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  • feedwordpress 05:01:00 on 2021/05/09 Permalink
    Tags: business comunication, , , Philadelphia Business Journal, Policitcal correctness   

    Political Correctness in the Workplace 


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    I answered the phone to hear my client’s normally confident voice sound a little hesitant.

    “I’m not sure how to make this call, she said. First, know how much we enjoy working with you and that your evaluations are always top notch.”

    “What’s wrong” I asked.

    “Remember Tom from that training you did last week” she asked?

    “Sure, I said. Nice guy”.

    “Well, she responded, someone complained about what you said to him.”

    At first, I had no clue what she was talking about and then it hit me. As we introduced ourselves in the virtual room, I was shocked at how much Tom looked like my younger brother. I said I’ve heard everyone has a double and told him he was a double for my brother, then joked, that Tom was better looking. Everyone laughed.

    Apparently, it was no laughing matter because a woman in the program complained that it was a sexist remark.

    The definition of sexist is “prejudice or discrimination based on sex or gender, especially against women and girls.” The definition of gender discrimination is a “situation in which people are treated differently simply because they are male or female, rather than on the basis of their individual skills or capabilities”.

    I do not consider myself sexist or discriminatory toward any gender. Initially, I dismissed the woman’s offense as ridiculous and a complete overreaction. Perhaps it was. However, as I thought about it for a moment, I realized that what might not seem offensive to me can unintentionally offend someone else.

    I asked my client if she wanted me to apologize and she said no, but she was obligated to tell me that someone complained.

    In today’s environment, everyone seems to have a different tolerance level for what is being said. What upsets or offends one person may not bother someone else. It’s understandable how people can be offended if someone calls them an ugly name or makes fun of their disability. Yet, if someone told me I should not pursue a singing career because I can’t carry a tune, should I be offended? Maybe you would be, but I would appreciate their honest opinion, whether I agreed with it or not.

    So, I’m wondering if political correctness is bubbling out of control. Are we teaching the next generation to be offended by anything that bothers them? How softly do we have to walk on eggshells?

    Before you become offended by what I’m suggesting, that is, if you’re not already offended, hear me out.

    In singer-songwriter Jason Mraz’s song, Did you get my message, he asks:

    Do you ever wonder what happens to the words that we send
    Do they bend? Do they break from the flight that they take
    And come back together again? With a whole new meaning
    And a brand new sense completely unrelated to the one I sent

    Our words and the way we use them are frequently misinterpreted and taken out of context. Sometimes, it’s not what we say, but how we say it. Sometimes, how a person reacts to something we say is not our fault. So, I’ve developed a few rules of my own that I want to pass on to you.

    • Ask the right question

    For starters, if you are offended by something someone said, determine if that person was deliberately trying to offend you. Then tell them why you were offended so they develop a greater awareness and may refrain from doing it again.

    A few weeks ago, I heard a friend ask a group of friends where they get their nails done. A woman answered, “at the Asian place”. There was a discomforting silence. Then someone spoke up and said you really shouldn’t say things like that, to which the woman who made the remark responded, “say what?” After it was explained why her comment was offensive, the woman apologized and told her friends she never realized that referring to someone in those terms was discriminatory.

    • Embrace the learning opportunity

    Instead of trying to convince yourself that someone is overreacting, try to understand their      viewpoint before lashing out. You may still decide they’ve overreacted, but you may also discover why they feel the way they do.

    As an example, recently a female client told me her male manager constantly tells her not to show emotion, to speak up and be more assertive like her male colleagues. She has told her him she doesn’t want to be someone she’s not and is uncomfortable with the way he phrases feedback. He says she is too sensitive. To her, this is sexism. Other people do not have the right to invalidate your feelings by telling you how you should feel.

    • Don’t respond emotionally

    If someone is offended, don’t minimize their feelings with more words. Apologize and let it go. But don’t apologize over and over again as that continually reminds someone of your mistake and prevents the two of you from getting past it.

    • Pay attention

    Often, when someone is uncomfortable at something said, subtle body language signs such as crossed arms, raised eyebrows and facial expressions are clues that they may have been offended. Instead of continuing, take a moment to read visual clues so you can stop and assess what is happening.

    • Know when to get help

    Most of the time, the above suggestions will take the edge off, but if you can’t resolve the issue, you may need to ask for help. At work, tell your manager what happened so they can help mediate.

    I have heard some refer to those who are more easily offended than others as “thin skinned”. Some people go out of their way to be diplomatic when speaking and others simply don’t care who they offend.

