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Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


5.23.2017

Top 10 Smartphone Annoyances in the Workplace

I love smartphones. I really do. They make our lives easier in so many ways. In my presentation-skills seminars, for example, participants find it easy to use their phones to record their talks. And if you can’t remember the date of an event or the name of someone famous during a conversation, it’s so convenient to be able to look up the information on your smartphone.

But in the workplace, there are many ways people use their smartphones that are rude to others. After talking to many business professionals and observing the behavior of numerous attendees in meetings and in my seminars, I compiled this list of the “top 10” things people do with their phones that annoy others. Do you recognize any of these behaviors?

1. Placing your phone on the table when meeting with someone. Having your phone visible tells the other person, “I am so ready to drop you and connect with someone else.” Plus, research has shown that the presence of the phone inhibits conversation. (This is true for group meetings, also.)

2. Placing two phones on the table. Some people carry both a work phone and a personal phone. This doubles the insult! See above.

3. Using a cell-phone holder. When a phone is placed in a holder, the phone is upright on the table. People are no longer sneaking glances at their phones, they are directly looking at them while “listening” to others! This is just so rude. Read #1 again.

4. Using a Bluetooth headset. This looks like a cockroach in your ear.  (Yes, I do have strong opinions about this.)  I am not talking about the hands-free headsets that receptionists use. I am talking about the headsets worn all too often by people who chat away as they walk around the office, looking as though they are talking to themselves. Or, even worse, you think they are talking to you. 

5. Wearing a Bluetooth necklace. Though these necklaces may be more discreet initially, once you use those earbuds, it’s too easy to leave them in your ears or let the cords dangle on your chest.

6. Texting under the table. Texting under the table during a meeting is disrespectful to the speaker and to the other participants. You may think that your actions are not visible, but your body language gives you away. If you do not want people to text while you are speaking, don’t text when others are addressing the meeting. (Additional information about texting can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.)

7. Forgetting to put your phone on vibrate. This can happen to anyone. I know. I have forgotten. If this happens to you, say, “I’m sorry,” and turn the phone off immediately – and be especially apologetic if your phone continues to ring because you can’t find it quickly.

8. Answering your phone during a meeting – and then starting a conversation while walking out of the room. The reality of business today is that sometimes you must take a call during a meeting. But please wait until you are out of the room before talking. In some circumstances, you may need to answer and say, “I will be with you in a moment.” But again, wait until you are outside the room before you have your conversation.

9. Speaking too loudly. I have been talking about the need for people to lower their voices for years. Many people speak far too loudly when they are on their phones.  Speak in a quiet, conversational tone. If you don’t, others may overhear your conversations, including any sensitive or confidential information you discuss.

10. Using a ring tone that startles or scares people. You don’t want your colleagues or business associates to be shocked when your phone rings.

What annoying phone habits have you observed in the workplace that are not on this list? Please add your comments.  

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. (www.pachter.com)

5.09.2017

Suggestions for women – and men – on what to do if interrupted

Barbara, you’re right. You can see the American men interrupt the American women on your TV shows that we get here.

This comment startled me.  

One of my students made the observation during a women’s seminar in Kuwait some years ago. We had been discussing interrupting, and I had commented that men interrupt women more than they interrupt other men. I was surprised that this gender bias was so obvious – but I really shouldn’t have been.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Female Supreme Court Justices are interrupted more by male justices and advocates, found that male justices interrupted female justices about three times as often as they interrupted each other during oral arguments.

The research also found that “there is no point at which a woman is high-status enough not to be interrupted.”

When a woman is interrupted regularly (anyone can be interrupted occasionally), she is being excluded from the conversation and her contributions are being ignored. Her influence almost certainly is minimized as a result.
                        
So, what should you do when you are interrupted? You don’t want to respond rudely, as your credibility may be hurt if you do. But, you do want to respond. Consider various ways in which you might respond so you will be prepared when the situation arises. It is quite common for women to be interrupted, but men also may have this problem, so the options below apply to both genders: 
 
Continue speaking. If you do so, the person trying to interrupt you often will stop talking. You may need to raise your volume a little to make sure the person hears you, but don’t shout.

