Effective Conversations

In Communication, It’s All About the Emotion

The world of communication intersects with an administrative assistant’s life all the time, whether it’s a note from her manager to his subordinates or an important message to the entire company.  Being somewhat familiar with the written word, I was happy to jump in and take care of basic communications for my manager.  It was something I did well and I was happy to make those skills available to him…he, in fact, did not do it as well, so he always took me up on it.

Its all about emotionsThe reason why he did not do very well at it wasn’t because he couldn’t form a complete sentence.  On the contrary, I still consider him a genius and he was pretty darned good at everything he did.  But he communicated in rambling sentences, giving away more detail than he needed, and the message suffered for it.  And he didn’t understand that one very important communication “thing.”

A good communication taps employees’ emotions.  It’s as simple as that, and yet so few communicators understand and use that knowledge to the company’s benefit.  Many of them will tell you straight out, “I’m not writing a romance novel here.”  But yeah, you kind of are…and it’s a romance between the employee and the company for which he works.

Let’s take, for instance, a communication that explains that a well-liked but inefficient executive is leaving the company to “pursue other interests.”  That’s a hard message to write, because people are going to be sad (that he’s leaving), worried (about their own seemingly uncertain futures) and unclear (on the direction of the company).  They’re going to know that this executive has been let go no matter how you express that detail, and they’re going to be angry with their company for doing it.

How do you conquer the employee emotions of sadness, worry, uncertainty and anger?  With a little certainty and an optimistic view of the company’s future:

Minimize words to create a feeling of authority and control – I always use Jean-Luc Picard as my example for why a writer shouldn’t ramble on in a message.  Jean-Luc could have told his crew, “You know, I’d like to move our blasters a little bit to the left and maybe increase our speed to warp 2 if we’ve got enough power, and then I feel strongly that we’ll catch that bad guy.”  Nope.  He said, “Engage!”  Everything else fell into place and his crew knew what to do.  Using a few well-chosen words conveys to your employees that you’re in control, that you know they know their jobs, and you’re confident the results will be as expected.

Don’t gloss over the details – An employee reading your communication is going to wonder, “Why?” and “What about me?” and he shouldn’t have to look far for the answers.  Quell all their fears and give them the details they need to know.  If any details should be conveyed privately, set up a schedule and ensure that those are passed along before a blanket communication goes out.

Address the elephant in the room, even if it’s only a subtle attempt – Yes, everyone is going to be angry that this well-liked executive has been asked to leave, but chances are a good many of them know that he was ineffective.  You don’t have to say that, but you can say, “We wish him well in his next endeavors and thank him for his contributions.”

End on a positive note – This new organizational structure, minus the ineffective executive, is going to benefit the company because of X, Y, and Z.  There should be no, “We think…” or “We believe…” involved in that.  You made a decision, it’s for the best, and the result will be good.  Give your employees a sense of confidence.

Be available for questions – Always, always, always leave your door open and invite discussion about events.  Employees should be able to discuss their concerns with managers in private, or even in a public forum, if the situation warrants one.

Not all communications assuage negative emotions, but they all convey emotions.  Some communications get the employees excited about where they work and what they do.  Others serve to recognize employees who have made great contributions (and, conversely, incent other employees to strive for those same goals).  All of them should serve to improve an employee’s engagement with his manager, co-workers and the organization, and that can only be done with…you got it….emotion.

 

Next Post:  Wednesday, August 23

The Co-workers Who Resist Change

The only thing that’s constant is change, right?  Companies have to change with the needs of the customers it helps, or they’re just not going to be around in a few years.  It’s a fact of business, and it’s also a fact that employees within those companies are going to resist any alteration to the status quo they’ve become accustomed to.Resist

So, what can a Revolutionary Assistant and her manager do?

