For PART ONE, click here
What we speak and how we say it has a large bearing on our personal and professional relationships. When asking someone to do our bidding, there is a world of difference between saying, “Can you please do this?” and “I am asking you to do this.”
I often notice that when my better half criticizes someone, the effect on the person and their understanding of the issue is always positive. While I may be the more glib one of the two, I do not seem to get this reaction from the people even if I may be saying the same thing. The reactions I get are generally – raised voices, flared up nostrils, stiff, stubborn body language and irritated demeanour. The only difference, I have come to realize, is in the way I say things. With the knowledge of this realization I am making fast and permanent strides towards bringing about the relevant changes. Mind you, I would be reaping the benefits from this change.
Our work places are given to form, our equations are structured and our communications have quite become pro forma. Given this background and the pre-disposing factors we come with – the latter coupled with our immediate reactions to the complex situations at work; we tend to embellish our communication set with standard statements that we fall back on often during the day.
In my earlier article on the same subject, I listed out a set of 11 statements that bring out the best in us and show us in the positive light. In this article, let us look at the flip side and reflect on the set of statements that should seldom be a part of our repertoire –
Here are the CONTRA STATEMENTS -
1. YES SIR, YES SIR, THREE BAGS FULL SIR
Being saddled with the Raj mentality, having been a colonized workforce under the British Masters, we were coerced to learn for the better part of 200 years that it was not our place or position to disagree with those who ruled us. As a legacy, this yesmanship continued well beyond the hour of freedom and into the last 64 years of our independence. Beset in a crab mentality and plagued with the twin parasites of nepotism and “Sahebism,” we learnt to resort to pleasing our superiors in order to gain favours at best or to be saved from the unwarranted wrath at worst.
The sociologists will give an in depth analysis into why we are the way we are. But even they will not shy away from stating that the times have changed. Professional India is more open, fair, meritocracy- based and comparable to international norms. What was a given earlier, is anathema today. The HR is a strong department, bosses are younger and given to fair practices, the workforce is more trained and professional. This is to say that there is no reason for us to keep our noses brown. Just being suited for the position, professionally sound and skilled is, in most places, enough to get you ahead. Of course there will always be the oddballs but a qualified person like you will be highly in demand and will not have to resort to shameful tactics.
Agree to show allegiance to the right things, do not express dissent just to be a rebel and for God’s sake don’t be a yes man just for the sake of apple polishing.
2. I, ME, MYSELF!
Don’t be an “I” man either – it is simply obnoxious. Your work should be such that it is talked about.
In most cases leave the trumpet at home. I do not mean to say that you should be a wallflower or a shrinking violet and let people walk over you. But it also does not mean that the only set of pronouns you have a fondness for are “I, Me & Myself.”
How many times in our places of work have we heard such pompous statements like – “I bring the
biggest sales figures to the table,” “I have the largest number of media contacts,” “Only I can get the press release published or the event covered,” “The boss listens only to me.” What’s worse, we ourselves have been guilty of this.
Please talk about yourself, your strengths and accomplishments; but in the right forums. There are open sessions, appraisals, and one-to-ones where you can wax eloquent about yourself. Besides, your work will often be such that people who matter will know of the value you bring to the table and its corresponding nuts and bolts. There are also times when it will be absolutely natural and quite essential to state your contribution. For all other times, do us and yourself a favour and don’t be a gasbag.
3. YOU ARE NOT PERFORMING / YOU ARE NOT EFFICIENT / YOU ARE NOT BEING A GOOD TEAM PLAYER / YOU ARE LATE, AGAIN
These are, indeed, important statements when you manage a team or an organization and for ensuring optimal performance from all people. But please don’t make these rants personal – there is and should be no scope for any vendetta or ego or imbalance in the liking-a-person factor. Be absolutely professional about the grouse or complaint you have against somebody, which should not be based on the fact that you do not like their face or that they forgot to wish you on your birthday.
