent. It is difficult to create it and challenging to maintain.

That’s the trouble with transparency. Can you handle really it?

When Good Meetings Go Bad

Once upon a time, I was in an all-day meeting. It started at 8am sharp and was scheduled to go until at least 6pm. Presentation after presentation. Lots of talking and lots of slides. Not a lot of breaks.

Sometime after lunch, I started to lose focus. My mind started to wander. And so did my eyes.

My eyes landed on the phone of the co-worker seated next to me. He was texting. I didn’t want to be obvious in my bored nosiness so I couldn’t see what was said. But I know what came back as the response.

Ta-tas. Puppies. Jugs. Tiggle-bitties … BOOBS!!! Big ol’ boobs!!!!

My co-worker was sexting. In the middle of the meeting. And in my nosy boredom, I’d stumbled on his girlfriend’s booby pics.

It was like a car crash.

I tried to look away — but I couldn’t. I was freaking out — but couldn’t say a word. It was so awkward and uncomfortable — and hilarious!

As it gets more difficult for management to be unreachable for long periods, it becomes more common to see smart phones in our meeting rooms … Inevitably this leads to people emailing about other topics during meetings and texting answers to quick questions from staff. It also leads to loafing behavior like gaming, checking social media, online banking, personal errand and calendar prep, and even sexting.

Have I done these things? Yep. Every single one. More than once.

It is nearly impossible to keep a room full of adults fully focused for a meeting, especially when it lasts all day. I’m not sure it is realistic to expect people to hold it together for that long when we all have so many other things pulling at us in any given moment.

Most employers nowadays don’t care. Attendees at meetings are welcome to bring their smart phones and tablets to meetings so they can multi-task.

Others find it upsetting. Attendees at meetings need to be focused on discussing and resolving the agenda items. And they need to show respect and appreciation for the meeting organizer by being fully present and attentive.

If you fall into the latter group and want attendees to be more focused in your meetings, here are a few tips you can use:

  • Declare the meeting a device free zone.  Instruct attendees to leave their devices outside the meeting or designate a place for them to put their devices while the meeting is in session.
  • Take longer or more frequent breaks. Schedule breaks specifically for device checking. We often don’t give enough time for lunch, restroom and checking/returning messages. Make sure your break schedule allots for this.
  • Call out abusers. If someone is more into their device than the meeting, politely call them out. Emphasis on polite. Suggest they take a break and step out to handle their issues in a way that doesn’t leave hard feelings or tension.
  • Gamify disruptions. At the start of the meeting, ask attendees to place their phones on the table upside-down. Let them know that turning their phones over will result in penalties like having to wear a funny hat or glasses or gloves. Keep a count and give a cool prize at the end of the day for the least distracted attendee.

Love them or hate them or love to hate them, meetings are a necessary part of the world of work. Whatever we can do to make them more effective, bearable and fun is worthwhile effort.

But the next time you’re bored in a meeting, DO NOT attempt to read your co-worker’s texts. There’s no telling what you’ll see.

 

The 5 Phrases That Are Hurting Your Reputation

On average, we deal with over 100 email messages in our inbox every day. More and more, we rely on our emails to document and track communication between us and the people we work with and for. Knowing this, sometimes, we go too far or not far enough in choosing our words.

Here are the 5 phrases you’re using that’s hurting your reputation:

  1. “As You Know” … If I know, it comes across snide and condescending. If I don’t know, it comes across judgmental and rude.
  2. “Thanks, but” … This phrase is usually followed by something that negates any gratitude. If you really were thankful, it doesn’t look like it.
  3. “… and so on and so forth” … No one knows what this really means. It always comes across presumptive and dismissive. Arguably inarticulate and lazy.
  4. “If you would be so kind as to” … This paints me into a no-win corner where either I have to do what, when and how you ask or be a jerkface. It’s polite bullying.
  5. “If I don’t hear back from you, I will assume” … This is demanding and slightly menacing.

Everyone sets out to be seen as a supportive, helpful professional at work. At times, we fall short of this at times in moments of frustration, stress or weakness. No one is perfect; it is understandable.

This should be the exception in your communication, though, not the rule. If you’re regularly using these kinds of phrases, it’s time to make a change. Skip the passive-aggressive lead-ins and lead-ons — and just get to the point of what you want to say candidly, directly and tactfully.

  • Instead of saying “As you know”, try “I am writing about the issue with X” instead. This approach is direct and unassuming. If you’re really not sure if the person knows about it, give a brief synopsis of the issue before moving into your questions or requests.
  • Instead of “Thanks, but”, try “Thank you!” followed by a brand new sentence or paragraph about whatever additional thing is needed. This will not overshadow or erase your gratitude … Unless you’re really not thankful. If you’re not, don’t say “thanks” at all. No one like gratuitous gratitude.
  • Instead of “and so on and so forth”, try a brief explanation of what the so on and so forth is. Never assume the reader has all the same knowledge that you have. Use your message share information.
  • Instead of “if you would be so kind”, just state what you need. And why.
  • Instead of “if I don’t hear from you, I will assume”, just state the deadline for a response. And why. If the deadline is a short one, you may even want to pick up that old 19th century device called a telephone to let the person know that you sent an urgent email.

Because we send email to communicate, discuss, resolve and document the things that occur in our workplaces. If the communication isn’t clear, it will lead to unnecessary complications and confusion — and, if it comes down to it, will not withstand legal scrutiny.

Clear. Concise. Candid. Always in all ways.

Are there more passive-aggressive email phrases you’d like to see on this list? Tell me about it!

Who’s The Boss?

We’ve had quite a bit of snow in NC this winter. Schools have been closed for several days and I’ve brought my kids with me to the office. I’m fortunate to work places that allow me that leeway and flexibility. I don’t take it for granted at all.

A couple years ago, I brought my daughter to the office when she was sick and I wrote this post on her observations (Spoiler alert — she thought it was boring; but her reasons will surprise you!) … I was anxious to hear what she would say about my new office and co-workers after spending time there for almost a full day.

She didn’t think my new office was boring. However, she had some interesting thoughts on my boss. When I asked her what she thought about my boss, she said “Ms. Kay? I like her. She’s nice.”

Ms. Kay is not my boss. She is the HR intern. “Why do you think she’s the boss?”

“She came in late and she left early. She has the biggest room out of everybody. And she gets to come into your office to make you sign stuff. She’s the boss.”

Let’s break this down …

Coming in late and leaving early. The intern is a student so she works only a few hours, a few days a week … However, even at her age, my daughter knows “the boss” doesn’t always work as hard or long as those in support roles. This is kinda true. Lots of bosses think they’ve paid their dues and being in charge is permission to slack off. It isn’t. Good bosses are usually the first in and the last out.

Biggest office. The intern has a desk and work area in the file room … However, my daughter knows “the boss” gets the biggest room. This is usually true — but the space should not be wasted. It should be an inviting space that encourages camaraderie, creativity and candor. Good bosses make their office an oasis and a haven.

Make people do stuff. The intern brings me documents to sign for approval to process and/or pay. She comes in, nicely asks me to sign-off and I usually comply … However, my daughter knows “the boss” tells people what to do –and they do it! And if they don’t do it, there is trouble. This is also kinda true — but bullying and threatening people to get compliance will not lead to long term success. Authority and power should be used to develop and motivate the people in your influence. Good bosses build people up to make the work environment better and faster.

Being the boss is about being willing to guide, help and serve the people you work with and work for — no matter the size of your office or staff or organization.

My real boss was the person who helped my daughter get potato chips out of the snack cabinet when she couldn’t reach the top shelf.

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