Overcoming Blunders in ‘Tech-etiquette’

You are annoying your boss and co-workers any time you take your phone out at meetings, according to oopsresearch from USC’s Marshall School of Business. In fact, 86% of respondents to the survey think it’s inappropriate to answer phone calls during meetings.

The study also found that Millennials are three times more likely than those over 40 to think that smartphone use during meetings is okay, which is ironic considering Millennials are highly dependent upon the opinions of their older colleagues for career advancement.

Why do so many people find smartphone use in meetings to be inappropriate? When you take out your phone it shows:

* Lack of respect. You are showing that you consider the caller to be more important than the conversation at hand, and you view people outside of the meeting to be more important than those sitting right in front of you.

* Lack of attention and self-control. You are unable to stay focused on one thing at a time. You respond to the whims of others through the buzz of your phone.

* Lack of social awareness. You don’t understand how your behavior affects those around you.

The following are additional blunders in “tech-etiquette”:

* The distractor. This person may have good intentions in setting his/her phone to vibrate rather than torturing colleagues with a cheesy ringtone, but hearing it repeatedly buzz loudly on a desktop or during a meeting can be just as distracting. A better solution: Set the phone to silent or keep it in your pocket.

* The misguided multi-tasker. This goes back to the lack of respect mentioned earlier. The “misguided multi-tasker” thinks that texting or emailing during a meeting or conversation demonstrates efficiency. But others may regard it as a sign that this individual prizes his/her smartphone more than the company they keep.

handsMoral of the story: Unless you want to create potential animosity at work, use your handheld device only in an urgent situation and even then, step out of the room to reply. Your colleagues will appreciate it, and you’ll come across as more professional.

This post was compiled from articles by authors Kevin Kruse and Travis Bradberry, and from Robert Half Technology.

Journalism in the 21st Century Leaves a Lot to be Desired

isI’m going to seriously date myself here. When I started out in journalism, I typed my college papers on a typewriter. And the crude word processors we used at the campus newspaper limited you to X number of characters. When you ran out of characters, you had to start a new file on your floppy disk. Really!

Back then, you had to wait for the evening news to find out what was going on in the world, and in print, that meant waiting for the neighborhood newsboy to deliver that day’s paper to your parent’s front step. Can you imagine anyone being willing to “wait” for their news fix today?

While it’s possible today to get a story “out there” much faster than I would have ever dreamed possible decades ago, today’s breakneck media pace isn’t necessarily a good thing. Ryan Holiday, a media columnist and author of Ego is the Enemy, puts it so well that I’ll quote him here. “You cannot have your news instantly and have it done well. You cannot have your news reduced to 140 characters or less without losing large parts of it.”

Let me read that first sentence again. “You cannot have your news instantly and have it done well.” In my day, an editor would not have accepted a story that didn’t have two sides to it. If you were talking to a Democratic candidate and you didn’t get the Republican’s point of view you didn’t have a story. Period. If you were under a really tight deadline, you “might” get away with saying something to the effect that…. “John Smith, Republican candidate for …. office, was not available for comment.” In that way, readers knew that you were at least trying to get a balanced story.

News takes time to gather, check facts, proofread, and have an editor look it over for grammar and context. downloadBut in today’s mad rush to fill the numerous news channels and electronic outlets, it’s more like write first, post first, and if something isn’t accurate or misleading? That’s okay, we’ll deal with that tomorrow, if at all. I “love” reporters’ statements like… “Unnamed sources said…” I was taught that if a source wanted to be anonymous, then you didn’t have a story … an individual had to be willing to “go on record”. Period.

I also liked the other part of Ryan’s statement about absurdly brief Twitter messages. Here is an example of a tweet that would likely be misunderstood. “Women are like bacon. They look good, smell good, and slowly kill men.” No doubt many women reading that would be pretty upset! But wait! The problem is, many people would probably miss the next tweets in which the “poster” said that “this was just in jest.” “This was a Sarcasm Society note.” And finally, “I just meant, you can’t live with ‘em, you can’t live without ‘em.” The point is, how many times hasn’t the intent of someone’s statement been misunderstood because what was reported was so brief?