Most of the time change is thrust upon employees and they’re told to deal with it.  That approach has met with some success, but it’s not always the kindest of procedures.  Better still is to understand that employees resist change because

  • They aren’t confident change will succeed
  • They don’t trust those who are leading the change initiative
  • They think the change isn’t necessary
  • They fear for their own personal position in the company
  • They have a harder time than most handling the disruption

When your manager is trying to initiate change, he or she may enlist your help to ensure a smooth implementation of the project.  That could mean interacting with and influencing these change resisters.  Change management experts across the globe have offered up some suggestions that might help:

Respect, respect, respect – You might feel a very strong urge to just tell these change resisters to “shut up and do it” but it may not be in your best interest.  If resisters haven’t been consulted, they could feel like important information (which they possess) has not been considered, or they may just feel that they missed their chance to be a part of the change conversation.  Encourage your manager to set up time with these resisters so he can hear their point of view and give it thoughtful consideration.

Encourage open discussion – This change affects everyone, and if it’s a new “thing” than perhaps not every angle has been studied.  Encourage plenty of conversation and feedback throughout the process…and be a great listener, otherwise the feedback and conversation will grind to a halt.  No one wants to talk to someone who’s not really listening.

“Diagnose” the resistance – Your manager has to give careful thought to the feedback she’s hearing.   Do you consider that point of view more thoroughly, or do you dismiss it and move on to the next point of interest?

Involve them in the change implementation – Resisters will often take more ownership for the change if they play a part in making it happen.  Hands-on work, and being called upon to bring other co-workers up to speed, is an education for the resister.

Be open to change yourself – Your idea about what this final product will look like may not be the way it actually looks when it’s done.  Your manager should not be married to any of his expectations.  This maelstrom of conversation and resistance is likely to result in something better than what was originally imagined, so keep minds open!

Organizations need to change in order to survive, and many fail to deal with change resisters in a productive way.  Don’t hit a dead end and create a critical situation for the company!  Encouraging conversation with resisters, considering their points of view and involving them in the change process helps your organization reach the finish line successfully.

 

Next Post:  Wednesday, July 26

Sorry! Women and Apologies in the Workplace

I’ve read a lot about how women saying “I’m sorry” in the workplace.  The irritating behavior, said writer Sloane Crosley in The New York Times, is “a Trojan horse for genuine annoyance, a tactic left over from centuries of having to couch basic demands in palatable packages in order to get what we want.”

SorryRefinery29 Web writer Lindsey Standberry did an experiment where she asked three co-workers to record how many times they apologized.  The women said “I’m sorry” as few as 9 but as many as 47 times during a workday.  All reported that it was a phrase they used when they were about to assert authority.

Finally, Washington Post writer Jessica Grose said, “’Sorry,’ but we don’t need new email plug-ins [that remind us not to use apologetic language in our written communications].  What we need is for people to stop picking apart the ways we communicate.”

This Revolutionary Assistant thinks the answer really lies somewhere in between, and it’s as much a personal issue as it is a badge of our gender.  Effective communication is a mix of a speaker’s confidence and her ability to gauge the way in which the listener will best accept, internalize and respond to her message.

Sometimes, the speaker is best served by very direct communication that will result in a very direct action.   For instance, if the building is on fire, a revolutionary communicator is not going to say, “I’m sorry, but can I ask you to head to the nearest stairwell?”  She’s going to calmly and firmly direct everyone to safety.

Similarly, a female communicator might find that a subordinate responds best when he is told directly and firmly to take a course of action.  However, that’s not always the case for women trying to communicate in the workplace.  As Washington Post writer Jessica Grose pointed out, women are not always well received when they buck the soft-spoken cultural norms that are expected of them:

Because we’re already fighting against so many cultural assumptions, in many instances, women have discovered that they are more respected and successful when they conform to those gendered expectations. In [her book] Talking from 9 to 5, [author and Georgetown University linguist Deborah] Tannen offers the example of a doctor who is one of the few women in her specialty. At first, this surgeon tried mimicking the military-style order barking of the male surgeons who trained her. But that approach backfired — none of the nurses would listen to her. So she changed her way of speaking, because she found, “if you try to be authoritarian, like many of your male colleagues are, it won’t work with most nurses, but if you ally yourself with them and respect them as professional colleagues, they will be your best allies.”

