Protocol Consultants International
… the “Self” You Show to Whom?”
We spend more time with co-workers than members of our own family, therefore, it seems natural to tell them things about our personal life which also makes work more interesting and enjoyable. While sharing some personal information is crucial to forging relationships, sharing too much personal information at work may damage your reputation and could kill your career.
- share personal problems!
- share information which reveals your weaknesses, particularly if you are in a management position or vying for a promotion requiring solid credentials, good judgment and people skills.
- discuss your abusive husband, difficult divorce your depression issues.
… bragging about your drunken binges, problems with your kids and financial woes are also taboo; turn to friends and family for support.
… and if you are looking for a new job, tell no one at work!
Entrusting co-workers with very personal information places an unfair burden on them – you never know who you can really trust and for some, repeating information is just part of their nature; they’re not being malicious.
Sharing news about a i.e. wedding, engagement, new grandchild, etc., are natural topics to share but sharing your pregnancy news for example, might not be a smart career move as there are many work-related ramifications.
The office grapevine: feeds information we would not otherwise know and is a necessary evil. Paradoxically, people are naturally drawn toward negative aspects of other people’s lives and seem to feed on other people’s misfortune … “better them than I” attitude! Hence the office grapevine exists. A few rules:
- listen to everything and verify information before passing it along
- pass along only true information that won’t hurt others
- Use the grapevine to take positive action or make decisions. You can start posturing for the position you heard will open soon or looking for another job because you understand the company is being sold.
And we all know those people who spread negative information in the most compassionate way…. i.e. ‘isn’t is a shame about poor Kim who’s been on Match.com for ten years and never had a date… I wish I could introduce her to someone.’ This amounts to little more than office gossip with a twist of passive/aggressive behavior.
Maintain a level of professionalism and a few layers of privacy at work… they don’t need to know everything about you! Less information is sometimes more.
Remember: “If you want no one to know, tell no one!”
- their friendship
- their business
Personalize the card. Write their name and sign yours - even if the card is engraved with your name/company name. Use blue ink, green, red or gold (festive!) (Note: black ink is reserved for strictly business correspondence/contracts) Also, even if you write only a line or two – write something, i.e. "Dear Jack, wishing you and Judy (name of spouse) a wonderful Holiday season! Enjoy your Disney Vacation (specific vacation destination) with Jack and Judy Jr. (name of kids.) Thank you for your friendship and support. Happy Holidays! Dan"
Whatever you gift, even a bottle of wine, remember, "the presentation" is everything! Wrap it, box it, monogram it, … (private label it!) but do not simply hand over an item. In other countries, things like certain colors are symbolic and even unlucky i.e. white in china is the symbol of death and bows are considered unlucky, etc.
- Consider gifting something symbolic of your company (not necessarily logo gifts,) city, country/ culture i.e. Boston is known for the Boston Symphony, New England Patriots. Hence, gifting someone from another city or country a CD of the Boston symphony or a pendant of the New England Patriots would be appropriate.
- For "the Presentation" consider personalizing a CD case … depending on your budget… invest in a quality case i.e. leather, pewter, silver, etc. which they will always have, and think of you.
- Frame the pendant, send a hat they will wear or have something personalized by a player – so many great charity events to find these items.
- Compose a poem/limerick. Inscribe in script (?) on parchment paper and frame it…. "The presentation!"
- Chronicle highlights of their accomplishments in a book or journal.
- Frame a photograph.
- Potpourri, a dried herb wreath, bake cookies … "present" them in a festive tin with a ribbon and, as always, with the personal note acknowledging their friendship/support.
- Give the gift of time. Offer a lunch date.
- Donate to a charity in their name.
- Give fair trade items such as tea, coffee, or chocolate.
- Create a memory by going to a ball game, dinner, concert.
Note: Although holiday gift cards are by far and away the most popular gift at holiday time, the issue we have with gift cards is they place a dollar amount on the thought/gesture.
