Employee : Are you Too Nice?

Two Roads
TWO ROADS IN A WOOD

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both…

…. I took the one not too nice,

And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost (modified)

Have you been trying to be a nice person at work? Have all your attempts at being nice made you feel miserable? Perhaps you might consider being “polite” instead. This subtle shift can make all the difference to your future.

Being Nice has its pluses. Nice people are an asset to the organisation. They are well liked and are fun to have around. They are accommodating, helpful and Easy to work with. But Too often we find the nice employee gets passed up for promotions.

Does that surprise you?

Russ Edelman in his book Nice Guys can get the Corner office Says that Being too nice impedes career growth. According to him Nice people are so caught up in pleasing others and getting others approval that they don’t stand up for themselves. If you are a nice person, which most of us are, this insight can hurt.

Right from a very young age we are taught not to fight, not to confront, not to be blunt in voicing our opinions, not to hurt others. We are taught to be sensitive to the people around us. That is a very good thing. Thanks to this grooming we are tuned into other people’s feelings being careful not to cause them any kind of discomfort. In the process some of us overlook our own discomfort. And, in a work place this kind of orientation can at times lead us astray.

For instance it can promote conflict avoidance when practical solutions need to be ironed out by confronting the problem. Avoiding Face – offs at all cost leads to a refusal to address important disagreements in a straightforward manner which would help in improving performance.

Being nice is good but there is a point beyond which the rules of diminishing returns take over. If we were to plot the relationship between being Nice and performance it would be an inverted U. Beyond a point being nice becomes a problem.

 

inverted U

  • In trying to be Nice people suppress their view points to go with the flow even if they are strongly opposed to the view. The organisation misses out on valuable inputs and eventually suffers.
  • Out of deference to others nice people end up saying yes to everything and get taken advantage of.
  • Nice people feel awkward in accepting their rightful credit. A nice person believes he is being humble but not valuing your own work has its pitfalls. You miss out on your rightful credit and the just rewards.

To succeed at Work and avoid these eventualities there is one primary tenet which  people having a “Nice Guy” syndrome need to keep in mind.

  • Business is competitive. It is a place where people come together to work and they also compete. “Competition” is an intrinsic part of business. Performance counts. There will be winners and there will be losers. We need to decide with which crowd we might want to throw our lot in.

At the workplace the urge to be Nice needs to be balanced with the requirements of achieving results both individual and organisational. Nice people need to realize the importance of speaking up when they perceive that actions are not taking them towards agreed upon goals. Working in an organisation means times when we work with compromises, it involves mutual give and take. But win-win on paper should also be win-win in reality , Nice types should not allow themselves to be shortchanged.

So how do we move away from this self-defeating tendency ?

To start with it requires a mental shift from “nice” to “polite”.  That means we stay kind and considerate to our office colleagues but are clear about our boundaries. It means we are do not hesitate to speak up.

This mental shift would not be easy for the Nice and sensitive souls but it can be done. It will require practice. Here is how –

Know what you want. Have a clarity on your goals. This will ensure that you get to prioritize your results over others needs and requests. Getting clarity about your goals and internalizing the same would take time. But it will help in setting your boundaries.

Acknowledge Anxiety. When you anticipate others discomfort you might turn anxious. Acknowledge the anxiety and Let it be. Face your fears and move on.

Fake it till you make it: As Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook in her book LeanIn says – sometimes you can’t wait for everything to be feel right. You might not feel confident but Just go ahead and fake it. Fake assertiveness speak up even if you don’t feel like it. See what happens.

If being Too Nice is an issue that is affecting your work it would need more attention. Start reading on this topic and enroll for workshops on assertiveness training. You could even get a coach to help you out.

_____________________________________________________________________________

The difference is too nice – where ends the Virtue, and begins the vice.

Alexander Pope

Prakash Francis is a Talent expert based in Bangalore. 

