Tag Archives: office communication

Quick tip: Prevent controversial debates

If a customer or coworker asks you a question about a controversial subject, don’t offer your opinion. Instead say “I don’t have an opinion about that.” Then change the subject to something more work appropriate.

Set employees’ priorities straight

Some employees refuse to put their jobs first—even at work. Job duties take a backseat to personal obligations, and that is often a huge drain on other employees’ time and patience. As slacking employees spend their time taking care of personal matters or interests—rather than completing their work correctly and on time—their coworkers pick up the slack.

Strategy: Don’t let them get away with it. Pull those employees into your office to discuss the problem. Provide evidence of the issues, and communicate your expectations.

Say: “You left early for a dentist appointment and failed to finish the inventory. Daniel and Cory had to finish it for you. That is unacceptable. You need to fulfill your work responsibilities before you take personal time. In the future, unless it’s an emergency, I expect to you finish your work and meet your deadlines before you leave this office to tend to personal obligations.”

Then monitor them closely and step in as soon as problems surface again.

Keep people from hijacking your time

small__8080742303Being a good listener doesn’t mean you have to let someone else control the conversation—especially when the other person wants to engage in unproductive whining or gossip. It’s OK to take charge with these tactics:

  • Feel free to interrupt long-winded people and encourage them to state their points succinctly. Example: “I’m sorry to interrupt, Lisa, but I have to get back to work. Is is this a story you can sum up in two minutes? If not, let’s schedule a meeting for later today.”
  • Don’t let conversations veer off track. Most discussions derail when the conversation flows from one subject to another and back again. Assign a “title” to each major point. Example: “John, we’re talking about your salary right now—is that right?” and then finish that conversation before you go on to the next.
  • Limit discussion time. Do not allow any individual point of discussion to take more than five or 10 minutes to complete. Any time in excess of that is usually about the emotional issue, not the subject at hand.
  • Wrap it up. A few minutes before the end of the time you have allocated for the conversation, tell your talkative colleague that you need to wrap up the discussion. Then summarize the main points, identify what action needs to be taken and, if necessary, schedule anadditional conversation.

— Adapted from Leadership Secrets of the World’s Most Successful CEOs, Eric Yaverbaum, Dearborn Trade Publishing, http://www.dearborn trade.com.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tschiae/8080742303.

Quick tip: Avoid the words always and never

Avoid the words always and never when you deliver feedback of any kind. Those words back listeners into a corner, and the listeners feel the need to defend themselves. Because they allow no room for exceptions, definite words like that are easily disproved too, and that weakens your position.

A blueprint for addressing mistakes

When an employee makes a mistake, how you react will affect the person’s morale and self-confidence tremendously. Follow this eight-point plan to address the error appropriately:

  1. Deal with it quickly. Leave a mistake uncorrected and you will send the message that errors are acceptable.
  2. Maintain your professionalism. If you have a tendency to become emotional about problems, calm down and collect your thoughts before proceeding.
  3. Collect the facts. First, establish whether what happened was a true mistake or an innovative way of dealing with the issue. Maybe the employee has found another way of doing things that could be equally good or even better. If not, take the next step.
  4. Confront the issue, not the person. Beating up on people will only intimidate them, causing them to lose self-confidence and make even more mistakes.
  5. Show compassion. Who has never made a mistake? Show understanding by listening and demonstrating empathy.
  6. Turn the negative into a positive. Make this a learning opportunity. If possible, get employees to explain how they might deal with the issue differently next time.
  7. Determine the root cause. If the mistake occurred because of lax work habits, inform employees of the consequences of further mistakes—asking for their commitment to do better next time. If the problem arose from a lack of training, schedule the appropriate training.
  8. Follow up. Praise employees for correcting the problem, or apply the appropriate consequences if they have not.

— Adapted from The Leader’s Toolkit, Cy Charney, AMACOM, http://www.amanet.org/
books/index.htm.