Is it Okay to Ignore a Staff Member?

Today’s question concerns office hierarchy. Is it okay to be rude?

I am an Office Coordinator, (office manager), Technical staff memeber has a visitor from the outside in.
Tech staff is going around making introductions and totally side steps me – do I have a right to feel upset and annoyed with him?  He made me feel very unimportant and worthless. –SH

I hear you SH, there is nothing more insulting than having someone who is making introductions walk right past you as though you are invisible. You have a couple of options,

1. You can get upset and proceed to sabotage future projects/deliverables/connections for the offender. You are the office manager, you probably have access to behind the scenes things….

2. You can calmly connect to the offender, face-to-face (email just won’t work here), and let him/her know that you appreciate feeling a part of the team (give an example of a time when he/she made you feel a part of the team, really stretch if you have to) and would he/she mind also introducing you to visitors so you can continue to contribute as a team member. Key word to use is appreciate. You appreciate him/her. Second key concept is to plant the idea that having you know who the visitor is will help you help the team.If you have to, approach it from the angle that the visitor may want to know who you are because you can help him/her get settled in if necessary – an extended visit for example.

3. You can rattle to HR about the offender.

So, based on amount of text alone, you can probably guess my advice, #2.

As much fun as #1 is to think about, it won’t help you. If anything it will set you into a negative passive aggressive cycle that brings everyone down. More likely it will get you fired . . . quickly.

As for #3, forget it. Yes, you can get a negative file started, but you just don’t have the pull that a more technical and or senior staff member has. The reality is that an office manager in theory is easier to replace than a technical staff member. Mind you that is IN THEORY.

I think a great office manager is gold and practically impossible to replace. You want to become that kind of office manager if you aren’t already. Really get yourself inserted into the revenue value chain – can you help the grant writers? Can you help the other staff members who are bringing in the research dollars? Get yourself valuable to the folks who actually control the incoming cash for the company.

SIDE NOTE: I recognized the company SH works for – they are a research firm that depends (Largely? Completely?) on “donated” monies. The last bit hold for everyone though, get as close to the incoming cash as possible. If you generate revenue or are vital to those who do, you become very, very hard to replace.

By the way, I am looking for an office manager. In Dallas. For real.

Office Etiquette – F-you

In this week’s grab bag we have a question about office etiquette and cursing from L.R. in Texas. She writes,

There is a no cursing policy where I work.  However, people who I work with, specifically men, who are very comfortable working with me and they trust me as a coworker, use curse words during our conversation we have at work, even if some of these conversations are not work-related.  This is an infrequent occurrence but it bothers me.  While I am grateful that my coworkers feel comfortable with me, I still don’t think that using curse words is ok at work, period.  How can I tell my coworkers casually that they need to stop?  Sometimes they happen to be my boss…  I don’t want to “scare them off” per say by being up tight all of a sudden, but I need to let them know.  Please help.

When is enough, enough? Lighting up the verbal atmosphere at the office is a sure fire way to catch heat from your superiors, but what do you do if it IS your superior? L.R. is in a common situation. How many times has a co-worker or boss said something that makes you uncomfortable? If you’re human, it’s probably happened within the past month. Curse words, racial slurs, dirty jokes all fall under the domain of poor taste.

There are a few things working against you L.R. First, words, even curse words, can’t actually kill anyone – an extreme statement, but the point is, you can’t simply say to the offender, “You’re killing me.” There’s no criminal reason to stop someone from using curse words. Second, officially you are supposed to report infractions to HR . . . and that is a big buzz kill.

But, you can let the offender know how uncomfortable you are in a subtle yet direct way . . . watch out though because this is a slippery slope straight to passive aggressive behavior on your part – not a good way for you to be perceived.

Phrases like, “Wow, that is really vulgar,” or “What would your daughter think about that?” Those allow you to be direct without saying, “Hey dude, you are gross.” You want to reflect on how offensive the WORDS are, not the person. Careful. Careful.

Plan B is to come straight out and say it – “Hey, Name of Person, I’m so glad you feel comfortable with me. Your language is harsh and distracting. Do you mind toning it down a bit?”

To this you may get one of three responses:

1. A shocked stare and then possible avoidance.

2. A Yes, I do mind reaction, at which point you have a small problem on your hands.

3. Or you may get a No, I don’t mind, and the offender will tone it down moving forward.

Many people using profanity in the workplace are unaware they are using profanity because the words are so common these days. There’s no sense getting upset about it until you have come clean with the offender to let him/her/them know that you find such language offensive. It is offensive, but most of us no longer notice it because profanity has permeated everyday life.

Stand up for yourself and your ears. If profanity bothers you, let the offender know that his words are problematic – again, focus on his words, not him.

Good luck L.R., let us know how it goes!

-Miss Mentor

Cubicle Zoo

Do you wonder who your coworkers most resemble? Have you considered that you sit in a cubicle zoo, not an office space?

