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Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Work can be tough when everything depends on how the boss communicates.  Is it simply a matter of adapting, or constantly bending over backward for someone who’s never going to be satisfied?  See what Esther* and Fern* did.

When Esther* came to me, she was worried.  As an older employee, she felt that starting a job search at her age would be a never-ending task, since she expected to face a great deal of age discrimination.

On the other hand, she told me that she already was, in her opinion.  Since her new manager came on board last year – a much younger manager – it seemed that he wasn’t really interested in hearing any of her ideas when he asked the team for their input.

The new manager made a point over the past year to emphasize that he wanted “everybody’s” ideas, Esther told me; however, although she contributed nearly every time by emailing him a suggestion or two – well before the stated dealine – he very rarely brought her ideas up for discussion during the bi-monthly staff meetings.  In fact, there had been occasions when similar ideas to hers were discussed . . . and other staff members were credited.

I examined Ester’s process of submitting her ideas more closely – particularly when the similar ideas made it to the meeting, asking her, “How did other staff members submit their ideas to the manager?”

Esther discovered that most of the (younger) members actually sent him text messages, rather than emails, much to her surprise.  She also reviewed her emails on the topics and found a couple of responses from the manager, asking her to send him a consolidated version prior to the meeting.

“I thought that I had,” Esther recounted, “But I’m pretty sure that was the month that he presented (and credited) someone else’s similar idea.”

I told Esther that I believed she could Fix It! by learning how to communicate with her Gen X boss in his preferred medium: texting.  Something that would help her become more comfortable and skilled in this area would be to open a Twitter account and learn how to tweet.

Not only does Twitter teach users how to succinctly make a statement, but the 140 character limit forces writers to make every word count.  Clearly, this type of writing is important to Esther’s boss, who just wants the bare minimum when collecting ideas for staff meetings.

Esther applied this new tactic, and within a few meetings, not only did she get her ideas on the agenda, but was complimented on her improved writing skills.  She is very pleased to know that she can continue being appreciated for her talents in her current job, rather than begin interviewing.

Fern* had seen firsthand how difficult the economy was for people.  For the past couple of years, her cousins had been out of work – searching, to no avail – and living with her.

She had a very difficult boss, but didn’t feel she had any choice about putting up with him.  It was obvious to her that the job market was difficult, and she felt lucky just to have a job.  Besides, other people were counting on her – it wasn’t just about her.

Recently, though, the fog had begun to lift.  Each of her cousins had found positions that were permanent, and had begun to save some money.  In several more months, they were planning on moving out, to get their own apartment!

Just knowing that things were going to settle down was making her home life much less stressful, which had the side effect of allowing Fern to really notice exactly how stressful her workplace really was, though – with a kind of laser-like focus.

Fern began to see that the CEO’s odd behavior wasn’t solely directed at her, for one thing, but that others had similar frustrations, not knowing what to expect from him, one day to the next.

She could see that this was the crux of the difficulty, actually:  he was so unpredictable and moody day to day, that his mood swings often greatly affected her mood afterward.

The CEO’s demeanor frequently would oscillate to great extremes, often playing out during meetings, as well as affect policy decisions.

For example, there were numerous planning meetings, where the CEO sat nearly sullen and silent, leading others to speak up more, ultimately heading the project and making the decision on what would happen, because as everyone looked to the CEO, he either nodded or clearly didn’t care, from his shrug.

Later, (often much later) when a great deal of the project was in the works, the CEO would step in, sneer, and either dismantle it altogether, or find so much fault that it ended up getting such a makeover that it didn’t even resemble the original design!

Other times, the CEO was so engaged from the start, nobody could get a word in edgewise during the planning stage, but it was just as well.  Clearly, he only wanted “yes men,” so people either nodded vigorously, or sat silent, waiting for their assignments and watching the clock.

