Archive for the ‘Arrogance’ Category

Service of a Humble Boss

Monday, November 26th, 2018

Photo: medium.com

 

“I made a tremendous difference in the country. This country is so much stronger now than it was when I took office that you won’t believe it. And I mean, you see it, but so much stronger that people can’t even believe it.”–DJ Trump on Thanksgiving 2018

In contrast to the quote above, my best bosses were humble and I was lucky to have had a few.

A standout was president of a major PR firm–he was my boss’s boss. He never stood on ceremony. If a phone rang on a secretary’s desk as he walked by and nobody else was around, he’d answer it. If a team was working into the night preparing a major presentation or award entry, he’d be editing, proofing, stapling and collating with the rest. Many of us would walk a plank for him.

Photo: thestatesman.com

Elizabeth Shellenbarger’s article, “The Best Bosses Are Humble Bosses,” backed up my experience. She wrote in The Wall Street Journal that while charm and charisma are sought by some corporations for their leaders, humility trumps those characteristics. [The best boss I describe above had these traits too.] Shellenbarger wrote: “In an era when hubris is rewarded on social media and in business and politics, researchers and employment experts say turning the limelight on humble people might yield better results.”

She reported: “Humble leaders can also be highly competitive and ambitious. But they tend to avoid the spotlight and give credit to their teams, Dr. Sherman says. They also ask for help and listen to feedback from others, setting an example that causes subordinates to do the same.” Ryne Sherman is chief science officer of Hogan Assessments that makes workplace personality tests.

Photo: no1blog.net

At Patagonia, a manager will ask the receptionists how a potential recruit treated them. Arrogance and/or self-absorption are usually deal killers.

“If you think you know which of your colleagues are humble, you could easily be wrong. Humble people don’t flaunt it. And many workers, including arrogant ones, try to be seen as humble and helpful to make a good impression, says Kibeom Lee, a psychology professor at the University of Calgary in Alberta.”

Humility and honesty are considered stable personality traits. The H factor, as it’s known, usually comes with other traits which Shellenbarger lists as sincerity, modesty, fairness, truthfulness and unpretentiousness. “The same people tend to avoid manipulating others, bending the rules or behaving in greedy or hypocritical ways.”

Photo: livescience.com

There are exceptions. Shellenbarger wrote: “Some challenges may call for a different leadership style. For example, employees facing extreme threats or intense time pressure might perform better when a leader takes a more authoritative, top-down approach, Dr. Owens says.” Bradley P. Owens is an associate professor of business ethics at Brigham Young University.

I’ve observed that some workers need to be nudged to perform and in certain industries, others might misinterpret humility for weakness.

Do you agree that the best bosses are humble? Have you had any who were or some who were arrogant and manipulative? Did either have any impact on your performance?

Photo: mindful.org

Service of Nonchalance

Monday, March 7th, 2011

indifference1

Cool and calm under pressure is great. But indifference is off-putting. In addition to being unhelpful, the attitude is disrespectful verging on insulting. Nobody expects a sycophant with unctuous manner and nauseating phony smile to direct them, but indifference and lack of concern is equally inappropriate in business as it is in a hospital, library, restaurant, post office, retail establishment, school, airport–anywhere.

A client, I’ll call him Jake, a reasonable, patient, no-nonsense person, described a recent incident that perfectly illustrates nonchalance. I’m thrilled to say that he was not in New York City when this happened.

On signing in to a major show where he was an exhibitor, Jake asked the clerk where the press room was so he could drop off his press kits. The fellow looked totally blank and Jake asked if he’d please find out. He placed a call on his walky-talky. Nobody responded.

noproblemJake got the impression that the sign-in clerk was hoping he’d shrug, say, “No problem, I really don’t need the information,” and go away. Instead, Jake said, “So where can I go to find someone who will know where the press room is?”

Jake followed the complicated instructions to find a show office in this huge conference center–down vast tracts of show floor to a staircase, which he mounted–and eventually he saw signs for the office. He entered. There was a man sitting at a desk, behind a computer, with a walky-talky on a desk. Their eyes met for a second and the clerk’s eyes returned to the computer. Still no greeting or sign of recognition: Total silence. So my client said: “May I ask you a question?” and did.

duhThe fellow still didn’t say a word. He looked at his computer and fiddled with the walky-talky and eventually told Jake that the press room was “down one level to the right.” But these fuzzy instructions in this huge edifice were useless. Jake asked for clarification. In a condescending voice, the clerk repeated what he’d first said adding a tad more directive.

