Category: Tips

Three Buzzwords that spell DOOM

TalkLikeTheBoss_Words_that_spell_Doom

If you recently bought a house…or got married…or welcomed home a precious bundle of joy—trust me when I tell you that you would not want to hear these three words at your job.

And what makes these (code) words of DOOM especially perilous is that they each have a common meaning, outside of the corporate context, that lends itself to neutrality and in some cases benignity.

But as grandma often said, “you can’t be old and a fool” so without further ado:

Wait, Consolidate is a good thing, no?

At first glance, the word consolidate comes off rather neutral because in a business setting, consolidate is often associated with process improvement of which, under normal circumstances, is not necessarily an abhorrent concept. Process improvement most certainly resonates with the MBA types that once read a case study that illustrated the importance of exploiting efficiencies to extract maximum value while utilizing the least amount of effort and resources…and blah, blah, yeah, yeah, as the story ends with the company being wildly successful.

But that’s where you would have assumed incorrectly. What the bosses failed to tell you is that the word consolidate in the corporate world mostly refers to two things—getting rid of people or getting rid of things (or both). Clearly the key phrase here is “getting rid of…” which, in most cases, is not a trait of a thriving company (you know, thriving companies tend to expand, not contract). So dust off that resume and dry clean those suits when you start hearing the word consolidate being tossed around the office like a football.

Pressure rising?

All that you have to do is listen to an earnings call from any of the Fortune 500 companies and you’ll think these corporate execs are going to implode from all of the pressure they claim to be experiencing. “We have some pressure here…and more pressure there.” This pressure that they speak of is a code word used to convey that the organization has had challenges in a certain area or function. And as the pressure builds, per se, the bosses find ways to get rid of it. To put it plainly, big corporations hate pressure—and thus they rid themselves of it. And more often than not, the answer comes in the form of cost cutting that could translate into a round of layoffs.

So if the pressure is at an all-time high at your job—vow to make the “apply” button on a job application your pressure release valve. Now start pushing away.

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Want REAL Office Transparency? Here is an Idea

TalkLikeTheBoss_Transparency

“O Transparency, Transparency, wherefore art thou Transparency?”

Transparency–yet another flavor of the day concept in modern corporate culture that references an inclusive office environment where leaders actively involve their workers in decisions and initiatives that significantly impacts the organization. Almost all of the HR gurus blab on about the importance of transparency and provide a few tactical ideas to help drive openness in a historically extremely departmentalized system–that is, big corporations.

And it seems that most of the largest corporations are getting in on the action by crafting language and imagery to reflect that of an office culture that is inherently team oriented and open to the opinions of others.

Just spend a few minutes perusing their career pages and you may see verbiage that suggests that authentic transparency is as common as staplers and sticky notes. For instance, here is some verbiage I took the liberty to compile; “the best ideas are encouraged and rewarded, we value thought-leadership, open door policy, extremely team-oriented, the opinions of our associates are priority.”

This is the part of the story where I call “BULL” on the bosses for not practicing what they preach. You see, when I interview workers at many of these “transparent” organizations, the feedback I receive is exactly the opposite of a culture that is transparent. Sure, your workers noticed that you paid big bucks to lower the cubicles walls, install LED light fixtures and declutter meeting spaces to make the office look open. But that’s where the notion of transparency stopped–at mere appearances.

Here are just a few actual quotes from workers of these so-called “transparent” organizations:

“My manager recently had a meeting with the VP about my project and didn’t even bother to invite me.”

“So they would rather pay expensive consultants to tell us the stuff we already knew…if they’d just ask for our input, we could have gotten to the same place much quicker and cheaper. Shows what they think of us.”

“Look Steele, they’re having a meeting to discuss the new value proposition and as always, they didn’t include me. But they’ll be asking for my help when it’s time to implement the whole thing. And they wonder why our EOC scores suck…they don’t care about us!”

And there’s much, much, more. So based on countless interviews, surveys and personal observations, it is no stretch for me to say that there is still a very long road to travel in order to get to the place where workers really feel like they are being included in most matters of the business. To that end, REAL transparency doesn’t exist; it is more like “faux-parency” (yes, I made that up).

But the milk already spilled and the tears of a few million workers dried a long time ago–so let’s move onto something more productive shall we…

A’ha a possible (and bold) solution
I’d like to introduce a program to any organization that has the guts to make valiant efforts to move their work environment to a place of genuine transparency. But let me warn you – if you aren’t really serious about cultivating a culture of true transparency in your workplace, simply direct your cursor to the small “X” in the corner of this window and click. This idea may be too bold to stomach for many.

OK, if you are still with me, good–let me tell you about a policy that you heard here first (I admit, it’s a cheap plug). I simply call it, “The Fly On The Wall Policy,” created with the intent to help remove some of the barriers that keep workers in the dark. Quick Disclaimer–this policy is not a magic bullet that will solve all of the problems associated with the lack of transparency in the office environment…it is just one idea that I believe, if implemented correctly, would show workers that your office is serious about cultivating openness.

The “Fly On The Wall” policy:

1. The What: Workers can politely and quietly invite themselves into any* meeting, in progress or forthcoming, via phone or in-person, to listen, observe and take notes (photography is not permitted, sorry folks).
*Alright, so not every meeting can be attended because of course there are a few (and I do mean a few) that involve an individual’s compensation and/or performance. No need to contribute to the current cesspool of office gossip.

2. Claiming “Fly On The Wall” Status: Think of this as a backstage pass where workers will have the opportunity to walk right into the meeting and simply claim the “Fly On The Wall” status which, should not cause any alarm to the original meeting participants.

3. A Few Ground Rules: To keep things civilized, the “Fly On The Wall” worker cannot talk, ask questions, be disruptive, play on their smartphones or do anything an actual fly on a wall could not do (ever seen a fly check email? I didn’t think so). Be a good insect and sit silently.

  • A) The “Fly On The Wall” worker cannot attend a meeting after 15-minutes has transpired (at least be a timely fly).
  • B) The “Fly On The Wall” worker should make a good-faith effort to notify the meeting organizer in advance where possible. However, this should not be a requirement, just a courteous rule of thumb.
  • C) If a meeting is in progress, the “Fly On The Wall” worker should, upon entry, politely show their handy “Fly On The Wall” badge (without saying a word) and sit in the farthest seat away from the meeting participants to avoid being a distraction.

Again, I am not foolish enough to think that this will solve all of the problems associated with the lack of transparency in the work environment. However, we believe that our “Fly On The Wall” policy will help open some of the doors that once kept workers ignorant of the critical initiatives, events and projects happening around them every day. The feedback and data suggests that workers desire to be included in significant business matters. And of course, the corporate world will get closer to the precious transparency that they all claim to cherish. And ultimately part ways with this “faux-parency” crap that exists in most office environments.

Is there one…just one daring organization out there with the courage to step-up and implement a bold initiative like our “Fly On The Wall” policy? All revolutions began with just one.

Come on bosses; aim for transparency…REAL transparency.

-Steele

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