 

 

Hallmark of a Great Career

mzl-jpiwrvacStephen Covey & Jennifer Colosimo in their book  – : Great Work Great Career” say that for a person to have a great career he/she must live up to two standards. The first being that he/she must have made a distinctive contribution to the field of his work, and the other, that he/she must generate a strong feeling of loyalty/trust in others.

Going by this standard  – A couple of my teachers back in school come to mind. They made an immense contribution to the lives of students like me and we trusted them completely to guide us in the right direction.

The interesting thing was that they were regular teachers teaching regular classes. They did not make much money and they were not very powerful outside of the limits of academics. But they guided the trajectory of my career and the careers of many other students. For this I am deeply indebted to them. Many of us students speak of them in a reverential manner.

I guess the next logical question to ask would be were they successful?

I am not sure.

As i said earlier – they were not wealthy and not very famous.

Does it mean that you can have  a great career but not be successful or, put another way, you might be successful but yet have not had a great career.

Off-course this is just one example and we cannot generalize.

What do you think?  Great career and Success  – congruent ? or divergent ?

 

 

 

Ace Your Appraisal

Performance Appraisal is an annual happening which is approached with a certain amount of trepidation by most employees. There are volumes of net bytes spent on deriding this process – for various reasons.

Whatever be the hullabaloo about the ineffectiveness of Appraisals  they are well entrenched in the workplace and an inevitable part of your annual work calendar. That being the case, you might as well make the most of it.

Here are a few minders to make the process work for you and make it easier for your boss to give you the most favourable review. ArtowrkThe Performance Appraisal can be approached in a 3 pronged Manner – Pre Appraisal, The actual Appraisal meeting and Post appraisal. As the name suggests – Pre appraisal lays down the groundwork for the actual Appraisal meeting. It starts with –

Preparation

Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes. Zig Ziglar 

  Being prepared is half the job done. Here your preparation starts the day you start work. It consists of –

Documenting Your Accomplishments If you have the habit of keeping a journal this is the time to review those notes. Notice any trends or recurring patterns  that reveal any particular strengths, tasks you enjoyed, co – workers or customers you helped, duties performed which were out of your regular job role.

Incase you don’t keep a journal start today. Journal helps you capture details when they are fresh in your mind. DOCUMENT ACCOMPL- ART

Once you have all the details in hand, list down the accomplishments – both the what and the how – the challenges you overcame, the help you received and the things you could have done better. It is  important to connect your achievements to your goals and those of the organization.  Be brief – and stay in the context.

Gather any commendation emails, letters or awards you received since the last appraisal. It is ok to brag a little – after all this is your appraisal. Your manager may not remember every accomplishment of yours through the year especially the many small ones that can add up and make a serious difference.

Self-Assessment Assess your achievements during the year, the challenges you overcame and areas where you felt you could have done better. Think of ways where additional support from the organisation could have helped you in fulfilling your duties, could be better communication or role clarity. Be specifi c in explaining how it can help in making the team you are a part of, more successful.

Look at things from your superiors perspective.  Here, ideally you should use a performance appraisal form your Manager would be using. Go thru each competency and goal listed and rate your performance. Be honest. Finally share this self-evaluation with your superior before the meeting. This will give him/her a heads up on perception differences if any and help him to be prepared.  You might choose otherwise and just keep this self-evaluation for your reference.

Write down your Goals Where would you want to be in a year or two years professionally. What greater responsibilities would you want to take up. Set goals that are meaningful and relevant. The goal you take up should be relevant to the work you do each day. Write down your goals and share them with your Superior so they can be fine- tuned and mutually agreed upon.

The Performance Appraisal Meeting You have done your preparation, documented your accomplishments and room for improvements. You have your questions ready. Now for the meeting.

Ideally you would have shared your preparation with your superior prior to the meeting.If you haven’t – you could do so now. LISTEN ARTWORK

Typically with all this preparation we might have a tendency to get too full of ourselves and somewhat defensive. We can get so absorbed in putting up a good front that we might block any serious feedback coming our way. Or as we brace ourselves to face criticism we might get defensive. In your best interests – steer clear of any such tendencies.