Ask yourself: Are you making it easy for people to interrupt you? Do you speak too slowly, which allows others to jump in? Or, do you ask permission to add your comments? The article cited above noted that female justices often started their questioning with phrases such as “May I ask,” “Can I ask,” or “Sorry.” This kind of wording gave the other justices the opportunity to interrupt them. (Additional information on your communication style can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.)

Say something to the person trying to interrupt. Try a polite but powerful response, such as: “I’ll get to that in a moment,” “Hold that thought,” “Excuse me – I wasn’t finished,” or “I’m still talking.” Deliver your line in a firm but neutral, not harsh, tone of voice.

Wait until the interrupter has finished speaking. You can then say, “As I was saying…” Make sure this doesn’t sound sarcastic.

Confront the person privately. If someone frequently interrupts you, talk to that person. Let him know that he has a tendency to interrupt you, and you want it to stop. The interrupter may not be aware of his (or her!) behavior.

Let it go. People occasionally interrupt one another, and you can choose to let it go – this time. 

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. (www.pachter.com)


4.27.2017

Relying on your spell checker and other common email errors

I can’t believe I wrote ‘Dead John’ instead of ‘Dear John’ to my customer.

Have you ever made a mistake like this?

A woman in my business writing class said she typed ‘Dead’ instead of ‘Dear’ in the salutation of an email to an important customer, and her spell checker didn’t indicate that she had used the wrong word. She learned the hard way that spell checkers do not replace your good brain. You still need to proofread all you’re documents! (And yes, that’s a deliberate error to underscore the point that spell checkers won’t necessarily catch words that are spelled correctly but erroneously used.)

My seminar participant was embarrassed about the mistake, which is one of the lesser costs of having errors in your emails. Others can be loss of business, alienated clients, or a damaged reputation.  You don’t want any of these consequences affecting you and your career.

In addition to relying solely on your spell checker, here are other common mistakes to avoid:

1. Misspelling someone’s name. Many people are offended if you spell their name incorrectly in the salutation. Check for the correct spelling in the person’s signature block. Copy and paste the name to make sure you are spelling it correctly. Checking the “To” line also can be helpful, as people’s first and/or last names are often in their addresses.

 2. Sending an email to the wrong person. When you start to type an address in the “To” box, your device may suggest names from your contact list.  Make sure you pay attention when using this feature (Auto-Complete List). It’s easy to click on the wrong person when names are similar. 

3. Not proofing the subject line. Errors in the subject line really stand out, yet it is easy to forget to check this section of an email because it’s not part of your message.

4. Typing numbers incorrectly. Misplacing a decimal point or transposing numbers can be very costly. In addition to double-checking any numbers, you need to check any phone numbers you have included in the body of the email.

5. Accidentally sending an email before you have finished checking the document. Remember my acronym AIL. AIL stands for Address In Last. You put the recipient’s address in the “To” box after you have finished writing and proofing the message. You can’t send an email without an address.

Additional information on writing and proofing emails can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes (McGraw Hill).

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. (www.pachter.com)


3.28.2017

The ‘DO NOT SAY’ List

After discussing self-discounting language in a communications class, a participant suggested that I create a “DO NOT SAY” list. I thought it was a great idea. Having a list of phrases to avoid can help people steer clear of language that could have a negative impact on their careers, particularly if used frequently.

Listed below are my top eight suggestions for the “DO NOT SAY” list. Using these comments in business (and life) can diminish your stature in the eyes of others, minimize what you are saying, or tarnish your professional image.

--Can I ask a question? You don’t have to ask permission; just ask the question.

--I’m sorry to bother you. Why are you a bother? You can say, “Excuse me. Do you have a moment?”

