Although email offers a casual means of communicating, remember to maintain professionalism. Follow these guidelines:
- Start with formal salutations. Use Ms. or Mr. and then last names when contacting people the first time. Switch to first names if and when they respond by signing their first names, otherwise you risk appearing too impersonal.
- Include a greeting. When emailing to a group of people, beginning with “Hi all” may sound a bit clumsy. Use “Hello everyone” or just “Hello.”
- Send thanks. Handwritten thank-you notes offer a personal touch, but go ahead and use email to express your appreciation more quickly.
- Minimize fonts and colors. Resist the temptation to use fancy fonts, sizes and colors. In general, choose a legible font such as Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman. Use either 10- or 12-point type and stick to black text.
— Adapted from “Email Etiquette: Still Puzzling After All These Years,” Barbara Pachter, Pachter’s Pointers, http://www.barbarapachtersblog.com.
Photo credit: [www.flickr.com/photos/karpidis]
You’ve got a serious situation: Your team needs new software to complete a project. However, your boss just told you that your budget is slashed for the remainder of the year and that she will only approve critical expenses. You see no way to complete the project—and ensure quality—without the software. What do you do?
Persuading people, especially when money is involved, is never easy. The key is to prove to your boss that she can trust your ideas and believe in your plan. To do that, you must be prepared to the point that you leave very little room for doubt. Follow this process to persuade your boss to back your ideas:
- Rehearse the main points of your discussion. Write your ideas on paper and practice delivering your viewpoints in front of a mirror. You may feel strange (or lame), but you will come across as much more confident—and competent—and that is critical to gaining someone’s support for an idea.
- Grab your boss’s attention. Put yourself in your boss’s shoes, and frame your argument based on specific pain points. For example, explain that you’ll miss a deadline on a much anticipated product launch without additional resources.
- Do your homework. You can’t gain buy-in if you aren’t prepared with accurate, detailed and organized information. Present evidence that your idea will work—and is worthy of the expense. Research what your competitors are doing, offer multiple price quotes, and document how your idea will ultimately save or generate money.
- Use an appropriate communication style. Use tact to present your argument and respect the other person’s time. Being pushy or angry will immediately put your boss on the defensive. Stick to the facts, stay calm, and don’t complain.
- Schedule a meeting to discuss your plan, instead of barging into your boss’s office. Send documentation, whether that’s a report or pricing quotes, prior to the meeting so your boss has time to review them before your discussion.
- Listen to your boss’s response. You may hear cues that will lead you to a compromise or another solution. Ultimately, accept that the money just might not be there, and prepare yourself to get back to work and do the best you can.
Have you ever been declined resources or manpower because of budget restrictions? How did you overcome that?
[photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/85638163@N00/4627835906/%5D
You can’t eliminate difficult conversations at work, but you can make them easier and more productive. The following best practices, from our multimedia toolkit Mastering Difficult Conversations, will boost your skills and confidence in those situations.
Become a master of handling difficult conversations by remembering the following tips:
- Start with respect. Hold tempers in check by having all participants in the conversation agree at the beginning to respect each other and the problem you are discussing.
- Avoid the words “no,” “never” and “wrong” during a difficult conversation. Those words increase conflict. Instead, respond by seeking more information. Say: “That’s interesting. Why do you feel that way?”
- Reframe the question. Instead of thinking “Why don’t they _____?” ask yourself “Why don’t I _____?”
- Use names. Referring to other people by name shows respect and focuses their attention on what you are saying.
- Gain ground when you are under verbal attack: Thank your attacker for the comments. Remember that the attack likely is not personal and that keeping your cool is the best strategy.
- Complain without whining by stating your observations, not your frustrations. Instead of saying “You’re driving me nuts,” say: “Your interruptions are preventing me from finishing this project. Let’s meet after I complete it at 3 p.m.”
- Build to a climax. Encourage others to accept your point of view by stating the simple, obvious reasons. Then work up to more complex reasons to win them over.
- Encourage engagement. Welcome questions and comments when you are striving to overcome resistance to your position. Respond to others with comments like these: “That’s a good question.” “You bring up an excellent point.” “Thanks for reminding me …”
- Challenge others without causing conflict by asking them to clarify their comments. Say: “I think I may have misunderstood what you meant. Would you mind repeating what you just said?”
- Check emotions. Before you respond to a tough question or a comment that angers you, pause. Think about what you want to say and the best way to say it.
- Don’t disagree. Instead of saying “I disagree” or “You’re wrong,” say “I see it differently.” Starting from that point, you pique the other person’s interest instead of defenses.
- Control anger with a simple to-do list. On index cards, jot down six things you need to do when you start feeling hot under the collar: breathe, slow down, listen and so on. Review your ideas often, and the six steps will become second nature.
- Slow the pace. Ask the other person to speak slowly so that you can record notes. By doing that, the speaker will organize his or her thoughts, and you can create a record of important points to address.
- Close the deal. Don’t end a problem-solving session until you’re sure the other person is satisfied. Ask: “From your point of view, does that solve the problem?”
What’s your advice for handling difficult workplace conversations?
Office parties are making a comeback this year, according to a survey released this week by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., an outplacement consulting firm. More than 83% of companies it surveyed are holding a year-end holiday party, compared with only 68% last year.
When a friend is tempted to skip an office party, I always say “Go.” It’s not just a party. If you navigate it the right way, it can cement your reputation as a polished, professional team member. Make the most of your office party by following these tips:
- Prepare your staff. Take a few minutes at a team meeting before the party to ensure that your employees know what to expect and how to behave. You could start by discussing some of the worst office party behaviors, including skimpy attire, fistfights and attendees bringing Tupperware to take home any leftovers, all examples from a survey by The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service for interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals.