You know your content, you have it all documented – now relax and have an open mind. Prepare yourself to listen to any difficult feedback. We think that we are good listeners but during critical moments we fall short. To listen carefully we should be able to withhold judgement about what the superior has to say. Your listening goal for the meeting should be to seek understanding.  Take notes.             If its ok with the manager try to note down any criticisms that he has to offer. Stay polite.

Salary Discussion Even if your appraisal goes very well bringing up any salary raise request at this juncture might not be a good idea as raises might get decided much earlier. In case you are planning to request a salary increase – do so a week or two before your appraisal is due as then you can – have all the more reasons to use this meeting to justify your request for a raise.

Learning While doing your self assessment you would have come across areas where you would have wanted to improve or get yourself trained. You can bring that up during the meeting. Learning could be not only training courses – it could also be volunteer work, special assignments, reading, joining certain company clubs etc.  anything to help you develop the skills you need.

Post Meeting Within the hour after the meeting jot down key discussion points, any suggestions for improvement or critical feedback that you might have received. If any specific strengths were mentioned-  get everything down in a journal. Any feedback that you do not agree with you can bring it up – by requesting a followup meeting.

Your review is neither the end or the beginning of the end. It is just an inevitable and critical part of your growth process.

To make it easy on yourself make it a habit to check-in with the boss weekly or whenever convenient. Through regular informal discussions you can get real time feedback of your performance and not wait for a annual review to get a heads up.

In closing, your appraisal needs to be one of open communication between you and your manager. Since the stakes are so high it is all the more important for you to go all out to ensure an accurate appraisal.

Hope you find the tips useful.

If you have any new ideas on improving the appraisal process or have any unique stories to share – leave a comment below or drop a line to prakash.francis@ehirings.net

5 Tips to Negotiate a Better Salary

You might be one of those people who get uncomfortable at the idea of salary negotiation. You might fear coming across as rude or greedy. Or maybe you don’t find it reasonable to ask for more. If you have such concerns, be aware that salary negotiation is a standard part of the hiring process. Infact a poll of hiring managers revealed that 84% of them expected the candidates to negotiate.

A reason why employers expect you to negotiate is because they believe the incoming employee will bring in the same attitude to the firm when he/she starts dealing with their client or vendor. That’s a plus from the employers perspective. So don’t be too self- absorbed and leave out on this crucial part.

Now that we have got the self-doubts behind us – lets dive into a Salary Negotiation – How do you go about it?

Everything is negotiable. Whether or not the negotiation is easy is another thing.

Carrie Fisher 

In any negotiation the party that is better prepared stands to gain more. The preparation starts much before you have landed your interview. It starts with researching your position, the company, the role, the skillset demanded of this role & the salary that this role fetches in the industry.

Image (10)Research

This involves getting an idea of the company policy towards salaries. Each company will be having a certain salary based on its level. Speaking to a few people within the organisation – gives an idea of what type of salary that level fetches. You will get to know – if they are a good pay masters or not quite upto the mark by connecting with contacts offline or online.

As you get a bearing on how the company salary levels are – you could also check on where your role features in the salary totem pole. Certain skills are hot and fetch more. Here again head hunters are a good got to choice to help zeroing in on a fairly accurate ball park.

There are sites like the Salary.com , Vault.com, PayScale.com and Glassdoor.com. Each has its plus and minus and most are suited to US and western salary levels. Though data on a few Indian firms are available – there is not much out here.

With this research done you are ready to sit across the table and negotiate from a position of strength.

Thou shalt Not Bring up the Salary topic

Let the employer broach the salary topic. And let it happen after the interview is done. Some companies ask for salary expectation in the early stages – the best option here for you is to give a range based on your research. A better option – just say that you are open for negotiation. If pressed to specify a figure – politely explain that you’d like to know more about the responsibilities and the challenges of the job prior to discussing salary.

Evidence

Provide evidence of how you will have a positive financial impact for your employer –

Provide documentary evidence if you have generated more revenue than expected, Or, more than your colleagues.

