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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Don’t Whine About Your Job. Do Something!

My coworker hates her job. She keeps complaining to me. I have tried to talk to her about what she could do, but she is not listening.
My husband keeps threatening to quit his job. He only comments negatively about his job and the people who work with him. I wish he would just do something.

My friend was having difficulty with her schedule, but she didn’t go to her boss to discuss alternatives. She just quit. When I had a problem, my boss adjusted my schedule. My friend’s might have been adjusted, too, if she had said something.

As these comments from participants in my seminars indicate, tackling problems that affect our work lives can be difficult.

When some people become dissatisfied with their work, they do nothing. Perhaps they don’t know how to proceed, or maybe they don’t believe there is anything they can do to improve the situation. Usually, the only action they take is to whine about their bosses, their colleagues, or the work. Unfortunately, complaining doesn’t accomplish anything – except having your friends, colleagues and others stay clear of you.

Some, on the other hand, get so frustrated that they impulsively quit their jobs without having another lined up, or without even a plan for the future.

Both reactions can affect your career negatively. However, there is an alternative that can help people evaluate their work situations. Answering the following four questions encourages people to take action and decide their next steps.

 1. Ask yourself, what is the real issue? It is easy to say, “I hate my job,” but it is important to identify why. What is the real issue that is causing you to be unhappy? Be honest and be specific. Is it the type of work you do, or just one aspect of the job?  Is it the commute, the money, your boss, the people you work with, or any number of other causes?  One man I coached liked most of the facets of his job, but wanted to quit because he had to make frequent presentations. Another realized that her new position involved using unfamiliar technology, which made her feel uncomfortable and unqualified.

2. Can you solve the problem? Now that you have identified the issue, is there something that can be done? Is there a realistic solution? If so, what do you have to lose by asking for it? Make the case for your suggestion, including any benefits to your department or to the company. One woman realized that she liked her job, but it was the commute that was driving her crazy. She asked her boss if she could work from home two days a week. Once she assured her boss that her productivity wouldn’t be affected, she was successful in having her schedule changed. Remember that if you don’t speak up, chances are nothing will change.

 3. Are there advantages to this job? If you can’t solve the problem, think about what you are gaining from the position.  Don’t just quickly say, “Nothing.” Here are four possible things to consider:

--Is the job a stepping stone?  Will you need the skills you gain from this position to qualify for a job on the next rung of the ladder? One of my early jobs involved working for a horrible boss. Yet I stayed until I had gained the experience I needed, and then I left. 

--Is there any education or training perk to which you have access? Some companies will fund part or all of your ongoing education. This can be a major benefit for many people.

--Who are you meeting? Does the job allow you to interact with people and build your network? If so, it is possible that by having a strong network, additional job opportunities will come your way.

--Can you learn to manage your boss? Learning to work with difficult people is an important skill that almost certainly will be beneficial to you at some point in your career.

4. Is it time to start a job search? Depending on how you answer the above questions, you may decide that it is time to start looking for a new position. You may even decide to change careers. Any number of alternatives may now be available to you. This doesn’t mean you just quit your job. Generally, it is best to look for a new job (or career) while you are still working at the old one. Information on conducting a job search can be found in my book The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success.

Whether you decide to stay at your current job or to look for a new one, feel good about your choice. You are doing something: You have taken charge of your career.

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on career development, business presentations, professional presence, etiquette and communication. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856.751.6141.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Giving a Presentation? 9 Ways to Answer Questions Like a Pro

I won’t give a presentation because I’m petrified about answering questions.

I don’t like giving presentations, but I really dislike the Q&A session.

I never know what to say when asked a question, and end up rambling. 

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld said, “Did you know that they say people fear public speaking more than they fear death? That means that more people would rather be inside the coffin than giving the eulogy!”

Many people fear giving presentations. Yet, as the above three quotes illustrate, there are people in my seminars who dislike the Q&A part of a presentation the most. They seem to dread losing control of the presentation, or being caught off guard.  