Is it really fair that a woman, who is equal to her male colleague in every way, has to adjust the way she communicates to achieve a goal, while that male colleague can do the same without a single thought to his approach?  Maybe not.  But in my opinion, this is where we are in our evolution of women in the workplace, and a woman’s success isn’t dependent on how many times she apologizes or softens her phrase.  A woman’s success is dependent on getting the result she wants.

In summary, if you’d like to count how many times you say “I’m sorry” in a day, by all means do so.  And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to strengthen your communication skills by becoming more direct.  But if you choose to soften a directive with a quick apology so that it’s well-received and stands a better chance of being acted upon, do it with confidence.  If that’s how you get what you want, if that’s how you achieve your goals, there’s nothing wrong with it.  Go forth and apologize unapologetically!

Next Post:  Wednesday, September 28

 

Make Data Resonate in a Presentation

“If I lined up all the bottled water the United States consumes in a week, the line would reach from here to the moon and back seventeen times.”

You know, I don’t actually know how many bottles of water we consume in a week, and if this sentence were actually true, I’m still not sure I’d understand how many bottles of water that meant.  I know it’s a long way from here to the moon, but I have no real perspective on that distance.   I haven’t been there yet.

Data resonate For instance, in Harvard Business Review’s Jan/Feb 2016 article “Vision Statement: How to Make Extreme Numbers Resonate,” the author wanted to make a point of how massive 18 billion coffee pods are.  To do it, s/he illustrated a building that took up an entire New York City block and extended to a height of thirty stories.  Add some little cars on the road to show just how big that building is and, wow, that’s a whole lot of coffee pods.

Let’s do one together.  In 2012, total U.S. bottled water consumption increased to 9.67 billion gallons.  (That’s actually a real fact, thank you very much International Bottled Water Association!)  That’s a whole lot of gallons of water.   The number sounds impressive, but how can we make it even more impressive?

Well, the average back-yard, in-ground swimming pool holds about 20,000 gallons of water.  We pretty much all know what one of those looks like.  So when we say that the U.S. alone consumed 483,500 swimming pools worth of water, that sounds pretty impressive.  If you still think that’s a hard thing to get your arms around, then compare the consumption to a nearby lake, or a water tower in the area.

Let’s try some more:

  • Over 158,000 people are expected to die from lung cancer this year.  Think about the tragedy of September 11 happening once a week all year.  That’s how many people will die of this disease.
  • More than one billion people are on Facebook.  If they all lived in one place, they’d be the third biggest country in the world.

 

So how about really small numbers?  The best and most familiar example might be a description of your chances of winning the lottery – you have a better chance of being hit by lightening (and you have a very small chance of being hit by lightening.  I think that’s pretty good, but try using a visual to show your audience just how the odds are stacked.  Make them look for a pinpoint on the slide, and the fact that it’s so hard to find will illustrate your point.

Before I close, I want to share with you a favorite example, offered by Duarte. Intel’s CEO Paul Otellini did when he presented at the 2010 CES in Las Vegas.  He said:

 “Today we have the industry’s first-shipping 32-nanometer process technology. A 32-nanometer microprocessor is 5,000 times faster; its transistors are 100,000 times cheaper than the 4004 processor that we began with. With all respect to our friends in the auto industry, if their products had produced the same kind of innovation, cars today would go 470,000 miles per hour. They’d get 100,000 miles per gallon and they’d cost three cents. We believe that these advances in technology are bringing us into a new era of computing.”

Everyone owns a car, right?  The perfect example of showing just how small and fast a number is.

So help your audience understand just how big, how small, or how impressive your number is by taking something that’s familiar to them, and using it to illustrate your fact!

 

Next Post:  Wednesday, August 31

Getting What You Want From the Creative Department

Creative people are a different breed, aren’t they? I can say that because I’m one of those creative types, and I can tell you that when my boss says, “I need this to stand out more” or “I want this to really look sleek” he has a very specific idea in his head of what his document/presentation should look like.

artistAnd I don’t have a clue.

