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Monthly Archives: June 2010

When do exaggerations and misstatements cross the line?

I read a very interesting article last week published by the Wharton School of Business that posed the question: when do exaggerations and misstatements cross the line?  Specifically, the article looked at what happens to people’s (in particular public figures) reputations, when they are caught embellishing their accomplishments or qualifications.  According to the article, experts say that exaggeration is part of human nature, and almost everyone does it.  Yet, it’s when those small seemingly-harmless lies grow and amplify, unimpeded by any reality checks, that they can result in serious and potentially career-ending consequences.  If you want to read the complete article, you can access it here, but in a nutshell, here are the key points I took away from it.

  • Bending the truth so it’s more favourable, selective memory of the facts, and embellishment on resumes are all human nature and commonly occur; but once you’re caught in even a minor deception, you’ll lose your credibility.  And once that happens, trust is very hard to recover.
  • A certain amount of exaggeration is expected in some situations such as marketing and advertising campaigns.  Similarly, you’d expect that people would accentuate the positive in recommendation letters and job interviews.  The challenge is to walk the fine line between bragging that is harmless and untruths that could come back to haunt you later.
  • There is significant pressure to deliver, particularly in North American organizations that are facing financial and unemployment crises, and this can result in people embroidering the truth.
  • In today’s Internet-connected world, exaggerations and misstatements are much more likely to be detected, sometimes from years ago.
  • The best way to avoid career-damaging misstatements is to become adept at self-editing, and to be open to allowing a coach or a colleague to question and vet what you plan to say.

The article also comments how the leaders in a particular environment set the standard for what actions will be tolerated from others.  So true! Is it okay to bend the truth to meet organizational or personal objectives?  What level of exaggeration do you tolerate in your organization or in your department?  Do you have any examples of seemingly-innocuous “white lies” that have come back to bite someone in the behind?

People Don’t Quit Bad Jobs, They Quit Bad Environments

My professional colleague and friend Marian Madonia speaks, consults and trains on employee engagement.  She is also the author of No More Garbage: 90 Ways to Deal with Change, Challenges & Chaos.  She graciously agreed to be my guest blogger today, and writes this post from an employee’s perspective.

I’m looking for a new job.  I know the market is tough, so it may take me a while, but I’m out of here as soon as I can be.

When I leave, Human Resources will do an exit interview with me, but I know the rules.  You have to lie about the real reason you’re leaving so you don’t burn any bridges.  I know what I’ll tell them: I’m leaving for better pay & better opportunity.  But the truth is, that’s not why I’m leaving, that’s just what I’m going to say.  You see, people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad environments.  And the boss is the reason you have a bad environment.  The work environment is the boss’s responsibility.  So, when my environment stinks because …

  • My co-workers are slackers
  • I don’t have the training I need
  • I don’t know what’s going on here because I’m not getting information
  • I’m stifled creatively
  • The only time I get feedback is when I do something wrong
  • There’s a lot of back-stabbing

… it’s the boss’s job to fix these things.  If they don’t get fixed, I share my opinion via my feet (walking myself to a new job).  It may be a tough economy but sooner or later, everyone gets to the point where he or she says “you can’t pay me enough to stay here.”

What do you think?  Is Marian on the mark, or do you disagree?

You can reach Marian through her website at http://marianmadonia.com.

Delegating effectively – why you absolutely MUST learn to let go

If you are a manager or supervisor then you are entrusted with getting things done. And as a leader, that means getting things done through other people. Your challenge: other people don’t always do things the way you would!  And that can get VERY frustrating. You likely know many of the reasons you should be delegating more effectively – you build up the capabilities and confidence of your staff, you increase employee retention, and perhaps the most compelling reason, it allows you to get more things done.  But there is one benefit of delegating that you may not have considered.  Your ability to delegate makes you more promotable. Look around you, either in your organization or another, at the people whom you admire – these are the ones who have achieved admirable degrees of success, and these are also the people who have learned to delegate well.  When you delegate, you build depth behind you, and that means that you are available for bigger and better opportunities.  So, delegation isn’t just good for your people and your organization, it’s great for you!

So, are you a good delegator?
Find out whether you have mastered the attitudes and beliefs to be a successful delegator by completing this quick ‘n’ easy self-assessment.  Let me know how you do.

How well do you delegate?

Address problem behaviours directly – don’t whitewash

When it comes to communicating with your employees, don’t whitewash! Let me explain.

Sometimes, when a supervisor or team leader wants to convey a negative message, there is a tendency to address the message to the large group rather than specifically towards the person is intended for.  Let me give you a quick example that I have observed with many managers.  Let’s say there is one employee in the department who is frequently coming in late to work.  Rather than address the issue specifically with the tardy employee, the supervisor instead sends out an e-mail to the entire department reminding everybody of the work hours for the department and the importance on being on time.  This is called whitewash.  Instead of dealing with a specific issue, the supervisor has instead broadcast a blanket message to everybody, in the hope that the one person who really needs to hear it, will.  And of course that just won’t happen!  The one person who really needs to hear the message won’t.  The one person who really needs the message will think it applies to everybody else.  And everyone else, who has been coming in to work on time, is tarred with the same dirty brush because a blanket message was delivered to all.  Don’t whitewash!  If you have to deal with a problem behavior, then address it specifically to the person who is at fault.

Not only is whitewash completely ineffective in halting the problem, but it is also disrespectful to your other employees.  What do you think?