The Cheetah: Fast, sleek, but like the name says, a cheata. This is the just a touch too slick sales guy who slips in and out of the office in record time avoiding office time with the boss. He is likely to have a gym membership and use it . . . that’s where he picks up some of his “clients.” He does enough very well and covers up the rest with such charm you never know what hits you. If you are down-to-earth, you inherently distrust him when you first meet him, but somehow you walk away thinking that you may be wrong. Nope, he’s just that smooth.

The Penguin: Loyal, formal, rounded and grounded. Every office needs a Penguin. Penguins remember what happened in the company last year and 20 years ago like it was yesterday. They are excellent for institutional knowledge. They are also not likely to go anywhere until you push them out the door. They are NOT sales people. Stable people in stable positions – accounting back office, administrative assistants . . . they are also likely to have 10 pictures of their grandchildren on their desks. You may have to request they remove excessive crayon renderings of Sponge Bob. They are usually inexpensive, hold vast quantities of institutional knowledge and are easy to keep around. May or may not be particularly effective at their stated jobs.

The Ostrich: Curious creatures, the ostrich is a funny looking zoo member. Always on the go, flitting about as though there is a great rush to get something done, yet, doesn’t manage to produce much. The ostrich constantly looks busy and hides his head when trouble approaches. Perfectly content to maintain the status quo, ostriches can not comprehend what you tell them when you ask them to do something new. It is remarkable. How they ever learned how to drive a car is beyond me. . . . They probably didn’t learn it well so avoid parking near them.

The Crocodile: Lies in wait ready to chomp you. This is the best personality to guard the CEO’s door. The Croc feeds on mammals large and small if they get too close, but isn’t trying to cause any harm. They are testy, do not poke with a stick . . . ever. This is a lousy person to be near on a cube farm. Crocodiles should be in positions with enough importance that they are away from everyone else, mostly for the safety of everyone else. Crocs are there to guard not produce.

The Python: run, run fast if you have one of these. Pythons slither about indiscriminately sucking the life out of whomever, whenever. At first you think he’s a cheetah, but cheetah only kill those who are weaker and in their way. Pythons kill for pleasure. They are slick, slippery and very, very strong. Pythons end up in positions of power because they “kill” off those above them. Unrepentant about sabotage, nothing can impede a python’s path; he knows he can choke the life out of you eventually. If you think you have a python on your staff, get him transferred away from you asap.

Your corporate board? Probably Monkeys. Scared little monkeys flinging sh*t at each other.

Victor Kipling prefers Rat, Chameleon, Peacock, Bear, Rabbit, Lion and Lemur for his assorted cubicle zoo.

Office Etiquette – Making Introductions

A little old fashioned office etiquette for making introductions, particularly outside the office. Be careful in making introductions. It is easier to evade than to cause disagreeable complications. It is unpardonable to introduce one party to another after having been warned not to do so. Board Members can be particularly tricky about remaining anonymous with employees of the organization, be aware.

Forgetting a person’s name when about to introduce is awkward; when it does happen, apologize and ask for the name. It is also acceptable to request the other to, “Remind me of your full name.” In some circles this implies you remember the person’s name, but need help with the full name . . . few people are fooled by this, but it is polite. If you have had to ask the same person for his or her “full name” at more than one occasion in the past year, you have failed yourself with poor form. Get a course to remember names and study it. Daily. Until you get it.

If a person fails to hear the name, it is proper to inform the one to whom you are introduced and to say: “Pardon me, but I failed to hear your name.” In making introductions one should distinctly pronounce the names.

Men should always be introduced to women, the younger to an elder person, and if a purely social situation, unmarried persons to the married.

When an introduction occurs, future recognition is not warranted. For this reason great care should be exercised at entertainments that only those who are congenial to each other should be brought together. At small gatherings it is more appropriate to introduce. When many are present, it is not necessary to do so.

It is quite proper to introduce one group to another without formality at any sports function. Such introductions need not imply further acquaintance if undesirable.

Due Diligence for approaching Boss for Raise

Step 1: Consider your case.

What have you really done this past year? Did you drive more profit to the bottom line in a meaningful way? Did you suss-out a production inefficiency that has saved your company thousands/millions of dollars? Did you introduce your Boss or Boss’s boss to a premier customer with whom your company now does business? These are the kinds of things to consider. What have you REALLY done that goes beyond showing up for work sober. You DID show up for work sober, right?

Step 2: Begin to Prepare your case.

This is a finer comb activity. This is where years of experience playing chess may net you a nice bag-o-coin, but fret not, you navigate situations like this all the time. To wit, you navigate a freeway all the time (probably). This is just like that. On the freeway you have to avoid the crazy, angry drivers (my father) who cut you off/curse/slow/speed-up at whim, the half blind drivers (my grandfather, who is now no longer driving thankfully) who don’t mean to cause trouble, but can’t really comprehend (due to physical and visual limitations, not competence issues) moving at the speed of the rest of the traffic and aren’t really willing to try, and last but not least, the incompetent drivers – I don’t know what their motivations are, but avoid them. All this, plus you must move your body as quickly as possible to your destination safely. In some cases you dodge, others you may have to weave, but in all cases, you must keep going forward. Right?