Or what about videos? Post a picture these days of a police officer being rough on a suspect and right away people will scream abuse. “Look at that cop, how dare he restrain that man like that?” Now it’s certainly possible the officer abused the person he arrested, but what were the circumstances? “Did the man resist arrest?” “Did he threaten the officer?” “Was he high on drugs?” “Was he armed?” Put yourself in the officer’s place with a split second to make a difficult decision, and you might look at the situation differently. This is what Holiday meant by, “losing large parts of it [the news].” A story that’s done well will offer a proper context, and not just a brief video clip or sound bite that shows you something but doesn’t really tell you anything.

The information that’s available today is incredible. It’s mind boggling that you can find out something today in seconds on Wikipedia that would have taken hours to uncover in a library. But knowing something and understanding it isn’t the same thing. Knowledge is not the same thing as wisdom, and in today’s crazy, 24/7, go-go-go society, we need less knowledge and more wisdom, fewer pictures and videos, and more details and meaning.

Why is Employee Recognition so Difficult?

Why is employee recognition such a difficult concept to grasp for so many employers? Does your boss isfear you’ll immediately ask for a raise? Is a thank-you really THAT hard? Or does the boss think, “Gee, Joe does a good job and I’d love to get him something, but I can’t really afford to give him a raise or a bonus.”

Actually, it’s generally been my experience that an employer can’t afford to NOT do something to recognize hard work, and it often doesn’t have to be anything big! Here are some ideas:

* Say thanks. Regularly acknowledge employees’ great work VERBALLY. Point out how these efforts will help the company or assist clients and customers. But here’s the key, don’t overdo it. I once had an editor that had a habit of saying “thank you” for nearly everything you did!  At a certain point you just started to tune her out… it didn’t really mean anything when it was uttered THAT often! But a well-timed, “Thanks, great job Bob, you really put in a lot of work on that account,” can go a long way in lifting up a stressed-out employee. And let’s face it, we all need to be complimented from time to time.

* Put it in writing. Prepare a handwritten thank-you note or copy senior executives on an email about a worker’s accomplishment. On several occasions, I have received a personally signed thank-you note along with a basket of goodies: some candy, cheese, and so on. My wife pointed out that the basket probably only cost this person $10-$15 or so. So what! A busy CEO who took the time out of his busy schedule to recognize my efforts meant the world to me! How motivating! I’m willing to run through a wall for someone like that!

thank you* Give a little. You need not offer food – gift cards, movie passes or tickets to a sporting event are other possibilities for employees who go above and beyond on a project. “Jim, you stayed late every night the last two weeks, and we got the account because of it. How would you like two tickets to Sunday’s Jets game?” Just make sure it’s something the individual would appreciate. If Jim isn’t a football fan, the tickets wouldn’t mean much.

* Publicize achievements. Feature standout employees in a company newsletter or recognize them at a staff meeting. Can you imagine the surprise of Mike seeing his picture and “write-up” in the “3M Times” about how much help he’s been in training the new employees in his department?

No one likes feeling that he or she is taken for granted. As a result, acknowledging staff just once or twice a year for their hard work isn’t nearly enough. On the other hand– regularly saying “thank you” or offering small tokens of appreciation can speak volumes. Employees who feel appreciated are usually happier, more productive, loyal, and less likely to leave for a job with a different company. And it costs so little!

Old-Fashioned Follow-up is Best

phoneIn recognition of the author’s 400th post on this blog, we are re-running select posts from time to time.

By Russ Trahan

“Bryan, we appreciate your proposal submission, but we have decided to go in another direction. We require more consistent interaction from our business partners, and while we scheduled today to finalize our decision, we had yet to hear from you in the interim. We wish you the best of luck.”

This email hit Bryan like a freight train. He had avoided a formal follow-up process for fear of seeming overeager or pressuring his prospect, but he had maintained casual connections through his LinkedIn and Facebook accounts to keep his name “out there.” While Bryan assumed the company would appreciate his distance while they were in the process of making their decision, it actually became the nail in his corporate coffin. They were waiting for traditional follow-up methods, and his lack of correspondence instead conveyed that he was NOT the right man for the job.

