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Five Ways to Annoy Your Colleagues

Posted on May 18, 2010 by Arianna

Don’t understand why your co-workers dislike you? Well, here are a few common ways people annoy ones co-workers. Following these easy annoyances will ensure your co-workers will look forward to the day you are no longer with the company. Want harmony in your workplace, then I suggest you read and take heed.

Talking on your cell phone is one way to annoy your colleagues

1. Don’t carry your own weight

If you don’t do your part in a department then someone else has to do it for you. Someone will be left to pick up the slack, this inevitably causes resentment and can become a domino effect. Soon others will start slacking because you do it and get away with it. Next thing you know your department is crashing down in flames.

2. Be Sarcastic in work emails/chats

Being sarcastic with co-workers can lead to their disrespect of you, especially since sarcasm can’t always be detected in emails and chats. Thinking before you speak is too hard anyway so why try, right? Unless you believe your co-worker is your best friend, then its best to leave the sarcasm at home.

3. Talk down to your co-workers

Jumping on people when they ask a simple question is a great start to irritating your co-workers. Many people think that talking down to colleagues will build themselves up, but an “I’m better than you” attitude will not make you appear stronger. If not already an implemented rule in a company, then it should become one: Thou should respect thy co-worker.

4. Talk loudly on your cell phone/work phone

Your co-workers don’t need to listen to your cell phone conversations. More importantly, don’t have your phone so loud that people around you can actually hear the other person on the line. It’s not only distracting to the person sitting around you, but if you are really loud, then maybe even the whole company. Being a distraction will not look good on your next performance review.

5. Eavesdrop in others’ conversations

When someone comes and asks your co-worker a question, make sure that you answer before the person who was actually asked. In order to do this you have to be really good at eavesdropping. The definition of eavesdrop is to listen secretly to a private conversation of others. You can also turn around and include yourself in others’ conversations; this will irritate not only your co-worker but the other person asking the question. The wiser choice would be “Do not speak unless spoken to.”

 

All humor aside, it truly is important to make a good impression at work. Leaving a good impression and being likeable can lead to promotions, and co-worker support.

 

The Professional Conundrum: Excuses v. Acknowledgement

Posted on May 5, 2010 by Arianna

Skipper the Penguin from Madagascar

As a team leader I understand that people make mistakes, just as I make mistakes. However one of the best things to see as a leader is someone who acknowledges when they make a mistake, instead of providing an excuse for it.  I understand providing reasoning, but I would much rather see that acknowledge the mistake and learn from it, then to hear a list of excuses. Here is the bottom line when it comes to excuses - You will NEVER succeed in life or at your job if you don’t stop making up excuses.

I have read many articles on how to help employees overcome the urge to provide excuse after excuse. Kelly Ketelboeter’s article on employee excuses provides four steps to helping employees: listen, ask questions, use empathy, and sell the benefits. “Keep in mind when an employee is feeding you line after line of excuses they are really saying, ‘I’m not comfortable. I don’t fully understand. And I don’t see what’s in it for me."  Using the four skills outlined above will help you work through and overcome any excuse they throw your way.” As true as this statement may be, the truth is that we can only help employees to a certain extent. If you want to succeed at your job then work on listing the excuses you have used before, start addressing those excuses and take action.

Of all the excuses I have heard over the years, the worst thus far is “I didn’t know.”  My immediate response back is “Then why didn’t you ask?!” It truly is that simple. If you are given a task and you have questions, or red flags, then ask.  Don’t just proceed do the work and hope for the best, especially because chances are you are doing the job wrong. Asking questions will help you understand your task and will allow you to accomplish it correctly, not only will you get your job done but you will also show your leaders that you are truly engaged in the process, and interested in having a clear understanding of your job. Believe me, anyone interested in learning their job well is noticed when it’s time for employee reviews.

Blaming others for your mistakes is also far too common. When some people realize they have made a mistake it can be a natural reaction to try to find someone else to blame it on.  Cowardice is the only word I can use to describe people who blame others and in reality this is just another form of an excuse. Eventually this employee will realize that they are slowly but surely losing respect from their manager and colleagues – guaranteeing their failure at the company. Throwing others under the bus to cover your own misgivings will only lead to a reputation of being someone who is untrustworthy.

If you have been giving excuse after excuse for every mistake you have made, it’s definitely time for you to change. The next time you think about giving an excuse, whether it’s for a mistake you made, the unmet goal, or late project, try to remind yourself: No Excuses! Like Skipper the Penguin from Madagascar said “Don’t give me excuses, give me results!”

