Tips, advice and musings to help you improve your management
and leadership skills
August 13, 2014
Despite our best efforts to provide a safe and discrimination free work environment, occasionally complaints of racial discrimination, gender discrimination, or sexual harassment will occur. When complaints are filed, it is vital that the HR staff respond immediately and appropriately to mediate the situation.
July 30, 2014
Many professionals find that they spend more time during the day at work than they do at home. With so much time spent together, employees often find themselves forming friendships with coworkers after hours as well. If all parties are not careful, these friendships may soon lead to difficulties maintaining proper boundaries in the workplace.
November 6, 2013
I read a lot of blogs and articles and a popular subject is ‘age’. I suppose it is one subject that quite literally affects us all, I celebrated my birthday just last week. As a result we all have opinions on what’s right and wrong when it comes to age and what is or isn’t acceptable.
I’ve been asked to talk at a conference about how business has changed in the last ten years. Boy oh boy, where do I start?
It made me think about the changes in how businesses run today. But it also made me think about some consistencies. What are those things that have actually NOT changed? Where are the foundations of solidity in the way we work? Well, I was thinking about the way we behave in business and how businesss etiquette teaches us a set of ways on how to behave and how to present ourselves.
So here are some ideas of how business, in many ways, stays the same:
With so many people working around you, you have to understand one thing – these are the elements you need to care for. Never underestimate, bad mouth or insult anyone.
Be respectful and courteous and ready to apologize for any mistake that you make.
Be diplomatic where required and try not to let personal biases influence your decisions.
Be respectful of your boss and make sure that you always inform him/her of any changes in your project. Never surprise your boss.
You don’t have to make friends with people and invite them for drinks, but building a cordial relation goes a long way in the business world. Make it a point to interact and ask about them and their families.
Talk with your teammates about how you can all make the workplace easier to cope with. That way, you share ideas and make plans for working together in harmony.
As far as the language is concerned, don’t use language that is considered crass, abusive, coarse or insulting. If you view yourself as professionals, you need to ensure that you use formal language that does not insult or cross the territory into being too personal.
Always be on time for appointments, never late. Etiquette states that time is a major issue. Being late makes for a very bad impression and can affect the image that colleagues and bosses might have about you.
Show the right level of balance when it comes to social media use. Etiquette states that we are at work for business, but 9 or 10 hours a day of hard grind can be demotivating. Have a specific guideline for social media use, but ensure people understand it.
So, although I am talking about the changes in business at the conference, there are still some stabilities that exist, still some areas where consistencies matter, and we musn’t lose sight of the fact that these act as good solid foundations for businesses, which actually support the changes that take place.
The truth is that most people really are honest. They want to believe that they are doing the right thing for everyone involved in a given situation at any given time – and they want to be respected. Dishonest people aren’t respected in the business world. Most people actually want to be honest. Very few people wake up each morning and decide to lie their way through the day. Those who do lie do so out of a sense of necessity – as if not doing so will lead someone to believe they’ve been let down.
While most people want to be honest in business, it is true that earning yourself a bad reputation can be detrimental to your success. One terrible mishap could make a lot of people angry. They’ll begin to retaliate against you. They eventually let others know about your bad decisions and you lose business from others as well.
One example of a slightly dishonest and incredibly detrimental business decision is highlighted by the Exxon Valdez oil spill. During the late 80’s, Exxon partnered with 7 other oil companies to convince Valdez to build a tanker terminal. They believed that the likelihood of an oil spill was very low but promised that if there ever was such an incident they would have the necessary cleanup equipment on site within mere hours.
On March 24, 1989, one of the oil tankers left Valdez, headed for California. The ship struck Bligh Reef and more than 10.8 million of the 54.1 million gallons of oil on the ship spilled into Prince William Sound.
And guess what? Exxon had fudged the numbers a bit and really didn’t have the equipment necessary to respond to such a disaster within “mere hours.”
Before long, more than 1,300 square miles of ocean was covered in oil. Sea otters, seabirds, salmon, and seals were covered in oil – most dying before they could be rescued. The actual cleanup cost around $300 million and after several court cases and appeals Exxon ended up paying more than $2.5 billion in punitive damages.
Exxon, believing an oil spill was highly unlikely, cut costs on cleanup equipment. They may have thought it the right thing to do at the time but they misrepresented themselves to the people of Valdez.
And they paid dearly, in both cost and reputation, for that mistake.
Is that the type of reputation you want to build for your organisation?
There’s a rumor circulating about the world of business – it states that honesty pays. Every once in a while, though, I have to wonder if honesty is really the foundation upon which successful businesses are based on.
About 20 years ago there was an article in the Harvard Business Review. The article questioned whether or not honesty and integrity were prominent factors when determining if a business will become successful or not. Realistically speaking, building a business upon a dishonest foundation is completely possible. It can be profitable. And the odds of getting caught are – well – slim to none, in most cases.
To start the week off I’d like you to think about your position within your business. Have you, as a manager, ever made an unethical decision? Have you ever told a little white lie just to convince an employee to meet a goal or to make a sale? Do you think that you, as a manager are the only person bending the truth to get things done? How deep into your organisation would you have to dig to uncover something bitter – and perhaps a lot more questionable in terms of ethics?
Over the next couple of days we’ll take a look at a few situations that push the line when it comes to ethics. I hope we’ll prove that you can build a business with 100% honesty and integrity – even if it does take a little more work upfront!
Here’s an interesting question to start your day.
What’s the difference between discrimination and favoritism?
Is there a difference?
There is a very fine line between favoritism and discrimination and many of us, especially managers, don’t realize that we dance along that line on a daily basis. Here’s an example.
Let’s just say for the purpose of this example that you are a white manager. You have a white employee who is going through a divorce and she asks you, at the last minute, for an extra day off. Company protocol says you must request time off a week in advance but you are sympathetic to her situation and let her slide.
A black employee also asks you for an extra day off at the last minute. Instead of sympathising with her situation you point out that she really needs to ask for time off based on the guidelines in the employee manual and you deny her request.
Technically, have you discriminated against the black employee? You might want to say no because you simply followed company protocol. But, by allowing the white employee to take an extra day off without following the same protocol you are showing favoritism.
So where do we draw the line? Some of us are automatically discriminatory against religious, ethnic, age, and gender groups not because we’re uncomfortable with them but because we don’t identify with them. We don’t even realize that we’re showing favoritism because we’re simply doing what feels comfortable.
But answer this question.
If your cousin is a mortgage representative at a large bank and your brother in law is having trouble getting a loan, you’d ask your cousin for help. If your next door neighbor had the same problem, would you make the same referral? Why would you only offer to help those you are very close to?
Today I challenge you to take a few minutes and look at the relationships you’ve been forming with your team members. Are they ethical or are you showing favouritism to one group or another based on your personal likes and dislikes? Is this something you can change?
I hope so. Your success as a manager depends on it.