3 Words to Slay the Office Phisher

It takes a person of strong character to be the front line of defense.

At least a three dozen times in my career I’ve had to politely change the direction of a conversation. Or, not so politely but definitely directly.

Here are some prime examples:

Sabotaging Peers

“I need to see the (other) department’s projections so I can adjust my numbers”

“Did you ever have an issue with so-and –so? I had no idea there was an issue.

When a management team member is offsite for private meetings

“Do you know who they’re meeting with?”

“Do you know what meeting they’re at?”

When personnel changes start at the top

“What’s going on?”

“Are we being bought out?”

“Are other people leaving?”

“Do you know if they’ve hired the new (fill in position name here)?”

People can be downright sneaky and manipulative trying to get information from assistants under the guise of helping or speeding up the process. Sometimes it is just someone making ‘small talk’.

Usually these false entreaties are reflective of fear or lack of control over a perceived situation. The person or persons may think, sometimes incorrectly, that the assistant is in the know.

Slay the Office Phisher with these words

“I don’t know.”

Say it pleasantly. Say it with a smile. Be calm in your tone. Sometimes we have to repeat frequently. Stating it patiently over and over.  Other assistants I’ve known will use, “Let me get back to you” but then somehow forget to do so.

At a previous job I had a mid-level manager hassle me for a solid fifteen minutes. I finally put my hand up and said, “You know I’m not at liberty to comment on any of your questions, so please stop.”  The phisher was quite startled—enough so to mumble an apology and walk away.

Your reputation for being able to keep discreet information locked away is superbly valuable. It is important to employ these powerful words consistently and wisely

Five Things Learned from My Mentors

There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm. ~Willa Cather

I’m admittedly slow to pick up social cues, and sometimes slow to pick up on workplace politics.  I had the opportunity earlier this summer to talk about mentoring and it gave me the chance to reflect on the peers and supervisors in the workplace that have changed my approach to work and workplace shenanigans.  Many other career coaches will have undoubtedly already covered this topic… but here’s my take.

1. You don’t have to like or be friends with the people you work alongside… but you do need to be civil and respectful.

Early on in my career and sometimes now when I’m very tired and/or hungry, I’ll allow my disdain for someone else’s work style to show through in my interactions with them. Not cool.  Not professional.  I do not have all the answers to the problems of the world, and frankly aren’t we all just trying to get through the day without a major hassle?  Why make someone else feel less than.. just because I’m feeling less than..

2. Get plenty of sleep.

Having enough sleep allows me to be able to think clearly, calmly and not feel that every challenge is a crisis.

3. Appearance does matter.

Whether we like it or not.. it’s true. The more professional and business-like your wardrobe for work, the more people treat you in a more professional and business-like manner.

4. Don’t take yourself so seriously.

I’ve seen this comment traveling the twitterverse and blogsphere a great deal lately. It’s great advice.  Take the tasks and the deadlines seriously and set your self-importance to the side. You’ll get the job done faster and build better work relations.

5. Don’t make the mistake of caring (too much).

One of my supervisors once told me, ‘Foley, You made the mistake of caring.’  It wasn’t that I shouldn’t be invested in what I was doing but that I needed to put the situation, the work task and the challenge into perspective.  It wasn’t all about me.

It also follows that lovely quote about not ever seeing the quote ‘I wish I had spent more time at work’ on a gravestone epitaph.

Keep it in perspective.  How important really? Have I completed the tasks? Communicated to the rest of my department where I stand on my projects?  Then, I am good to move on to the next task, the next project or better yet, good to head home for the day.

Seems simple enough, right? For me, it’s always great to remind myself to go back to the beginning.

Adrenaline Rush.. on Line Two…

Ever have a client or vendor that made your heart rate jump just by calling you? What is it that triggers that fear? Anxiety? Dread?

For me, I know it is my own issue. As Bonnie Raitt says… “I can’t make you love me..” And, I cannot make these people love, nor like, nor respect me either. Yet, I constantly find myself hoping that this time.. just this time.. things will be different. (It’s like a bad marriage!) I’ll have my work done earlier. I’ll have it proofed by two senior management staff before sending it out. I’ll work over the weekend…. etc.

So, naturally, I need to be professional and mature about these reactions.. even if my client or vendor is not. And, quite honestly, I’m a sensitive person by nature. It’s truly hard for me to understand why another person cannot extend the courtesy of workplace respect. Why are they so bitter or harsh, even when you are helping them?

I had this eye-opening, apple doesn’t fall far from the tree- moment when our nine- year old daughter came home from school with the same sad tale.. a group of girls who just don’t like her.. no matter what. “It is how it is.. but we don’t have to like it”… is what I said to her. I guess I better take some of my own advice!