 

 

Correcting the Case of the Monday’s

Posted on December 29, 2009 by Arianna

Being happy at work makes the difference between having the case of the Monday blues and having a “Thank God it’s Monday” attitude. According to this article, people fear Monday mornings, and experience anxiety on Sunday nights. Many of us can relate to having Monday blues. Ask anyone what their favorite day of the week is vs. their worst day of the week, you may find that Friday and Monday would be the most common answers. Well, I did my own research and among all my our co-workers at Gordian Project the most common answer for worst day of the week was Monday, and the favorite was actually Saturday. Monday was seen as the worst and most boring day of the week.  Just because the Monday blues is so common does not mean that we have to accept them with open arms. How many of us want our Sundays to be relaxing, looking forward to Monday morning because work can be fun? Here are some tips on how to not only get rid of the Monday blues, but also how to be happy at work on Monday and as many other days as possible too.

Office Space: Case of the Mondays

    1. Show up on time. There is nothing worse to start your day than showing up late.  Once you’re at work give it 100 percent of your attention. Fortunately, many of us have breaks which can help relieve our distractions. If you find yourself zoning out or focusing on other things which are not work related then take your break, but once your break is over it's back to work.

 

    1. Have a positive attitude. With a positive attitude you will always beat the Monday blues. Being positive not only helps you deal with the day ahead, but will also affect those around you, creating a trickle effect of happiness.

 

    1. Make Mondays a fun night. Plan a family game night or go to dinner with your spouse. Planning a fun evening will most definitely have you looking forward to Mondays. Just a warning, don’t stay up too late on Monday nights, because then we’ll be faced with having to attack the Tuesday blues!

 

    1. Take each day as it comes. Focus only on today; don’t worry about tomorrow because you can honestly say you don’t know what tomorrow holds. Every day consists of completing tasks which can also bring little victories that make our days brighter. Don’t forget to celebrate those small accomplishments because celebrating accomplishments will foster a positive attitude.

 

With this new mind set, positive attitude, and the belief that you can be happy at work, you will notice that come Monday morning when your alarm goes off you will wake up with a smile. It truly doesn’t take much to change the way you start your week; you can be happy at work, and look forward to the beginning of your week without the Monday blues.

 

The Costs Associated with Unsalable Inventory

Posted on October 15, 2009 by Arianna

As I looked at our warehouse, I felt overwhelmed at the number of items we have in stock, and began to wonder how long these products have just been sitting here.  This made me contemplate, “Does it really matter that we have so much stock? We’re going to sell it one day, and if an order is placed, then at least we know we have it in stock and ready to ship.”  The question that I should be asking is: “Does it really matter that we have so much inventory obsolescence?” The answer to that issue is yes.  There are large costs that are incurred by carrying inventory that will become or has already become obsolete.

Inventory obsolescence happens when inventory is no longer salable; this tends to happen when we have too much inventory on hand, when products are out of season, or when demand is decreasing.

Warehouse and Supply Chain Managers need to be aware of the costs associated with inventory obsolescence so that they can properly manage their departments and budget accordingly.  I’ve put together a basic list of costs associated with stocking unsalable inventory.

Below are some of the costs that are associated with stocking inventory that is no longer salable:

Labor Costs- Labor spent on obsolete inventory is wasted labor. Employees have to spend time stocking products, picking, relocating, and taking inventory. The more inventory on hand, the more time is spent on performing these activities, thus the higher the costs.

Equipment Expenses- When inventory begins to grow, the need for racks, shelves, pallets, and maybe even a larger warehouse also grows. Not only are these costs fairly high, but these tools can also become damaged and worn.  When this happens these tools will need to be replaced. Equipment expenses are ongoing operating costs. 

Opportunity Costs- This affects us more than the others. When obsolete items are stored, the opportunity to stock more of the products that are in a higher demand is out of the question. Not only are customers not provided with the newest trends or “in” products, but the sales that could be acquired are essentially lost.

There are other types of costs that should be taken into consideration. Charles Atkinson’s article on When to Get Rid of Stock explains that when a company realizes that it is not profitable to keep such inventory, their best choice is to get rid of the stock they do have. Whatever the outcome maybe, the key is to develop some type of inventory obsolescence program that will save the company money in the long run.

 

 

Time-Based Management vs. Results-only Work Environment

Posted on October 8, 2009 by Arianna

If you look at the history of work we can see that the way wages were calculated has changed quite a bit. Before the invention of the assembly-line production people’s pay was determined by the amount of work done. After the great restructuring, pay was measured by the amount of time or hours it took to get work done. As of recent there has been talk about whether the End of Time-Based Management is near. Before we determine whether work environment will be going back to its roots, we need to understand what ROWE (Results-only Work Environment) is.