    While political correctness may mean different things to different people, it is not intended to halt free speech or squash someone else’s opinion. Rather, it’s about trying to understand how certain words and how they are used can be hurtful. If those words unintentionally portray you as sexist, racist or homophobic, instead of making it about you, try to understand how these words affect others.

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  • feedwordpress 13:12:35 on 2021/05/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , driving, , Florida, , , Philadelphia Business Journal   

    How to Apply 4 Rules of the Road as Workplace Lessons 


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    On a recent trip to Florida, I observed three types of drivers.

    • Older adults. Many appear to struggle seeing clearly and have decreased reflexes which results in slow driving and slower reaction time.
    • Younger adults. Often, they speed, cutting off other drivers as they weave in and out of multiple lanes without using turn signals.
    • Out-of-towners. These people are driving unfamiliar rental cars on unfamiliar roads .Taking their eyes off the road to fiddle with their navigation apps equals a lot of distracted drivers.

    Adding these behaviors together is akin to navigating a minefield. Stressful. Frightening. Hazardous. It made me wonder if driving styles and personalities are related. According to numerous published studies, they are, and people are genuinely interested in why. Tom Vanderbilt’s book Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do and What It Says About Us, examines the psychology of human beings behind the steering wheel is a best seller. Vanderbilt observes driving is one of the most complex things we do in our lives and when we forget that it’s not as easy as it seems, we get into trouble.

    Wanting to learn more, I came across a quiz at LittleThings.com asking readers to determine which driving style best matches their personality. For example, the quiz positions an “Adventurer” as a risk taker who enjoys thrilling activities like bungee jumping and skydiving. I imagine that means this person is a more aggressive driver who will grab the road with gusto.

    Then there is the opposite labeled “Nervous Nellie”, an anxious person who shies away from high-risk activities. On the road, Nellies probably takes it slow and plays it safe and may take longer to make decisions.

    Then I began to wonder how this translates to the workplace. If someone who is a perfectionist was taught to keep their hands at “10 and 2” on the wheel and always does, does that mean they are more likely to be as exacting at work? If so, how does their pursuit of perfection affect their ability to interact with others? Are they more likely to decide their way is the right way?

    While there is a good amount of literature on how personality affects driving behaviors, statistics vary according to age groups and countries. However, in my experience working closely with leaders and their employees, I believe habits of all drivers regardless of age or location can also offer us valuable lessons when handling life’s lanes.

    Don’t take it personally

    While you might be horrified by the driver who pulls in front of you with very little room to make a left-hand turn from a right-hand lane, even though their behavior puts you in danger, their aggression may not be directed toward you. At work, you also can’t control what others say and do. You can only control what you say and do and that should be your focus.

    Set an example

    If someone is tailgating you and blaring their horn, it’s imperative to stay calm and if you can, move out of the way. On the road and at work, you may prevent the situation from escalating. You are also setting an example and taking responsibility for your own actions. Attitude matters.

    Adapt and adjust

    If traffic is backed up for miles and you are going to be late to an appointment, do you sit for hours or do you look for alternative routes? Probably the latter. Developing problem solving skills and the ability to change lanes is not something that comes easy to everyone. Improving these skills can build confidence and improve credibility at work.

    Be present

    It’s normal to check our rear-view mirror or glance at a billboard because most of the time our gaze is on the road in front of us. When we fidget with our phones and other technology, accidents are more prone to happen. At work, it’s also important to focus and be present when others are speaking to us.

    Finally, while older, younger and out-of-town drivers are not limited to Florida, regardless of where the road takes you, it’s important to remember the rules of the road apply to everyone regardless of title or position. Having your own unique style is great as long as expressing it doesn’t put others in harm’s way.

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  • feedwordpress 20:51:39 on 2021/03/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Philadelphia Business Journal, , Professional,   

    Why pet names are professionally unacceptable 


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    We were losing 2 to 1 when Drew started spouting instructions.

    “Move to the left when I serve.  Get up to the net faster. You should have hit a short shot.”

    The game is Pickleball, a paddle-sport played over a tennis-type net on a badminton-sized court. I’ve written about it before as a lot of leadership lessons can be learned here.

    “How long have you been playing?”, I asked him.  “About three weeks,” he responded.

    Wow. Three weeks and he’s giving instructions? Even though I’ve been playing for a couple of years, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he knows something I don’t.

    Fast forward three months later, I find myself as his partner on a court again. He’s still barking instructions.

    The game begins and I miss a shot.

    “From now on he commands, when the ball goes to the left of the line, it’s mine, don’t hit my forehand shots.”

