Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: manners

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

When Co-Workers Interrupt Your Discussion

This article by Mark Swartz was originally published on the Monster Career Advice blog.

“And now for the key point of this articlWhen Coworkers Interrupt Your Discussionse. It’s that –“

“Hey,” says an interrupter, “I have a question. Also I disagree with what you said earlier.”

“Umm, we can come back to that shortly. Now…ah, where was I?”

Getting cut off while speaking is irritating. At work it’s like handling a heckler. You get disrupted and your idea is hijacked.

A good communicator can deal with interjectors. Even for chronic disruptors there may be no need for drastic measures.

Allowing Interruptions Can Harm Your Credibility

Part of any job is conveying your thoughts and ideas effectively. If you frequently allow colleagues to walk all over your words, what sort of impression do you make?

People may begin to think you lack confidence to assert boundaries. Your ideas may be viewed as less valuable since you don’t protect them from interference. A lack of protest could also imply they can take credit for your ideas with few repercussions.

Why People Don’t Let You Finish Talking

Not all interruptions are bad. Sometimes colleagues have something really helpful to add. They simply don’t want to risk letting the moment pass. It could also be their brain works faster than yours does. They’re impatient to comment. Or culturally they’re still learning Canadian business norms, not realizing they are being rude.

Then there are creeps who try to undermine or one-up you. Their intent is negative. These are people – along with chronic offenders – who’ll need special treatment.

Could It Be Your Fault Too?

You probably aren’t a trained communicator. So it’s possible you’re making some basic conversation errors. Here are several that invite listeners to jump in abruptly:

  • Be concise and highlight your main point early. Otherwise people interject to stop you from being longwinded.
  • Speak at a level that people can hear easily. If you’re too quiet it might be interpreted as a lack of confidence.
  • Did you prepare adequately? How about rehearsing to reduce hesitations such as umm, ah, mmm or long silences?
  • You get nervous and start losing your place, saying the wrong thing, not speaking with authority or conviction.

Keep an eye on your body language too. Facial expressions, the way you sit or stand, eye contact and hand motions can support (or work against) your spoken words.

 

How To Stop Interrupters

Handle transgressors appropriately. Coworkers who seldom disrupt can be treated very politely. Announce as you begin that you’ll gladly deal with questions and comments as soon as you’re done speaking. If one or two people interject anyway, acknowledge them but remind them of your earlier instruction.

When that fails try more aggressive approaches. Start by asking for input from others. That can block repeat interrupters from taking over. Next fight fire with fire: cut the person off and tell them you are going to finish now. A brasher tactic is to speak over the offender until they stop.

Chronic interlopers should be spoken to in private. Be pleasant. Point out that you’ve noticed their actions and wonder if they realize the effect they’re having on you and others. Hear them out. If possible reach an agreement to be mutually respectful from now on.

Defensiveness Can Backfire

Over-reacting to getting interrupted reflects poorly on you. Keeping your cool shows you’re made of the right stuff. But try to avoid letting yourself be a doormat.

Is it your boss or their supervisors who won’t let you finish? Communicating with managers takes special care. It may be worth letting them say their piece.

Save your objection for encounters you have a better chance of winning.

Graciousness in the Workplace… Where Did it Go?

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Graciousness in the Workplace... Where Did it Go?In today’s fast paced world full of never-ending negative social media blitzes, over-hyped reality television, shock-jocks/journalist rants, and larger than life politicians, it appears that the concept of being gracious to one another has been lost.  People are too focused on trying to get our attention with outrageous and unkind behaviour.  They fail to see that the simple act of being gracious can have a more positive and lasting outcome and, yes, get our attention too!

In speaking with contractors, I always ask them why they left their last place of work.  Did the contract end? What were the people like? What was the work environment like? I often hear how negative workplaces have become, how managers and executives don’t seem to care, and that everyone is too stressed out to focus on basic human decency.  This is one of the main reasons contractors do not take an extension with a current client or want to leave a project early. On the other side of the coin, “Was a candidate gracious?” is not the top reference question a client asks, but they do ask if that person was a team player and were they easy to get along with. Therefore, there’s an argument for everyone, clients and independent contractors, to bring graciousness back into the workplace. So how do we do that?