ROWE was developed by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, Best Buy HR Managers. ROWE is a management view which believes that trusting employees to manage their time will increase productivity in the workplace. Departments that have been using ROWE have reported increased amount of productivity, Best Buy alone had a 35 percent increase. Recently, Gap Outlet migrated 137 Corporate Headquarters employees to Results-Only Work Environment and their success has been amazing; according to Cali and Jody’s blog “voluntary turnover rate dropped by 50 percent and employee engagement rose by 13 percent”.

How it works:
“In a Results-Only Work Environment, people can do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done.” This isn’t just time flexibility, according to Cali and Jody a true ROWE has unlimited paid vacation time, no set schedules, no mandatory weekly meetings, and no judgments from co-workers or bosses about how employees spend their days. Trust is one of the key elements of ROWE, managers must trust employees to get their work done so that their performance and pay can be evaluated based on what they accomplished, not how many hours they spent looking “busy” at work.

Why it works:
ROWE forces all employees and managers to be clear about their job descriptions and expectations. Teams learn how to work together more effectively while motivating and retaining employees. Though ROWE can also expose underperformance, the end result provides a company with stronger teams that can make the company grow.

Who it works for:
ROWE would work for anyone whose work revolves around projects or tasks. However, in order for ROWE to be effective, there needs to be a strong goal-oriented manager that can provide employees with a clear understanding of what is expected of them. ROWE is a bit complicated when it comes to hourly employees or those whose jobs do not entail completion of projects; but the shifting from thinking about work in terms of time to thinking about work based on performance can still be effective.

Moving a department to ROWE is a drastic change that companies might not be willing to make. However, though the complete program might not be a feasible option, adopting new habits that can refocus your team on results instead of time-based, can be of a great benefit as well. Whether you decide to make the big change or not, I suggest that you first read Cali and Jody’s list of 10 ways to get ROWE working for your team.

 

Effective Delegation for the Do It Yourselfers

Posted on September 14, 2009 by Arianna

Our Supply Chain Management department has been not only growing in size, but also in responsibilities. Our team has literally tripled in size over the last year, but along with that we have more projects and actual deadlines. As scary as that might sound our team is in the process of not only knowing what team work is all about but truly understanding it. I am, like many of you might be, the kind of person that agrees with the statement “If you want something done right, do it yourself”, but there is a point in which one person can’t do all things and delegation is about handing over authority, projects, tasks, etc. This is a scary concept for many because a person can’t know 100% of what will occur once responsibilities are handed over.

Delegating has been one of the hardest things for me to learn and a recurrent process.  There is continual room for improvement in the effectiveness of how, where and who you delegate to.  If there’s anything that I have learned thus far about delegation is that it’s a two-way process. If the individual assigning responsibilities are competent in delegating to the department but the employees receiving the tasks don’t understand what the process should be or what is being asked of them, then the process will break. The same goes if the situation is reversed.  These four suggestions will help you begin to develop your delegation skills and avoid potential errors in the future:
 
Choose the Right Person
Consider what that person can bring to the task and how the task will impact that person. One of the rewards of delegating is that you allow that person to grow in the experience and perhaps even in the company. In other words, your reason for considering a person should be more than “I like this person a lot – they laugh at my jokes all the time”.

Explain the Task
Always provide the “what” the “when” and if possible the “how”. Assuming that the person will know exactly what to do and what you expect is an unfair expectation. Please note that picking up your dry cleaning, making coffee, and getting you lunch, are not appropriate tasks to be delegating.

Provide Support
It is important to be available for any questions or concerns that the person may have. The fact is that people learn with experience; there will be times when a person might complete a task perfectly with little to no guidance, but the truth of that matter is that everyone needs a little direction and support. Check in with them often and do not discourage questions – the more questions they ask the better they will understand the project.

Give Feedback
Constructive feedback is the most valuable way to improve performance. Note exactly what it was that the person did that blew you away. Once you tell them what they did well, then you can also give them advice on what they can improve upon.

Businessballs.com has an easy to use SMART planner template which can help you dive right in to designating projects to your team. Once you feel like your expertise in delegating has advanced you can remove tasks on your own “To Do List”; giving you the opportunity to focus on larger projects that can more effectively impact the company. I leave you with this quote by Robert Half “Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too”.