--I was hoping that you could spare a few moments. Same as above. Simply say, “Excuse me. Do you have a moment?”

--Thank you for listening to me. At the end of a presentation, you should say, “Thank you.” This lets the audience know that the presentation is over. You don’t have to thank people for listening to you. Aren’t your comments and opinions worthwhile?

--Is it okay if I give my thoughts? Avoid asking this question. The other person is not in charge of the flow of the conversation. Discussions should go two ways.

--I will be honest with you. Aren’t you always honest? You don’t need to use this phrase.

--I was just wondering if perhaps. This phrase is a passive way of asking a question or backing into a statement. You can eliminate “I was just wondering if perhaps” and simply ask a question or make a statement. Instead of “I was just wondering if perhaps there will be enough computers for the project?” you can say, “Will there be enough computers for the project?”

--I may be wrong about this.... You don’t need to use this weak beginning to your sentences. It undermines the content of your statement.

Monitor your conversations. Are you using these comments? Additional tips on communication can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes (December 2016, McGraw-Hill).

(This blog updates a previous one from a number of years ago.)

3.07.2017

Don’t derail your career on social media: 4 writing suggestions

A former student asked me to review his LinkedIn page. Unfortunately, he had misspelled his job title. (He wrote: Assistant Communication Coordinattor). When I mentioned this to a colleague, he said that such typos could affect the student’s ability to get hired.    

I received the following direct message on Twitter: “Im a freshman and im definitely gonna need business etiquette skills in the future.” After reading his DM, I agreed!

Social media has significantly influenced the ways we can communicate and interact with others. What hasn’t changed is the importance of writing effectively. You don’t want to make embarrassing mistakes that undermine your professionalism. (Grammarly, a grammar website, studied 100 LinkedIn profiles in the consumer package-goods industry and found that professionals whose profiles contained fewer mistakes also achieved higher positions.)

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – they all deal in written content, with some allowing more text than others. When sharing on social media, remember these writing suggestions:

1. Always assume the quality of your writing matters. As illustrated above, there are consequences to making errors. Proofread your writings before you post anything. I know that social media can spur quick commentary, but, at the very least, read your comments out loud before you post. It will take just a few seconds, and you will catch many of your errors.

2. Remember that your postings are part of your professional image. Your colleagues, bosses, customers, clients and prospective employers will likely check your social media sites. If you use strong negative language, put people down, name-call, or curse, what are you saying about yourself? And why would I want to work with you?  (Additional information on professional image and communication can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes (McGraw Hill, 2017).

3. Understand that what you write in the comment section under articles or posts is also part of your professional image. This applies to comments on social media as well as on news sites, such as the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post. Comments with typos or crass wording cost you credibility.

4. Don’t try to solve complex issues on social media. When the issue gets complicated or the topic is touchy, stop writing and call the person, if you can. If you don’t know the person, stop participating in the conversation.

If you haven’t proofread your profile and other statements on your social media sites, or haven’t reviewed them in a while, do so now. You may be surprised at the mistakes you find. 

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. (www.pachter.com) 

2.07.2017

7 Ways to engage with people – for people who don’t like to engage!

My customer complained to my supervisor that I answered the phone, “Yea. What’s up?”
 
I was told that if I wanted to move up in my organization, I had to get out of my office more.

 
How could she not know what an Ethernet cord is?  When I finally said “the blue cord,” she got it! 


Lately, I have worked with several people with outstanding technical skills whose career growth has been limited by their inability to connect with others.  They were referred to me for coaching to provide them with the necessary skills to engage successfully with coworkers, bosses, customers, and clients.

People want to hire, work with, promote, and do business with individuals they know and like. If you were not born with the “gift of gab,” and many people weren't, you can learn the skills that enable you to connect with others.

Here are 7 suggestions that will help you to engage more easily with others in your workplace. 

1. Do your homework. Knowing a little about topics that are important to your customers and colleagues will make it easier to make conversation. You don’t have to be an expert on every topic, but learn enough to allow you to participate.  And convey interest in the person you are talking to through your body language. Look at him or her, and maintain a pleasant facial expression.

