Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: etiquette

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to business etiquette.

Video Conferencing Etiquette

Video Conferencing Etiquette

If it wasn’t part of your regular job pre-COVID, surely by now, video meetings are a staple of your work life, and maybe even your social life. In the past year we’ve all had significantly fewer in-person meetings and instead we’re looking like the Brady Bunch multiple times a day.

Successful meetings have always required preparation, structure and respect. Video meetings are no different, but those basic rules look a bit different with some new etiquette. Here are some of those “extras” you need to keep in mind:

Be Prepared

Great meetings start with an agenda sent out to the participants before-hand. Then, as a participant, you do your research and prepare your notes, ensuring you can contribute valuable input.

Today, as a host, when you send that agenda you also need to send the login information, as well as let people know if video will be required. After all, your participants can’t prepare themselves for a video call if they don’t know it’s an expectation. Nobody like’s a surprise video call!

When you receive an invitation to a meeting that will have video, you should also prep a few things. At this point, you’re probably already mostly there. Hopefully you’re working in an environment with a professional-looking background and you’ve invested in a reliable mic and camera. That said, technology fails at the most inconvenient times. Log into meetings a few minutes early so you can run through a test, making sure mic works and your camera is well-aligned.

In final preparation, make sure you understanding the platform. If you always use Zoom and you get an invitation to a Zoom meeting, then great! You can be confident your computer is set-up. But what if an invitation comes in for a lesser-known platform, like BlueJeans. When you see that show-up in an invitation, it’s wise to visit their website, run any set-ups and do some tests long before the meeting starts.

Be Respectful

Hopefully you only attend meetings where everybody is respectful to their colleagues. Good manners and a smile go a long way in accomplishing the goals of a meeting and getting past conflict. In the past months, we’ve learned that there are entirely new ways to be disrespectful during a meeting.

Working from home brings background noise. Spouses might have their calls of their own, kids might (will) fight as soon as you get onto the call, and it seems like the Amazon delivery person stands outside your door and waits for you to log-on before ringing the door bell and angering your dog. That’s OK! It’s reality. But you can also minimize how much it disrupts your meeting.

Before the call starts, let those around you know you’ll be on a call and try to set yourself up in a quiet room where you won’t be interrupted. More importantly, though, use the mute button! Get in the habit of hitting mute as soon as you’re finished talking. Sure, at some point you’ll be “that person” who forgets to unmute, but at least you won’t be the unthoughtful person preventing good conversation.

And, of course, we can’t talk about respect without bringing up the annoying awkward, unavoidable “go ahead… no you go ahead… no… ok I’ll… oh….” Interruptions and talking over each other can sometimes be avoided by following a few respectful rules. Give some breathing time between speakers and letting them finish their thought before chiming in. That is simple but comes with one other requirement — don’t hog the spot light. If you ramble for minutes without coming up for air, then yes, somebody is going to interrupt you and no, they are not the one being disrespectful.

Be Structured

Finally, great meetings have structure. They follow a specific agenda, have outcomes and goals, and are led by a facilitator. Remote, video calls require even more structure. As noted in our previous point, it’s easy for somebody to run away with the meeting and talk too much. A great facilitator has to be ready to cut people off, use the “Mute All” button and call on people who are being drowned out.

Another great tool to leverage in video that helps keeps things organized (and is unavailable in face-to-face meetings) is the chat feature. Yes, sidebar conversations in private chat can be harmful to a meeting’s productivity, but an ability to PM the facilitator asking questions or requesting the floor, all without interrupting the dialogue, is game-changing!

A team who has effective meetings is guaranteed to have a better project outcome than the unprepared, disrespectful, unstructured team. And, after so many months of work-from-home, “sorry, this is all new to me” is no longer a valid excuse for your poor etiquette on a call. Are you putting in effort to make your calls amazing?