    As a student of the game, I understand he’s right. Typically, whoever has the forehand shot goes for the ball, but it’s not a rule etched in stone.

    Next shot, we’re tied again, but this time it’s Drew who’s making mistakes. Missing serves, slamming balls into the net and giving up multiple points. I’m making my shots.

    The ball comes to me at the left of the line, which he told me was his ball. Yet, I’m right there and he’s a few steps behind, so knowing I can put the shot away, I go for it but so does he. That’s when the two of us collide and we both miss the ball.

     “I told you, he yells at me, anything to the left of the line is mine.”

    I know I say, “But sometimes the person who can get it should go for it.”

    Completely agitated he begins lecturing me on how to play the game to which I respond, “Let’s just play.” That’s when he says, “Okay honey, whatever you say.”

    That did it.

    “What did you say?” I ask him.

    “What did I say?” he retorts.

    “You called me honey. My name is not honey. It’s Karen and don’t you ever call me that again.”

    “What’s your problem?” he scolds.

    “I’ll tell you what my problem is,” I replied. “I am not your honey. And you are an arrogant, condescending demeaning know-it-all.”

    That’s when he said, “I’m done” and stormed off the court.

    As I pondered this days later, I realized he had no idea why the word honey when used in this context was offensive. If he had said, “Great shot honey” or “You look terrific honey”, I would be more likely to interpret it as a term of endearment. However, calling someone honey while correcting and chastising them is demeaning and disrespectful.

    If you think I’m being overly sensitive, consider this.

    The U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Civil Rights says the use of words honey, dear and sweetheart in the workplace may constitute sexual harassment or discrimination. Even if you don’t intend it that way, the department says, “You should be aware that such expressions are inappropriate.”

    It is important that people recognize these words make others, especially women, feel uncomfortable. A survey by the United Kingdom market research site One Poll found that almost three quarters of women think pet names in the office are unacceptable. Even though a pickleball court is not an office, I believe the same rules should apply.

    Some of you may be wondering, what’s the big deal? The big deal is it’s never appropriate to minimize how someone else feels. If you have offended someone, rather than blame them for how they feel, try to understand why they were offended. What’s endearing to one person may be offensive to another.

    If we don’t know each other well enough to use mutually acceptable terms of endearment, then refrain from calling someone babe, honey, sweetheart, love or darling. 

    Even though these terms are often used without any malevolent intent, if you’re offended, it’s up to you to ask the person to stop referring to you that way and explain why.

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  • feedwordpress 04:49:41 on 2021/02/25 Permalink
    Tags: Philadelphia Business Journal   

    When private conversations go public, the pandemic edition 


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    My husband likes to post on Facebook. During 2020, it became an outlet to share information or lament the political landscape. It all seemed harmless given his Facebook friends share his views and enjoy his posts. However, social media posting can be a slippery slide when you least expect it as my husband unfortunately discovered.

    After attending a virtual event for a friend, I shared with him that a number of people on the call had received the COVID vaccine and I didn’t believe they met the CDC criteria. We had talked a lot about this at home given the systematic problems plaguing the rollout of vaccines. Specifically, we had been discussing how so many seniors and people with medical conditions have not been able to get the vaccine while others, including some of our friends and their children have jumped to the front of the line.

    We know of one person whose family member works at a hospital and was able to secure vaccination appointments for other members of her family who are not eligible at this point in time. We know of another person who fudged what he does for a living so he could get a shot.

    This moral and ethical dilemma is very upsetting to my husband as I’m sure it is to many. Not having a platform to reach the masses, he took to Facebook to vent. He called what’s happening “white privilege” and suggested people in minority communities did not have the same advantages.

    You might be saying well, he’s right. There have been published articles and interviews suggesting the same, so what’s the big deal?

    The big deal is that people at the event saw his post and were offended. A few were outright furious and then turned on me because I shared what was said with him. Because he wasn’t part of the virtual event, he repeated his interpretation of what I told him in a post. That’s like listening in on someone’s private phone call without their knowledge and then telling others what you heard.

    In this case, it turns out that some of the people who were vaccinated work in doctors’ offices and others drove distances to locations that did not have age or other restrictions. Someone else resented his use of the term “white privilege”.

    Whatever you want to call it, my husband’s intent, whether appropriate or not was to point out the inequities of trying to get the vaccine. According to a CNN  report, analysis of data from 14 states showed that vaccine coverage is twice as high among white people on average than it is among black and Latino people.