And as an absolute no-no, please do not scold anybody in public – in a public forum, in meetings, in front of the rest of the team. When you must vent out in hyperbole, it must always be in private, behind closed doors.
Remember how one positive statement or compliment can charge you up and make your day! Then,
also remember that one negative statement – at times misplaced; at other times intensified – can put cracks in the motivation level and break the day for the recipient.
4. I COULD HAVE DONE IT BETTER
And who says so? It is important to have a high sense of self worth and positive self-perception but it is as important to be both realistic and open to how others see you. The best is the middle path – a clear self-knowledge balanced with a healthy dose of significant others’ perception of you.
Instead of being a single piece band singing the same tune, let your actions and your results at work speak louder.
A blatant statement like that often shows off a basket of sour grapes. Don’t say it; just prove it by your mettle. And if you must utter it then do so in the right earnest, in order to salvage a matter-at-hand, and never to spite another colleague.
Also remember that for that task the person in question was thought to be the best suited or it is part of their portfolio or the boss finds them the right fit for it. There is no scope for odious comparisons. Your work should and will put you in the right perspective vis-à-vis the talent you bring to the table.
5. BUT I THINK IT IS THIS / YOU KNOW I FEEL THIS IS THE CASE / NO, NO WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED WAS……..
Stop right there! In a meeting with several people or even a dialogue with one, do not interrupt. It is plain bad manners and shows disrespect towards the other point of view; besides, you also end of puncturing the flow of a discussion.
Please let others complete what they have to say. Interruptions are only called for when co-workers bring in unnecessary inputs (but be a sound judge of that before you open your traps) or are wasting time and you are good in time management. Secondly, interruptions can be easily made by the top dog (even then it should be justified) as he / she has earned the position and the inherent right to do so.
6. I HEARD SO AND SO LOVES TO FLATTER THE BOSS AND THAT IS HOW THEY GET REWARDED / DID YOU KNOW THAT THEY BOTH ARE GOING AROUND / I DON’T THINK SHE HAS DONE THE TASK ON HER OWN…..
Do NOT gossip and add to the grapevine. Remember what goes around comes around. There are
thousands of great topics to be discussed and shared at the water cooler; Osama’s slaying at the hands of Obama could even be one. But why would you want to wash other people’s dirty linen in public or play up your own sob story!
Also remember, that it is YOU who makes the organization in step with all your other colleagues. And that you would wish to work for a good and healthy organisation so why get into a smearing, staining and salacious game at work.
Leave alone work, even in personal life such muck is extremely degenerative and counter-productive. So, please desist.
7. APOLOGIES FOR GETTING BACK TO YOU SO LATE BUT I WAS TRAVELLING OR MY SERVER WAS
DOWN OR A BLACK CAT CROSSED MY PATH ON WAY TO WORK
If you are punctual, organize well, work hard and smart and delegate well then you will not be running late, ever so often. And your internal and external clients will not be sending you those terrible reminders.
Of course, in the big bad world of organizational cornucopia, workload is gigantic, demands unceasing and the tick-tock of the clock incessantly reminding of the sad depletion of time at hand. And hence, poor you and I have to hide behind big excuses. But you know what; everybody has those 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. Yet some of us get so much more done than the rest of us. There are people who are running big organizations, running marathons, doing their bit of social work, attending to themselves and their family – all in the same time frame.
Have you also noticed that it is the same set of people who come up with the same bleak excuses! On the other hand, there are those same admirable others who accomplish a lot more, respond to every text or email message and what the heck, also remember to wish all their colleagues on their special days. I’d rather be in the second set. What about you?
8. I THINK THAT GROUP DOESN’T LIKE YOU THAT IS WHY THEY DONOT SUPPORT YOU / BUT HE SAID THAT HE HAD HANDLED THE TASK AND NOT YOU / MR. XYZ, I DON’T SEE THE OTHER PERSON AT HIS DESK PERHAPS THEY ARE LOOKING FOR A JOB ELSEWHERE…….