Effectively answering questions in front of your audience builds your credibility. Master the following points so you appear poised and confident during the Q&A:

1. Prepare for questions. As you prepare your presentation, you also need to prepare for the questions you may be asked.  Think about your topic and who is in your audience, and how they are likely to respond. Anticipate the questions and know how you will answer them.

2. Anticipate the tough questions. Think about what difficult, annoying or nasty questions you may be asked, and know how you will respond. Don’t just pray that someone won’t ask that question. Know how you will answer it.

3. Repeat the question before answering. This is hard to remember to do, but very important. You repeat the question for a number of reasons. The first is that when you repeat the question, it allows everyone to hear what was asked. You also gain a couple of seconds to get your thoughts together. And if the question is a hostile one, you can paraphrase the question and eliminate the hostility.  For example, if the question is, “How come you are spending so much money on transportation for...,” you could paraphrase and say something like, “The question concerns the transportation budget.”

4. Don’t be a puppet on your audience’s string. If the audience is shouting questions at you, make sure you repeat the question you are about to answer. If you don’t, you are being controlled by the audience as you quickly answer one question after another. When you take the time to repeat the question, you gain control of the Q&A, as you are deciding which questions to address and in what order. 

5. Look at the audience when answering the question. When you repeat the question, look at the person who asked it. But when you answer the question, look at the audience, to include them in the answer. 
6. Don’t know the answer? Admit it.
Even when you are well-prepared, there still may be times you are asked a question to which you don’t know the answer. When that happens, you can usually say, “I don’t know, but I will find out and get back to you.” And make sure you do. 

7. Give your Best Educated Guess. Occasionally, there may be times when you don’t know the answer, but you have to respond. You can then give what I call your Best Educated Guess. This is not lying. It’s a general response without being specific. It is saying something like, “Based on my experience (or research, or knowledge of...), I assume the following would occur....”  (But make sure it is your best educated guess – don’t go beyond the boundaries of what is plausible.)

8. Defer answering, if the answer to the question will be explained later in your talk. Often, you can say, “I am going to hold off answering that question as I will be discussing that topic in a few minutes.” Of course, if the CEO asked the question, you may want to answer it right away!

9. Don’t end abruptly. When the Q&A segment is nearing its end, prepare the audience. You can say something like, “I have time for one more question.” And after you answer that question, move on to your closing.

Additional information on presentations can be found in my book The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat and Tweet Your Way to Success

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on business presentations, writing, professional presence, etiquette and communication. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856.751.6141.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

6 Suggestions for Closing Your Emails

If customers include a closing in their emails, it indicates to me that they are friendly, and so I will do their work first. 

A woman in one of my writing classes made the above comment when we were discussing how to end an email. Others joined in and added that they liked seeing closings in emails they received.

I agree. Emails that simply end without some kind of closing can seem too abrupt. 

During my classes, numerous questions surface about which closing is appropriate in our casual workplace. Deciding what to use can be confusing. When email first appeared in the workplace, salutations or closings were rarely used. Over time, we have added both to our emails. Though there has been some discussion in the media lately about whether we need to use closings, in my experience, the majority of people want to keep them.

I encourage businesspeople to use closings. Here are my six suggestions:

1. If you start with a salutation, end with a closing. It provides balance to the email. The correct punctuation after the closing is a comma.

2. Match the closing to the salutation. If you use an informal salutation, such as “Hi Amanda” or “Hello Gavin,” use “Regards,” “Best,” “Best regards,” or “Thanks” to close. If you use a more formal salutation, such as “Dear Ms. Jones,” use “Sincerely” or “Sincerely yours.” Only the first word of the closing is capitalized.

 3. With no disrespect intended, avoid using ‘Respectfully.’  This very formal closing is usually reserved for government officials and clergy.  Another closing to avoid is “Faithfully yours.” This wording comes from British English, and a woman from India who was in my class said that she was advised very quickly by her boss not to use that closing in the U.S.  

4. End with a “closing statement.” Since closings are more relaxed in emails than in letters, you can use a brief statement as your closing, such as “See you at the meeting” or “Thanks for your help.” 

5. Tell people what you want to be called. After the closing, on the next line, type your name the way you want to be addressed. If you want to be called “Mike” instead of “Michael,” you should sign “Mike.”  