I can’t tell you how much easier it would be if he said, “I want the font to be bolder” or “I want it to be blue instead of red.” Those are things I can understand. Sleek? Well, that can be interpreted a variety of ways, and I bet my idea of sleek is different than his is!

If you want sleek and you’re not getting it, here are a couple of tips from me on how you can get fabulous results from your creative department:

Give them time – I’m often asked to write scripts and shoot videos that drive home an operational point to our field staff. When I get these requests, they’re often accompanied by the requisite “I know whatever you do, it’ll be funny/cute/great, and I need it by Friday.” Well, here I have absolutely no specifics to work with, and I have three days to get it done. The creative idea you’re looking for me to provide often does not pop immediately into my head or, if it does, it requires more than three days to execute. The more time I’m given, the better the final product will be.

Set up time to provide feedback often – Presumably, you’ve taken my advice and given your creative person some time. That being the case, set up time to talk with him or her a few days from now to see how the project is going, or to get some preliminary ideas. Maybe even see a few drafts.

Be specific about your feedback (and kind) – I was told once to “get rid of that third-grade font.” Not only did a bristle at the bluntness of the remark, I have no idea what she actually did want. I had to pursue her, and probing led to the discovery that she didn’t like sans-serif fonts, but I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t gone marching into her office asking for more. Never mind that I was offended by the idea that I was trying to appeal to third-graders…

If you can help the process by saying, “I’d like to see a fancier/bolder/more delicate font” that’s something a creative person can act on. If you’re thinking of something in a specific color, say so. If you want to create a feeling with the art, articulate that. Or find some examples that are similar to what you’re looking for, and share them with your creative person. That helps, too!

Remember that they know their job better than you do – Creative people are well schooled on what they can and can’t do with company logos, brand messaging, colors, etc., and they know how to work within those parameters. Marketers get angry when they’re asked to do something outside of those brand parameters. Also, they’re good at making things pretty, and if you give them a little latitude, they’re going to come up with something better than you dreamed it could be.

Being a creative person in a corporate world is a lot of pressure. I, for one, am always worried that I’ve had my last good idea and that I’ll never come up with something original again (it hasn’t happened yet, but there’s always tomorrow!). Don’t make their jobs even harder by being unkind in your opinions and vague in your feedback, or it’ll take even longer to get what you want!

Next Post:  Wednesday, February 17

Death at the Office

Sounds like a book out of a mystery series, doesn’t it?

I wish that’s all it was, but frankly, death is a part of life and everyone – family, friends, co-workers—experience loss at one time or another. And if you’re like me, you really don’t know what to do when it happens, especially when it comes to a co-worker who’s just experienced a devastating loss.

We recently experienced this situation at work, where a co-worker lost her adult child unexpectedly. Even though I have no children of my own, I have to think that this is one of the worst things that could possibly happen to a person. My heart bled for her, and thoughts of her situation, her hell-on-earth, followed me around for days.

But when I next saw her, I was tongue tied. I wanted to be helpful. I wanted to say all the right things to make an awful, horrible situation a little better. Still, a dozen different thoughts raced through my mind. If I said, “I’m so sorry for your loss,” would she start to cry? Would she say, “Thank you, I had just stopped thinking about it for a second and now I’m thinking about it again and it’s all your fault”? Would she say, “Sorry?! You have no idea

My feelings are not unusual. It can be hard to deal with emotional situations when someone you love is suffering. But when you have a working relationship with someone who’s experienced a loss, you can’t always offer a hug or a kiss, or any kind of loving human contact. You don’t necessarily hug and kiss people you work with. And this situation is a part of your co-worker’s personal life, not his/her professional life, which makes it all the more awkward. So how do you deal with the emotional response your comments might illicit?

Easy! You avoid saying anything!

(Yeah, that’s what I told myself, but I couldn’t pretend that it didn’t happen, that’s just not right!)