2. Be approachable. Some people have told me that they don’t want to be approached because people will ask them work questions. My response is twofold: You don’t have to answer every question asked of you. You can use a polite line to defer your response, such as, “I’m on my way to a meeting; please call or text me to schedule some time.” But if the question has a simple answer, why not help the person immediately? Chances are, the questioner will find you later anyway. 

3. Remember “the blue cord.” You should use language that your colleagues or customers will understand. Using a technical word that someone doesn’t recognize can distance you from that person. Some people understand what to do if they are told to “Pull out the Ethernet cord” from amid a tangle of cables, for instance, but those who are less tech-savvy need simpler terms: “Pull out the blue cord.” 

4. Keep your phone off the table when meeting with someone. Yes, you read that correctly. Having your phone visible tells the other person, “I am so ready to drop you and connect with someone else.” And some people put two phones on the table! 

5. Don’t overload people with unnecessary information. Only give them as much data as they need. Some technical people believe that they have to impart all the facts, but their customers, colleagues, or bosses may have a lower threshold for details – and tune out once it is reached.

6. Learn to socialize. This is an important business skill. You get to meet people, and they get to meet you, which can benefit you in many ways. You may meet potential new customers, enhance your chances of promotion, or simply enjoy some new friends. Go up to people, greet them, shake hands, and make conversation. The more you do it, the easier it will get.  

7. Call people. Don’t communicate via email and text exclusively. Calling people on the phone when appropriate creates a more personal connection. Also remember to sound pleasant and enthusiastic. When you answer the phone, be friendly. Say hello, give your name (“Gavin Jones speaking”), and, when appropriate, ask, “How may I help you?”

These are not the only ways to engage with others, but they are important ones. Additional suggestions can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes (McGraw Hill, 2017). 

As you go through your day, remind yourself of the value of connecting, and make a conscious effort to reach out. Soon these actions will become second nature to you.

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. (www.pachter.com)

1.11.2017

Need to prepare a presentation quickly? Follow these 7 guidelines

I was just given an assignment to present at a community meeting, but I have very little time to prepare. What should I do?
 
This question was asked by one of my students, and it brings up a communication dilemma – how do you put together a presentation when you don’t have a lot of time to prepare?  This task can baffle the best of us. But there’s no need to panic. Here are some suggestions to put together a presentation quickly:   


1. Think about your audience. Who are they? How much do they already know about your topic? What more do they want to know? If you address the needs and concerns of the people in your audience, they are more likely to listen to you.  


2. Define your objective and the key points quickly. You don’t have time to waste. People often spend too much of what little time they have agonizing over these items. Make a decision and get started.  You can now focus on what you want to convey to the audience. (Additional information on structuring your presentation can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.) 


3. Consider whether you have any stories to support your key points. Stories bring your presentation to life. Keep them succinct and to the point. Your audience will remember the story, and as a result, they’ll also remember the message in your presentation.


4. Practice out loud. Have at least one practice. You want to hear how the presentation sounds.  


5. Pay attention to your delivery. You want to appear confident and credible – even if you are uncomfortable. Use good posture, and look at people in the audience. Don’t sway. Avoid nervous fiddling, such as playing with a pen or rubber band. Dress slightly better than your audience, and speak loudly enough to be heard. 


6. Don’t discount yourself. Avoid comments that belittle you or your talk. These include such statements as, “I hope I don’t bore you; I didn’t have a lot of time to put this together…” or “I know you didn’t come here just to hear me.”  


7. Anticipate the questions. Once the presentation is together, spend just a couple of minutes thinking about the questions that you may be asked. Decide how you will respond to them. If you do, you are less likely to be caught off guard.


There is a lot more you can – and should – do to prepare for a presentation, but these quick tips will help you prepare an effective presentation when time is short.

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. (www.pachter.com)