As a psychology major, a corporate executive, a coach and a Director Consultant for BNI I’ve gotten tons of training on building relationships and managing my reputation. I don’t always do it perfectly but I’m constantly learning and integrating this learning into my life and my business.
Because of this training I’m also really good at identifying when others are doing things that hurt relationships and hurt their reputation. What also catches my attention is when they do these things oblivious to the consequences. I see it all the time and I know it’s hurting those people’s opportunities to grow in their career or grow their business.
People want to do business with people they know, like and trust. The same is true within organizations. Managers want to promote those they know, like and trust. Treat trust like a valuable business asset, and protect it at all costs.
Delayed Response Time on Messages
We’re all busy, right? Shouldn’t there be some slack granted? Sure, but then you end up in the category of busy people who are cracking under the pressure and I don’t think that’s what you want. Rather than being seen as successfully busy you’re seen as someone who has too much on their plate and should not take on more.
Now you’re thinking, “But wait, I don’t want to be taking on more. I don’t need more busy work.” Right! You DO NOT want more needless busy work.
However, this “more” also takes you out of the running for some really great opportunities: juicy projects, promotions and clients. I know many business owners whose prospective clients were referred to their competition because the perception was the busy business owner was too busy to take on any more clients.
In regards to response time on messages there’s a magic number. It’s 24. After 24 business hours the person who sent or left the message starts to wonder. They are wondering if you got the message, they are wondering if you understood the message, they are wondering if you decided it wasn’t important, they are wondering if you are going to get back to them. They are wondering if they are going to have to take more time out of their busy day to reach out to you again.
As human beings when we don’t have information we make stuff up and we tend to lean toward the negative. It’s the survivalist part of our brain that wants to protect us and is preparing for negative outcomes.
Here’s a quick solution: send a quick note or voice message back letting them know you got their message and will be working on it in the next couple of days. This resets the expectation clock and reaffirms that you are responsible and professional. Now the sender is no longer left wondering…and making stuff up.
You Allow Yourself to Get Distracted
We live in a world of bright shiny objects. Many things are pulling at our attention. But if you are not all in and focused on what is going on right now and the person right in front of you, you convey that something else is more important. This can manifest itself as starting a side conversation during a meeting when someone else is speaking, looking over someone’s shoulder while talking to them, checking your phone, or spending too much time taking breaks when works needs to get done, etc.
And when people feel that they are not important or what you are doing for them is not important, they don’t trust you to take good care of them and all their “things.” I’ve had a business owner go on to me about how attentive they are to their clients and that listening was what people wanted. In our next conversation this person’s eyes kept darting over my shoulder to what was going on behind me.
When I was in corporate I had someone on my team that wanted to be developed to be in management someday. Usually this is a great thing. Having someone who wants to prove they are ready for more responsibility makes work more engaging and life a little easier. However, this person felt their current tasks were beneath them and so did their tasks too quickly, without care, and mistakes were being made. They were so eager to move on they were proving themselves to be unreliable. Here’s my advice: be where you are right now. If you’re working your way up the ladder do your absolute best to prove that, even when a task is tedious, you can be relied upon to produce good work.
If you cannot be where you are right now, literally or figuratively, make your apologies and go. But if you’re in, be in. And yes, there will be plenty to demand your attention after this conversation or this meeting or this project but give what you are doing now 100% of your attention.
You Share Mistakes You’ve Made without Highlighting the Lesson Learned
We are in a new era of business where we should be sharing ourselves more with our co-workers and clients, to build stronger teams and solidify relationships. Sharing our failures can create stronger bonds than sharing our successes. The compassion and empathy we feel when someone talks about their struggles adds emotion to the equation forming closer ties. The caveat is if you don’t finish the story with what you learned or what you’ve put in place to make sure it never happens again, you leave people with the impression that you’re failure did not lead to learning.
There’s no sense that you’ve taken any responsibility for what happened or that you know how to prevent it in the future. You may have in fact put a system in place to correct the problem but if you don’t mention it, the other party is left to assume the problem could happen again. Here’s how to do it right: always finish your story by highlighting what you’ve learned from your mistake, what systems and safety nets you have put in place to make sure it will never happen again.
For me, that builds trust. When I hear the solution they have come up with I know this person has made mistakes but has become stronger and wiser from them.
You Share Stories of Other People’s Mistakes for Entertainment
I know you are a good person. I know you mean no harm. I get it. We’ve all done this and it feels great in the moment. It lightens the mood. But at the end of it all you’ve just earned yourself the reputation of a gossip. If you’re lucky the other person will never find out what you’ve done but they often do…days, weeks, months or even years later. Oftentimes we do this when tension has built and we need to let off some steam. A comical story seems the way to go. When we gossip we give unconscious permission to those listening to gossip about us.
We teach people how to treat us. Remember the golden rule? Treat others as you want to be treated. This rule exists because it's true, what you give is what you get. Also, no one will want to work closely (or refer those they know) to work closely with someone who would use their mistakes for the amusement of others. Remember, this also pertains to listening to gossip. By listening and laughing along, you will become guilty by association. It won’t matter that you were not the one actually gossiping.
How to avoid being associated with those who engage in gossipy mean girl behavior? For starters, do not share stories that put other people in a bad light. Furthermore, when gossip starts, find an excuse to leave the conversation or change the subject. Oddly enough, intolerance for gossip solidifies your reputation for being kind, professional and a person of integrity. It may annoying in the short-term to those who would like to initiate it, but they will come to respect your stance, because they will trust that you won’t gossip about them.
If you want to get promoted, if you want to grow your business, guard your reputation as a person who has compassion and can keep confidentiality, no matter how funny or juicy the information that crosses your path may be. When the urge to share information about a coworker comes up let it pass and then pat yourself on the back. You are building the confidentiality muscle. This is priceless!
Instead of sharing gossip, make the conversation about the people in the room and leave the people out of the room, out of the room. Your offer of support will also pay off in the long run.
You Let the Fact That You Know Better Leak Out
You have worked hard to be where you are and your level of earned expertise shows you where others are making mistakes. Your natural reflex is to offer suggestions. Helping peers identify and correct their mistakes will likely make a significant improvement in their health, wealth and happiness. However, somewhere between identifying the problem and the other person executing that perfect resolution something happens in the communication. Something that turns good intentions into preachiness.
Rather than considering you an expert, your audience perceives you as one or more of the following: an interloper, a critic, a know-it-all, the judge, a complainer, the do-right, the fun police, the Kool-Aid drinker, a dictator, the hall monitor, or just “that annoying person.” What you don’t realize (and what I didn’t at the time) is what you are “leaking” is your attitude. “I know better than you” comes out in your facial expression, your tone of voice, and the words you choose in your communication. It's a delicate science to give criticism without coming off this way.
No one likes to be considered less than. No one appreciates having flaws pointed out, so even with the best of intentions, you’re left with a bad reputation. Before you speak, check and re-calibrate your attitude. Remind yourself why you are trying to help the other person. Come from a place of compassion, offering up your insights as merely one solution, as a gift without strings attached, and leave it up to the other person to agree or not agree.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.