When he entered what seemed to be the right place Jake called out, “Is this where I leave off my press kits for the show?” and immediately, someone came out from behind a curtain and replied, “Oh, I’ll take them! I help with the press.”

Jake observed, “Clearly, this was a PR type,” [Yay!] “She knew how to speak to people.”

I blame the show manager for not telling the sign-in staff where the press room is. How is the press going to find it? It’s tough on staff when they aren’t given the information they need to succeed. I bet that the incommunicative creature in the upstairs show office was the one who didn’t answer the sign-in clerk’s query. Think of the time and energy he’d have saved. I wonder who his model is and how he keeps his job.

Where and when have you encountered such service-killing nonchalance?

so

Service of “You Do It”

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

brokenumbrella

Walking down a Manhattan street early the morning after a bad storm recently I saw a remarkable number of broken umbrellas on the ground and I thought, “Why didn’t these people carry their umbrella to the nearest trash can? Why should anyone else lean over and pick up their busted bumbershoot to dispose of it?” I ask myself the same question when I see tossed items on an otherwise spotless RR platform.

dishesinsink1You do it” is an attitude in offices where a bunch of people use a communal fridge and coffee pot but most never clean up or police the equipment. There’s no guilt associated with adding to a pile of soiled dishes and coffee cups in the office sink or walking away from a conference table filled with debris from a meeting as though an imaginary maid will surely materialize to clean up.

Then there are the people who submit sloppy work to their bosses expecting them to catch typos, misspellings and inaccurate information as well as spruce up lackluster copy.

Isn’t that what other people are for, to do what you don’t want or can’t be bothered to do?

Where does this attitude come from? In what instances do you see evidence of such an approach? By asking you to comment, am I also suggesting you do it [my work]?

notmyjob

Service of Appointments

Monday, October 11th, 2010

appointment

One of the technicians in my doctor’s office told me what a now retired dentist patient mentioned to her. He said, “I wish that I had been a hair stylist because none of my female customers would have cancelled appointments with me as they did when they had a tiny headache or the inkling of a sore throat. When they didn’t feel perfect, they’d cancel with me but they’d never cancel their hair appointment.”

scardey-catAnd he’s right in my experience although I honor dentist appointments equally as half of the hard thing for me to do is to call up and make the appointment, the other half is to show up and get it over with. Sometimes I wonder if the anxiety over the whole thing is what makes me feel icky on doctor/dentist day. [I’ve noticed that connection with checkup appointments of any stripe. I’m a scaredy cat.]

And I admit to practically crawling to have my hair cut when I’ve felt dog-sick because looking at myself another minute when my hair cries for attention would send me over the edge.

But I’m the type that takes all appointments seriously. Not everyone does.

One person I knew through a professional organization pursued me for months to have a drink after work. I couldn’t duck any longer so we made a date, which she kept changing. This was fine with me as I didn’t want to see her in the first place and don’t like to cut my workday short to meet with someone I don’t particularly want to see. The day came and she pleaded with me to move the appointment from 6 pm to 5 pm which became horrendous for me, but to get it over with, I said, “OK.” I got to the place at 5 and waited. She had the audacity to arrive half an hour late. Throughout our time together, she kept looking at her Smartphone screen and taking calls and to this day, I cannot tell you the reason for this meeting, other than to assure me that my instincts about her were spot-on: She wasn’t worth my time. And I should have left the place when she was 10 minutes late.

churchI’d already written this post when I read the “Left at the Alter” letter to Philip Galanes in yesterday’s New York Times Style section. The letter writer and her husband left the church after an hour when the bride hadn’t yet appeared because they thought the bride was rude to keep a church full of people waiting. She asked Galanes if her action was defensible. I have a feeling that this wasn’t the first time the couple was kept waiting and they were acting out their annoyance at the bride’s incredible self-absorption and probably shouldn’t have accepted to go in the first place. That wasn’t Galanes’ answer.

Some doctors and lawyers consistently make patients wait having nothing to do with emergencies. Friends told me of having to wait at the bar of a well known NYC steakhouse for an hour after their reservation time and there were empty tables which they acknowledged were saved for regulars and celebrities. They eventually stalked out. Going to restaurants with my father was nervous-making because he didn’t care what the place was in the firmament of famous, if he had a reservation and if he was on time, he expected to be seated, period. If he wasn’t, there were words.

How long do you wait when someone is late to meet you? Now that so many people have cell phones, 10 minutes should do it, don’t you think? And unless you are meeting on the street, another option has always been to call the restaurant and ask the staff to give a message to the person you are meeting along with your ETA.