In an ever-expanding digital business landscape, Bryan’s story is all too familiar. Many professionals are exchanging established means of follow-up, such as phone calls and face-to-face meetings, for quick messages over social media or email – and it’s impacting their business relationships and bottom lines. As it turns out, when it comes to follow-up, the best practices are still the traditional ones.

* Social media is for BUILDING business connections — Social media can prove invaluable for phone 2creating connections, but maintaining them – as is the objective when conducting follow-up on a potential business deal – should always be reserved for traditional modes of correspondence. Anything less borders on lazy and unprofessional.

* Avoid “are we there yet?” thinking — Establish an agenda when touching base with prospects, and ensure that each subsequent call or meeting provides new information. There should be a definite reason for picking up the phone, and a distinct benefit to the individual on the other end of the call. Any parent can describe the maddening, constant cries of “Are we there yet” from their kids in the back seat. This same irritated feeling occurs with continuous follow-up calls. There is a distinct difference between being attentive and being annoying.


Bryan was remiss with his follow-up practices, and because of that, he lost out on an important deal for his company. Lessons are often learned through unintended or unwanted consequences, and the silver lining is that going forward, Bryan will be sure to devote a great deal of attention to the manner in which he follows up with prospective clients.

 Russell Trahan is the President of PR/PR, a public relations agency specializing in positioning clients in front of their target audience. For more information, visit http://www.prpr.net

This story originally appeared in Employee Assistance Report. For more information, check out the “employee assistance professionals” tab at:  http://www.impact-publications.com



Dining Alone: A Reality for Many, but Some Don’t Mind

In recognition of the author’s 400th post on this blog, we are re-running select posts from time to time.

The “lunch bunch” isn’t a reality for most workers, a recent survey from Accountemps suggests. LUNCHWhen asked how they spend their lunch hour, nearly half (49%) of professionals said they typically spend it eating alone. Yet almost as many (46%) people said they would rather have a co-worker join them for the meal.

“Even with demanding workloads, employees should try to step away from their desks during the workday,” said Bill Driscoll, a district president with Accountemps. “Sharing a meal with co-workers not only strengthens business relationships, but creates a more relaxed environment for collaboration and the exchange of ideas.”

Added Driscoll, “The simple act of taking a break – even for a few minutes – can help clear your mind and broaden your perspective, especially when facing challenging business problems.”


EatingMonkeyBusinessImages“I’m too busy to take a break,” many workers will say. “My response has always been, ‘Busy-ness’ never goes away, so take a break anyway! Wolfing down a sandwich at your desk doesn’t count!” Unless you can do so quickly before eating, I don’t think checking messages or surfing the Net on your break counts either. The point is to get away from your work space and screen time!

However, it’s worth pointing out that while many of us enjoy even a semi-relaxing lunch with a co-worker, dining alone WORKS for others who prefer “flying solo” to be alone to meditate or pray, feed the ducks at the park, or other activities best done by oneself.

Moral of the story: Know what works best for you, but if you prefer conversation, line up a lunch with a colleague – or anyone else for that matter – as much as possible. Whichever you choose, the point, of course is to relieve stress during your lunch time.

Accountemps, a Robert Half Company, is the world’s first and largest specialized temporary staffing company for accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Its temporary staffing solutions match highly skilled professionals with the best companies in the world. Visit: www.roberthalf.com/accountemps


Watching How Much we Watch

hqdefaultParis. Brussels. Orlando. Dallas. Baton Rouge. Clinton vs. Trump. Today’s headlines are enough to drive anxiety and worry in even the most optimistic person. What can we do?

Personally, I think there is a lot that the average person can do, and that is to simply pay much closer attention to how much TV and other screen time we spend looking at, and reading about the latest terrorist bombing, police shooting, or other tragedies that are dominating so much of the news these days.

Bear in mind, I am NOT saying we should bury our head in the sand and ignore what’s going on in the world! Not at all. Rather, I am simply suggesting that I think it’s important to limit the amount of time one spends watching these events. Remember the old saying, “garbage in, garbage out”? I think this is similar. In their retirement, my late parents used to watch CNN all day long, and then wonder why they were depressed!