    Since the beginning of the pandemic, black, Latino and Native Americans have disproportionately been hospitalized and died from the virus. Health experts say that disparity has been linked to access to quality healthcare, vaccine acceptance and whether people have easy access to distribution sites. That has led President Biden to prioritize putting federally supported vaccination centers in high-risk neighborhoods to give people easier access.

    Back to my husband. When he realized he offended people, he took down the post and made some phone calls to apologize to those who appeared most offended. I believe there is an important lesson to be learned.

    It’s about gossip. You can’t take gossip back. You can take a Facebook post down.

    Whether you’re gossiping or posting on social media, I want to believe most people are not acting with any ill-intent. Sometimes we don’t realize that our words may be offensive or misunderstood. Sometimes, we’re frustrated at a situation and just don’t think things through.

    Before you blow up at what seems to be gossip or a social media post you don’t like, ask yourself this question. Why did he or she say this in the first place? Were they being malicious or trying to cause trouble? Or did they say something without understanding the full context of what they were repeating? Then, look at yourself in the mirror before you jump all over others.

    In this case, writing about what happened is my outlet, but I have also learned a lesson. Before I submit this column to my editor who will post it for thousands to see, I’m sending it to my husband to ask permission and make sure I’m not turning something private into something public.

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  • feedwordpress 21:29:16 on 2021/01/17 Permalink
    Tags: Philadelphia Business Journal   

    Four Ways to Reinvent your Business During Covid 19 


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    Comedian Joan Rivers was called the Queen of Reinvention. Throughout her tumultuous career that spanned sixty years, she faced multiple personal and professional tragedies. She climbed to the top of popularity during an era where comedy was very much a boy’s club event but also spiraled downward more than once. Yet through it all, the late icon continually reinvented herself and came back stronger than ever launching her own Emmy winning talk show and producing her own line of clothes and jewelry that generated over $1 billion in sales.

    As 2021 unfolds, most of us have been forced to reinvent our businesses, products, services and the way they’re delivered. In establishments, customers are still forced to mask up and distance. Coaching and training firms like mine have turned virtual for the foreseeable future. Yet reinvention, real reinvention isn’t about temporary fixes like virtual meetings. It is about how these temporary fixes can help us learn new ways to be better versions of our old selves, so we are more effective for others.

    The starting point is understanding that the client mindset today is different than the mindset in a pre-COVID world. While customers may still need your services, they want you to help them adapt and meet their changing needs with care, empathy and compassion.

    Helping people become empathetic communicators has always been at the forefront of our business. During any crisis, people want to know their leaders genuinely care about them and not just the bottom line. In a recent survey conducted by a public relations agency, 71% of people said if they perceive a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever.

    That’s why businesses that probe the hearts and minds of their customers to genuinely understand what they value most in these turbulent times will have an easier time reinventing the customer experience. Below are four steps to help you do just that.

    1. Clear the Weeds

    The customer doesn’t care about your problems. They’re not interested in your struggles with technology or how you’re longing for things to return to the pre-COVID way. They want to know how you will deliver services differently to help them thrive in a new normal that in some ways is here to stay. Communicating clears the path because it keeps them informed and can change perceptions. What is available to them? How will it be delivered? What will be different? What will be better?

    2. Redesign and Redecorate

    To do things differently, you have to think differently so you can find new ways to deliver value. For example, in our business for the foreseeable future, we are not traveling. That means time spent on the road frees us up to work with more people which allows clients to receive the same services faster rather than waiting for a calendar opening. We’ve also redesigned workshops and training programs to foster online interaction and keep people engaged in a virtual environment.

    3. Ask the Right Questions

    If you want to make sure clients keep buying tickets to your venue, then ask them what they want and need. What would be the biggest value to you moving forward? What do you lose sleep over? What weeds are in your path that we can help you clear? The answers will help you redesign ways to help your customers by adding new products and services or delivering them differently. Restaurants are an excellent example of how delivering services has drastically changed. Many have been forced to switch to a takeout model to help survive. For customers, it’s created new convenient and safer options to order and pay online and take advantage of speedier curbside pick-up.

    4. Create Twitter Moments

    A Twitter Moment is a carefully chosen story that is shared with masses through tweets. How can you create a great story or experience for your customers that they want to share with others? You don’t have to take to Twitter to tell people someone saved you time, money or provided a great service. If you produce valuable outcomes, your customers will do the talking for you.

    The ability to move from who are we and who do we want to become is no easy feat. However, like Joan Rivers, high performers are always looking for ways new ways to deliver value and reinvent themselves. Sometimes, just trying to survive can uncover new ways to thrive.

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