Mind Your Manners

Something happened yesterday that I don’t think has ever happened to me before in my working career. Or if it HAS, it was so long ago I don’t remember it.

One of the many tasks I do for my team is to handle quarterly emails to executives about upcoming meetings. Yeah, that sounds amazingly simple and straightforward but there’s a reason why I do it and not the administrative assistant. There are a myriad of decisions that need to be made about these particular meetings: if the meeting is happening, who MUST be there, who is invited, who are other interested parties that must be informed and so on. These particular meetings can be very stressful for the participants as they are reporting back on their success/failure.

I inherited a standard email for these meetings and over the years I’ve modified it, and the process for sending them and acting upon responses. Timing is important because the administrative assistant needs the information to schedule these meetings. I start MY bit long before the meetings actually begin. I don’t make the decisions about who has to have a meeting – that information is conveyed to me by my team.

I have a moderate “success” rate over the years for getting responses from the executives. *grin* If I get 50% of them responding to me with changes or to say no changes, I consider that a smashing success. 🙂 Anything between 33%-50% is a good response. In other words, many of the people simply ignore the email. Even when the execs DO respond, we receive emails all the way up to and after the meeting with people asking to be invited or telling us they are no longer interested/needed on the call. It’s all fine – people are people and we can add and delete invitations.

I sent out my emails about a week ago. I asked the recipients to respond to me by the end of that week, giving them 4 days to review the proposed list of invitees. If this was a group that had already been in this process, it’s fairly simple to scan the list, and see who is no longer needed or who might be missing. This week I was told to add a few more executives to the meetings. Accordingly I tailored up my form letter and sent it to each of them, asking them to respond at the end of 2 days. These were all teams that had been through this process several times before.

Well. Last night (a little over 24 hours after I sent the email), I received a reply from one of the executives.

Ahuva, “to be honest – anything that is given only 2 days notice can’t be too important – so I won’t attempt to work through this.. ”

Well take my breath away. Isn’t it nice to be a VP and be snarky to someone you’ve never met on a topic about which you know very little? What if I were the CEO writing to him asking for a response within 2 days (or less)? Would he REALLY tell the CEO that anything that has only 2 days notice can’t be important? In his defense I will say that he is semi-new to the role, in that this is his first time receiving the email, but he HAS been an attendee at prior calls. So the concept of the meeting and the fact that there are a LOT of people on these calls, and the fact that they happen – none of that should be a surprise.

What a total ‘supply the derogatory term of your choice’.

I wrote a polite letter back within the hour (yes, doing all this after 9pm my time) finishing with take all the time you like to review. We’re going to schedule the meeting and we’ll update after the fact. I hope that he could read between the lines and hear things like “aren’t you a rude brat” and “we’re going to invite whoever and you can live with it” and “maybe as a newbie you should learn a little more about your responsibilities before you try to kick someone you think it’s safe to kick”. My coworker, who has to work with this character directly, seemed to think my response was very good.

I’m reminded of all those sayings along the lines of “be careful who you kick on the way up”. If this is how he treated me, imagine what he does to people with whom he’s really annoyed? If he was unhappy, hey, his peers simply ignore the email. That would have been a more mature response, odd as that sounds.

As a footnote, my administrative assistant gets this kind of nonsense every single quarter as she tries to schedule these meetings. Other admins give her grief because THEIR execs are soooooo important. People refuse to give time slots. They accept a time, the meeting is set, they come back and say no, that won’t work.

It’s not the need for changes. It’s the whole “I am so important and entitled.” It is so simple to be polite. Aim to be gracious, calm. Understand that there are live human beings with their own issues. Don’t pull the wings off of flies.

You Can’t Multitask

Oh sure, I know you THINK you multitask wonderfully. You think the people on the other side of your phone call don’t realize you are only there partially. You think you are MORE efficient because you are doing several things at once. Guess what. You’re not more efficient. You are less efficient. Worse than that, in my opinion, is that you are incredibly rude. Rude. Ill-Mannered. Offensive. You know what reaction you are getting on the other end of YOUR inattention? People are turning off and turning away. Hey – if this isn’t that important to you, it’s not so important to me either.

Do a search on the phrase “multitasking less efficient”. Before you can complete typing the word “less”, the suggested search comes back with the phrase. I was going to put in links to studies showing that people who multitask are: (1) the very ones least able to handle multitasking (2) less efficient than those who do not multitask (3) less productive than those who do not multitask (4) decreasing their brain functioning even when they are NOT multitasking (lowers your brain IQ by 10 points even after multitasking) (5) raising their stress levels (6) wasting 20-40% of their time. There were WAY too many links for me to choose one or two. Still think that multi-tasking is a good idea?

I was in a business meeting the other day. There were 3 presenters. Two of them had given their slides to the host and had the host advancing the screen. The middle presenter, who spent the first few minutes in group chat pointing out that his time was limited and he had to be on directly at THIS time and not at THAT time, chose to run his presentation from his machine. Not a problem except he did NOT bother to shut down all his instant message windows. Still not a problem except he chose to open them and answer while he talked to us. Really???? You are trying to tell us about the importance of your product, and you are opening IM windows??? Even though you were saying “can’t talk now”, you were interrupting your own presentation. How incredibly rude. How incredibly stupid. Even when you talked to us and stayed on the screen, your voice was distracted. We knew you were looking at your phone or looking at the blinking IM bar. The fact is, you were a bore. I don’t know about others, but I tuned out. You kept interrupting the conversational flow. I’m not even mentioning all the times you said “um” or “uh”. You are the LAST person I would ever invite to give a presentation.

I have phone calls all the time with people who are obviously doing something else while talking to me. The big irony is that typically it’s the other person who requested the call. I can hear the distraction in your voice. You can’t articulate clearly what you want. You forget what you were saying. You are rude. You are inefficient. You are wasting my time. When I hear you drifting away, I leave too. This is not productive. It’s also not how effective leaders operate. When I am on the phone with my VP, I KNOW he’s focused on our conversation. We rarely need the full 30 minutes we schedule because we are both focused and on-topic the entire time.

Come on, people. Wise up. (*laughing* Or as my friend Jane used to say “couth up”) If you are trying to communicate with another person, be it voice or written, FOCUS. I’m so tired of emails with misspelled words, extra words, missing attachments. Take the time to – oh my gosh – REREAD what you’ve written before rushing to hit send. If you are talking to someone, don’t be opening your mail or IMs. Focus on the voice on the other end. It doesn’t take that much time or effort. You’re not impressing people favorably. You’re not working well. You’re rude. You’re inefficient. You’re a bore.

I have some writing to do. Please excuse me while I set my status to “do not disturb”.