Archive for August, 2010

An August to Remember

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Did you notice something out of the ordinary this month? August 2010 had five Sundays, five Mondays, and five Tuesdays. How often does that happen? From what I am told (but have not verified), only once every 800 years.

For those who would not have given this answer to my initial question, what would you have said? How will you remember August 2010? Let us know!

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

What’s In a Name? More Than You Might Imagine!

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

What’s in a name? You might be surprised! Most people’s names are an integral part of their identity. After life itself, a name is the first thing parents generally give their children. It may be the result of long and careful thought, or it may be chosen to honor someone they admire or to continue a family tradition. It simply may be that the parents chose a name they liked. The point is that people’s names represent who they are. Names are personal.

There are some situations in which people’s names are changed for them. Alternatively, they may choose to change them on their own. For example, people often take new or additional names as part of religious rites of passage. On a more worldly level, some people may be given nicknames, or they may select their own. Records indicate that decades ago, many immigrants’ names were changed when they were processed into the U.S. at Ellis Island. They accepted the forced new identities because the urge to seek a new life in America was stronger than the need to hold on to the name they were given in their home countries. Changing one’s name when one gets married may be traumatic for some yet a welcome opportunity for others. For instance, those whose names are tied closely to their sense of identity or for whom there is a strong family connection may be reluctant to leave those monikers behind. Yet others cannot wait to shed their names, which may be cumbersome, or reveal something that their “owners” wish to leave behind (e.g., notoriety or fame), or cause implicit assumptions (e.g., ethnic identify).

For these reasons and others, names often are personal. So when others misspell or mispronounce people’s names, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they take such errors personally. If these “mistakes” are intentional, they might be interpreted as a sign of disrespect. If unintentional, they may signal lack of attention to detail, or indifference toward the individual. Because writers’ and speakers’ intentions generally are not known, people often assume the worst and take the error as a sign of disrespect. As a result, the relationship goes downhill from there – or never gets off the ground.

Here are two questions for you: when others spell or say your name erroneously, do you correct the mistake or do you let it go? Whatever your choice, how does it work for you? If you let the error go, you may find that continued exposure to someone who continuously misspells or misstates your name is analogous to a pebble in your shoe: initially a minor annoyance you decide is not worth fixing, its continuous rubbing ends up causing a blister or other injury that affects the way you walk. Now your body is out of alignment. Isn’t it worth taking the time to remove the pebble in the first place?

In the workplace, what happens when you don’t know your employees’ or co-workers’ names? Or worse yet, what if you know them but don’t use them? People have reported feeling invisible or de-valued when others don’t have the courtesy or respect to call them by name and/or to use their names correctly. Think it doesn’t matter? I’ll never forget the words of an information technology director of a large healthcare organization who was seeking another job: “My office has been next to the CIO’s (Chief Information Officer’s) office for three years. He doesn’t even know my name.” Is it any wonder that his colleagues and employees were leaving in droves?

There’s a really simple preventive measure you can take to ensure your employees and colleagues feel respected and valued: learn and use their names correctly. The return on investment (ROI) on the time spent learning names is huge. Think back to the time when your career was just beginning. Was there a person in authority in the organization, perhaps an executive or the business owner, who knew you by name? Or going back even further, was there a time when a teacher or a professor called you by name without having to refer to the class roster? Do you remember your reaction? Perhaps the experience of someone else’s knowing and acknowledging you left you with an added sense of importance and/or a greater sense of visibility.

I encourage you to learn and use others’ names. Watch the change in those around you when you do. Make someone’s day. It’s an easy and effective way to acknowledge and validate people who otherwise might believe they are passing through life unnoticed. And you might just feel better yourself.

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

How to Help Your Employees Take Charge of Their Lives

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Before this month (August 2010), if any of the executives at JetBlue airline had been asked what keeps them awake at night, I would be willing to bet that none of them would have mentioned having a flight attendant engage in a profanity-laced tirade over the public address system, grab some beer from the galley, and deploy and slide down the emergency exit slide.

Why is it that this very public meltdown of an airline employee resonated with so many U.S. workers? How is it that someone who engaged in highly dangerous and possibly illegal behavior has become an instant folk hero to many? It may be partly because this individual acted out a fantasy that workers share when they feel that they are not in charge of their lives. In effect, they fantasize that they are taking control of their lives.

What’s wrong with this picture? For starters, having control of one’s life should be a reality rather than a fantasy. Yet workers often believe that other people and things are calling the shots. As a result, they are much more likely to “lose it” with customers than they would if they felt they did have some control. The good news is that managers can help workers mitigate the need for such a fantasy by providing tools and techniques that enable them to keep their cool and thereby maintain control over their behaviors. Here are five suggestions:

    1. Educate employees about their opportunities and choices.
    When people feel overwhelmed, they often believe, and then act as if, they are helpless. At those times they feel unable to help themselves, or even to consider the possibility that there are alternatives.

    2. Give people permission to take charge of their lives.
    Some individuals literally need to have someone tell them it’s okay to feel, see, or experience things differently than they have in the past. They can be in charge.

    3. Communicate high expectations of workers’ performance and ability.
    Most people will try to live up (or down) to others’ expectations of them. Challenge employees in ways that enable them to realize their potential.

    4. Give employees the tools they need to respond appropriately. For example:

    A. Train them how to deal effectively with difficult customers.

    B. Back them up and reinforce their choices when they are appropriate.

    C. Identify the behavioral boundaries for themselves and for customers (internal and external).

    D. Help them develop alternative stories about what’s going on so they can control their thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors.

    E. Invest them with the authority to act and to be pro-active in their work (e.g., handle customer complaints without having to go to a manager).

    5. Support employees when customers are wrong.
    The saying, “The customer is always right” is a workplace myth that has caused more damage than we ever will know. It’s not true, and it communicates a highly misleading message to both employees and customers.

For employees to keep their cool in the workplace, they must have a sense of control. This feeling will help them handle negative, annoying, and/or disruptive behaviors in ways that can result in a constructive ending for all concerned. The good news: most of the tools and techniques described above result in huge benefits at little or no financial cost.

What techniques have you have used successfully to help your employees take control of their lives? Let us know!

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Once Again, It’s Not about the Money

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

How would you like to increase the likelihood that your employees will be satisfied with their compensation and their jobs, and to decrease the chance that they will leave the organization? New research suggests that achieving these outcomes can be as simple and as low- or no-cost as treating job candidates well during the job offer negotiation process.

Researchers examined job candidates’ perceptions of two types of value: subjective and economic. Subjective value included candidates’ feelings about the outcome of the negotiation, themselves, the negotiation process, and the relationship among the negotiators. Economic value was defined as the total compensation package plus the value of any additional concessions made by the employer. The researchers found that the subjective value was more important in determining the three outcomes listed above than the economic outcomes gained during the negotiation. In fact, the economic value achieved was not significantly associated with these outcomes at all.

To learn more about this study and to read five suggestions about how to conduct job offer negotiations that lead to the long-lasting positive employee attitudes, I invite you to read my article Job Offer Negotiations: Setting the Stage for Long-term Job Attitudes. And let me know what you think!

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.