A leadership fable about how actions speak louder than words …

ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a manager who worked in a credit card customer call centre. He thought he was a great leader, and often told his colleagues and staff that he came by his strong leadership skills naturally. But his staff would not have concurred. In fact, a few of his employees described him as the “worst manager I have worked for, ever!”

For the rest of this leadership fable, read the entire article in the May/June issue of CGA MagazineDo you know any such managers who think they are great leaders?

One powerful way to run effective meetings

Start your meetings promptly. No matter who is there, or not there, start your meetings at the time when you said you would.  It is a powerful gesture of respect to those who choose to respect your time.  When you start late, what you are really saying to the people who respected your time is “thanks for respecting me, but guess what, I don’t respect you.”  Even worse, you are teaching others that your time has no value and is meaningless.

Now before you all turn on me :), I understand that this can be a huge challenge if you happen to work in an organization where punctuality is not a virtue.  Nevertheless, persist!  For the very reason I just gave you!  I believe that as leaders, we teach others how to treat us, and sometimes, we have to re-teach them.  If you work in an organization where you have inadvertently taught people that it’s acceptable not to respect your time, then recognize that you may need to re-teach them.  Here’s the thing: if you get a reputation as someone who starts your meetings on time, then you will teach people to respect you.  People will “learn” to be on time.

Having said that, despite your actions, there will always be, for some reason or another, latecomers.  When a latecomer finally arrives, don’t disrupt the meeting to review what’s happened prior to their arrival, just continue onwards.  If you stop to catch the person up on what he or she has missed, you will undo your hard work in re-teaching others.

So some people say that I’m playing hard ball.  Do you think I’m being too tough?

Achieving work-life balance is like juggling many balls

If you’re in a position of leadership, then you’re certainly trying to balance your professional with your personal life.  And just in the workplace alone, you no doubt are organizing and managing a myriad of varied and far-reaching responsibilities.  So it’s safe to say that at any point in time, no matter what your individual situation, you’re juggling countless tasks and duties.

BallsFor a moment, think of yourself as a juggler, and all these responsibilities as balls that you’re attempting to keep aloft.  At any given time, you likely have scores of balls in the air, and on some days, it feels like all you’re doing is struggling (and scurrying from one place to another) to ensure that none of these balls hit the ground.  Now imagine that some of these balls are made of rubber and some are made of glass.  Rubber balls are elastic and resilient; when they fall, they easily bounce back.  But the glass balls are rigid and inflexible; when they fall, they shatter!  If this were indeed true, then you’d make it a point to take special care of the glass balls, wouldn’t you?  If you had to drop any balls, you’d let the rubber ones fall because you know that they’d bounce right back up.

So let’s take this metaphor further.  Your various day-to-day responsibilities can be sorted into glass balls and rubber balls.  For the most part, anything related to people relationships – with your employees, peers, managers, family and loved ones – are equivalent to glass balls.  If you drop these, then the impact can be far-reaching and in some cases devastating.  And largely, anything related to administrative tasks are equivalent to rubber balls.  While it certainly isn’t a good idea to drop an excessive number of these too often, the impact is nevertheless not as great as if you dropped the glass balls.  This metaphor would suggest that if you had to drop a ball or two, it should be the rubber ones.  Yet so many people, when faced with this very predicament, let their relationships falter.  They work at keeping the task-related rubber balls in the air, but they let their people-oriented glass balls fall.  It sure doesn’t make sense, does it?  What about you?  Which balls do you keep aloft, and which ones do you let drop?

Overcome workplace negativity by feeding the grapevine

A couple of weeks ago, I offered up two ideas, based on my experience in my leadership development practice, about why negativity is so widespread in some organizations.  It struck a chord with a few readers because I received several private emails, all asking for advice on HOW to deal with this negativity.  I’ve already offered some perspectives and strategies to the folks who emailed, but it occurred to me that others may also benefit from this information.  So I’ll make it point to offer specific tips on this subject every so often in the upcoming months.  To get us started, here is one specific action that you can take if you are the supervisor or manager of a team that has one or more negative people.

GrapevineFeed the grapevine. Okay, that sounds a little cryptic, so let me explain.  Every organization, even if it’s small, has a rumour mill, or a grapevine.  And honestly, I figure that the company grapevine is quite possibly, THE MOST efficient and well-oiled form of communication known to mankind!  The crazy thing is that so many of the supervisors and team leaders that I work with are so frustrated with the company grapevine that they do everything within their power to squelch it or shut it down.  But the truth is that you can’t!  Instead, I subscribe to a different philosophy.  I believe that if you can’t beat ‘em, you should join ’em.  Instead of fighting AGAINST the company grapevine, you will have much greater success if you work WITH it.  Feed it with information!  When people have scarcity of information, they make it up!  And invariably, the stuff they make up are the worst possible scenarios.  And then, fueled by the most horrible possibilities, the rumour mill goes rampant and out of control.  Instead, if you provide as much information as you can (obviously without violating any confidentiality requirements), you will at least counteract, if not overcome the negative gossip that normally exists there.  The key is that you have to be willing to provide information, even if it’s not finalized or complete.  A lot of people prefer to wait until all the i’s are dotted and all the t’s are crossed before they share information, and it’s this very delay that get the negativity spinning and churning.  Feed the grapevine – communicate more, much more, much more often!

Have you observed any examples of this negativity churn in your organization’s grapevine?