Monthly Archives: May, 2013

Be tweet

LogoDear readers,
What if your company is hosting a corporate event in one of your nicest conference rooms? All your customers are there and even people who heard about it and are there for liquor or free food. Everyone wants to network. Instead of going around the room having great conversations to build your business, you stand in a corner, avoid looking anyone in the eye, ignore everyone’s presence, and just start talking to yourself – about yourself.

Who would act like that in real life? Don’t be that way with social media either. Be tweet, remember basic etiquette. Social media is not about talking about yourself all the time. It’s about connecting with potential and real customers as well as other friends. And, like in real life, you need to listen twice as much as you talk. As my mother used to say, that’s why we are born with two ears but only one mouth!

Happy tweets,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

Just who IS Ms. Corporate Manners

Logo

Dear Ms. Corporate Manners,

What are Ms. Corporate Manners’ credentials? Is there a separate Ms. Arbiter of Taste? 

 Sincerely,

Phil from Philadelphia

Dear Phil,
Because this blog is so efficient, I am both an arbiter of taste and an expert on corporate manners.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

Respecting diversity; valuing Hispanic customers

LogoDear Ms. Corporate Manners,
I am in shock of the numerous employees I’ve heard make derogatory comments about our Hispanic customers along with the cleaning crews that come in at night and tidy up the branches. I can understand being upset if the office was poorly cleaned, but for some reason they always feel the need to address their ethnicity when complaining about them. The same ignorance can be seen by many co-workers that have to deal with a customer who either speaks poor English or none at all and is usually followed up by a “if they’re in the country they should speak the language” or something along those lines. I have news for all of them…..THERE IS NO OFFICIAL LANGUAGE IN THE UNITED STATES!!! This country is a melting pot and we as employees should be aware that we hold ourselves to a higher standard and should be providing OUTSTANDING customer service, regardless of race or nationality. Allowing one’s biased views to be shared not only makes the individual look ignorant, but it makes others feel unwelcome and unaccepted. Take a long look in the mirror before passing judgment. Sorry for the rant, I’ll climb off my soapbox now. 

Sincerely,
Outraged By Ignorance

Dear Outraged,
Most successful companies have a goal to strengthen and maintain a diverse, all-inclusive environment. To bring divisive ethnic, religious or political issues into the workplace disrespects that goal, disrupts our relationships, our projects and the workplace itself. If someone discusses these issues in front of you, it’s best to be candid with that employee and tell him or her in a direct but kind and courteous way that our country was founded on the principle that all people were created equal, and you find their remarks offensive and disrespectful of our customers and employees.

Sincerely,
Senora Corporativa Modales

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

Are moody co-workers driving you crazy?

LogoDear Ms. Corporate Manners,
Have you ever heard of the term “gaslighting”? Well, I work at a very small company with a staff of three people. One particular person is extremely immature, even though she is kind of old, and will sulk and give us the silent treatment for weeks if she feels that someone has stepped on her toes (which is apparently all the time). It makes it so uncomfortable for the rest of us, and we take a huge sigh of relief when she leaves the office. What can we do to change this unpleasant stressful working environment without making things worse? 

Thanks,
Walking On Eggshells

Dear Eggshells,
I don’t know if you have been “gaslighted,” which comes from the 1944 film Gaslight where a husband tries to trick his wife into thinking she’s crazy and needs to be institutionalized. It may not be intentional, but your coworker seems to be driving you crazy. Unconsciously, you could be transferring her bad mood to yourself. If you set an intentional goal to have a more positive mood, your coworker won’t have so much power over your workplace experience. Try it, and write back with your results.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

Do leadership surveys every change behavior?

LogoDear Ms. Corporate Manners,

We are required to take leadership surveys to evaluate our managers. Our managers will receive the feedback of our survey. No one in our office wants to be honest on our surveys. Our manager holds grudges and can be downright childish. I know the company wants to hear about problems employees may be having, but from experience, nothing is ever done or said. We are graded by secret shoppers and customer surveys. When the scores come back, the managers conveniently remove their scores when they are low. The ironic thing is they preach customer service yet break every rule when it comes to it. We get so frustrated because our managers come and go as they please, never working 40 hours, and handing off all of their responsibilities to other employees. I have had several customers ask if we even had a manager because they never see them. I just feel like if the company is going to ask our opinion then they should also listen to our concerns. 
Signed,
Fed up with Surveys!