The simple act of saying THANK YOU goes a really long way.  Often, people will stay in a busy work environment if they know they are working with great people in a team who recognize their effort.

Another easy way is by being in the moment — giving someone your full attention and time. When you are in a meeting, or even more importantly, speaking with someone directly, put away your device.   It shows the person you respect them and value what they have to say.

Give positive feedback along with the negative.  People want to hear the good and the bad but want to hear it in a constructive manner.  Graciousness goes along way when working with others on how to improve their work.  You can still get the same message across without being overly negative.

Be open to helping others.  How?  Some simple ways:

  1. If a new person joins the team, introduce them to others.
  2. Say HI to your co-workers
  3. Recognize people’s achievements – privately and publicly
  4. Be genuine
  5. Share your project knowledge capital and help them get set up for success
  6. Be responsive

I know graciousness is sometimes hard to embrace because it demands our time and it can seem counter intuitive to business strategies that promote looking out for #1. However, graciousness does lead to a better workplace.  A better workplace leads to happier people, and happier people lead to better project outcomes, which lead to better references and more work in the future.  WIN-WIN-WIN for all!

Before Sending a Rude Email, Ask These 5 Questions

5 Questions You Need to Ask Yourself Before Sending a Rude EmailMost people don’t intentionally send rude emails to recruiters, clients or fellow independent contractors. As stress increases, time decreases, and tense situations arise, though, it’s easy to fire off emails that quickly send your recipients into a defensive mode, and leave you perplexed as to why they’re so sensitive. What is even worse, though, is that you can damage your reputation and chance of getting future IT contracts without even knowing it.

If you’re still scratching your head to determine why people are being put off by your emails, have a look at the list below. Next time you’re sending an email, especially one that’s potentially sensitive, take a couple of extra minutes to ask yourself these questions and ensure you’re not going to start an unnecessary conflict.

Did I start and end the email nicely?

Some emails should be no different than a face-to-face conversation (many should be an in-person discussion, but that’s a different post all together). If you walk into a client’s office, blurt out a bunch of comments, and then leave, without the slightest greeting or closing, you can bet they’re going to be lost and offended. Since the average person types 40 words per minute, “Hello” and “Thank You” should take you all of 2 seconds to write. Please don’t be lazy.

Did I include enough information?

A vague email can lead to terrible miscommunications that seriously hurts an IT project. Depending on how vague it is, it can also leave the recipient making their own assumptions about your mood. To solve this problem, start with a clear subject line so they know exactly what the email is going to say. In the body, ensure you let them know precisely what you need, why you need it, and include any timelines. Feedback should also come with some context.

Additionally, refrain from blank, or nearly blank, emails, especially when forwarding. Jeff Bezos’s famous “?” emails are effective at Amazon, but you’re not Jeff Bezos. Including context clarifies your tone and keeps out the guess work.

Finally, although it’s important to have enough information, too much fluff is also an issue. People are busy and don’t want to read your emails as you dance around a topic. Be polite, but be direct.

Am I making them do the work?

When you send an email that references another document or email, do what you can to prevent the recipient from having to dig it up (and possibly dig up the wrong thing). At the minimum, including the date range and recipients of an original email so it can be sought out is better than “Find that email from Jane where she talks about that thing.” For attachments, also copy and paste the information directly into the body of an email. Many emails are checked on mobile devices and previewing attachments can be a hassle – your recipient will appreciate being able to scroll rather than download.

Did I include negative undertones?

This is the most important question to ask. It happens when we’re in a hurry and for many of us it’s just a bad habit, but negative undertones are easy to include in your emails without knowing it.

First, look at the basic punctuation. DON’T YOU THINK WRITING IN ALL CAPS WITH MANY EXCLAMATION AND QUESTION MARKS IS RUDE???!!!!????!!!! We do, and so do your other recruiters, clients and colleagues.

There are also more subtle signs to consider. Negative words such as “don’t” can affect the tone of an email. “Try writing it differently” sounds nicer than “Don’t write it like that.”

Even who you copy on an email could cause unwanted tension if it is perceived as tattling or pointing out mistakes to belittle. Think about who you are copying and why it’s important for them to be included.