Have you changed doctors or lawyers or other service providers who routinely make you wait? What about friends and business associates who do so? Do you honor all appointments equally?

 clockwatching

Service of Dissatisfaction

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

dissatisfactionDiane Baranello of Coaching for Distinction just sent me, “Are You Being Served?” by James Surowiecki. The information in The New Yorker piece won’t surprise my readers. The author noted that these days almost nobody is happy–neither the served nor the servers. He also pointed out why employers don’t like to pay for service: It’s an expense with zero income-producing value in their opinion, and an easy cut in tough times.

Surowiecki referred to one survey taken a few years ago in which 80 percent of 300 large companies thought that they delivered “superior service” as compared to eight percent of consumers and he wrote “….one study suggests that only six percent of dissatisfied customers file a complaint.”

disgruntledSo what do disgruntled people do? I posit that they vote with their feet, though not all. Do most suffer in silence?

We walked out of a trendy bakery/restaurant the other week where we were ignored for several minutes by three people behind the counter. There was no “Hi,” “Be with you in a second,” or “May I help you?” When I asked my husband “What do you want?” as I was deciding whether a cranberry scone or a blueberry muffin was coming home with me, he replied: “To get out of here,” which we did. The place was almost empty, there were four customers at two tables. We passed by in the car the other day and crowds appeared to be leaving or entering.

Money goes to attract new customers, Surowiecki pointed out, instead of keeping existing ones. True to form, the bakery/restaurant has dotted the countryside with posters directing drivers to it and the place was given great coverage in a New York Times article about a month ago.

pileofmagazinesThis place isn’t alone to spend money to attract new customers and favor them. [We were new at the bakery, but as we were in the door, and there’s nowhere else nearby, I guess we no longer mattered.] Magazines use a model of spend-to-get-new readers and charge more to current subscribers. I refuse to pay the higher price for a magazine renewal for an expensive publication I’ve subscribed to for eons. New subscriptions cost $10 less. With my check, I send a copy of the blow-in card, circle the lower price and enclose a letter. It’s in my computer so doesn’t take but a second to change the date every year. The letter explains that I expect to be treated better than a new reader and to please honor me with the better price. It works. [I refuse to pay for any publication with a credit card. The thought of trying to break off the relationship with their ability to suck out any amount of money from me that they want–forever–gives me nightmares.]

I agreed with the author when he disclaimed the theory that poor service is caused by consumers who insist on cheap prices, thereby eliminating a business’s ability to provide good service. He mentioned Zappos.com, which in this context is the example de rigueur. We had a glitch this morning using FreeConference.com. I heard from Will Reed in customer service in minutes. Turns out we caused the malfunction. And back to the bakery/restaurant, how costly is it to say “hello, good to see you, be with you in a minute?”

I am sure that you can list many other moderately priced establishments both big and small that serve you well.  Won’t you please share? And we’d always like to hear of examples where you were a dissatisfied customer or employee.

fabservice

Service of Home Office Vendors

Monday, May 24th, 2010

home-office

Catherine C., who wrote “Service at the High End” on this blog, today shared her frustrations as a thriving business writer who works from a home office.

Even though you travel to an office, you still may work at home to sit a sick child; get away from office interruptions to finish a project or let in painters, plumbers or appliance repair people. I’ve been on morning conference calls where unexpected background shrieks interrupt–and Catherine wasn’t on the phone! She’s not alone.

She wrote:

windowwasherI just had my windows cleaned by a company I inherited with the house 26 years ago.  It’s been a good relationship. When I made the appointment, I told them I’d be on a teleconference when they came and didn’t want to be disturbed.

They told me what doors to leave open. So guess what:  I found a guy under one office window screaming into his cell phone and another on a ladder in the other window screaming into his. 

yelling-instructionsI cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to call a company and complain that the painters at my next door neighbors’ had their music up too loud and were shouting at each other.

Then there were the roofers who insisted on parking around my office to eat lunch while blasting their radios and stomping their boots.

I once had a tile guy who wouldn’t work unless he could blast his radio inside my house.

We live in a world where a home is also a place of business, for a large and growing number of people.  I can’t believe that window washers, plant caretakers, cleaning staff or maintenance people would enter a place of business during business hours and yell into their cell phones or to each other, or blast their radios. 

It’s bad enough that service people feel they can use your yard as their phone booth or dance studio, but when it’s your business as well as your home?  I’m not nice about it anymore.  I’ll call the company, go and get the foreman, or just yell myself.  Mi casa non su casa.