 

Meeting Consumer Expectations: Getting it Right Prior to Order Placement

Posted on July 28, 2009 by Arianna

Keeping customers happy is one of the key elements to company growth. Providing the customer with a user friendly website, easy and quick returns policy, and an understanding of how our processes work will ensure that our customers stay happy. One of the most common reasons for returns, chargeback’s, and negative feedback stems from not meeting customer expectations. If a customer misunderstands the description of a product, believes that an email response time was beyond their allotted wait time, or didn’t thoroughly read the shipping process, then, depending on their order, we may not have met their expectation.

Setting product expectations will help customers understand what they are ordering. Clear and concise product descriptions are a must. They should always include specific product information such as dimensions, weights, colors and finish and should also include clear succinct images.

When it comes to shipping, one difficult lesson, learned only through experience is that customers don’t understand shipping processes.  Yep I said it.  Unless a consumer has been in the industry, has had experience with different types of shipments: expedited, LTL, etc. it is really difficult to communicate shipping processes.  Clients often believe that if they order an item on a weekend that the order will arrive to them in three days.  Unfortunately for our consumers most of our warehouses aren’t shipping on weekends, which we are grateful for.  That’s just one example, freight shipments can be difficult as well, we have specific emails that go out to consumers that have freight orders to try to combat this issue alone.  Educating customers by providing an upfront shipping section that explains rates and policies on the website will help customers fully understand what it takes to ship their order.

Having a user friendly website, communicating and setting expectations with your customers will allow for fewer returns, less chargeback’s, and an improved user experience.

 

Emotional Blogging: Reputation Nightmare or Instrument?

Posted on July 16, 2009 by Arianna

As I was thinking of a topic for my blog, I remembered what a frustrating day I had on Friday and decided to blog about my frustration; however I began to wonder if being emotional while blogging would be beneficial, not only to me but to the company and our audience. As much as I want to vent and tell the world of the issues I had to deal with, I believe that there is a fine line between great, helpful, and useful content and just a lot of content [venting or whatever it may be on any given day].  While this line is fine it should be well defined.

There are two different approaches to blogging while under the influence of emotion. You can choose to simply vent or you can choose to find a solution as to the reason why you are venting. Blogging to merely expel stress will only provide you with the satisfaction of expressing your feelings, but can cause you to write things that you may regret later. This ultimately causes two problems: the feeling of satisfaction that you had when you hit publish likely dissipated quickly, and those “things” that you wrote will have a longer lasting impact than the feeling of satisfaction that you were blogging for in the first place!  

Healthy venting as I like to call it, is a simple concept based on practical reputation management practices, it allows you to depend on your emotions to tell you what to blog about but doesn’t allow your emotions to write your blog. For instance if you are asked to create a report that has you pulling hairs, you can blog about resources you found to make it easier to complete the report or about the lack of resources or suggestions for creating efficiencies that would ultimately save the organization dollars.  Instead of blogging about the ridiculous report you have to create and why you believe it’s unnecessary.

On the flip-side, The Reasoner wrote an article about this same issue, providing us with good reasons why emotional blogging may be a good thing. What do you think? Do you think blogging just to vent is a good idea?

 

Business Email Etiquette: Reading, Writing, and Responding

Posted on June 9, 2009 by Arianna

As I waited patiently – well for the most part, for a response to an email I sent a supplier a few hours ago I began thinking about the email I had sent, and about the response time I was expecting.  Dealing with suppliers, potential providers, consumers, upper management, industry partners, etc. we need to realize that an email says a lot about a person and the company. There are also rules that need to be followed when communicating as a representative of your company, whether your organization has chosen to publicize them or not.

As I continued to wait for the supplier’s response, I began realizing that I demanded more of those receiving my emails, then what I provided to those who sent me emails. So what is the rule, if any, for how fast or how slow we can or should be responding to emails? Should our first response should be as soon as possible?  Or does it depend on the circumstances?  The reality is that we only have so much time in a day, and some emails are more important than others. We have to keep in mind that the sender knows that their email is in our inbox waiting to be read, if we disregard the email with no follow up of “Let me work on this and I will reply shortly” the sender may assume that we are just ignoring them. This is how I feel when I don’t receive a timely response, but I also realize that there are some people in our organization that literally can’t get to every email they receive in a given day so that’s not a realistic thought either. After looking for a specific time frame on what an appropriate email response time would be, and not finding it, I decided to suggest my own. I believe that 48 hours from the time an email is received is a suitable time frame for best practice.  Keeping someone else held up any longer on a given project and the perception of being dependable and communicative goes straight out the door.  