Am I straight up being rude?

As much as you think that that lazy team member or neglectful recruiter deserves it, very rarely is a rude email going to solve your problem. Avoid barking orders, being pushy, or harshly criticizing. Instead, ask questions and provide solutions. If the conversation is going to be rough, then pick up the phone or walk over for a face-to-face conversation.

The moral of the story is that independent contractors should never send a rude email. It’s easy to fall into the trap during busy times or when you’re under pressure. When you know you’re at risk, take a few extra minutes to review what you wrote. You can also try saving it as a draft and returning to it later or asking a friend to review it. Remember, friends don’t let friends send rude emails.

Japanese Customer Service and Independent Contractors

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Branch Manager at Eagle

Japanese Customer Service and the Independent ContractorI recently had the opportunity to visit Japan, a country that I had the good fortune to spend 4 great years of my life during the early 1990s. Many things had changed of course, especially with the advancement of technology and the ease at which a traveler can book flights, hotels and sightseeing excursions. But so much hadn’t changed. Tokyo was still the crazy, frenetic city that I remembered, the people as polite and helpful to a tourist as ever and there remains an infinite number of ways to entertain yourself. Something else hadn’t changed and, in fact, stood out even more than I remembered; customer service is alive and well in Japan and it didn’t matter the product, service or industry.

The fanatical desire to make sure that the customer’s experience was positive extended from the bullet train staff who bowed to their passengers each and every time they entered and left a car to the security staff at ANA Airways who made us feel that they were in possession of valuable merchandise every time they handled or touched our carry-on items. Employees perform their duties with pride and the consequence is that the customer is willingly conducted into a process of cooperation with a mutual desire to achieve harmony. Well maybe that last part is a bit much but the experience still lives with me and so I want to remind everyone just how good it feels to receive… and give great customer service.

So, what does this mean to you as an independent consultant? Once rates are negotiated and term fixed, make it a primary focus to make your client’s experience with you a positive one. How do you provide customer service as an independent IT contractor? Here are just a few ways:

  1. Anticipate your client’s needs – In Japan, I never, ever had the feeling that I was imposing. If I needed something, it was like my thoughts were being read and magically, someone would appear, once with a plastic bag for my wet umbrella. While situations can get complex in the work world, the Japanese taught me that if you pay attention (or listen) you can often anticipate problems and challenges your client is facing. And if you are there to try and help without them even asking, think what a powerful message that sends about your commitment.
  2. Show appreciation – I was thanked more times by Japanese staff for just walking into or leaving their place of business than I can remember. At first it felt excessive, but by the end of my trip, I understood how integral it was for them to establish that they “saw” me when I came in and equally when I left. How often do we forget to “see” our clients? Really establish that you are paying attention, listening and are there to help.
  3. Go the extra mile – If anyone reading this has ever been to Japan, you will probably remember a time when you innocently asked for directions from someone on the street, and then watched in embarrassment as that individual made it their life’s mission to get you to your destination, including personally escorting you there. Buying a gift for a Japanese friend in a department store, I watched in amazement as the item was wrapped with care until it was a thing of beauty, something I would be proud to give. Professionally, there are limits to how much you can and should do above and beyond what is expected, but where possible, going the extra mile for your client will leave a lasting impression.
  4. Politeness – If you thought Canadians were polite, Japanese take it to the next level. Much of it revolves around a historically, rigid hierarchy that determined an individual’s place in society but a lot of it is also associated with the desire to cause no discomfort to your fellow citizens, especially in a country with very little personal space. Politeness is just one more way of acknowledging others, seeing them and establishing a connection. I know my parents raised me to open doors for others, to say please and thank you, to respond to a correspondence in a timely manner and it is a nod to civilized society that you extend that to your relationship with the client.

Many businesses today talk about customer service but it often feels like they are paying lip service to a crucially important concept. The Japanese demonstrate that good customer service stands out and differentiates the consumer’s experience in a very positive way. As an independent contractor, you too can demonstrate good customer service with both clients and recruiters, simply by anticipating needs, showing appreciation, going the extra mile and always being polite.