Make others feel comfortable around you, and you comfortable around them.
How long have you been working in a corporate environment? have been working for the past six years in a corporate environment. I have had ten managers. I have been promoted three times.
As an employee, I have accepted if my manager had time for me or not. As a colleague, I have always been helpful. Lastly, as a manager, I have had a strong desire to be one manager people would not leave.
It is a very standard and maybe uninteresting career path. However, there have been some bumps on the way.
So, now I would like to share three statements that stuck with me throughout the years. Let’s avoid these to be a better employee and a better manager.
1. Everyone is replaceable.
Well, well, well. This one is very harsh. I have heard it twice as an employee.
The first time was when I was working during my probation period. I made a mistake in an internal system, and my project got delayed. The report generated was not including all variables. I managed to fix it quickly. Yet, it didn’t become unnoticed.
My supervisor called me to a meeting and gave me the speech. I needed to do better to pass the probation period.
He said: “Look, Ivona, everyone is replaceable, so you better do your job.”
I got scared, and consequently, I was afraid of making any mistakes. For a brief period, I believed I was not good enough.
The second time I heard it was when a senior manager decided to leave the company.
At our last management meeting, the boss said the company would miss them, but he then killed the sentimental mood by saying: “Look, we are now strong enough to replace anyone.” That made me think about what kind of culture this statement created.
Two very different career moments, but similar in communication. As a new hire, I was not appreciated for the effort of ‘fixing’ my mistake promptly. Similarly, a senior manager’s efforts were dismissed by plans for his replacement.
Don’t say such a thing.
You surely do want to support the culture of appreciation and respect, rather than replacement. So, avoid it when commenting on other people leaving the company. Avoid it when you are a manager, and you deal with your team. Treat colleagues as people, not as office chairs that need to be filled.
2. You disappointed me.
I am guilty here. I said this to my employee, and trust me that I regretted it immediately after it came out of my mouth.
There was one internal project which was led by my colleague. She was supposed to cascade new information about it, but she was not comfortable with it. We had a meeting, and I suggested how she could approach it. However, it did not go well.
The presentation was bad. I was disappointed, the people at the meeting were disappointed, and it all felt like a waste of time.
When I met her later that week, I told her that she disappointed me. Silence. I broke the psychological safety. I disappointed her at that moment.
What disappointed me was that I didn’t succeed in helping my colleague to deliver a better presentation. Frankly speaking, that can happen. Not every presentation is ground-breaking. Therefore, instead of waving emotionally driven statements, it would have been better to discuss the presentation.
Say what went well and what didn’t and take learning out of it. The case is closed. The work of other people might not be perfect, but only your expectations can disappoint you at work, not them.
Strong personal statements do not belong to the corporate world. If you ever feel disappointed, and you are tempted to express it, think carefully about how you want to deliver it.
Always try to avoid any strong statement which would potentially harm your professional relationships.
3. It is your problem.
Is it really my problem? Or is it their problem? I often hear this in the office. Work is always someone’s problem. How determine whose problem it is?
At times teamwork and purposeful collaboration are the essential company values.
I often have to think about how people are unwilling to see their work in context. A project team works with several internal teams. One team made a significant mistake, which put the project at risk. The project manager complained that now he had to explain the problem to the client. That he had to explain their mistake. He suggested the division between them and us.
That is a dangerous statement because it establishes hierarchy.
It goes directly against the logic of teamwork and collaboration. I heard it so many times — they decided; they made a mistake; they did not deliver; they are messy, etc.
Well, that can be true. The way how I see it is that in the corporate world, there is only one team working altogether; regardless of the location and role description. Understanding that the project team is not isolated, and belongs to the bigger picture is important.
In the corporate world, problems need to be solved. Mistakes can be individual, but their solution is about teamwork and purposeful collaboration.
We all are in the same boat. Let’s not forget about that, please.
If you work in a corporate company, do not lose a sense of equality with colleagues.
They are not replaceable. Furthermore, they do not disappoint you or make mistakes on purpose.
Work is an effort unrelated to being a new hire or a seasoned manager. Being helpful and respectful make others feel comfortable around you, and comfortable around them.