No Respect

Dear Jean,

I have a problem with my boss.  I am coming in to work on time every day; I am working as hard as I can; I am trying to let him see that I take pride in my job, yet I feel that he is showing zero respect for me.  What should I do to get some of that respect?

Reply:

Does he treat everyone with disrespect, or is it just you?

If he treats only you this way, there is probably some miscommunication going on here.  His picture of what he wants you to do may not be your picture of what you’ve been doing.  Make an appointment to discuss your job with him.  Don’t tell him ahead of time what you want to speak to him about.  If he point-blank asks you, tell the truth.  Tell him that the subject you want to discuss is personal.

When you are in front of him, tell him that you would like to feel successful in your job and you don’t.  Ask him specifically what he wants you to do to please him and be of more value.

I must point out, however, that some bosses just aren’t the accepting type.  Some don’t give any strokes at all unless you mess up.  Another problem is that some bosses refuse to be specific.   If that is the case and you can’t deal with ambiguity, better take your skills elsewhere.

A Liberal Among Conservatives

Dear Jean,

I work in a small management consulting firm where there are six consultants.  Rarely are we ever in town at the same time, but when we are, we seem to gather in the break room early in the morning.  The topic is always politics.  My partners are moderate to conservative and I’m more liberal.  They seem to really have fun with this and I don’t.  Sometimes their opinions make me so angry I can’t work for the rest of the day.  What do I do?

Reply:

You might remind your five conservative colleagues that you are an “endangered species” and that they would do well to allow at least one weed to flourish and blossom in their formal little garden.

But what concerns me most is that a political discussion with colleagues upsets you to the point that you can’t work for the rest of the day. This level of anger borders on rage and not only is it seeping out at work it’s spilling over in other areas of your life.

Why don’t you get to the break room early and start the conversation about something business related?  If that doesn’t work and you’re not able to come to grips with your anger, leave.  If you chose to stay in the room – – respond — don’t react.

Rage is not an appropriate response to spirited conversation. Lighten up.  Anger clogs the pipes.

Coaching Tip:  In business and in life, it’s impossible to avoid teasing and aggressive behavior.  Whenever you are in a situation where there is aggravated conversation taking place, relax the muscles between your eyes and purposefully take a few deep breaths.  Your “open” face will make you look calmer and you will in fact, be calmer.

How to Request a Raise

Dear Jean,

Do you have any tips for requesting a raise?  We found out through a survey that what we are paid is way below the average for our occupation.  As an individual, is there anything we can do?

Reply:

Am I right in assuming that your use of the word “we” really means “I”?  A raise is an individual issue.  Please leave the “we” out of any negotiation you may have with your boss.  If your work was done by you, then you are the person to earn the raise.  With the exception of cost-of-living raises, a raise is something you receive because of merit.  It is something you earn.  What have you done to earn a raise?  Write down your accomplishments and share them with your boss.  You and your boss may have totally different opinions of the word accomplishment.  This will be a great time to find out.  Grab a pen and a piece of paper and start your list.

One more thing:  Survey results can be very misleading.  Perhaps you should do some more research before you decide that you are underpaid based on one source.  Many of these surveys only apply in certain regions or to specific job types that may not be the same as yours even if the title is the same.

Who Tips What?

Dear Jean,

Several of my colleagues and I are attending a conference together with our boss.  The trip is paid for by the company.  Should we expect our boss to handle taxi, tips and so forth?

Reply:

You didn’t mention in your question whether you have an expense account.  If you do, you will pay, then submit the expenses for reimbursement.  If you’re not on an expense account, you should take some extra cash on your trip.  When your boss accompanies you in taxis, your boss will pay.  Otherwise, you pay all luggage, cabs, concierge, bell persons and waiters.

Since you’ll need to know what’s appropriate, check out what Google can provide.  Just type in “What should I tip for ____________.”  You’ll get tons of current information.

