Lessons learned

ARRRGGH! overlaid on email logo
Image modified from pixabay.com / CCO Public Domain

A brutal email from a co-worker received Friday has been eating away at me all weekend. I’m trying to brush it off. After all, I don’t believe it will have any long lasting repercussions, at least not for me. For her, it will reflect badly for some time.

She was angry, and the emotion came through loud and clear. Actually, the words screamed rage, and her statements came across as marching orders. This commandeering was inappropriate on several levels, First of all, I don’t report to her, and she does not outrank me. However, even if that was the case, it would not justify the harsh tone. In the corporate workplace, professionalism and civility should take priority in all communications. Unless, we’re on a coffee break and chatting about personal matters, the office is out of bounds for emotionally charged talk. Additionally, her boss had already emailed me about the matter and in a more civil tone, so the co-worker’s email was superfluous and came off as a cowardly attempt to distance herself from any shared blame.

Having said that, she had a point. I had handled a situation badly. With a demanding tone of voice that is counter to our company values, she previously asked me to perform a task out of scope for my job. I consulted others for direction who agreed it was in fact her role to execute this but recommended I compromise. As a result, rather than taking a clear position to either decline the request or accept the lead to get the job done, I engaged other stakeholders to get the ball rolling without sharing this approach with my co-worker. This backfired, and I knew there would be pushback. Her manager’s email to me, which included an apology for not setting clear expectations, was acceptable. The co-worker’s email, on the other hand, was over the line.

So, how do I deal with stuff like this and stop obsessing over it? I look for lessons learned from the experience to glean value from it. In the past, I tried to erase such experiences from memory but have since decided that is a futile exercise and a waste of potential opportunity. I prefer to discover a takeaway, now that I have already invested so much time stewing over it. Here’s what I plan to do and not do next time:

  1. Use her email as an example of what not to do should I find myself in her shoes. It is unprofessional, unbecoming, nonproductive and inevitably perceived badly by colleagues and those up the chain who have read it via copy or forwarding.
  2. I should trust my gut instinct about the potential fallout of my own actions and take proactive steps to avoid it.
  3. In the future, I would make it a point to respond decisively, albeit diplomatically, to inappropriate delegation of tasks.

I am also examining my work style. There was a time when I shouldered problem resolution to the point that I didn’t even ask others for advice or support. My approach was: my work, my problem. When I became aware of how frequently others consulted me or asked for help, I decided I had been foolish in feeling that I was always on my own. But I went to the other extreme by following advice I knew, though well-intended, was likely to end badly. From now on, I will look for the middle ground. Using others as a sounding board is fine but in the end, it may be better to use your best judgment based on experience and emotional intelligence to anticipate what will produce the most favorable outcome.

Advice from Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, and Suzy Welch

This LinkedIn post, Dear Graduate, Here’s How to Get in the Game, offers pointers to graduates that extend beyond the usual resume writing and interview skills:

    1. Seek the juncture of your strengths and passions rather than focusing on the compensation. The money will come.
    2. Before the interview, study the company well enough to be conversant on what matters to them.
    3. Benefit from your parents’ experience in communicating with professionals. Let your parents (or in my opinion, a mentor too) help you plan what to say, how to dress and how to follow up after an interview.

Congratulations class of 2015!

Keep your resume updated even after you land a job

Congratulations! You landed the job of your dreams, or perhaps a stepping stone in the right direction. Now you’re thinking, If I never write another resume again, it will be too soon. I know how you feel, but don’t be so quick to bury this job search tool in the bottom of a dusty drawer.

Though some believe the resume is dead, buried by LinkedIn and other sites that offer online profiles, traditional resumes still have value. They are requested by hiring managers for prospective employees as well as internal promotions even if you post your entire work history online. Updating it while details are fresh on your mind is the easiest way to keep it current. You never know when opportunity will strike, either within or outside the company.

The best resumes go beyond generic job functions, delineating key achievements. Add a section to your resume if not already present, entitled Key Achievements or Highlights. Then, when you are assigned to a special project or task team, earn an award for top customer service or sales results, or initiate an idea that improves processes or saves the company money, add a statement or two in that section. Also, remember to add a section for professional affiliations, industry-related enrichment courses and certifications.

An additional benefit to updating a resume is to ensure that career track changes are reflected on paper. For example, if you are a human resources practitioner who started out in recruiting, but veered off into the benefits function, add that dimension to your profile statement and work experience. Depending on your next career step, tweak the resume to place more emphasis on the portion of your job history that correlates with your targeted role.

Save the document to your desktop or a career folder, so it’s handy and not easily forgotten. Even if you hire a professional to develop it, having all the descriptions and dates recorded will expedite the process. Not only will documenting newly acquired knowledge, experiences and successes enhance your resume in real time, but it’s like giving yourself a pat on the back. We could all use a little reminder now and then of what we have accomplished.