So, here are a few tips to get you through this difficult situation:

Express verbal condolences to those co-workers you don’t know well when you need to speak with that person for other reasons – Start out the conversation by saying, “I’m here to talk with you about X, but I wanted to let you know that I heard what happened and I’ve been thinking about you. I’m so sorry for your loss.” This gives the mourner the chance to say thank you, and then jump onto another subject. If he wants to talk about his loss, it gives him the opportunity to do so.

Drop a card at the co-worker’s desk if you don’t know that person well – This is a great way to express condolences to a co-worker you don’t know really well. At your next interaction, you can ask him how he is, he can thank you for the card, and you can move on to a conversation that’s the subject of his choice.

If you know the person well enough or work closely enough with him, express condolences and ask him about his work load – Your mourning co-worker might not have the level of concentration necessary to tackle everything he has on his plate at the moment, or might need help catching up.

As a Revolutionary Assistant, make a plea for your manager to be flexible with your mourning co-worker – Some find work a great release that helps them navigate their loss, but others will find even the easiest work tasks an unbearable burden that’s layered on top it. Everyone reacts differently, and you’ll help your manager maintain a strong working relationship with the mourner if she can be flexible with his needs.

Avoid saying things like “This happened to me” or “I understand exactly how you feel” or “At least you have_____” – Again, everyone processes loss differently. Saying that it happened to you or that you know how the mourner feels marginalizes what he might feel, and furthermore makes the conversation about you and not him. Telling him, “At least you have another son,” or “It was God’s will” just minimizes the huge effect that death has had on this person.

After you express your condolences, just listen – Sometimes, that’s the best gift of all.

If you’re really having a hard time approaching this person, think about the last time you experienced loss and what was most helpful to you. It’s a rotten thing, having to live through something like that, but sometimes a new bond is formed, a new friend found, and a new point of view understood. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

Next Post:  Wednesday, July 29

Become a Better Writer

I’m starting to notice that good writing skills are quickly becoming a thing of the past.  It’s been a while since I’ve been in school, but I can only assume that, while writing plays a big part in earning a business degree, writing is not graded or critiqued in and of itself.  And that’s a crying shame, because with great communication comes great power!

People who write well are more promotable, more hireable, and more successful than those who cannot.  So it behooves you (yes, that’s really a word) to up the ante when it comes to your writing.  Here are some great tips to help you get a leg up on written communication:

Keep your language simple – Beefing up your words and sounding scholarly may be your instinct when you put together a memo, but in reality that will only trip you up while you’re writing it, and trip your readers up while they’re reading it.  Write your memo the way you would say it, in simple language.

Brevity is power – And I’m talking Hemmingway brevity.  If you’ve written “this is an event our company has done over and over again for the last twenty years,” consider calling it a “traditional event” instead.  Rambling is something done by the nervous and the weak, even if it’s on paper.  If you’re a fan of Star Trek, you know that Jean Luc Picard doesn’t say, “If you could point the Enterprise in that direction and use our blasters to eliminate those aliens.”  He says things like, “Engage!” and “Make it so.”  He’s a powerful guy and an exemplary leader.  Say less with stronger words.

Stay away from useless words – Words like “just” or “really” don’t add much to a communication.  They’re fillers.  Stay away from them, and words like them!  For a great list, check out this article from Entrepreneur.

Avoid jargon – Jargon and acronyms are for people who want to look like they’re communicating but really aren’t saying anything substantial.  The same way you block out a politician who’s using words like “politics of change,” people are mentally shutting down when you use “strategic healthcare solution.”  What is a strategic healthcare solution, anyway?  If you want to say something, give it some meat and leave the jargon for another time.

Remember the call to action – Don’t write something to your co-workers if you’re not going to convey to them how they should use the information you’re giving them.  If you’re telling them the cafeteria is closed at 12:00 for a private event, include a line that tells the group to go down and get their lunches by 11:30.  Underline it and make it red.

These are just a few hints that will help you write a better communication.  Remember, some people are born to write and others struggle with it their whole lives, but everyone has the ability to improve on these simple communication points!