Those who had been through his “mania” before knew that he’d lose interest in whatever he was currently feverish about soon enough, anyway, so there really was no point in volunteering for something that would be altered or shelved, so why bother?

As Fern considered this repetitive pattern, she told me, it gave her a bit of relief.

“I suppose it could have made me even MORE depressed, but I think it was what I needed:  a chance to step back and look at the situation rationally.  My fear of my circumstances had just gripped me before, but now, I could see that it really was him, and not me . . . and that I needed to Forget It!

Without others depending so much upon her, and an indication that the job market was a bit better, Fern decided to start looking for a job for herself.

Although it did take several months, Fern feels that she wouldn’t have been a good candidate before her change in attitude and outlook, anyway.

“I am so relieved to be in a new atmosphere,” she says.  “It’s incredibly different, to be headed to work and think about the tasks I’ll be facing, rather than wonder – with trepidation – what sort of emotional storm lies ahead today!”

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Merle* and Naomi* deal with age gaps in the workplace

Lynn* deals with her OCD manager

Gabrielle* found a way to be more relevant

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

When an interviewer poses a brain teaser to you, it may seem tedious, but the reasoning behind it is to see how you’d deal with stress on the job. It’s also to assess your personality: are you more optimistic or pessimistic?

Since nobody would come right out and respond, “I tend to be a pessimist,” many interview exercises are designed to reveal such things that you might not intentionally disclose otherwise.  Quite a few candidates are now being asked to take a personality assessment test prior to being considered for employment.  Employers want to see how quickly people think on their feet and out of their comfort zone.

Eleanor* contacted me, frustrated, for help, because her months of job search efforts hadn’t paid off.  What I saw in her results was more promising than she realized, though. She didn’t properly interpret what she received.

Eleanor was looking to return to the job market after having been a stay at home mom for several years.  Although she had been working hard to reestablish contacts and network, it became obvious that she was technologically behind and simply didn’t understand some current protocols in today’s job hunting etiquette.

She showed me an email she had sent to a manager, asking for information about an upcoming recurring seasonal temporary position.  Eleanor mentioned a mutual friend they have in common who recommended her for the position, then attached her resume and asked for the manager to review her resume and a time to meet when they might discuss any suggestions that the manager had to bolster or improve her resume.

In the manager’s response to Eleanor, she told her that the recurring seasonal position probably won’t be renewed for the upcoming season, due to budgetary problems, but that a different job might be available instead (it’s still not confirmed).  She gave Eleanor a name and contact information to follow up with for verification of this later in the month.

Eleanor used this email to demonstrate her disgust with how unhelpful people are, lamenting, “She didn’t even mention my resume!  You’d think she could take some time out of her schedule to have a short meeting with me, wouldn’t you?”

Although Eleanor called to engage my services, it was clear she was ready to Forget It! so I tried to take her step by step through this particular email and show her several positives where she saw negatives.

For one thing, I told her, the fact that she got a response at all is an indicator that someone cared . . . most people wouldn’t bother to write back.  This was clearly a personal response, too – not a form letter.  Another good sign.

Answering Eleanor’s question with “this position isn’t available” was helpful, but the manager didn’t stop there.  She obviously cared enough to offer help about another possible available position (and didn’t have to), along with a name and contact information.  These are all positive indicators.

While it’s true that the manager didn’t respond to Eleanor’s second request about meeting or critiquing her resume, I pointed out that this topic was all lumped into the end of the same paragraph as the first request.  It was obvious by the footer in the manager’s response that the she had replied from her mobile handheld device, which means that scrolling large amounts of text is cumbersome – and downloading a document is virtually impossible.

A better way to have sent this message would have been for Eleanor to break up each idea into its own very short paragraph, and send a link to her online resume, I explained.  Then, the manager could have more easily noticed the second request and connected online to view the resume.

It was as this point that Eleanor confessed that she didn’t have an online portfolio, and we got to work on building her LinkedIn account immediately.  She also upgraded her cell phone to a smartphone and began practicing texting and tweeting, to become more proficient with key words and how to market herself in today’s world.