Postcards Are Not Rude

Dear Jean,

I find postcards easy to write, send and receive.  Another salesperson who works with me says I’m being rude to contact my clients with “cheap postcards.”  He uses a first-class letter.  Tell me, Jean, do you think I’m being rude?

Reply:

Gee, I hope not.  I still send postcards. With the decline of the written word and the acceleration of e-communication, I think a postcard is a very nice touch. It’s unusual these days and you’re more likely to be remembered by a post card or hand written note.

Unless a customer complains, keep up the good work!

It’s My First Day of Work

Dear Jean,

I just graduated and have my first “real” job (I’m not flipping burgers any more!).  I really want to make a good impression and start out right.  Do you have any advice?

Reply:

Congratulations on landing your first job.  Here are some basic things to help you get the right start on your first day.  Go to bed early and get up with plenty of time in the morning.  It is important that you arrive at your first day rested, properly dressed, and at least 5 to 10 minutes early.

Keep an open attitude and listen well when your manager gives you instructions.  Take notes if you have trouble remembering lots of information coming to you all at once.  There will be a lot to learn.  If you do all of these things, you should be off to a great start.

Different Salaries, Different Gifts?

Dear Jean,

With Christmas coming up, I’m starting to feel the stress of picking out gifts for my staff of seven.  They all earn different salaries, have different tenure, and have different tastes.  Is there a quick way to relieve me of all the mental gymnastics?

Reply:

There are plenty of business gifts that are in good taste.  A few ideas are: monogrammed leather scrapbooks, luggage tags imprinted with their names and addresses, clocks, or subscriptions to popular magazines.  Another fun idea is for you to go to one of the stores that design and assemble fancy gift baskets.  You can pick out all the items yourself.  Then they will shrink-wrap it and decorate it for the season.  You can have nearly anything put in the basket, from popcorn to mugs to bath oil to chocolate.  Your options are limited only by the size of the basket.  That way you can personalize the gift.  If you choose to spend a lot on some and not too much on others, it won’t be as readily noticeable.

Be Direct with Smokers

Dear Jean,

Several people at our company smoke.  I plan to have a big holiday party and don’t want those people smoking in our home.  Should I make sure that nothing on a table looks like an ashtray and hope they get the hint?

Reply:

It’s still true that we as Americans are free to do as we please in a society so long as we don’t harm others or ourselves or scare the horses, but smoking is pretty unpopular these days.

In a warm, diplomatic way let them know that you have a smoke-free home.  They’ll know that if they attend your party they will have to abstain.  Most smokers don’t relish the idea of a whole evening without a fix, even though most are now acclimated to the idea that the world no longer welcomes their vice.

You may want to point out the back garden, the verandah, patio or even the front steps as the best place to light up.  They can understand taking a cigarette break from your party.  They have to do that at every office or place of business these days.

Move Past Your Fear

Dear Jean,

I am in the process of job-hunting, and it seems to be taking a long time for me to find a job.  I went on an interview the other day with a company that looks great.  They seem to have everything I want in the way of benefits, responsibilities, and chance for promotion, etc.  However, I just don’t feel right about something.  I didn’t really like the person who interviewed me and I just felt uncomfortable, even though the job itself seems perfect.  I do know that they have a high turnover rate in this position.  Any advice?

Reply:

My question for you is whether there is truly something here to be afraid of, or if you are simply worried about the position from a general fear of the new and unknown.  My first instinct is to tell you to move past your discomfort and take the job if it is offered.  After all, you are not working now.  The worst thing that can happen is that you take the job, don’t like it, and quit.

As far as the turnover rate goes, you will never really know all the facts about it.  Maybe there is nothing wrong with the job or with the supervisor.  Maybe their turnover is due to hiring errors.

If at all possible, do more research on this company.  Either you will gather enough information that your worries will go away, or you will learn the concrete reason for your worries and feel better about continuing your search elsewhere.  Be fast in your research.  This opportunity is likely to slip through your fingers if you spend too long trying to put your worries to rest.