Have you brought in a large account in a difficult market?

Have you lowered costs without impacting quality?

Those are some ways in which you have an impact on the bottom line of a firm or a unit. Drill that down with evidence in the form of printouts or any accolades from your existing employer. That also displays your preparedness and a meticulous approach.

To go a step further you could as Ramish Sethi says chart out a plan as to what you can do for the company in 30, 60 or 90 days. This goes back to the first point – that of research. This can only be done if you have researched your organisation and position really well. If not substantiated with sound logic and proof – this thing might be seen through as a gimmick.

Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.

                                                                                        JFK

Back to the Wall

Negotiations do not work when you have your back to the wall. If the situation is such that you have no choice but take up the job at all cost – you don’t have much of a room to negotiate. Just mention what is your expectation and the justification behind it and leave it to the employer. Ideally, don’t get into such a situation. Incase you do – just wait it out.

Having Options

This follows from the previous point. Having multiple options will prevent you from locking into a position – leaving no room for further discussion.

If an offer has been made understand what is the entire compensation you are getting. Trying to get everything in cash actually affects your savings.

Keep in mind what are the one or two aspects of the position that are absolutely non negotiable for you and ensure that you achieve those elements. If you are unable to do so – this might not be the right job for you. In such a situation be willing to walk away.

Keep your Focus on your Goals

The Salary negotiation process is unique in that at the end of the process you will be spending your entire working day with the employer. Your career success might depend on the person you are negotiating with. So keep in mind your ultimate goals and ensure that you don’t tarnish your image by coming across as too rigid. Offcourse this works both ways , the future boss would also want you to feel good about joining the company.

These tips will help you in effectively negotiating the terms of your employment. If you have done so – you can start the job assured that you have achieved the best possible result.

Leave your comments here or @f_prakash

Workplace Relationships

Yesterday I was sitting with a few friends and the topic drifted to relationships at work. One of my friends, lets call him Prasad, mentioned that relationships at his office overtook performance. People who maintained good relationships with some key decision makers at his office managed to get away with huge bonuses at the end of the year(he comes from the Banking sector –so Bonuses are Huge).

Fact is that this is not only applicable in the Banking segment – it is the norm everywhere. In positions where performance of an individual can’t be pinned down to clearly measurable criteria – relationships take precedence in appraisals. Even in other positions like sales or Software development where the results are measurable – this might not have such a huge influence. Yet the ability to build and maintain relationships cannot be undermined.

Another friend who is in the sales line had this instance to share about the efficacy of building strong relationships.  It was one of the lean months and his collections fell drastically. He was facing intense pressure to show numbers. In desperate straits he approached one of his good clients and explained the situation to him. His client came to his help – made a cheque for 2 crores, off-course the whole thing was regularised later – with proper documentation.  But, my friend stressed that it was only his relationship with his client that helped him bail out of the tough situation.

Meaning-making-relationships-spirituality-at-work-398x600

Though my sympathies are with Prasad as I know him to be very sincere and puts 100% to his job, my vote goes to the approach of my Sales friend. By building strong relationships he has stacked the deck in his favour.

My take on this situation is whatever position you be in – give 100% to your work but give an additional 25% to building and maintaining relationships at work and not only with your superiors.

So how does workplace relationships help us?

Well a simple reason is that without decent relationships the work itself can get boring. A friendly work environment will keep everyone happy to stick around.

Good workplace relationships does not mean having to give in to every demand from your co- workers. You have the choice how to balance the two demands – your family and that of your work.

The key to maintaining good work relationships lie in a few simple techniques.

a)     Maintain a Cordial Tone with all peers, superiors & subordinates

b)     Flexible Nature

c)      Offer to help

Cordial Tone : It is quite easy to maintain more than just a cordial tone with people whom  you like. The challenge is to maintain cordial relationships with people whom you don’t like. And invariably there will be people at office whom you don’t particularly look forward to meet. If you are able to master this ability you are half way to cementing your place in your office team. Combine it with good listening skills and you will become the go to guy for any office related advice.   