- eBooks, e-cards, … e-anything is "fine" however, there is nothing which will replace a gift one can hold, unwrap, regard, display, use.
- "What do you do for a living?" may be a common question however, still implies, "How much $$ do you make?")
Rather, consider saying: "What business are you in?" or "What is your professional field?" This is less threatening and does not suggest your curiosity regarding their income bracket.
Rather, ask, "How are things?" (Asking how things are:
- leaves the direction/the conversation "open-ended"
- allows them to take the lead by delving into their personal life or business news.
- or, they may choose to keep the topic generic and respond, i.e. "Things are fine! Thank you for asking."
This leaves the field open for you to take the lead and share something about yourself or your business which may inspire them to offer something in kind to help you better connect.)
- takes the pressure off us to speak (first).
- lets us hear the other person speak (first) and obtain important information (we can hear nervousness, arrogance, grammar, pace, etc.
- greet guests at the door. Offer to take coats or, coach children (as junior hosts) to do so (great life training!)
- provide guests' initial refreshment. Thereafter, tell them to help themselves.
- have a designated area for coats and purses.
- consider a designated play area and even a children's dining table. Have high and low-tech toys and games available.
- facilitate conversation. Provide introductions, monitor alcohol consumption, music, replenishing food, etc.
- have a scented candle burning in restrooms; light table candles and others as you deem appropriate.
- have ice, soda, water, mixers, coasters and festive cocktail napkins out.
- flowers are festive, as well as a great hostess gift.
- Grace and an optional informal toast should be offered at the beginning of the feast.
- No one should begin eating until everyone is seated and served.
- host signals when to begin by picking up their utensils and saying something like "Happy Thanksgiving!" "Enjoy!" Bon appetite!; be inclusive
- make eye-contact with everyone at your table.
- children can help (learn how to) set and clear the table;
- never arrive empty handed. Bring not only your signature dish (or whatever you were asked) but something for your host i.e. a candle, hand towels, egg nog, wine, flowers, etc.
- circulate and contribute. Resist the urge to hide in the kitchen or plant yourself in front of the T.V. although having the Macy's Day Parade/football game on is more than fine on Thanksgiving Day. Suggestion: have photos – new and very old, your wedding album or vacation photos out for viewing, cards or a game out to play is a good fallback.
- offer to help clean up. Thanksgiving is probably one of the few times hosts may graciously accept.
Our morals, values, beliefs and ethics are shaped at home and are in large part, attributed to the way we were brought up. Possessing a strong sense of Family (not necessarily referring to the traditional family, being a single parent myself) helps build confidence, provides a strong life foundation and also serves as a source of comfort during life's challenging times.
We live in a world today where multitasking and managing our time, people, home and career is commonplace; time is precious. This is a ringing call for a conscious return to an uncomplicated activity as old as "Old Man Time" himself: The Traditional Family Dinner Hour.
Note: "Family Time" vs."Dinner Time"
This call hails the notion that when we take the time to dine together, as a family, we experience a heightened level of comfort and security and, in turn, we are more confident and respectful… we interface with others more skillfully, invite conversation and welcome new people into our lives more freely. The Family Dinner Hour encourages bonding and connection as well as behaving well and being gracious… a great 'way to be!' It is here where lessons of life are learned … where parents will correct, and celebrate their children. "Family" is intrinsic in the fabric of our lives and while reinstating activity may seem simple, initiating this requires effort:
- Announce it: "We are having "Family Dinner" at every opportunity" (Night/time)
- Make the time. Urge family members to say, "No, I can't" to other invitations … and practice saying, "we are having a Family Dinner tonight."
- Make Family Dinner Hour fun and festive - a dining experience.
- Eat in an attractive place i.e. the dining room.
- Create a calm, civilized atmosphere i.e. play soft background music.
- Prepare a nutritious dinner.
- Use table linen and porcelain vs. paper plates/plastic utensils.