Enhance Your Professional Credibility

Credibility is not something you automatically have, nor is it something you can bestow upon yourself – it’s something others bestow upon you. And, like beauty, credibility is in the eye of the beholder. Therefore, in order for others to view you as credible, you have to consistently and deliberately act your way into credibility.

Unfortunately, most people don’t give their credibility a second thought. They automatically assume they are credible (after all, who doubts their own credibility), yet they don’t take precise measures to ensure that others view them the same way. But if you don’t take active steps to enhance your credibility, others will do it for you…and you may not like the results.

There are three main components to credibility that you need to be aware of. They are your values, your behaviors, and your reputation. Use the following information to manage each of these areas and your credibility will increase.

  • Your Values

You acquire your values over the course of your life and they ultimately shape your expectations of others and of the world. And just as you have values that you use to judge others by, so does everyone else. The problem comes when those who are judging your credibility have different values than you. For example, some people value arguments and lively debate. So if someone values argument and you don’t, it may look to you that the person is mean and likes to argue all the time, when all they’re really doing is trying to encourage a lively debate. But because you have different values, that person loses credibility in your eyes for being a trouble-maker. And on the flip side, the other person may view you as weak or “wishy-washy” because you don’t engage in lively debates, when in fact you simply value keeping the peace more so than arguments.

Another challenge arises when a value has degrees of alignment. For example, most people say they value accuracy. But does everything need to be 100 percent accurate, or is 80 percent accurate enough? Exactly how accurate something is can be a reflection on credibility. Therefore, you need to know what others value and to what degree they value it, as their own standards will dictate the level of credibility they bestow upon you.

  • Your Behaviors

Behaviors are things you choose to do. We all make thousands of choices every day, from whether to visit a sick friend in the hospital to which employee to promote or lay off. We choose whether we hold deadlines in high regard, whether we greet someone in the hall, and whether we’re direct or indirect with others. The key thing to remember is that you’re judged by your outward behavior that you choose to display, not by your wonderful intentions. We all have great intentions, but most people don’t follow through on them.

Some key behaviors to focus on as you attempt to boost your credibility include:

o   Don’t over promise. Do what you say you will do. You choose what you will and will not do every day.

o   Be open about your motives behind a directive or decision. You choose what you tell people.

o   Fess up to mistakes (early and always). You choose to cover things up or put them out in the open.

o   Keep people’s confidences. Get permission before divulging sensitive information. You choose whether or not to repeat information.

o   Treat others consistently and fairly. You choose your actions toward others.

o   Listen to others. You choose where you put your mental focus.

  • Your Reputation

Your reputation is the total of what your values are and how you choose to act. Ultimately your behaviors lead to your reputation, and then all three of these factors – your values, your behaviors, and your reputation – lead to credibility.

Your reputation is something you have, whether you know it or not. And unfortunately, you can get a bad reputation very easily. For example, if someone else values prompt return phone calls, and you routinely don’t return phone calls, you’ll quickly get a bad reputation as someone who doesn’t follow through. In fact, it’s often the small things – like not returning emails promptly – that tarnish someone’s reputation more so than the bigger issues.

The good news is that you can enhance your reputation by working on it, which will inevitably boost your credibility. You simply need to think about the behaviors you choose and the kind of reputation you want to earn. Therefore, find out what people’s expectations are of you and then meet them. Additionally, observe people who are successful or who you think have a good reputation. What behaviors do they choose and why have people bestowed credibility on them?

Finally, realize that being likable doesn’t play a big part in your reputation. You can be very quiet, shy, and totally introverted yet still have a stellar reputation. Conversely, you can have a great personality, be the life of the party, and be totally charming, but have a less than flattering reputation. So no matter who you are, where you work, or what your personality, you can have a great reputation.

Credibility Matters

In today’s economy and job market you need to take the proper steps to enhance your credibility. In fact, if you’re not taking values, behaviors, and reputation into consideration, you could quickly find yourself out of a job with few prospects for new work, as your credibility will be tarnished. A lot is on the line here, so take it seriously. Build your creditability today so you can have the success you desire for years to come.