And this was roughly 20 years ago, before the news REALLY starting getting bad and also before technology allowed us to keep up with what’s going on, wherever we are, 24/7. I’ll bet they’d be even more emotionally distraught today!

It’s true that it can be very convenient to catch up on the latest headlines while you’re en route somewhere. Certainly this isn’t a bad thing.

But again, it is so incredibly easy today to overdo it. Let’s say you’re thumbing through your smartphone or tablet for the umpteenth time and see a picture of ambulances amidst what appears to be utter chaos, “Egads, another shooting,” you think. Before long, you’re scrolling again and see a post by…. You fill in the blank … and think, “I can’t believe what that dumb politician just said – I’m so mad!”

imagesKeeping one’s thoughts to oneself is easier said than done, too, so you angrily, impulsively post a comment, “Can you believe …..? Why would anyone vote for …?!” Interestingly, I’ve noticed of late that numerous people on Facebook are imploring people to cut the negativity and keep their political beliefs to themselves. (I’m guilty of political musings, but with posts like that in mind, I’ve made a resolution of being much more careful about what I say.)

A healthy exchange of ideas can be a very good thing, but again there’s limits. Overdo it and the next thing you know you’re growing excessively worried and anxious without grasping that you probably brought a lot of it on yourself! Change the channel! Scroll to more positive events and happenings on your Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or other page.

Here’s a few other quick ideas:

1) For every tragedy you read about, try to balance it with something more pleasant: an updated cover picture on a friend’s Facebook page, a cute joke, an insightful quote, the list goes on.  The intent is to help give you a more balanced view of the world, and not grow overly cynical or negative.

2) Numerically limit the number of times each day you spend on your smartphone, tablet, pad, or other device. Set a number that might realistically work for you: let’s say… three times…morning, noon, and when you get out of work. This number would be but one possibility.

The point is, many of us, myself included, are guilty of checking and rechecking our favorite device more often than we think, and actually counting these incidents would bring to greater attention just how many times each day we’re absorbed on our “screens.”

Whatever it is, I think it’s vital to do something, anything, to cut back on our exposure to today’s events. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that our collective mental health depends on it.


Going Off the Grid (I Hope!)

Balancing the need to use technology and not let technology use us (if not overwhelm us) is a frequent theme of imagesmy posts. I like to pride myself on the fact I am in the minority in not having a smart phone up against my ear all day long, nor do I even text! (When you can type pretty well, why go backward with only your thumb?)

But at the risk of sounding like a know-it-all, the truth is I am probably more addicted to technology than I like to think. I am just more addicted to it in different ways than some of us, like checking Facebook and LinkedIn more than I need to. Of course, this “interruption” can occur during any of the day it seems, be it work OR play.

Next week I am going to “put my money where my mouth is” as the saying goes, and see just how UN-addicted (or addicted!) I really am. We’re going camping in northern Wisconsin, and I’m not talking about a travel trailer or motor home in which you really don’t get away from it all, but you “bring it all” (like your TV, videos, etc.) with you!

images (1)As we’ve done before, although not in a few years, we’re “going off the grid” with no electricity or a typical shower. We’ll pump our own water, which will include heating it up with our propane stove for a shower of sorts. We’ll use that same stove for some meals, and we’ll collect wood and cook over a wood fire, too. We DO have a pop-up camper, and not tents, so we’re not quite as “primitive” as some outdoorsmen.

Still sound crazy, you say? Maybe. But for some of us, it’s a great way to really connect with nature and a simpler life… Reading a good book. Going for a hike. Swimming. Listening to birds during the day and loons on the lake at night. We plan on being truly “unplugged.”

But how long will we be able to stay unplugged? Maybe I’m more addicted to social media than I care to admit, and I’ll REALLY miss my computer! Perhaps my wife is more addicted to her iPad than she thinks … It could be that “getting away from it all” will get old before we think, and we’ll long for civilization and our gadgets sooner than we might believe we will. All I know for sure is that we’re going to find out soon enough!


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