Has this happened to you? How do you handle it? Are you so relieved that a repair or maintenance person has come that you tolerate what you might not normally?

dancewithboombox

Service of the Passive Tense

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

firing1People use the passive tense to address something painful or uncomfortable such as a death or firing: “Joe will be missed.” Those words are removed from the situation and don’t tug at heartstrings. They are impersonal and far less difficult to say than “I or we will miss Joe.” I’ve always felt that this is why people who normally speak clearly revert to an archaic, haughty turn-of-phrase like this.

responsibility1A boss or parent who wants to duck confrontation might say, “Responsibility must be taken,” instead of “Felicia, please make this happen-I’m counting on you.” The first version is so fuzzy that the speaker risks nobody within hearing distance picking up that gauntlet. The effect? I predict inactivity and more increasingly desperate passive pronouncements.

Some think the passive voice is appropriate for formal occasions because it makes them sound elegant, like a proper English butler. “It is expected that our members enjoy the holiday punch,” makes my eyes glaze over and not because I’ve had too much of the spiked potion. So much more, well, punch accompanies “Members crowd the bar from Thanksgiving through New Years for the frisky fisherman’s punch.”

mountrushmore1The passive comes in handy when a writer doesn’t know something or can’t be bothered to look it up. “Likenesses of US Presidents are carved into a South Dakota mountain,” sounds as though there’s a chunk of information somewhere when actually the writer was too lazy to look up that “Gutzon Borglum sculpted the heads of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson,  Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln into Mount Rushmore, located in the Keystone, S.D. vicinity.”

Do you use the passive tense? When? Does hearing it spoken annoy you more than reading it?

lazy1

Service of Excuses

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Who hasn’t made a mistake? But sometimes, oversights and errors are deliberate.

Thanks to computers and people with lots of time on their hands, fists in the cookie jar, especially those belonging to high profile people or those who are blatantly greedy about the cookies they sneak, are outed.

Their transgressions are obvious. Their excuses are pitiable.

Take the spate of plagiarists in the news of late. Zachery Kouwe formerly of The New York Times–he wrote for the DealBook blog–lifted copy from The Wall Street Journal that covered a tangent of the Bernie Madoff story [of all topics…!]. According to John Koblin, writing in the New York Observer on learning of this, Kouwe’s bosses found six additional instances from the Journal and Reuters.

Koblin quoted Kouwe:

“‘I was as surprised as anyone that this was occurring,’ said Mr. Kouwe, referring to the revelation that he had plagiarized. ‘I write essentially 7,000 words every week for the blog and for the paper and all that stuff. As soon as I saw, I guess, like six examples, I said to myself, ‘Man what an idiot. What I was thinking?'”

Koblin quoting Kouwe again:

“In the essence of speed, I’ll look at various wire services and throw it into our back-end publishing system, which is WordPress, and then I’ll go and report it out and make sure all the facts are correct. It’s not like an investigative piece. It’s usually something that comes off a press release, an earnings report, it’s court documents.

“‘I’ll go back and rewrite everything,’  he continued. ‘I was stupid and careless and fucked up and thought it was my own stuff, or it somehow slipped in there. I think that’s what probably happened.'”

Writing for Salon, Laura Miller addressed the 17 year old German author of “Axolotl Roadkill,” Helene Hegemann. Miller wrote: “Hegemann lifted as much as a full page of text from an obscure, independently published novel, “Strobo,” by a blogger known as Airen.”

Miller again: “Count me among those who think that most plagiarism scandals are overblown.” But she didn’t include Hegemann among “most” plagiarists. Miller continued: “The daughter of an avant-garde dramatist, she says she practices ‘intertextuality’ and explains, ‘Very many artists use this technique … by organically including parts in my text, I am entering into a dialogue with the author.'”

Miller goes on… “If Hegemann intended to enter into a dialogue with Airen, she took pains to make it look like a monologue. If she viewed the writing itself as collaborative, she suppressed any urge to share those handsome royalty checks.’ Hegemann is up for a German book award, by the way.

And then there’s Gerald Posner, who borrowed words from the Miami Herald for an article in The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast‘s chief investigative reporter’s excuse was perhaps the nerviest of all. Quoted in Newsweek:  “‘The core of my problem was in shifting from that of a book writer-with two years or more on a project-to what I describe as the ‘warp speed of the net,’ Posner wrote, noting that since June 1, he had published 72 articles with ‘intensive reporting.'”

Plagiarism hits a nerve with me but there are all sorts of people lining up with excuses for wrongdoing from Barry Bonds, who didn’t know there were steroids in the cream he used, to Tiger’s sex addiction which he hopes takes him off the hook for his actions.  What wrongdoings bug you the most or what excuses are most memorable?