- Work the room. Treat the office party like a networking event. Instead of sticking with your co-workers, take the opportunity to meet and get to know people outside your department. If you work for a large organization, take the time to learn who’s who before you arrive. (That will avoid an embarrassing situation like one I described on The Organized Executive’s Blog.) Be ready to talk about something other than work. Taking an interest in people during the office party can improve your work relationships for the year ahead.
- Make sure everyone has fun. Introduce new employees to co-workers they may not have met yet. Schedule in-office parties at a time that doesn’t conflict with deadlines, and make sure everyone has a break in his or schedule to attend, including the receptionist.
- Don’t dine and dash. Team members will notice if you show up empty-handed for the office potluck, fill your plate and head back to your desk. They also notice if you always sign up for something that takes no effort, like napkins. You don’t have to be a good cook to contribute. One male manager impressed his team at a potluck luncheon this fall by arriving with a slow cooker full of chili. He confessed that he took the crock into a Wendy’s restaurant and paid to have it filled with food. Make sure the same staff members aren’t always stuck on cleanup duty too.
- Say “Thank you.” Whether your executives fund a lavish affair with a caterer or a dedicated group of co-workers pull together a simple office luncheon, show your appreciation.
Finally, you can learn a lot by being observant at the office party. In the book Nine Minutes on Monday, consultant James Robbins describes “The Spouse Test” that one manager uses, often during a holiday party: a spouse’s reaction to you can be a barometer for how well an employee likes working for you.
Share your advice for office parties in the Comments section below.
Learn the “power questions” to ask at the office party—and what not to say—from a post on the Bud to Boss Blog.
Photo credit: heather.williams / Foter / CC BY
Before you head out to take advantage of the Black Friday shopping deals and pick up some gifts for the people in your office, here’s a great resource that will guide you to make the right decisions.
This is a guest article by Vicky Oliver.
The holidays are approaching and you’ve noticed that your cubicle neighbor has a little box with a bow on it. It’s making you sweat. What if it’s for you? You didn’t get her anything! But what if it isn’t for you? Should you still get her something? How much should you spend?
Proper etiquette around gift giving at the office is a snake pit for most people. But if you follow a few simple guidelines, you’ll sail through the holidays without a single faux pas. Here they are:
- Let “power hierarchies” guide your way. Whether to give or not to give depends a lot on your position in the office “power hierarchy.” For example, people who work “under” you and routinely serve you at work—your assistant or the receptionist, for example—should get a small gift as a gesture of gratitude. Likewise, if you have a supervisor or boss, it’s customary to “go in” on a larger gift with several co-workers, to express thanks, loyalty and solidarity.
- Use your heart and be sensitive. You don’t need to give gifts to all of your co-workers unless you work in an office of five or fewer people, where leaving one person out would hurt his or her feelings. However, if you have a team member or co-worker who has been particularly helpful or supportive to you this year, a card expressing that and a small gift is entirely appropriate, even if you don’t do the same for others. Be tactful and discreet when singling out one special person for a thank-you gift.
- Give to helpers and service people. In addition to your immediate helpers in the office, be sure to acknowledge support staff in your office building, including the doorman, mailroom person, perhaps a frequent courier you know by name, the night or weekend cleaning person, and others who make your everyday 9-to-5 life easier and more pleasant. Always give cash in a pretty envelope accompanied by a heartfelt, written message of appreciation. These people often make minimum wage or close to it, and a $20 bill goes a lot further than a pair of gloves.
- Don’t overspend. The rule of thumb for office gifts is that they be inexpensive. It’s poor etiquette to spend, say, $50 on a bottle of eau de toilette or a designer scarf for a co-worker, because chances are she’ll buy you chocolates and then feel embarrassed. If you have a lot of gifts to give out, try to stay under $20 for each. Some ideas include: a gift card to Starbucks, monogrammed notecards, a cookbook, a bottle of wine, a gourmet food item, a gift certificate to a favorite lunch spot, a potted flower or a two-drink voucher at the local watering hole.
- Keep a few “anybody” gifts handy. What if someone gets you a present and you didn’t get one for him or her? That won’t happen to you because you’ve already gone to the corner CVS or Duane Reade and stocked up on fistfuls of fashionable finds. A drop-dead eyeglass design might be copied and recopied until it shows up on the reader magnifier shelf of Duane Reade or a CVS. Comb the aisles of discount chains before the holidays and then invest in some upscale wrapping paper. Watch these “generic” gifts transform into the world’s most glamorous (and inexpensive) presents. Your recipient won’t know that you didn’t shop ahead just for her or him.
- Institute a “Secret Santa” policy at work. If you’re concerned about whom to give to and how much it’s all going to cost, go to your friendly HR person and ask whether your organization might consider instituting a Secret Santa policy—where everyone buys one person a gift. (You draw for who buys whom gifts.) This can save you a lot of money and is ordinarily considered to be even more fun too, as there is a “luck” element in whom you draw and a shared sense of camaraderie.
Vicky Oliver (www.vickyoliver.com) is the author of five bestselling books on personal branding, etiquette and career development, including 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions and her latest, The Millionaire’s Handbook: How to Look and Act Like a Millionaire Even If You’re Not (Skyhorse, 2011). She’s a leading career adviser and image consultant in Manhattan.