There are books and discussion all about how to succeed in the workplace. Here is a different approach. Before you can become the most awesome employee ever, you need to make sure you don’t unexpectedly find yourself in the precarious situation of being dismissed, let go, fired. You don’t want to be the Gone Girl.
Lifeguards at Work
Have you or your friends had that hot mess moment? You know, someone watches a makeover show (anywhere from home design to garden makeover to hair color) and tries to do it. They don’t know the TV shows have a budget and editing. It’s a kind of entertainment induced delusion.
The same sort of ignorance of what happens on film has made us stupid, with respect to drowning. People actually drowning are not thrashing and crying for help. Drowning is quiet to observers. The drowning person cannot stay at the surface of the water long enough to cry for help. The body goes straight and bobs up and down. The eyes go glassy from lack of air. There is a stillness.
That same stillness is often present when people are metaphorically “drowning” at work. It’s quiet. Someone out of their depth, beyond their capability is not
yelling, help me, I’m in trouble, I have no idea what I am doing.
Have a “lifeguard” at work. Lifeguards are people you trust and have permission to have the difficult conversions with you. Ensure your lifeguard recognizes the signs when you are out of your depth. If you know what your signs are, share them. Don’t assume your colleagues will take on this role without permission or an advance discussion. Yes, this isn’t exactly easy either. However, you have better chance of success when you have a basic safety plan in place. The truth is, it is easier to be a passerby than to get involved. If you want to save yourself, designate your lifeguard.
Make a Point
You have that friend that seems to be conversationally stunted and unable to complete a sentence. Because they are your friend, you don’t want to embarrass them and say what’s your point? These are the conversations where you have to infer, questions and try to bring their words into an understandable context. The same happens in the workplace. Most rules of business etiquette prevent your coworkers from asking what’s you point, but because they aren’t your fiends, they are not going to try to interpret what you are saying,
Your communication is designed to change behavior, alter moods, or inform about something of interest. In business, when crafting emails, questions in a meeting, and texts, determine what action you want to prompt. What is your ask?
I get over 75 emails a day. I prefer people skip the traditional pleasantries and articulate the ask. Know your audience. Learn their preference. For example, think of business email as a “time out” communication. A time out in basketball is fast and quick, you tell the team what’s working, what’s not working and what needs to happen next. It’s not a time for sharing history or what you had for lunch and humorous anecdotes. People are busy, they have a lot to do, so tell them what you need succinctly.
Work text messages are the same. Most of us are not in support, so we are not anxiously awaiting a text so we will have something to do. We are working!!! When texting for work, get your ask out front. This is respects your coworker’s time,
We have all sat in a meeting, or lecture where someone asks a rambling question about and we are all thinking, what is your point. Don’t be “that” person. Articulate your question in your head before you speak. Spare the rest of us. If more information is needed, a discussion will follow. Lead with your ask.
Your communication should alter a mood, change behavior or inform about something of interest. Your point should be obvious. Don’t make us work trying to figure out your ask. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
You are getting ready to go out with a limited amount of time. You have a list of things you need to do, nails, hair, dress. Each of these things have tasks related to them and there is a certain order you have to follow. It’s obvious to us, you wouldn’t dress and then shower. Or the fact that the drying time for your manicure cannot be used to do your hair. It’s very obvious. As a matter of fact, depending on how much time you have, you may need to forfeit one of these activities, like the manicure. It’s no different for work.
Look at the things you have been assigned to do. What are the obvious groupings? What is the priority? Write it up and get it validated. Yes, this is common sense, but not necessarily common usage. The quickest way to become Gone Girl is not to do something that has high priority when you were the one assigned to it.
That’s it. Yup, is all about failures in communications you want to avoid. There are many ways to become the gone girl; don’t let your communications be one of them.