 

Service of Jobs with Many Layers

Monday, February 8th, 2010

I used to take a Brooklyn to Manhattan subway to work from a station that was the first stop in and the last one out of the borough. One rush-hour morning the subway heading to Manhattan arrived at the same time as the station filled with smoke. Soon, across the platform, an empty train came from Manhattan and I jumped in it just to get out of what was an alarmingly dangerous situation.

This wasn’t a standard station in which you could run up some stairs to get out on the street. This station was so deep down that it required stairs plus a very slow elevator to get out. We could all have been trapped.

Neither the conductor nor the motorman in the middle of the train used the loudspeaker to advise passengers to get on the other train. It seemed as though they didn’t understand that their job also consisted of communicating with passengers about safety issues. Perhaps they saw their function was simply to get the train from station to station.

How many other people we work or conduct business with or count on have the same lack of understanding about the depth of their jobs and responsibilities? A doorman does more than open the door, accept packages and sort mail. A pleasant greeting is essential and reacting with common sense to emergencies are just as important as the obvious parts of a job.

Even though we increasingly specialize, nobody is exempt: There are many layers of responsibility and expectation with every job. People who don’t get this [should] lose theirs.

A fabulous PR writer I know couldn’t juggle projects or cover various topics simultaneously, key to working at an agency. Another former colleague wrote brilliant PR proposals and press releases but fell down on client contact. His arrogant attitude with heavy doses of–  “if you don’t work in NYC you aren’t worth my time”– turned off clients most of whom were far smarter than he and from elsewhere.

Contractors who don’t get that the updates about disruptions to a remodeling schedule are as important as impeccable workmanship; haughty or disinterested restaurant wait staff; collaborators who don’t share and customer service people with chips on their shoulders have all missed important layers.

What are some less conspicuous aspects of the job you have–or the jobs you’ve observed–that must be done as well as the obvious and in a timely fashion? Do you think employers don’t always point them out? Should they have to?

Service of Speaking the Same Language

Monday, January 4th, 2010

I was looking for my favorite At-A-Glance monthly calendar at Staples when another customer mentioned how expensive all the agendas were, opening the path to conversation. I pointed out that in spite of electronic calendars on various devices I own, for me, there’s nothing like seeing the month on my traditional, lightweight At-A-Glance, where I add birthdays, anniversaries along with meetings and appointments. I noted that friends who depend on the calendars on their handhelds have been known to miss appointments.

 

The man–who was in his 50s–said he didn’t own a cell phone, a BlackBerry or a computer and on his behalf, I immediately revisited the feeling of panic I had when landing in Turkey for a two year stay speaking not a word of Turkish.

How could he possibly survive today without communications tools? I think you must be tremendously brave to venture into a country where you don’t speak the language, putting yourself in a vulnerable, scary spot. This stranger deliberately and similarly cut himself off.

Which brings me to what Claudia Chow wrote in the New York Times in the column “Complaint Box/And Another Thing,” December 27, 2009:  “As an Asian woman living in various Brooklyn neighborhoods for the last 13 years, I’ve experienced a lot of discriminatory behavior – from a man jumping in front of me yelling ‘Hi-yaa’ with karate hands to being called “chicken fried rice” on a subway platform. But what made me angry enough to write this was what I witnessed while waiting for the F train. It was late on a Sunday night and the F train, as usual, was under some sort of maintenance. If you could read the subway signs, you would follow the arrow pointing to the shuttle buses. But an Asian man could not understand the signs, so he approached an M.T.A. worker for help. Instead of showing him the way, she responded by yelling ‘Speak English, you’re in America!’ then proceeded to make funny sounds to mock his language before pointing the way to the shuttle bus.” Ms Chow continued “New York is an international city; not everyone is proficient in English. I find it disgraceful that a worker representing the city would behave in such a manner toward a non-English speaker. What happened to tolerance?”

 

Ms. Chow’s anecdote didn’t surprise me but it makes me cringe. I’ve been a tourist in foreign cities much of my life and I don’t recall ever being dismissed in this way.

My Dad came to this country speaking not a word of English at 36 and learned the language well enough to sail through the New York Times crossword puzzle and own and run an importing business here. But when he first arrived he must have stumbled in his attempts at communication until he became proficient in English, like millions of others.

I feel ashamed of Americans who treat people with such a lack of courtesy whether they live in an international city like New York or a tiny town in the Midwest. What part of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” don’t they understand?

 

What are your thoughts about this kind of behavior?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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