6. Once emails become a back-and-forth conversation, you can drop the closing. It begins to sound repetitious and somewhat silly if you have a long string of emails all proclaiming, “Best regards, Mike.”

Additional information on emails can be found in my book The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat and Tweet Your Way to Success

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on business writing, professional presence, etiquette and communication. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856.751.6141.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Dining Error Continuum: What Type of Dining Errors Are You Making?

Do you find it stressful when you are required to attend a business meeting that includes dining? Are you concerned that your manners will cause you embarrassment in front of your boss, customer or potential employer?

You are not alone.

A participant became upset during a class I teach on dining etiquette, believing that he had made a faux pas. I had corrected the placement of his knife – the blade of his knife had been facing away from his plate instead of towards it. Before I could calm him down, another diner said, “Oh, don’t worry. It’s just a misdemeanor!”

I thought, “He’s right.” There is a continuum of severity with dining errors, from serious mistakes to minor ones. And when people understand that not every error has major consequences, it can help people relax a little when dining out for business.

A fatal flaw is a serious breach of dining etiquette that is easily noticed by others and can cause you to lose business, a relationship or a job offer. These mistakes include getting drunk before or during the meal, holding your fork like a pitchfork, or talking with your mouth full. One man I heard about lost a $30-million contract because he licked his knife during a meal with a potential client.

A minor gaffe is a less serious breach of dining etiquette that may or may not be noticed by others. If noticed, it is unlikely that it will be held against you unless you commit a number of minor gaffes during the meal. These gaffes include using your neighbor’s bread plate, putting on lipstick at the table, or eating soup by dipping your spoon into the bowl and moving it towards you instead of away from you.

Of course, what seems a minor gaffe to one person may be a fatal flaw to another. There are stories of a famous businessman – some say Henry Ford, others claim J.C. Penney – who decided not to hire someone because he salted his food before tasting it. Ford/Penney, so the story goes, thought this indicated that the man made assumptions without knowing all the facts.

You want to come across as a polished professional when you are dining for business. Learning as much as you can about dining etiquette makes you less likely to make fatal flaws, and more likely to navigate a business meal with success.

Additional information on dining can be found in my book The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat and Tweet Your Way to Success

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on business dining, professional presence, etiquette and communication. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856.751.6141.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Do You Want to be Noticed? The Power of Presence

I recently coached a woman who had flown in from Jamaica to meet with me about how she presented herself within her company. A couple of weeks after she returned home, she shared a story that highlights how her professional presence had improved.

“When I returned to work, I received many compliments on one of my outfits. I had worn that clothing to work 10 times in the past and no one had complimented me about it. No one! I believe what caused this difference was that after coaching, I was projecting myself with confidence and making my presence known!”

I was delighted, and my first thought was, what a great story to illustrate the power of that hard-to-define something we call presence.

What made the difference for her? There could be many things contributing, as Cary Grant, a former Hollywood leading man, once observed: “It takes 500 small details to add up to one favorable impression.” But I believe the following five items that we discussed were very important.  They gave her more self-confidence and increased her presence, resulting in others taking note of her – and her clothing – more favorably:

 1. Good posture. When you stand tall, you are more apt to be noticed.  It has little to do with how tall you actually are. You can stand tall regardless of your height.

2. Eye contact. When you look at people and make eye contact, they are more likely to engage with you. Many of us have a tendency to look away in an uncomfortable situation. By doing this, you are telling the other person that you are nervous. You don’t want to do that. Force yourself to look at the person – though you can occasionally glance away.    

3. Volume. You can usually add power to your presence by adding volume. When you speak loudly enough to be heard clearly, people are less likely to ignore your ideas.  Speaking too softly was a big area of concern for the business woman from Jamaica.

4. Offer your opinion. If you don’t express your opinion in meetings, people don’t know what you think. Preparing ahead of time for a meeting can help you to speak up with confidence.  Make sure you speak early in the meeting. The longer you wait to speak, the harder it becomes.