Stay Flexible

Stay flexible to the demands of your workplace, even if they appear to be unreasonable. Be willing to let go of your point of you at times and go with the team decision. This is a difficult advice to take. But pays huge dividends in terms of getting acceptance as a team player. Sticking to your guns over any issue or getting people to enrol to your point of view – doesn’t pass the team spirit test.

Offer to Help

Offer to help others when you have free time and you see they are overwhelmed or bogged down. Ask for help when you need it too. By admitting that you don’t know all the answers and need the expertise or support of your co-workers, you establish a foundation on which you can build respect, one of the main ingredients for good relationships. A co-worker asking for help when it is time to leave or the boss dumping something on Friday evening. Offering to be of help is one thing but being able to help when the other person needs you – really boosts up your ratings as a Mr dependable.

Whatever be the industry you are in – you are likely to be working with people. To be able to work easily with a range of people with different temperaments and different socio –cultural backgrounds will be a great asset to develop. 

Do you have any workplace stories to share – whether on relationships or otherwise. Mail me – prakash.francis@ehirings.net

5 Habits to avoid at your Work Place

Character is long-standing habit.
Plutarch

You would agree if I say that people make snap judgments about others. They notice your one bad habit, then, something else happens in which you are not fully involved – and they connect. Before you know it, voila !  you are labeled a misfit, or a tantrum artist or whatever. A single bad habit is not likely to have any significant impact on your career immediately, but clubbed with something else even partially – it can. The below mentioned set of 5 habits can go a long way in preventing you from getting hitched to the wrong label.

Hold your criticism

Dont Criticize Condemn ComplainThis is a very simple yet  extremely useful advice.  And, one that is very difficult to follow. We all tend to whine and complain. But, the problem is that this trait is not taken lightly by organizations. And there is a good reason. Organizations are spending a lot of time and effort in building morale in their teams. They really don’t want someone finding faults and whining in public. It is going to reflect poorly on their efforts. Besides, there is enough negativity outside in the economy for the leadership to handle,why add to their woes? Best advice – Hold your criticism. And, in-case you have a serious enough complaint, discuss it directly with your manager, face to face.

Missing Deadlines

In a team environment missing deadlines can pull down the entire team effort.Do it too often and you will get marked as someone who can’t be trusted with work. You need to remember that you are not working in isolation. Everything is going to be a team effort and people are relying on you to do your part of the job. Trying to be perfect in what you do is no excuse.

Funny Man

I have seen some very smart colleagues of mine – falling flat on their face – over doing this bit. Being popular helps. But trying to be the funny guy – invariably backfires. And an impersonation of your boss, however mild, in the presence of other office members – is asking for trouble. You are counting on your boss to accept being belittled in public. Aren’t you asking for too much? Same goes for your team mates too. He/she might not be able to able to impact your career right away. But over time these things add up.  Save this type of fun for your college pals.

Inattentiveness

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Do not be Inattentive to yourself and to the workplace situation.You have got to be attentive – it is your career at stake.  Having a total disregard for the workplace culture and style, the dress code, or the hierarchy  creates needless tension and marks you out as a misfit.You don’t want that to happen. You want the organisational support system to be stacked in your favor. Why make it more difficult on yourself?

Working in an office setting demands that you be sensitive to co-workers. Be mindful of your body odor, the type of food you bring to office (especially if you are eating in an air-conditioned setting) strong-smelling food can be a major put off. Another thing to avoid – speaking loudly over your phone.

Staying aloof

aloof_feline_ipad_case-r5866999576d74ac9ae4c5c0bcda1f641_w8wqf_8byvr_512You are spending 8+ hours at work – the best part of your day with these folks. Might as well work on it and try to make it pleasant for everyone. Staying aloof at the work place runs the risk of being perceived as arrogance. And arrogance as we all know is a recipe for failure. By all means stay aloof from office politics. That is a definite plus. But having your lunch alone or not participating in other office get togethers – can actually bring unnecessary attention on you, not the kind that will help your career.

