New for the new year

Its a new year at work. I have noticed in my almost 20 years at the company that a few changes often happen around this time which are apparently critical to the business, and to the success of the company. If you are new to your company, or a new manager, or simply along term employee like me with the “back to work blues”, the below is important for you to consider to be “successful”.

  1. A new internal logo or group name.  Creating either or ideally both of these each  year is believed to inspire staff and help the group align better to business and market needs. Bonus that the person who came up with these gets a high five and lots of kudos for creating this. It takes the last month of December for him to do this strategy which is always a nice rush, and then the staff take 6 months to update everything with the new name and logo.  When he leaves (in 2 years) the new person can do this all over again. This doesn’t seem to align with any significant changes in strategy or process. Buy hey, sometimes there are free trinkets with aforementioned new logo/group name on it which are always useful.
  2.  A new mission statement.  Again to motivate and keep staff on track. Takes months to create, especially all the marketing materials and flyers and posters and employee communications around it. Its very secret though.. can’t have people knowing about the statement in advance. Usually it has a few “planks” which consist of some fancily worded re-worked versions of grow revenue, cut costs, differentiate the business plus more individual ones like being a team player, innovative or motivated.  Staff have to be sure to throw these “planks” into conversation and slides on a regular basis, as well as weave into any goal planning documents. Easy to do though since the overarching concepts don’t change year over year.
  3. Training the new management. Every 18-24 months many managers in my company switch jobs and new roles are created for senior management. Staff tend to stay unchanged although with frequent downsizing, there are less staff than there used to be. No changes to management however. And the company gets increasingly top heavy. Anyway new managers/roles means staff training the management on what they do, why they do it etc etc. This can take 6-12 months until new management understands the business division. Then they stay for another whole 6-12 months before moving on and the process is repeated. Assuming staff’s roles/work is essentially unchanged, staff can save time by creating a templated slide deck to pull out when needed and simply changing the date as well as adding the new logo/mission statement planks as per 1 and 2 above.

 

Does this sound like your company or is it just mine?

 

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Unwelcome input

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We have all been in the situation where a colleague has given input or unwelcome feedback on your work (or asked to review your work) without you asking… but how do you handle it?

Having had input from a senior colleague on another team recently, I have been struggling with this.  This colleague doesn’t have the experience or knowledge and the input isn’t relevant or useful. However as she is senior to me, how do I tell her this? She is pushy and doesn’t listen at the best of times..

So my first port of call was Google. Not helpful really as I was looking for practical advice. So I called a colleague and she gave me some great nuggets which go beyond just this scenario..

A) Politely tell her “thanks for the input“. And don’t use it.  Consider it input and nothing else. That may be the end of it, but if she comes back and says “why didn’t you include my comments?“, and starts to get pushy then
1. Respond with “I considered all the feedback and input and incorporated where it made sense strategically. Thanks again though for your input“.
2. Who owns the program? If its not you,  ensure you have buy in from the program owner, so you can back up your argument by telling them that this was approved by the program owner and copy that person in.  Or, if you own the program, talk to your boss off the record in case this does escalate and they can support your decision. So you essentially shift the responsibility to someone else and let them fight the fight.

But she also came up with another nugget which is a biggie.

B) You don’t need to respond to everybody’s emails or questions.

Wait..! What…? I don’t!!? I always do.. Having been shouted at, and having had perceived
“issues” escalated in the past, I always felt I should respond to everything to nip possible escalations in the bud.  But that was years ago, what happens nowadays if I don’t respond?
This one I might try! Key thing here is to ensure you respond to important people.  In my example, the person in question thinks they are important but really they aren’t, and aren’t even respected that much in the company. Too late for me to try this though.

So I am trying A.  And keeping B in my back pocket for next time. Wish me luck!

 

 

Work encroaching on personal boundaries

Just got off a call where my boss’s boss, told the whole organization of over 75 people, that it was their job description to post the company’s programs on their personal linked in and twitter social accounts.

This follows on from my boss telling me earlier in the week to record something on my iPhone. It was mandatory and had to be on my iPhone.. also personal equipment.

Can companies mandate you to use personal property for work uses? Isn’t this tantamount to telling me to give my friend’s and family’s email addresses to the marketing department? Or requiring me to put a sales sign on top of my car and on my lawn?

 

Lunch and learn?

Ok maybe because its Monday and summer is over and I am having Monday blues. But today I was invited to a mandatory lunch and learn with my company.

“Lunch and learn”?

It was 12pm-1pm. There was no lunch provided by the meeting organizers. I have back to back meetings and so had no time to go grab my own food. And as I sit in the meeting, nobody brought food with them. Even if we had  brought food, its not easy when you are crammed into theatre style seating with no tables and brushing elbow with your neighbour who is upset by the strong smell of your tuna… So we just sat and tried not to let our stomaches rumble.

No lunch.

And what meeting doesn’t have “learning” involved in it since someone will be sharing some  information of  some sort?  But  unlike lunch and learns of the past, this wasn’t a useful training session where you learn new things of value to your job.. it was just another powerpoint presentation on normal business.

No real learning either.

“Lunch and learn” seems to me to be justification to simply hold another boring meeting over your lunch time.