Eleanor learned two different responses that she used whenever someone posed the “Do you see the glass as half empty or half full?” question to her that helped her seem more thoughtful and unique as well, depending upon her assessment of whether she found the manager to be more creative or analytical:

•     That depends.  If the glass is being filled, then it is half full; if it’s being emptied, then it is half empty.
•     Actually, the glass is entirely full:  half of it with water, the other half with air.

When Eleanor realized more what it’s like from the HR manager’s perspective, we were able to Fix It! and set her up on several interviews, until ultimately, she got a job offer with a company that was a good fit for her.

Changing her tactics – and mindset – helped Eleanor develop better interview skills and portray a more confident, talented candidate to each hiring manager she met with thereafter.  She didn’t just say she had a more positive outlook.  She actually found one, and it showed.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Shelby* and Tisha* know that every interview can be a learning experience

Yvonne* and Zachary* have to deal with the unexpected during their interviews

Olive* learns about office politics and the importance of networking

Speak To Your Audience

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

I always have a great time at the NTEN & AFP conferences, catching up with old friends and making new ones, as well as learning new techniques I can apply in my job. I was shocked at what I saw, though, at one of the vendor booths at NTEN:

Like many of the vendors, PayPal was trying to entice visitors to their booth with a giveaway. People who entered the drawing had a chance to win a Nook. Many electronic devices were being awarded at the NTEN conference: iPads, Kindles, etc. Experienced attendees always bring many business cards for these drawings.

But how was PayPal – the company promoting online fundraising – accepting entries? Not with a business card, but with a paper questionnaire! (click to make larger)

Complete this survey for a chance to win 1 of 3 Nook e-readers.  Winners will be notified at the phone number that you provide below.

I asked one gentleman who was at the booth why a company that makes its living selling online commerce would operate in such a fashion and how they expected to compete with all the other vendors who were offering giveaways without requiring this much effort on the part of the conference attendees.

He shrugged and explained that he didn’t actually work for PayPal, but was just “helping out” for the day.

A couple of aisles later, I saw another vendor that was working to meet the needs of a busy attendee . . . on their terms:  The Chronicle of Philanthropy

In addition to providing free paper copies of the Chronicle, they were offering free sign up for people to subscribe to issues online, with the screen facing passersby, so that they could create an account immediately:

It makes a great deal of difference to your constituency how you engage them, and how much you ask of them. Prizes are nice, of course, but most of us left each conference without a new iPad – and will unsubscribe to all of the new emails we’ll be getting . . . unless they provide value and convenience to our lives.

The AFP conference in Chicago was held at McCormick Place, which is akin to a large airport! LOTS of walking is necessary to get from one session to another. Even the convention center itself has moved with the times to try to provide service that is convenient to its customers. I noticed this sign in a women’s restroom:

McCormick Cares   Please text the "Keyword" below: MCE3504F  followed by any Restroom needs to 69050

What can you do to keep your finger on the pulse of your constituent base? Have you been measuring your areas of growth, so you can address them and meet those needs? Online giving has increased in nearly all sectors, for example.

Mobile giving and texting are going to show explosive growth in the next year. While smart phones are currently only 13% of handhelds, they account for 78% of the handheld traffic. Does this impact how you might alter your strategy? Would you consider adding a graphic like the one below to your next direct mail appeal, for example?

QR codes are becoming very useful for a variety of things. You can search for a (free) QR code app on your smart phone to decode the one above, and if you wish to create a code of your own, it’s very easy. The code can translate into a word, phrase, phone number, hyperlink, or sms – and be in various sizes. Give it a try!

Just as with any new venture, the response rate will be smaller and slower than something already being done, but the segment of your population that uses this venue will appreciate your catering to them – and they will grow with you over time.  They will also remember who responded to their needs earliest.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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