Dear Fed Up,
A company and its managers should be held to high standards, and the surveys help your senior leaders recognize good performance or identify ways to improve. If your goal is a better work environment, you need to be candid on your leadership surveys. If your leader receives a low score, your human resources department can work with your team to create a more positive and supportive work environment. If you are worried about the integrity of the process, why don’t you talk with your human resources department?
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

Do you put your foot in your mouth at work?

LogoDear Ms. Corporate Manners,
One of my co-workers has a golden tongue and always says the right thing. The bosses just love him, but I seem to put my foot in my mouth a lot. Any tips?
Signed,
Big Mouth in Memphis

Dear Big Mouth,
What you say affects how people perceive you – as a team player or self-seeker, worker or whiner. At least that’s what the book “How to Say It at Work” advises. You need to learn how to communicate clearly and persuasively – even when you have to admit you’ve made a mistake. 

The book had some tips:

The way you speak should convey confidence.  Good phrases include: “best use of resources,” “work out the difficulties,” “do a thorough job,” “more flexibility” and “opens up possibilities.”

The book warns against using words that suggest failure or weakness, such as: final, mistaken, forgot, nervous, foul-up and tired. Other negative phrases are: “can’t do,” “beyond me,” “beyond repair,” “big mistake,” “big trouble,” “dead-end,” “it’ll never work,” “it slipped past me” and “MY BAD.”

Non-verbal communication is important too. In the 1970s, Dr. Albert Mehrabian found that when listeners judge the emotional content of a speech, body language and tone matter 93 percent more than verbal cues. So your mother was right – upright posture, a friendly smile and good eye contact are important.

Some obvious mannerisms to avoid include:

  • Biting your lip or wringing your hands
  • Crossing your arms in front of your chest
  • Yawning
  • Avoiding eye contact

And remember, if you’re wrong, just say, “I’m sorry.” Then quickly follow with how you’ll make things right.

Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

To learn more, read, “How to Say It at Work,” by Jack Griffin (Prentice-Hall, Paramus, NJ).

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

How important are men’s undershirts at work?

LogoDear Ms. Corporate Manners
Can you please talk about how men should wear undershirts under their button up collars, especially when you can see through their shirts? The same guy everyday wears a shirt I can see right through and never wears a undershirt. I mean, he might as well be walking around with no shirt on. It makes me uncomfortable and a little sick at my stomach. We ladies wear our undergarments and so should the men. I am uncomfortable saying something to my manager, and I wonder why she hasn’t done something about it herself, because everyone talks about it. Please tell the men to wear a shirt under their business attire.
Thank you,
Uncomfortable in Nashville

Dear Uncomfortable:
Whether it’s fair or not, we are all judged on what we look like. While there is no requirement to wear an undershirt, it just looks more professional if you do. If you don’t take the time to maintain a professional appearance, you may give the impression of not being able to do the job. Many things contribute to image, but wearing appropriate clothing plays a big part. Both men and women need to err on the side of modesty and a conservative dress code.

So men, wear an undershirt under your dress shirt to control perspiration and avoid see-through shock. White, 100 percent cotton, classically a crewneck, although a V-neck or tank is okay. And we mean a real undershirt, not your souvenir T-shirt from the beach. In a famous scene in “It Happened One Night,” Clark Gable took off his shirt to reveal a bare chest. Undershirt sales plummeted. Nevertheless we still say, undershirts under dress shirts at the office – unless you look like Clark Gable and maybe we’ll make an exception.

If you want more information on professional dress, there’s a great book by Susan Bixler and Nancy Nix-Rice called “The New Professional Image” that you can read. She gives great advice!
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

So many meetings, not enough time.

LogoDear Ms. Corporate Manners,
It seems we can’t do anything about all the growing amount of meetings that need to take place within our corporation. However, as a delegate for my executive’s calendar, I am repeatedly amazed at the number of meeting invitations that are sent out BEFORE the organizer even knows if my executive is even available. There would be a lot less declines on my executive’s behalf if a courtesy call or email could have been extended first to inquire of time slots when he could be available for an upcoming meeting. Sure it is an extra step, but that is what I do when I send out meeting invites. How can I get the same courtesy?
Signed,
Tapped out

Dear Tapped,
When you decline, politely suggest an advance courtesy call next time.
Signed,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

Are you a food addict too?

LogoDear Readers,

What do you do to change your mood? I eat.

If I’m stressed, I eat. If I’m bored, I eat. For a headache or a heartache, when I’m sad, glad or mad, I EAT. With other people, I eat regular servings – even turning down dessert. When I’m alone – at my desk, in the car, in front of the television – the cravings start. My inner glutton emerges demanding to be fed. I think no one knows my secret. But how could my friends not notice the 30 pounds I’ve gained in the last few years? They’re just too kind to mention it.