Eating Lunch at the Office is Complicated — Where and How to Eat When You Bring Your Own Lunch

Eating Lunch at the Office is Complicated -- Where and How to Eat When You Bring Your Own Lunch

 

Eating lunch is an important part of any professional’s day. It is not only necessary to keep healthy but it guarantees you have enough energy to remain productive for the rest of the afternoon. According to a 2017 survey by Tork, it also increases how much a person loves their job, especially among Canadians.

Still, many people, including IT contractors, get sucked into a project and completely lose track of time. Before you know it, it’s almost time to go home and you haven’t eaten anything since breakfast.

One way around skipping lunch is to bring your own mid-day meal. When you do suddenly bring your head-up from your computer and realize it’s time to eat, you aren’t burdened with the time it takes to leave the office, order your food, wait for it to be ready, eat and come back. On top of the time you save, eating lunch at the office is often a healthier diet choice and will also save you money. It seems, nothing is simple today, though, and bringing your own lunch leaves you with more considerations.

Eating Lunch at Your Desk

Whether you work from a home office or a client site, there are multiple options where you might choose to eat it. A lunchroom, a cafeteria, or outside are all stress-free, neutral environments. However, many of us stick with eating at our desk so we can continue to work, ignoring the many studies and experts advising against it for both health and productivity reasons.

Continual sitting is bad for your health, whereas moving around, socializing and getting sunshine are all proven to be good for your mental and physical health. Moreover, productivity experts will tell you that multi-tasking does not increase productivity (but actually reduces it) and taking time to relax does increase your productivity. Even if you’re not “working” while eating at your desk, just being present is a pass for clients and colleagues to interrupt your break and take away from that important relaxation time. Independent contractors have another dilemma when they mix lunch breaks and work — how will you bill? Because you’re eating, your client is not getting 100% of your time and will not appreciate being asked to pay for it.

For more tips on this topic, check out this article about how IT contractors can take better breaks.

Etiquette of Eating in the Office

When you bring your own lunch to the office, should you choose to eat at your desk or somewhere else, there remains etiquette to be followed.  At a minimum, follow the same rules you were taught by your parents — don’t chew loudly, slurp your drinks, or eat food that falls on the floor. There are also some codes of conduct that are unique to office settings:

  • Don’t hog resources. It is inconsiderate to take up excessive amounts of fridge space and if your meal requires 10 minutes to heat up in the microwave, prepare it during off-peak hours.
  • Speaking of off-peak hours, if you do decide to eat at a time when most others are working, be respectful and minimize distractions. Be extra quiet while preparing, eating and cleaning up after yourself.
  • That’s right, you must clean up after yourself. That includes inside the microwave after an explosion or the fridge after a spill, to avoid messes from getting old and smelly.
  • Smells are a controversial debate around many offices. This Monster article advises you stick with plain foods with few spices and avoid the common offenders such as onion, garlic, tuna and sardines. However, in this Kitchn post, etiquette expert Kirsten Schofield says you should eat what you want. Everything smells bad to somebody so don’t fret too much.
  • In that same post from The Kitchn, Schofield also warns against judging or commenting on people’s food choices at any level. “It’s irrelevant, it’s mean, and you can rapidly get into class/religion/ethnicity/gender/medical history stuff and hit a professional third rail,” she says.

Are we over-thinking something as simple as eating lunch at work… maybe. But you can be certain that if we found this much information on the topic, clients, contractors and employees you work with will also find it relevant. What problems have you run into while eating lunch at the office?

Swearing at Work? What’s the Big @#$%* Deal?

Swearing at Work? What's the Big @#$%* Deal?

Do you curse? Do you swear when you’re mad, use profanity when chatting with friends or drop the odd f-bomb just because? Most people blurt out some sort of foul language occasionally and that’s ok… most of the time. There’s nothing wrong with swearing in a private setting or in a social atmosphere with the right friends, but where do you draw the line?