Okay, so the destination is your raise/bonus. It is your responsibility to get everyone (all the drivers) to your destination. Which driver is your boss like? Who is in front of him? If your boss is an angry driver and his boss is a grandpa driver then you have a hot head stuck behind a slow poke. Yes? If you give the hot head room to maneuver around the slow poke, that will dissipate some of the angry driver’s energy and he’ll be kinder to you, the helpful driver.

This would be akin to you introducing your boss to a key customer that will give your boss a chance at a big promotion himself. Make sense? Since you’ve played the helpful driver, you can show your boss how you helped him meet “key customer” and that has opened up “door x” to “promotion y” for him. Do this subtly to avoid being tacky.

What if your boss is grandpa? Show him how you helped him stay safe by shielding him from the angry drivers. This would be along the lines of you taking on an extra assignment that his boss was throwing down the line of command; you working on and completing that job quickly, without need for supervision or direction from your boss so your boss’s boss is happy and your boss isn’t burdened with extra duties.

In essence, how have you worked WITH your boss (even if you think he’s a stinking rat fink) to make his/her life easier? Demonstrate that in your request for the raise. Do not expect your boss to remember every detail – to him, to her it was probably of very little consequence. Be succinct. Be clear. Tell the relevant details, get the memories going, make him feel good about how useful, helpful, productive you are and THEN ask for the raise.

Position yourself.

Step 3: Have a non-company mentor review your request.

Always put your request in writing so you can fully frame what you want to say and how you will say it, answer questions, respond to push-back. You may deliver orally, but be prepared in writing. Your boss may actually ask you to submit a paper request – sometimes as a stalling technique, sometimes for official documentation, sometimes just so she doesn’t forget you’ve made the request (me!). This request can be reviewed by your mentor for tactical opportunities, logic and relevance. If you have chosen a mentor in the same industry retired or with another company, she may know things about your company that can help you with your raise request (your Co. is about to win a big contract, your Co. President just lost 1/2 of this year’s earnings on a trip to Vegas, etc.). Do ask her to review your request.

Step 4: Practice, practice, practice.

Business is about presentation. We are constantly marketing ourselves, our product, our service, etc. just to keep the doors open. Embrace it. The better you do with fundamental activities, the higher you will rise. Practice how you will talk to your boss, your responses to questions, your tone of voice. Do it. Seriously. Make it natural. Confidence is earned through mastery of fundamentals – you cannot fake confidence.

If your boss sees you making a very natural request for a raise, he’s more inclined to give it to you.

Step 5: Go for it!

Ask your boss for a meeting time and then make your pitch. Be prepared. Good luck!

PokeyOs instead of Alcohol??

Can PokeyOs ice cream sandwiches save the day?

So sometimes it makes more sense to NOT have alcohol at your company function . . . Particularly if someone on your team is a recovering alcoholic or the party is mid-day and you actually want to get work done after the party. No one ever called me cool.

So what’s a company function without a treat that can knock you on your arse? Well, pretty dull. So try Ice Cream sandwiches instead. Take 2 super fresh cookies and a scoop of ice cream and voila! you have a decadent treat. Even the lactose intolerant can have the cookies so it ends up being a crowd pleaser and if you’re the boss, less likely to get you sued should someone veer off-road on the way home….

I got the idea to host our party with PokeyOs from a friend: Kate suggests PokeyOs. Since you probably don’t have one near you, check out the site and copy the concept. It’s super simple. For best results, find a local baker or order from PokeyOs online to get the cookies, ice cream in the feezer case at your grocer and you are all set. You’ll also save a bundle on the party expense versus the booze bash. Two fresh cookies, one scoop of ice cream, could it get any easier?

No alcohol-induced hanky-panky
NO DWI incidents
Super simple
Crowd Pleaser
Keeps folks productive

If consummed too quickly can cause ice cream headache . . .

Play Instant Chess!

Play Instant Chess, because all the cool kids do it. Okay, I know that as a big advocate for doing work at work and play NOT at work, this may seem . . . inappropriate. But hang with me.

My cousin, at the tender age of 8, was some grand whizzy, super-fly something or other in the Chess World. Besting the best in Massachusettes and elsewhere he had good “game” as some might say. I however was not included in the family chess-learning activities and have been sore about it ever since.

Well, Chess is an excellent strategy game AND it really does show how another person processes information. What I am finding as I study former employees, future employees and my compatriots is that a quick game of chess can give a good barometer of my competitor’s capabilities off the chess board. It has been remarkably accurate with predicting say a certain someone’s tendancy to give up or another’s procrastination and yet another’s devious genius.

Best of all, if the player has some experience you will immediately learn if they prefer to be defensive or offensive. Who do you want in accounting? Probably a defensive. Who do you want in sales? Probably an offensive.

The best part is, you really do not need to be a great player to see this unfold. I recommend adding a quick chess game to hiring practices. People reveal more about themselves to the keen observer than they may realize.

So play Instant Chess on Miss Mentor and get your game on folks!