 

Next Post:  Wednesday, July 30

Apologizing (the Right Way) at the Office

Because none of us are perfect, chances are likely you’ve made a mistake and had to apologize for it at some point in your career.  It’s never a good feeling, but if you’re smart about it, you own up, get the apology out of the way, and move on.

I was reading an article on the Harvard Business Review blog a few days back, and what I saw made me think a little bit about how one delivers an apology, and what an apology should really mean.

In the article, Heidi Grant Halvorson writes, “…the problem is that most people tend to make their apologies about themselves – about their intentions, thoughts, and feelings.”  For instance, the transgressor often says, “I didn’t mean to…” or “I was hoping to accomplish X…” rather than acknowledging how the victim has been affected by your mistake, or conveying your understanding that you’ve affected business operations in a not-very-good way.

I could understand that point of view.  When someone has done something to me, I don’t like to hear about what they were thinking at the time the sin was committed.  I want to hear that they understand how I feel about being on the receiving end of the whole sordid mess.  Based on this, and a few more articles I read to get some different points of view, these are my new rules of apologizing in the office:

Own up and be up front about it – There’s nothing worse than when you try to cover up your mistake intentionally and often by doing so, bigger problems result.  The minute I screw up, I’m going to raise my flag.

Explain the reason why the mistake happened, without whining – Most of the time, I’m not setting out to blow up a project, and I probably thought my choices were good when I made them.  I will convey that to those I have hurt that I had a particular plan in mind, and that my intent was to further their mission, not to harm it.

I will not throw others under the bus in my explanation – Very often as a Revolutionary Assistant, I rely on others to contribute to my final project.  If there was a failure that lays with one of those “others,” I will do my best to protect him in my apology.  Chances are likely I’ll need to rely on that person again, and it’ll do me no good to get that person in trouble too.

Say I’m sorry in a way that Ms. Halvorson would approve of – In her blog entry, she was absolutely right about making the apology about the person harmed, not about me.  I will convey, with the appropriate emotion, that I understand how that person feels and that I am upset by it.

I will not admit that the entire project’s failure is due to my error – Just like being in a car accident, even if you’re partly to blame, the last thing you want to do is say it out loud.  I will let the harmed party know that I’m very sorry that this problem occurred, but I will not say, “It’s all my fault.”  Then I’m going from apologizing to assuming culpability, and that’s a whole different ballgame.  This sounds counterintuitive to the sentiment of the rest of this article, but apologizing is not about throwing yourself under the bus, either!

I will take the heat – Once I’ve apologized, I’m not going to say, “I said I was sorry, and that’s the end of it.”  I will stand there and take the anger that comes along with the hurt party being wronged.  That’s only fair, and the wronged person will feel much better if he or she is allowed to vent.

I will offer my plans to make the situation right – If I’ve botched something, certainly there must be a path that will make the botched something correct again.  I will offer my plan to make that situation whole again, and listen to the wronged person’s suggestions as well.

Making a mistake and having to apologize for it is never fun, but if everyone can come away from the incident with relationships still intact…well, that’s the best possible outcome.  After all, the Revolutionary Assistant needs her work relationships in order to be as successful as she can be!

Next post:  Wednesday, September 18

Pay Attention to My Emails, Darn it!

Sometimes it seems as though there is not a soul that listens to me, especially when I have directions to issue here at the office.  For instance, I ask folks not to put their juice bottles in the returnables container.  I write them emails, I create signs, I make an announcement at lunch, and the next day there’s still a Minute Maid bottle right on top of all those pop cans.

I fantasize about putting that returnables container on webcam and waiting in the wings to catch them red handed, but in the end, I don’t need to go that far.  The reality is that our employees get 200 emails a day, and they probably didn’t read mine because it didn’t jump out at them.  I need to write a better email.

What makes an effective email? Here are a couple of things you can keep in mind:

Be quick and concise – If you drone on about the Minute Maid bottle too long and don’t get to the point of the email, you’ll lose your reader.  They’ll never see what it is you want them to do.  Cover the subject matter quickly: (1) We are finding non-returnables in the returnables container and; (2) please take care not to put those there.  Add some niceties so they don’t think that you’re the Returnables Gestapo, and you’re good to go.