There are often questions about whether or not profanity is appropriate in professional settings, specifically the workplace. Given those questions, it’s no surprise that there have been a number of studies researching the effects of cursing, and the results differ:

  • A 2012 CareerBuilder study found that 64% of employers think less of an employee who regularly uses curse words and 57% would be less likely to promote that person. On the other side of the coin, 51% of employees said they swear in the office and half of them do so in front of their boss.
  • Another study by researchers at the University of East Anglia in Great Britain revealed that swearing at work can be beneficial because it enables the development of personal relationships within a team. It also acts as a stress relief which has direct effects on health.
  • Wrike also took a look at the perceptions of swearing at work. In 2016, their research discovered that while more than half of respondents swear, 41% found it was too casual and unprofessional, yet 33% would not consider working in an organization where swearing is strictly banned.

It’s clear that there are risks to spicing up your vocabulary in a professional setting but the choice is ultimately yours. Before you get too wild, though, there are some considerations if you want to land an IT contract and keep it:

  • The organization’s culture. As an independent contractor you are your own boss, but it is still mandatory to respect the policies and culture of your clients while on site and interacting with their employees. If the environment is not one that accepts swearing, then you should also choose to set it aside.
  • The context. Swearing can be linked to insults and bullying which must be eliminated from the behaviour of any ethical IT consultant. However, depending on the context of how words are used, it can enhance a message, be encouraging, or lighten the mood. Your job is to consider the context before opening your mouth.
  • The situation. Swearing should be reserved for casual settings around people with whom you have a good relationship. A job interview with a recruiter you just met or a serious client meeting with senior executives you don’t know are not the place to throw in your fancy adjectives.
  • The audience. As noted in the previous point, it’s important to get to know the people around you before becoming too liberal with your potty mouth. But just because you know them does not give you carte blanche. Respect those who prefer a clean conversation. If you’re uncertain of their style, err on the side of caution.
  • The medium. A good rule of thumb is to never write anything that can be taken out of context and used against you. Inappropriate language tops that list. Social media, email and even instant messaging can all come back to bite you in the… , so it’s encouraged not to type any curse words at all.

While we don’t need to provide examples, there is a scale where some words are more accepted than others, while other words should never be muttered. Similarly, because everybody has different cultures, backgrounds and experiences, some words are perceived to be worse by some than they are to others. It is up to you to distinguish and judge what you can say. If you are ever unsure, then its best you find other ways to spice up that conversation and leave the swearing for when you get home.

The Dos and Don’ts to Approaching a Stinky Colleague

The Dos and Don'ts to Approaching a Stinky ColleagueWe’ve all been there. On the bus, in a checkout line, or in a meeting and the person right next to you is letting off an awful stench that makes you want to gag. This terrible situation is compounded when you’re indoors and can’t escape, and it’s worse when you must suffer from it every day because the culprit is your co-worker.

There are multiple reasons a person is smelly and dealing with it is never easy. Poor hygiene jumps to the top of one’s mind as the most common cause, or at least the most perceived-to-be-common, cause. Often, there’s a natural odor or health issue creating your discomfort and the person puts in more effort than you realize to control it. Another case of strong odours that can be a concern in the office are the unnatural, self-inflicted scents from perfume or cologne.

Regardless of why somebody’s stench is unbearable, you need to deal with it professionally if you want it to go away, and the key phrase here is “deal with it”. If you read some stories across social media or talk to friends who’ve dealt with smelly co-workers, you’ve heard of passive hint dropping. For example, some people recommend subtle gestures like practicing good hygiene in front of them, decorating your workspace with pleasant plants and fragrances, or dropping a mysterious “hmmm…. Do you smell something weird?” More harshly, others joke about leaving deodorant on the person’s desk or sending them a random note. All of these suggestions are the easiest cop-outs but are guaranteed not to work. If your colleague does pick up on the hints, your approach is going to offend them, and the work environment just got even worse.

What are the best ways to deal with your stinky co-worker?

