Use Your Inside Voice

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A tweet this morning from the wonderful Laura Scholz made me laugh and shudder. She said, “People, please use your indoor voices! #coworkingetiquette”

While we all learned about inside voices from our parents and teachers, I’m surprised how easy it is to forget. I am excitable and can have problems with volume control when I’m particularly amped up. It has become less of a problem as I’ve gotten older, but I admit, I can still forget.

Whether you work in a cubicle farm or are lucky enough to have separate offices, yelling or loudly talking to others can be very disrupting to those around you. Some of your co-workers might be sound sensitive or have a headache. At the very least other people yelling and talking loudly is distracting.

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TMI at Work

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Some people are great sharers. You will always know what they are thinking and feeling because they will tell you. Usually, I’m one of them. You’ll know where I stand on issues, topics and projects.

Then there are those people who share a little too much. I realize that bonding over ailments is something athletes (professional and recreational) do regularly. “A stress fracture, yikes, I’ve had one of those and here’s my story,” is a fairly common conversation during a run, in that context. Only. But telling me at work about your stomach issues, or other very personal maladies, will make even me uncomfortable.

There’s a great article from the CNN about 13 Things To Keep Private At Work. I emphatically agree with all the points.

Now, for how to address these all too common faux pas. If you notice your co-workers avoiding you or their body language indicates they are uncomfortable (blushing, leaning away, etc.) you might be over sharing. There are different bench marks for different topics. Such as would you tell a total stranger on the metro about your health issue? Would you let your children overhear you talking about your ex-wife that way?

I’ve found it is much better to err on the side of caution and share too little than too much. If the person wants to know more they’ll ask and if you are comfortable sharing, then go ahead. Otherwise keep your mouth shut.

Working with Someone You Don’t Like

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You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your co-workers. Here’s my advice for how to make it work, when you don’t like someone you work closely with on a regular basis.

I suggest going with the benefit of the doubt (something I’ve referenced in It’s Not Fair!). Maybe their attitude isn’t sunny and they are a grouch to be around, but you really don’t know if this person is going through a divorce or has a seriously ill relative. Have they always been ill-tempered? Is it just toward you? If the answer is that they used to be positive Polly and they just haven’t been lately, then I suggest waiting it out. If the person is negative only toward you, try to address it.

Sometimes saying, “I know we have to work on project X together for the next few months. I’m excited to combine our talents and eager to get started.” This could help diffuse the situation and reiterate that you trust the person’s ability to help get the project done.

Just because you don’t want to hang out with this person after work and wouldn’t think of going to lunch with them, doesn’t mean you can’t have a working relationship. In a team environment, your success is your partner’s success and your failure is their failure. As long as everyone can remember that, you should be able to make any pairing work.

Focusing on the positive attributes even the most negative co-worker brings to the table can help get you in the right mindset. You could say, yes, she’s brutally blunt, but she’s very detail orientated and great at making a timeline based task list. Or sure, he monopolizes the conversation and asks the same question every single day, but he means well and is just trying to make sure you know he cares.

Obviously, getting a good read on the person is a great way to find that silver lining. Is he a control centered person? Let him be the one to suggest the starting point. Do you see her as scattered? Maybe she’s just able to multi-task extremely well or is very creative. Try to see the bright side.

If it does become a huge issue and you two can’t get past it talk to your supervisor (if you are comfortable). Reiterate that you are excited about the project and want to make it work, but you are having a hard time getting on the same page with Suzy. Just make sure you indicate you want to move past this issue.

Does Anyone Read an Entire E-mail Anymore?

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I’m pretty frustrated with e-mail lately. I’ve run into countless times with co-workers and supposed customer service people, who either did not bother to read the entire e-mail I sent, or just completely ignored what I wrote in the first place.

To be fair, an e-mail I recently sent to the entire office contained 361 works and 1973 characters, not a novel. It contained very relevant information regarding an upcoming fundraiser and the requirements for participating. I sent the e-mail and had a great response. My co-workers seemed excited to participate in such a worthy cause.

Fast forward to the day before the taco lunch. No less than 10 people asked questions that were answered in the initial e-mail. I politely told them the answer was in the initial e-mail. That’s when several of them said, “Oh, I didn’t read it.” Or my favorite, “I deleted that without finishing reading it last week.”

While I wanted to scream, “I don’t write for my health, you know!” I refrained and just smiled and said next time you might want to read an e-mail I send, I don’t send office wide e-mails regularly.

The second instance of my frustration with people not reading an e-mail came from a well-known, mail order clothing company. I wrote a complaint after returning several items that not only looked nothing like what was pictured in the catalog, but didn’t match up to the provided sizing chart.

This is an excerpt from my initial e-mail: “I love most of your products and enjoys shopping in the stores, but I am finding the sizing to be ever-changing and hard to follow… Mostly, I am writing because this will be the third time I’ve had to return something because of a sizing issue and I find it very unfair that I am constantly charged $5.99 to send back something that will never fit. Please review your exchange policy.”

The response I received did not address my concerns at all.

“Thank you for your e-mail regarding your return postage. We are happy to assist you with your inquiry. We offer a pre-paid UPS return label to provide greater convenience for our customers. If you use the label and take it to UPS or drop it in a UPS box, you will not have to pay the return postage. Once your return is processed, a $5.99 charge will be deducted from your return or exchange if you used the label. You may also pay to return the merchandise using your own method such as Federal Express or United States Postal Service (USPS). Please note that return postage costs are not refunded by [COMPANY]. We assure you that you may return multiple orders within one package and use one pre-addressed UPS return label. To ensure accurate return entry, however, we do not recommend returning merchandise from more than one customer number.”

To which I replied, “This really didn’t answer my concern. Did you even read my comments?”

The second response I received credited my account the return fee and assured me my concerns were “forwarded to the proper department.” While better, the e-mail did not address my specific concerns and I just gave up.

I am concerned that in this information overload culture we’re creating that no one bothers to read or even worse read and comprehend any more. Didn’t we all learn how to do that in first grade?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution, but I’m open to suggestions.

A Bank that doesn’t hate on even potential customers

So after yesterday’s rant about issues with a certain bank (some of which I acknowledge were not the bank’s fault, per say) I wanted to take the time to give full credit to a local bank who has amazingly excellent customer service, even for their non-customers.

After my initial tweet, a representative from Landmark Bank contacted me on twitter, leading to a day long conversation and an e-mail addressing my specific needs. And I’m not even a customer. Landmark Bank saw I problem, offered a solution (several in fact) and has continued to provide answers to every question I’ve asked, even if the representative had to ask someone else.

Not only are they using social media to their advantage, I am sure they are getting results. I am curious how many other potential customers they have engaged this way. A far cry from the other bank’s “how can I help you” stream of non-interaction.

Honestly, all I wanted yesterday was to talk to a real person. Some one who could say, we don’t have any control over when the alerts are sent, it is all automated. Here’s exactly what happened. We’re sorry this happened to you, but it isn’t our fault. I would have been fine with that answer. When I didn’t reach anyone on the phone (and can’t spend a half hour on hold or get to the bank during “banking hours”), I tried social media.

I just wanted an explanation, which I still have not received.