Treat the subject line like a newspaper headline – Your reader should be able to read the headline, understand what the email is about, and even search and locate it later as reference.  A title like “Two things” or “Stuff” is not so good.  A title like “New procedures regarding returnables” works just fine!

One subject per email – If you need to talk about juice bottles and you need to let the office know that one of your servers is powering down for an hour, do it in two separate emails.

Specify the action you want to take place – Frequently, I’ll put “please read” or “action required” in the subject line of the email.  If there’s a due date embedded within the text, I’ll underline it and make it bold.  Anything so that they notice immediately what needs to be done and when.

Use good grammar, standard capitalization and punctuation – It’s amazing how people will hone in on the format of your writing and not grasp the content.  If you’ve used the wrong “your,” written something in all-caps, or write in one, long run-on sentence, people will notice that.  And they’ll make fun of you.  But they won’t remember what it was you were talking about.

CC people correctly – Use the CC button only if it’s necessary, and then only for those people who absolutely need to be aware of the conversation.  There’s nothing worse than being cc’d on an email that you don’t care about, and then have it blossom into a conversation that goes on forever!

Should this subject be an email or a conversation? – Ask yourself this every time you send out an email.  If many details need to be covered, or bad news needs to be delivered, then perhaps you should reconsider the email and stop by this person’s office instead.

Preparing a thoughtful and to-the-point email will always increase your chances of being read and understood.  I am turning off the webcam and concentrating on writing a better email.  And I will try not to think about how the “we’re all leaving early for the holiday weekend” email always seems to be read and understood by everyone…

Next Post:  Wednesday, July 31

Is Your Ambition to Be The Office Clown? Carry On!

“Life is tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long shot.” 

Charlie Chaplin hit the nail on the head when he tried to describe it:  comedy is pain.  Likewise, work is pain, so there should be comedy in the office, right?  Well, yes.  But what one person finds funny another might find offensive, so isn’t it better to just keep your joke to yourself?

Maybe not.  In Forbes Magazine’s article “10 Reasons Why Humor Is The Key To Success At Work,” Jacquelyn Smith writes, “A Robert Half International survey… found that 91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement; while 84% feel that people with a good sense of humor do a better job.”

Here are some reasons to let your sense of humor shine through:

People like being around you and you become more approachable – Admit it!  You like to hang out with the funny guy, too!  A sense of humor is like an open door, people will seek you out, ask your advice, and involve you in more things if they want to be around you.  That can only be good for your career.

You improve the mood of those around you – When people are having fun in the office, they’re usually more productive and less likely to leave for a different position.  Productivity and turnover are definitely enhancers of the bottom line.

Humor eases tension – This is where Chaplin’s cogent observation can really come into play.  When things are rough in the office, look at the birds’ eye view (the long shot) of that project that’s got everyone in turmoil, and you’ll start to see the lighter side.  Share it!  When things get rough, it’s easy to take yourself and your work too seriously, and humor can give you a chance to breathe.

Humor leads to fun distractions – Let your humor guide you to some fun activities the office can engage them, just to take their mind of the stress of the day for a few minutes.

Of course, good taste is an imperative when using humor in the office.  If someone is the butt of your joke, it’s best not to go down that road.  For instance, don’t tease someone if you’re not sure that it will be taken the right way.  Shy away from topics like politics if you’re not sure that others share your view.  And certainly, if there’s a doubt in your mind that your joke won’t be taken the right way, don’t share it!

If you’re in an office where jokes and humor are as unusual as a snowball in July, then waking up your own sense of humor isn’t going to change the culture overnight.  If the atmosphere in your workplace is usually pretty droll, throw in a little humor here and there and see what happens.  But don’t overdo it – you don’t want to risk your co-workers not taking you seriously when it’s necessary.

In the long run, humor clearly changes and improves an office environment, and that can only make things better for you and for your manager.  Be the change advocate for your office environment – it’s the revolutionary thing to do!

Next post:  Wednesday, June 12