Quick thought – meeting duration

Explain to me..  I attend a LOT of meetings. At least 3-5 a day. And the vast majority last the duration of the time allotted.

Why? Are people that good at anticipating the exact time the meeting will last? To the minute? Obviously, calls can rushed to fit things in, or content pushed over to another call. But I think another thing is at play – knowing they have time, people fill it with irrelevant content!  Especially social people who enjoy meetings and may subconsciously artificially fill the time with chitty chatty… argh.

Then there is the meeting that starts “we will probably get through this quick and not need the whole time”.. I sigh when I hear that because despite the fact that I have enough experience to know better.. these meetings NEVER actually end early. Participants still manage to fill the time.. that person who just has another question.. or feels the need to talk about something separate from the meeting topic which is irrelevant to you!

Saw a recent article on LinkedIn that had a thought about meetings – think about how many people are on the meeting, and they approx salary, and duration of the meeting. Say a 2 hour meeting, 50 people.. $100 salary an hour. That meeting just cost you $10,000.  If you had to pay that money out from your budget.. would you? If the answer is no, then don’t set up that meeting!

Quick office tip – avoiding meetings

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So maybe you are overloaded at work. Or its meeting you’ve been dreading. Or you just don’t want to attend that meeting with that person right now.  So how to avoid, delay or get out of it?

Here’s a sneaky tip I am seeing people use more and more nowadays to get out of attending meetings.

How to get out of meetings:

Step 1: Most of you will use outlook at work. You will see the meeting request in your inbox. Don’t open it. Don’t accept it and don’t decline it. Don’t do anything with it. Wait.

Step 2: The request will gradually slip down in your inbox as more emails come in. By default, the meeting may appear as tentative in your calendar. Don’t attend the meeting. You can even mark off your time  in your calendar as showing that you are now in another meeting.

Step 3: The person hosting the meeting will likely only realize you didn’t accept when the meeting has started. At that point they may start to email you, or reach out by IM or call you. Ignore them till after the meeting is over – maybe give it an hour or two or next day. You are a busy person after all!

Step 4:  You can’t ignore them forever so now is time for excuses– when they do manage to reach you. Here’s a few tried and true choices

  • ” Sorry I didn’t see the meeting request.. when did you send it?”  Then proceed to spend five minutes looking for the request in your inbox.  At some point the person may get frustrated and simply reschedule the meeting – no more questions asked. However if they are patient you can pretend to find it after a few minutes and then say  “my inbox is so full of emails I must have missed it” or ” I was really busy must have missed it” (bonus: this makes you sound really busy).
  •  “I saw that request come in and I thought I had accepted it sorry”
  • ” I remember accepting the meeting request…. but its not showing in my calendar”

Note you probably shouldn’t do this with your boss or senior management, and not with the same person twice in a short timespan but it’s definitely worth pulling out of your bag of tricks sometimes!

Little White Lies

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My thought for the day.. is it ok to lie at work?

One of my co-workers says I am too honest. I say it how it is. And career advisors generally  take the high ground.. “yes you should be honest. Its the ethical thing to do”. And they are right…. In an ideal world.

But we aren’t living in an ideal world.

In the corporate world, being honest can work against you.

Simple white lies can help your sanity when overloaded and generally do no harm when used infrequently ie

  • I didn’t see that email
  • I must have missed that meeting request
  • You are the best boss ever (and other ass kissing)
  • This project will take X days (telling them longer than it will actually take  – see  Beam me up Scotty )
  • Yes boss! – when you disagree with him and/or  know its a bad decision or wrong and are picking your battles. Sometimes its just easier to agree if you know they will ignore your opinion. You don’t want to be seen as negative or “not a team player”. But don’t lie if this could result in a big bad issue (see below)

Then there are lies of omission.

Three years ago I ran a project for my then boss. The project was his idea and he was  “sure it would generate great results”. My 15 years experience with projects identical to this had data that showed it would in fact not generate great results. But he was insistent and confident having been doing this role for all of a  year. So we ran the project. He talked it up to everyone who would listen. Threw money at it. And I managed it to the best of my ability hoping that this time it would prove me wrong (definition of insanity – repeating the same things and expecting different results). Luckily for him,  just before the results came in, he was promoted and left to another group.

The results were far worse than even my data had predicted. The time and money spent on the project was wasted. His successor  (who did know about the project) never asked how it performed. Nor did the other people involved in the project or senior management. However I felt the need to report on it, this was a high profile project at the time and I felt some degree of responsibility.

But before I sent the email to all the stakeholders at the time, I spoke to a close work confidante. She replied “Why would you do this? You know it didn’t work. Nobody is asking about it..” Then she added “X has moved on and so the only person who will look bad is you. And you can’t throw your old boss under the bus now he has gone. That doesn’t look good to your new boss. You are too honest.” So despite my instincts, I saved the email and never sent it. Three years on and its long forgotten. Nobody has asked about it and I don’t tell.

So lies of omission can also work to your advantage.

The last category is BIG BAD LIES. Lies that can cause you, your colleagues or your company significant harm or loss.  Lies that hurt your gut or your conscience. This is probably the category the career advisors are warning you about. And I agree with them.  Don’t give a big bad lie – this will hurt everyone in the long run and isnt worth it..

Not sure what kind of lie it is? Listen to your gut.