5. Confront others. Learning to confront others in what I call a “polite and powerful” manner allows you to speak up, express what’s bothering you, and feel good about it. Additional information on conflict can be found in my book, The Power of Positive Confrontation: The Skills You Need to Handle Conflicts at Work, at Home, Online, and In Life. 

Which of these items do you need to add to your image to help you experience the power of presence? 
Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on professional presence, etiquette and communication. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856.751.6141.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ways to Handle ‘Know-it-alls’ Without Insult

There is one guy in my office who is driving me crazy. He is always offering his opinion about my work, and believes his way is the right way. What do I do?  I want to respond, but I like him and don’t want to offend him.

“Know-it-alls.” There is one in every office. Clearly, the woman in my seminar who made the above comment was growing increasingly irritated by her colleague’s unsolicited input.  And when that happens, it can be tempting to say something like: How do you know so much about things you know nothing about?

But don’t.

Though that line may be funny, it also may be considered insulting. I suggest trying one of the alternative approaches below, which let these opinionated people know that their comments are not the final word – but don’t alienate them. You will speak up in a “polite and powerful” manner, and, as a result, feel good that you responded. These approaches include:

1. Asking the person to explain his or her opinion by saying something like:
-What information (or facts or data) do you have to support that position?
-Why are you saying that?

2. Acknowledging the difference in opinions by using lines like: 
-I have a different viewpoint about it.
-I have a different opinion, and here’s why.
-My research/information supports a different position. Let’s compare notes.

Regardless of the approach you choose, make sure you speak loudly enough to be heard, look the person in the eye, and do not have a negative tone in your voice.

Also recognize that both approaches may lead to a discussion. Be open to hearing other points of view. Sometimes even “know-it-alls” can be right.

Additional information on business communication can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success. 

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on business communication. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856..751.6141.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

6 Reasons You Make Mistakes in Email, and One Simple Solution

During a recent business-writing class, a young woman told me, “I don’t proof my emails until after I hit send. I just want the email off my desk. It’s too nerving-racking otherwise.”

I was startled. After I thought about her comment for a moment, however, I realized that she was not unique in this behavior.  Others in my writing classes have expressed similar sentiments, though they may not have phrased them quite so bluntly. “Proofing after sending” is a pointless exercise, but it’s only one of the reasons that people have mistakes in their writings that could be fixed easily. 

Others include these five:

1. Forgetting that you are writing an email, not a text. After a job interview, one woman wrote her thank-you note on her phone, but at some point she forgot it was an email and used text shortcuts. She was later told that she didn’t get the job as a result. In business, you generally do not want to use text shortcuts in email.

2. Typing and walking. If you don’t want to run into walls, people or traffic, you need to concentrate on your surroundings when walking. It is difficult to look where you are walking and type an email at the same time, so it’s tempting to skip any proofing.

3. Not paying attention to spelling and grammar suggestions provided when writing email. Spell-checkers and grammar guides available on your computer or phone do not replace your good brain, but they may catch many of your errors.

 4. Ignoring the corrections made by autocorrect. One man meant to say “Sorry for the inconvenience,” but autocorrect changed the sentence to “Sorry for the incontinence.” Big difference!

5. Not realizing the impact mistakes can have on your career or reputation. Just about everyone makes mistakes occasionally, but if your emails routinely contain errors, your reputation will suffer, and the professional consequences could be serious. One young man wrote to me that his project was taken away from him because he consistently had typos on his posts. He was shocked that the quality of his writing mattered.

One simple solution
To catch your errors, you should read your message out loud syll-a-ble by syll-a-ble. If you read the words slowly, you are more likely to notice any missing words, wrong words, misspellings and wrong tenses of verbs. The reading should be done slow-ly, so you really pay attention to each individual word. If you speak quickly, you may get caught up in the meaning of your words, and can miss the mistakes.  As one engineer in my class said, “Unless I read slowly, I am reading what is in my head, not what’s on the screen.”

This suggestion will add only seconds to the time you spend on an email. Isn’t your reputation worth those few moments? I think so. There are, of course, numerous additional ways to proofread, but this one suggestion will help you to catch many of your errors.

Additional information on business writing can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success. 

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on business writing. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856..751.6141.