A critical part of being a good manager is keeping a two-way dialogue going. Toward that end, avoid these common mistakes that obstruct or disrupt productive conversations:
- Blabbermouthing. Don’t lecture employees, continuing on and on without giving them a chance to speak. They will tune you out.
- Hijacking the conversation.When employees tell you something about themselves, avoid the temptation to chime in with “A similar thing happened to me …”
- Offering unsolicited advice. You may feel wise when you offer phrases such as “Have you thought of … ?” and “Why don’t you … ?” when employees come to you with a problem. However, your employees will think you consider them ignorant. Instead, let employees finish talking and then ask “Would you like my opinion?” or “What alternatives have you thought of?”
- Interrupting. If you routinely interrupt employees, they’ll shut down out of deference to your position as boss. You may simply be excited and anxious to express yourself, but a good manager doesn’t stifle people.
- Contradicting. Although it’s used as a ploy in debates, direct disagreement won’t help you in conversation. Instead of overriding the other person’s opinion with a curt “I disagree,” take the time to disagree diplomatically. Example: “I see it a little differently.”
— Adapted from “Six Conversational Mistakes to Avoid,” Loren Ekroth, http://www.conversationmatters.com.
Direct communication is prized in the workplace. People who can speak their minds with confidence and compassion are likely to come out ahead. Consider these workplace scenarios:
- A co-worker is trying to win the boss’s favor by being a “yes man.” Don’t say “Why don’t you try having an opinion of your own for once?” Say: “I am not sure if you are aware of this, but I wanted to let you know that people are beginning to talk about the way you interact with the boss. You might want to reconsider your approach.”
- An employee’s work consistently disappoints. Don’t say “You make more mistakes than everyone else combined—what’s your problem?” Say: “I know that you are trying hard, and I appreciate your effort. However, I want to give you some direct feedback that I think will allow you to improve the quality of your work so it meets expectations.”
- Your boss is micromanaging you. Don’t say “Why are you watching every move I make?” Say: “I have noticed that you are watching me closely lately. How can I do a better job of giving you the results you want so that you feel confident in my abilities?”
Bottom line: Deliver a clear, neutral message that will not cause the person to react defensively. Your goal is to engage the person in a productive discussion.
— Adapted from “How to Be Direct Without Being a Jerk,” Steve Tobak, The Business Insider, http://www.businessinsider.com.
This is a guest post by Marlene Chism, author and speaker.
In my book, Stop Workplace Drama, I talk about how obstacles in your personal life always spill into your professional life. Most of the things that keep us stuck are not circumstantial. What holds us back and then becomes drama are our addictions, bad habits and character flaws. So how about looking at things you can stop doing? Making one significant change could change every other area of your life, including your workplace relationships. Here are 11 ways you can stop workplace drama:
- Stop comparing yourself to others. You are unique and so is the next person. As my algebra teacher used to say, you can’t compare an apple with a Billy goat. Instead, appreciate your blessings, and compliment others on their skills, abilities and attributes. If you want to improve in some area, take action, but quit using other people as the benchmark for your success.
- Stop engaging with negative people. Negative people are all around, but you don’t have to have the last word, nor do you have to point out to them how negative they are. Instead of engaging or trying to change them or their point of view, simply smile and respond with a statement like “Hmmm that’s an interesting take on things.” You can like someone and even work with that person without plugging into his or her negativity.
- Stop resisting. Complaining is a form of resistance. So is being stubborn and gossiping about who did you wrong. Once you have identified what is unpleasant, either change it or accept it. Anything else is just drama and an excuse to lose focus.
- Stop trying to be right. All drama is based on the need to be “right.” You don’t always need others to understand or agree with your point of view. If you know what you need to do next, do it and be OK with the fact that others might see things differently.
- Stop criticizing others. Criticizing someone else is often due to a lack of personal discipline or the unwillingness to confront a difficult situation. When people do something inappropriate, bring it to their attention so they can make amends, or ask for what you want instead of harboring resentment.
- Stop working through lunch. The body craves rest and recovery every 90-120 minutes. Working through lunch will exhaust you and increase the likelihood that you’ll make mistakes. Each day, schedule time to rejuvenate and your effectiveness and productivity will increase.
- Stop questioning your self-worth. You are here; therefore, you are worthy. Start a gratitude journal, and decide once and for all to claim not only your right to exist but also your right to excel.
- Stop arguing. Instead of constantly correcting every minor detail, ask yourself, “Who cares?” Most of the time we argue over insignificant details that do not have any impact on the point being made. The wisdom is in knowing what is important and what is not. If the essence is understood and the detail is insignificant, just let it go.
- Stop panicking. Regardless of what triggers you, instead of freaking out when things aren’t going your way, take a breath and regain a sense of control. When you are frightened, your brain actually freezes up and you lose critical thinking ability.
- Stop the noise. Being plugged in 24/7 is bad for your health, and studies show that you actually lose productivity when you multitask. Focus on one thing at a time, and spend some time without being hooked up to a Bluetooth device, a computer or a cell phone.
- Stop talking about what you lack. Talking about not having enough time, not having enough money and not having enough (fill in the blank) is what is contributing to your negative feelings. Become clear on what is enough in all areas of your life, because if you don’t know what “enough” is, you will never know what is more than enough.
Marlene Chism is a professional speaker and author of Stop Workplace Drama (Wiley, 2011). To see more about the book and to get more resources go to www.stopworkplacedrama.com.
Make your chats with colleagues memorable. Enjoy great conversations when you use these techniques:
- Be descriptive. Replace common phrases with vivid images. Paint a picture with your words.
- Present comparisons. When giving a reaction or explanation, use contrast to add meaning. Example: “He’s a successful businessman. I’m not saying he’s Richard Branson, but he does all right.”
- Add nonverbal cues. Convey confidence in conversation with great posture. Gesture; emphasize key words; and vary your speed, tone, inflection and volume to keep your listener interested.
- Identify overlapping interests. Find the hobbies or topics you both enjoy to make conversations a dialogue rather than a monologue.
- Be positive. Even if you are offering negative feedback, include a positive statement.
— Adapted from “The 12 Golden Rules of Great Conversation: Part 1 of 2,” Geoff Peart, Stepcase Lifehack, http://www.lifehack.org.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uniondocs.
You can’t agree to every request that you receive throughout the workday. When you need to decline, take these steps to add meaning to your ”No”:
- Listen. The more thoroughly you understand the request, the more meaningful your response will be. Ask questions and listen carefully to convey your respect to the speaker.
- Pause. Control your impulse to offer an immediate response. Take time – about five to 10 seconds – to consider the request and frame your reply.
- Reply straightforwardly. Once you’ve determined that you should decline, calmly state I’m going to have to say “No.” Don’t chicken out and say ”Let me think about it,” “Maybe” or “I’ll get back to you.” Remember, the person making the request may have a backup plan in mind. By offering a clean refusal, you will enable the individual to approach someone else.
- Have a reason. You’re under no obligation to share your reason for turning down a request. But doing so may help the other person understand your priorities and goals. That could help you avoid having to turn down similar requests in the future.
- Offer alternatives. Can you suggest another person who might be better able to provide the service you’ve been asked for? Perhaps you can offer limited assistance that will aid the other person without creating too big a strain on your time.
What’s the worst reaction you’ve received to telling someone “No”?