The Supply Chain Management – a Skills perspective

If you are following the war  between Samsung & Apple over supremacy in the Smartphone race – then you have one more variable to discuss. Recently the The Hindu Businessline published an article about Samsung chasing the suppliers of Apple.

The flipside of overtaking Apple with the sales of Galaxy series is that Samsung’s in-house supply lines have been stretched out – and the firm is now courting the suppliers of Apple like Qualcomm, Corning and Taiwanese chip maker HTC.

A case where Organizational growth now rests on its supply chain.

The Supply Chain discipline has evolved dramatically in the last couple of decades. In started in the 70’s and 80’s where it was one of the silos of Manufacturing, to now where it interacts with almost all departments right from the raw material procurement to manufacturing to customer support.

This drastic shift in the deliverables has impacted the skills required of the professionals manning this function. The profession continues to grow beyond its distribution roots – increasingly into strategic planning.  Consequently Supply chain managers require both broader technical expertise and deeper technical excellence.

The Inception

Supply Chain as a concept arose from the work of Jay Forrester of MIT in the early 1960’s. It was not until 1982 that Keith Oliver mentioned it in a Financial Times interview. The adoption of SCM was slow during the 80’s as the traditional siloed departments took baby steps in collaboration. The continuous replenishment program of big retailers Walmart & P&G were one of the early initiatives. The adoption picked up pace and the 2000s saw widespread acceptance of the SCM practice.

Evolution

SCM has redefined the way companies are organized and run. Traditionally the company was viewed as set of independent functions operating within clear cut boundaries. Each of these functions whether it be purchase, material handling, warehousing , transportation or customer service followed a vertical flow. They received inputs from an upstream silo performed an action and sent their results downstream.

This vertical cascading process was the norm as a result of which decision making was simple. Managers focused on a single function with few variables to consider. As firms loosened their functional boundaries, departmental walls became more porous. Managers needed to develop cross company communication channels. Decisions made in one function were analysed for their impact on other function areas. As a result decision making became more complex and convoluted. The different decision makers were no longer under one roof or in the same company. As managers aligned with upstream and downstream partners it became more difficult to exert direct control over operations. Persuasion and collaboration became the need of the hour along the extended supply chain.

SCM in its current form has flipped 90 degrees. From being a vertical siloed orientation to an horizontal one mirroring the flow of material, information and money.

The Growth of SCM       

Currently SCM acts as a strategy enabler. The practice of SCM is expected to anticipate competitive challenges, obstacles and opportunities. In a way SCM has become the shock absorber and a bridge. It buffers the firm against volatile demand, uncertain supply and disruptions. And, it serves as the bridge between the organisation and its trading partners – both customers and suppliers. However the move away from functionality towards strategy enablement requires SCM to adopt new skills befitting the new role.

The New-Age SCM Professional

The glacial shift of the SCM practice from being a siloed function to an organizational strategy enabler- has placed different skill demands on the professionals. While earlier leaders were functional experts the newage comprise of master coordinators. Earlier the managers had direct control over all aspects of their function as result they developed “hard” skills for leading people directly in their control. Today the leaders are required to influence behaviour across the entire supply chain to include people who do not report to them. These leaders have become influencers, requiring to exert influence indirectly and achieve objectives through persuasion. There are three areas of expertise that are key to the current and future SCM Leaders-

  • Emphasis on a blend of soft and hard ( analytical ) skills
  • Ability to excel as leaders of virtual MNC teams
  • Appreciate big picture issues and communicate horizontally and vertically.

As SCM evolves it does so at different rates around the world. The emerging economies have a lot of catching up to do, but the gap is closing fast. The SCM leadership challenges in these countries are unique in a number of ways.

Rather than predict which skill sets will be top priority 10 years from now a more effective response would be to be prepared to meet these demands by being flexible and agile now.

Ref: Supplychain management Review Jan/Feb -2013. The Leadership Challenge:

Keeping Pace with the Skills Needed By Edgar Blanco and Chris Caplice