- Candles/tea lights.
- Ground rules: T.V. and cell phones: off(!); no in-fighting.
- Teach and practice good table manners … how to set a table, hold a fork and knife, etc.
- CONTRIBUTE to family discussions.
The Market Basket affair provides an iconic case study of how, when you show employees you care and treat employees with kindness and respect, you get respect, loyalty, allegiance.
Today, more than ever, INVEST time/energy in the special people in your lives. The dividends will be exponential!
- Don't share personal problems!
- Don't share information which reveals your weaknesses, particularly if you are in a management position or vying for a promotion requiring solid credentials, good judgment and people skills.
- Don't discuss your abusive husband, difficult divorce your depression issues.... bragging about your drunken binges, problems with your kids and financial woes are also taboo; turn to friends and family for support.
- Do listen to everything and verify information before passing it along
- Do pass along only true information that won't hurt others
- Do use the grapevine to take positive action or make decisions. You can start posturing for the position you heard will open soon or looking for another job because you understand the company is being sold.
- As soon as you reach your destination: cell phones and pagers: Off! … And out of sight. Place in briefcase or purse.
- Mobile devices should not be part of the business luncheon place setting.
- In meetings, if the phone must be on display, turn to silent or vibrate mode.
- Check email and respond to texts after the meeting. Not doing so suggests that the speaker is unimportant. Perceptions are real; appear engaged/as a team player.
- Keep voice tones low and conversations short.
- Make sure ring tones are consistent with your professional message.
Lying has long been known as one of our less venerable characteristics to the extent where Moses deemed the habit "tablet worthy" and it landed spot #8 on the Ten Commandments.
Think about it: how many of us have called in sick to work when we weren't? (58% more common around major sporting events) … whether you are extending an insincere compliment or making an excuse to get out of going to lunch, telling lies is insidious.
Lying is incredibly common in business across the board - - Dodd-Frank was passed because there was so much lying on financial statements by CEOs.
Sad to say, some of the best leaders are liars. Think of Steve Jobs' (reality distortion) and Larry Ellison's proclivity to proclaim a product was available when it wasn't—("vaporware!")
Although lying occurs at the highest levels, there are consequences…some feel they will never get caught, but they do!
Bernie Madoff, Richard Nixon (lied to himself) "I am not a crook!" Bill Clinton, Elliott Spitzer, Mark Sanford and Arnold Schwarzenegger come to mind.
- a story repeated often enough becomes undistinguishable.
- we are great at self-deception!
- today, automated systems can track lies and cover-ups
- can compromise credibility, integrity, trust and damage relationships/reputations, kill careers.
- about small things begs the question, what else might you lie about?
Top reasons for lying:
- closing a deal
- appeasing customers
- covering up - mistakes/failed projects
- covering up - for another employee
- explaining tardiness and absence
- denying knowledge of an event/situation
- keeping the peace
- fearing consequences
Remember, when you lie, the lie not only needs to be believable, but proven and then remembered!
When you lie you invariably end up dancing. Therefore, be prepared to put on the dancing shoes because that’s what invariably happens.
Telling the truth may be harder in the beginning, but in the long run it is the right thing.
- requires less energy
- builds character.
- means you don’t have to worry about being caught (in a lie)
- you won’t have to tell more (cover up) lies
nor carry the burden of deception
It’s much harder to take an ethical stand and insist on honesty.
The bottom line: your reputation as an ethical person is central to professional success; word travels quickly.
Conversations are the source of energy that have the power to release transformational thoughts – (products and goods) into the world. Conversations are the golden threads that enable us to move forward and trust others. It is through conversation that we communicate and ultimately, connect. Conversation is integral to the health and productivity of a company culture.
Please read my review of Judith Glaser’s new book, Conversational Intelligence.
Sending a thank-you note is still relevant in the working world, especially in the interview.
Get more tips on How to Stand Apart @ Work in my article in Forbes.