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.

E-mail Patience is Not a Virtue I Possess

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Truthfully, I’m never as impatient as I am when I’m waiting on an e-mail. I can feel my blood pressure starting to boil and that’s when I know I need to walk away. Practice some yoga breathing and just plain relax.

In college, I got in the habit (due to the newsroom I worked in) of constantly checking my e-mail, all day, every day. Then refreshing the page and checking again. This let me be the first to respond to extra shifts and therefore more money. As everyone I worked with did the same thing, it didn’t seem strange. Responses came quickly and problems got solved almost instantaneously.

In the first few places I worked after that first newsroom, the e-mail habits were the same. It was refreshing to know that responses would come quickly. That way the original e-mail could be deleted saving precious room in that every filling inbox.

Now that I’m out of journalism, I’ve found that people check e-mail even slower. Sometimes only a few times a day. This might be great for their concentration and their ability to fly through projects without interruption. Usually, this doesn’t bother me. But when I send a rather important work e-mail with a single work-related question that I feel needs answered sooner rather than later, it irks me. It also irks me because often the person isn’t someone I can just wander over to their desk and ask in person, which of course I would rather do.

As I said above, when I start to feel myself only getting more and more annoyed that the e-mail isn’t showing up with an answer, I try to just take a few breaths. Remind myself that the person might be in a meeting or might be home with a sick child. This trick seems to work, but I do have to constantly remind myself.

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.

Using the Office Calendar is Important

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I’m part of a small department. When one person is out sick or on vacation, we notice. I’m also part of a department that other departments rely pretty heavily on and are often coming back to our area to ask questions or get help.

There are a few of us who are excellent at using the office-wide calendar and checking it daily. I know when my boss has a conference or plans to be out of the office for longer than a typical lunch hour. When one of us is out sick that goes on the calendar too. Not, “Aurora has strep throat and is highly contagious” just simply “Aurora out sick-8 hours PTO.” Simple to the point, but lets everyone know I’m not there.

Not everyone uses the calendar this way. Quite regularly, we look at an empty desk and wonder is he running late? Will she be coming in at all today? This state of limbo is particularly frustrating when other people ask us where the missing person is and if they will be coming in.

If the person would just put on the calendar when they intend to be out or if the supervisor would note that the person is out sick, a great deal of confusion and frustration could be eliminated.

Misinterpreted News Stories

The longer I work in a cubicle, the more I realize the cast of characters is the same no matter where you work.

Do you have that person in your office that reads/watches/listens to the news but some how gets the story completely wrong and then tries to use it as a conversation starter? Or doesn’t believe it has been updated (for example MTV banning Lady Gaga’s newest video, or that coffee is as bad as soda for your liver—neither are true)?

I used to try to bite my tongue, but lately it’s gotten so constant that I can’t. I Google the story he insists is true, only to prove it isn’t. Despite this evidence, he still insists the initial story is true and adamantly believes it!

I feel bad for proving this person wrong regularly. I am not trying to make him look stupid, because he isn’t. There’s just something about spreading wrong information that infuriates me.