Here are some dos and don’ts when you find yourself in this extremely uncomfortable and awkward position:

  1. Don’t be Passive: As the previous paragraph pointed out, no good can come of this.
  2. Do be direct and polite: You’re already about to deliver a tough blow, don’t make it worse with a harsh or awkward delivery.
  3. Don’t Embarrass Them: This conversation is best to be had one-on-one and in a way that they don’t feel the whole world is against them.
  4. Do be sensitive: If this is a regular struggle, then they thought they resolved the problem. Your news is going to hurt even more.
  5. Don’t shift the blame: You’re not fooling anybody when you start with “Other people are saying…” You’re just fueling a more self-conscious feeling.
  6. Do choose your words properly: Language matters! “Strange odour” is a better choice than “stinky” or “terrible smell”.
  7. Don’t Gossip: If there’s a problem, deal with it. Talking to everyone else and snickering behind somebody’s back is childish.
  8. Do talk to a manager or HR: Given the sensitivity, it’s smartest to talk to the manager or your client’s HR department.
  9. Do reassure them that you don’t hate the them: Finally, your colleague may feel alone, especially if the approach went worse than expected. People want to feel accepted even at work, so it’s important to let them know you still respect them.

Dealing with sensitive conversations like this can be even more challenging for the independent contractor who isn’t an employee or always regarded as a true member of the team. How have you handled these scenarios in the past?

Phone Etiquette Tips from Around the World

If you are a professional who organizes international meetings and events it is almost guaranteed that you will have phone conversations with your planning partners overseas. Many opportunities can arise from these meetings and events; however, there can also be many challenges.

This infographic from Toll Free Forwarding highlights all of the different kinds of etiquettes found in various overseas locations. Did you know that it is impolite to say ‘no’ in India, or that it shows enthusiasm when occasionally interrupting a conversation in France? With this infographic, you can learn how to prevent communication mishaps while dealing with business across borders be it over the phone or face-to-face.

Infographic: International Phone Etiquette

How to Leave a Voicemail Message (Video)

Do you ever wonder why recruiters or clients aren’t returning your phone calls, or when they do, they seem confused? It could be because they were pressed for time or didn’t listen properly, but perhaps it’s because you left a terrible message.

These situations happen more than you think and, as a contractor, a solid voicemail may be the distinguishing factor that gets you a call-back for an interview. If you’d like some tips to improve your voicemail skills, check out this video from Howdini, where communication expert Alexa Fischer provides advice for leaving a confident message.

Business Etiquette Around the World (Infographic)

Sometimes independent contractors need to travel to work with clients from around the world. It could mean you are travelling to other countries, delegates are travelling to your country, or more commonly, meetings over the phone or video.

Regardless of where or how you meet people with different cultural backgrounds, you can save yourself awkward misunderstandings or conflicts by first reviewing this infographic from CT Business Travel. It explores different customs from different countries when it comes to introductions, meetings and even dining etiquette. Are there any tips you would add based on your own experiences? Share them in the comments below.

Business Etiquette Around the World #infographic
You can also find more infographics at Visualistan

Business Meeting Etiquette Rules (Infographic)

For independent contractors, a business meeting can be anything from a project team update to a client debrief to an interview. It could be with a large group or it could be with just one or two other people. Regardless of the size or purpose of your meeting, proper etiquette is essential to maintain your professional brand.

Refresh your business meeting etiquette rules and make sure you haven’t picked up any of the bad habits in this infographic from Business Insider. Do you have any meeting pet peeves that they missed? Add them to the comments below.

Business Meeting Etiquette Rules (Infographic)

Text Messaging Etiquette – Which Side Are You On?

Text messaging has been around for a number of years now, and most people use it on a daily basis, even in their professional lives. You no doubt have some pet peeves and ideas of best-practices for texting, and everybody’s opinion varies.

This video from Business Insider touches on some text messaging etiquette that you may not have even considered, specifically for those using iPhones. After you watch this video, we are confident that you will either completely agree or totally disagree with what they’re preaching. Have a look and let us know which side you’re on.