Food is my way to celebrate, commiserate, rev myself up and calm myself down. If I could mainline Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream, you would find me in a dark alley in back of the nearest convenience store getting my fix. As with other addictions, when my ice cream high wears off, I always feel guilty, sick and even more depressed. So I eat more ice cream to feel better. I am a dog chasing its tail.

They say the first step to overcoming addiction is to recognize and admit the problem. Writing this column is providing me the discipline and structure to do that. More importantly, it’s helped me forgive myself when I have setbacks and not let discouragement get in the way of my development. It’s 2013, and I’m no longer chasing my tail. And I think my tail is a little smaller.

Signed,

Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

Rude, loud, gum-chomping toilet texters.

LogoDearest readers,
Manners are a two-way street. If we expect politeness and patience from others, we must practice them ourselves. Working with others means overlooking small flaws and minor irritations.

Remember the serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff.

The email-writers below may have good points, but in most cases there are no practical solutions. To those faced with gum smackers, food stinkers or toilet texters, my answer is simple – we can’t control other people’s behavior, only our own. Mind your manners. Be kind. Work hard and have fun. And remember, earplugs cover a multitude of sins.
Signed,
Ms. Corporate Manners

Here are the emails:

Chomping gum

Dear Ms. Corporate Manners,
I work in an office atmosphere with a great bunch of people but unfortunately a few of them chew gum at work and – let’s just say – it can get pretty noisy with all of snapping / cracking / smacking of gum – even when speaking on the phone. I am of the school of thought that it is OK but in a professional atmosphere it does not belong. What makes it bad is that when you approach some of these individuals they actually get upset and that it is their right. Personally, to me, it is like listening to someone dragging finger nails across a black board. I try my best to ignore but my nerves are on edge at the end of the day. What is the policy on this subject?
Signed,
Nerves on Edge

Texting on the toilet

Dear Ms. Corp. Manners,
It seems like every time I go into the bathroom now, someone is in the other stall texting on a cell phone (or on occasion TALKING!) I find this to be disturbing and unsanitary to say the least. Aren’t bathrooms considered part of the workplace environment, where cell phones are not allowed?

Signed,
Potty in Peace 

Training deadlines

Dear Ms. C. M.
I like to voice my opinion on datelines for mandatory e-training sessions. Officially a course may have a two-week deadline, but in reality our leaders, being persuaded by their leaders, move the deadline up by one week and announce “you have to do it today.”

Let’s get real. We are working doing the job for more than one person and have to carefully plan when to get into compliance by taking these training sessions. Some days, or even weeks are out of the question. I wish our management, from the top down, would extend the courtesy to give ample time for any and all training sessions. And by the way, a quote of “it takes 30 minutes” may turn into 1.30 hours if the material is way out of the work area of the employees. A deadline good for 2 weeks should just mean that. Let’s work on that, I am sure I am not the only one having issues with this discourteous practice. 

Signed,
Calendar is Booked

Loudmouths I

Dear Ms. Corporate Manners,
There is a co-worker in my area who puts the phone on speaker to participate in conference calls. I find this to be not only annoying and distracting, but also very inconsiderate. I feel uncomfortable saying anything because this person has a significantly higher position in the bank’s hierarchy than I. What do you suggest?
Thanks in advance,
Put-out peon

Loudmouths II

Dear Ms. C. M.,
When employees are in an open office should individual conference calls be placed on speaker phone? I fine this so disturbing when trying to work on other things or help service customers.  

Being rude to others

Dear Ms. Corporate Manners,
I am a teller at a large branch and wait on fellow employees from different departments on a daily basis. I find it very disturbing that these fellow employees tend to treat me and the other tellers like we are incompetent on a regular basis. Aside from the typical, i.e. arguing with me that their check does not need to be endorsed, etc., they also are just out and out rude. They do not wait to be called up to the window, which is exasperating because we can be on the phone with a customer or finishing up on something and no regard is paid to that fact. It is also disheartening to ask someone how they are doing and they simply grunt or mutter something inaudible. And, not to nit pick, but it is the most frustrating to have to look up an employee account number and have the employee huffing and puffing because it is taking so long. I expect this treatment from customers as a part of being in a customer service role, but shouldn’t fellow employees have a better understanding of how things work, and don’t work? What can I do to tactfully address this situation?
Thank you in advance for your assistance in this matter.
Signed,
Fed Up 

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2013.

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