You are not in politics (which is actually a different profession with a huge social responsibility and in itself should be as far removed from the negative connotation of its name). You are a good worker who works for a proper organization where merit is mighty and hard work the hallmark of success, so why would you get into becoming political and adding negative undercurrents to an organization that should thrive on positive energy.
Research shows that office politics is one of the biggest reasons for turning healthy organizations into sick institutions, for making sure that the good workforce moves to healthier pastures, for wasting large amounts of organisation’s money and resources and for sapping out positive energy, enthusiasm and productivity from its workforce.
If that still doesn’t perk up your ears then remember the old adage, one who spreads malicious rubbish about others will do the same for you amidst another willing audience. Would you like to be grouped in this category?
9. I AM IN A MEETING AND WILL CALL YOU BACK
For heaven’s sake, when you ARE in a meeting do not take that the call. Call them back after the
meeting is over. Or if it is earth shatteringly important then send a passive SMS. But do get back when the meeting is over. Do not even resort to texting when in a meeting. You are in this meeting as your attentive presence is required to contribute effectively to the proceedings. Don’t belittle that!
Also, don’t use this as a lame excuse, every time, in order to escape unwanted people and calls. No one is in a meeting all the time. In order to keep your sanity and so as not to hurt others, get ingenuous and creative with your smart ones.
While on this subject, please adhere to telephone etiquette even outside of meetings. Taking personal phone calls in official spaces and being loud about the whole personal business is a big no-no.
Conducting telephone discussions / Skype meetings in high decibels while still in your cubicle and within everybody else’s ear shot is a definite off-putter. And so are unpleasant ringtones, crass language and tacky mannerisms.
10. MY CHILD HAS WON A SCHOOL CHAMPIONSHIP / WE REALLY LET OUR HAIR DOWN AT THE PARTY LAST NIGHT
There is that lunch hour or coffee break and the cafeteria for you to share personal information. And I am sure you have enough buddies at work who would love to hear your story with a lot of interest and enjoyment. Please refrain from doing so anywhere and anytime and in front of just about anybody.
What’s more, the informal pub meetings with colleagues or weekend bowling sessions are ideal places to get to know your colleagues even more personally and share your family stories in gay abandon. But to do so in official meetings and in front of a large audience just does not cut. Your personal stories are not for mass consumption and not everybody cares how many martinis you downed last night or which expensive gift your husband brought you from his latest junket or even which Earth Day painting competition your child won.
Be discreet. Be proper. Enjoy telling your stories to the right set of people, at the right time and more importantly when it is the time for sharing also have the patience and happy willingness to hear your pals’ stuff too.
11. YOU ARE THE FINEST BOSS I HAVE WORKED WITH / I COULDN’T HAVE ASKED FOR A BETTER COLLEAGUE / MY TEAM, YOU ARE THE BEST!
Nothing wrong in going OTT and gushing with positive statements and energy. But please do not
overdo it lest you begin to sound fake and repetitive. A lot of times action speaks more than the words.
Also, never ever be two-faced – not at work and never in your life. Don’t get into corridor stop-overs or over the cubicle exchanges with absolutely contrary statements – The Boss is one hell of a S.O.B / My God, the colleagues I have are really a bunch from hell / If it weren’t for the lousy team I am strapped with, I could have delivered much better. Such a flippant attitude shows up an extremely poor character and a personality that is not reliable and trustworthy.
Just because somebody has pleased you no end and become your Demigod for the day, he / she
should not get into your bad books or become a devil only because they choose to disagree with
your point of view this time.
Be balanced in your understanding of people, don’t be fickle about your perceptions of them and
have your thoughts perched on an even keel.
So there it is. Our set of Eleven Contra Commandments. What a fine armory they make coupled
with the Affirmative Statements. And these 11+11 practised with consciousness and delivered with
sincerity promise to turn you into that perfect employee-of-all-times and smoothen out all the
Have a great work day!
About The Author
L. Aruna Dhir is a consummate public relations and communications professional, with stints at Imperial New Delhi, Oberoi Group, Hyatt among others.
Click here to see her full profile