We have to remember that an email is not just about us and how busy we are; it is also about the sender who is expecting a response to their issue or question. Showing the courtesy of responding with our status will portray efficiency and someone who is dependable with correspondence. Often times a simple “I will get back to you as soon as I can”, response will avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Business partners will not only appreciate our timely responses, but in return will feel a sense of delight when they see our email in their inbox.

So next time we skip over that email that has been in our inbox for over two days, we need to remember the golden rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.

In the infancy of eCommerce the environment could be described as, laid back, which helped lead to a miscalculation of the importance of email, and even the use of email as an informal business tool.  There are many reasons why people need to be careful with what they say in an email.

Keeping three basic rules in mind should alleviate email communication faux pas:

Communicate with Clarity
Make sure that the information provided in an email is communicated with clarity. Many times we respond to emails with one-line replies. Not only can we not provide enough information in a one-line reply but we can also come off as rude and demanding. Communicating with clarity can be simple when an email is broken down. For example if there is a question to be answered and the answer has multiple parts number them or utilize bullets.  Also remember, that when replying to an email always try thank the sender for the information they provided in their previous email, it’s just good manners.

If you wouldn’t Say it to their Face…..then DON’T Write It.
Because an email helps avoid face to face confrontation people tend to be daring when emailing. When you are upset in an email, this first thing to remember is to take deep breaths and re-read the email to make sure that you understood it correctly. Speed reading is one of the main pitfalls that lead to miscommunication.

You are your Email
Think of the email you are sending as a description of you. If you are rude in your email, then you probably look like a rude person; but if you are helpful and understanding in your email then that IS probably who YOU are. Politeness in an email shows that you are professional, courteous, tactful, and educated – all attributes that a Business person should encompass.

It seems that the younger generations are getting closer and closer to utilizing email in the same ways they are using texts and instant messages. Please remember that grammar is still an essential part of an email; they are nothing like IM conversations or texts. Emails need introductions, a body, and a conclusion. Though these guidelines may be forgotten one day, let’s try to keep emails as professional as possible. 

  

How to create a Business Process Map in Three Easy Steps

Posted on May 27, 2009 by Arianna

A Business Process is a way of defining what steps to take, what responses are required, and actions that need to be taken for any given task. As I prepared to create a Warehouse Process and corresponding flowchart I realized that finding a starting point was just as difficult as the task itself. What I found that helped me the most was creating and documenting the process in the form of a Business Process. I am not quite done with this project, but these steps are making it a lot easier for me to stay focused and clearly work toward the end result. There are three steps that I found to be the most helpful in creating our processes and flow chart.

Identify

The first step is to identify the processes. For example a Warehouse Process Map will need sections for inbound, outbound, inspections, etc. Figuring out all of the processes to identify in a process map will make the process organized. It is recommended that the processes be outlined in the way the processes are played out. A Warehouse Process Map would have the first process be Outbound, then Inbound, then Inspections and so forth, all in which the order of operations is performed.

Discuss and Document

The second step is to discuss and document. It is essential to get a full understanding of ALL the steps involved in any given process. Often times a process map creator, like me for instance, lays out the steps without fully understanding them. Discussing the steps with employees that carry these functions out will ensure that the process map is as accurate as possible. This is often the most time consuming portion of the project. Obtaining the required information involves sitting with employees and having them describe what they do step-by-step. After this, time is spent in documenting the steps in a word format. Below is a simple example:           

I. Inspection
        1. Don’t Want Returns
            a. In Resalable Condition:  Check Qty Approved → Check Qty to Stock → Click Process
                  →  Refund Tab → Add to Warehouse Inventory → Complete

Chart

The third step is to create a flow chart. A flowchart is a visual presentation of the steps involved in the process that is being mapped.  The process map consists of many different symbols that indicate a decision, or the beginning and end of a task. The flow chart is the tool that can be used to train new employees to clearly explain the tasks that need to be followed in order to complete a task.

Sample Flowchart

 

Sample Flow Chart

 

Review

The final step is reviewing the process map and flow chart. The easiest way to do this is to again take time with each employee and get their thoughts or suggestions in making the process map and flowchart better, more accurate, inclusive of process responsibilities, and amend it accordingly. Remember that these processes are not set in stone. Methods can change periodically, especially if new technologies or tools are obtained.

The time taken to create a process and flowchart may be substantial, but knowing that each employee has a tool that diagrams exactly what is expected of them is beneficial not only to the employees, but to the company, and ultimately to the customer.