Thursday, December 18, 2014

Five Ways To Correct Embarrassing Writing Mistakes At Work

We send a work-related email or text, only to realize seconds later that our message contains a very embarrassing spelling error. Oops. Okay, now what?

If we work long enough, an embarrassing spelling error on the job will happen to us. We meant to write the word "duck" but "d" sits precariously near "f" on the keyboard. Unfortunately.

Then there's Autocorrect, which is supposed to make our lives easier when it's actually making modern business communication much more difficult, since we must make sure that Autocorrect hasn't made us sound completely incoherent on top of our own spelling mistakes.

FYI: I left the report on top of Bill's filing cabernet. I'm out of the office for the rest of the day, but just massage me if you have any questions. Thanks!

Yes, we'll make sure to massage you if we have any questions, and we wonder if Bill's cabernet is full-bodied with an affinity for oak. Rest assured, we can probably figure out what you meant to say. Every Autocorrect mistake is like a fun, little puzzle for us to solve.

It's not just our spelling that presents problems, however. Misplaced modifiers can be unintentionally hilarious, and our phrasing could use some work here and there. It's all in the details.

Sally removed her tube top and everything spilled out all over the place. Otherwise, everything OK here. We'll have the conference booth up and running shortly!

Er, we probably should have said that Sally was removing the POP TOP FROM HER POSTER STORAGE TUBE stuffed with candies to share with conference booth visitors and a bunch of candies fell on the floor -- or something similarly innocuous and much more concise. For a moment, however, the message recipient undoubtedly is busting up, no pun intended. The phrasing is as important as the detail.

The point is, writing mistakes of all kinds happen, we proceed to hit send, and now we have to figure out a quick course of action for correcting our rather embarrassing error. How do we go about this?

Well, we can either send a quickly follow-up email or text to correct the subtleties of our writing, or simply hope the reader is too tired, or busy, to notice. Most likely, however, the reader will notice, and that's what worries us into a quick follow-up reply. We feel compelled to say something, anything, in response. One more time, only this time with stellar spelling stuffed between two asterisks for emphasis.

**cabinet** and **message**

Why the asterisks? I don't get it, and I see it all the time. It's a curious evolution in corrective language in the Internet age.

But we're here to talk about how to correct the spelling error we've just made! Without further delay, here are five common ways to handle our embarrassing business communication mistakes. Go ahead and pick the one that fits the occasion:

1. Blame Autocorrect. We write the message recipient back to blame Autocorrect, which could very well be the truth these days. A good sense of humor helps, if it's appropriate to the person's personality and the work situation. Everyone has been unknowingly Autocorrected. We can always turf off Autocorrect.

**turn** off.

2. Blame the tiny keyboard. This excuse works well for tiny keyboards on smartphones and tablets. The letters on the keyboard are too close together, and well, a mistake happened. BTW, did you get my message about the report on Bill's filing cavimer?

3. Blame multitasking. With employees doing five things at once, this is a very convenient excuse. Plus, it makes us look distracted but busy, which is better than looking distracted but bored, right?

4. Blame the kids, or the pets. Saying, "Sorry, Bugle the Dog pawed the keyboard and I caught his 'changes' too late" works well for random gibberish we've inserted into our messages. Do we need to tell the message recipient about the binder resting on the edge of the computer keyboard that messed up our previous message?

5. Blame ourselves.Ah, yes. We choose to place the blame squarely where it belongs: On ourselves for not paying attention! We spelled it wrong, and now we're going to own it. No excuses, full stop, full speed ahead. Do we get brownie points for honesty?

Do smartphone-enabled employees still care about grammar and spelling, however, or has texting and instant messaging made us much more accepting of each other's writing mistakes? It's one thing if we're job hunting, but our co-worker more than likely understands because it happened to him last week when Autocorrect turned "as" into "ass." The evolution of wireless business writing represents a whole, new sort of business casual.

At the very least, our work-related spelling errors can add a bright spot to a dull work day that will have us chuckling all the way to quibble time. Oops. I mean **quitting** time. But you know what I was trying to say.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Season's Grievances: When Co-workers Call In "Sick"

All right, we've spent enough time discussing holiday gift-giving in the workplace. It's time to talk about our co-worker who is giving our holiday-harried workplace the slip to learn Van Halen songs!

Do you know that December is the month when employees are most likely to call in "sick"? An October 2014 CareerBuilder survey exploring the "most creative employee excuses" says so! More than 20% of employers surveyed said that December is the worst month for unscheduled employee absences, followed by January and February.

The fact that it's a December to remember to skip work doesn't seem all that surprising. December means flu season, and our co-worker may truly be feeling under the weather today. Chances are good, however, that at least one of our co-workers will soon be feeling "sick" in a I'm-sick-of-work kind of way. Funny how it always happens on a Friday or a Monday, huh?

Back in the old days [read: The 1990s], the only way to know that co-workers were faking it until making it back to work was to bump into them at the grocery store, where curiously, they were looking as chipper and healthy as can be. It's like the time we skipped an 8 a.m. class to sleep in, only to run into the professor a few hours later in the student union building. It's Murphy's Law that when we're out "sick," we'll be sunk in person when we least expect it.

Oh, hi! [Fake, exaggerated cough, fake, exaggerated cough...] I just came in here for a minute to look for cough medicine. Then why are you in the party supplies aisle with a giant container of hot 'n spicy chicken wings, Doritos and beer in your cart? Hmm.***

Now employees are busting themselves on social media without anyone having to leave the office. Social media is the modern-day equivalent of a huge, online grocery store! One in four employers (24%) will catch an employee lying about being sick this holiday season simply by checking their social media pages. More than one-fifth (22%) of these employers will proceed to fire the employee, too.

Many employers will be in the holiday spirit, however, and let bytegones be bytegones: More than half (54%) will simply tell the employee to never, ever let it happen again. Ever.

By the way, which career fields boast the highest number of "sick" employees during the holidays? Well, our friends in Professional and Business Services tend to call in sick most often (35%). They're probably out of the office trying to decipher what "Professional And Business Services" means just like the rest of us. Sales employees come in a close second (34%). Please leave another message, thanks!

There are a few fields, however, where employees will stick around like glue this holiday season. Employees working in IT, Retail and Leisure and Hospitality jobs are the least likely to call in sick, according to CareerBuilder. Make sure to thank them for showing up, will you?

So what have we learned from this short, random post? One, that a few of our co-workers will be calling in "sick" soon, and our gut instinct will tell us they're probably lying; two, employers are using social media to bust today's "sick" employees; three, it took a huge dose of happenstance on our lunch break to bust a "sick" co-worker back in the 1990s; and four, our co-workers in outside sales will be largely "out of the office" until January.

The IT department will be on call the entire time, though. Hey, we don't want to the computers to come down with a nasty virus, do we?

*** Any resemblance to 1990s-era actual work situations is completely unintentional.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Here's What Not To Get Your Co-worker For Christmas

We need to buy our co-worker a BIG REVEAL present for the Secret Santa is finally over office party on Friday, but we don't know what to buy. Never fear, because Consumer Reports is here with a survey that reveals what we don't want for Christmas!

The Consumer Reports survey examines our least-favorite gifts this year. Specifically, the gifts we might receive outside the office environment. However, we can go ahead and extrapolate that if it's a gift we don't want to receive at home, then we probably don't want to received it at work, either.

So let's cut straight to the chase! Er, perhaps should I say straight with no chaser, because hard liquor in any form is apparently our least-desired holiday gift this year. Of course, we wouldn't buy a co-worker a big bottle of whiskey and present it to him or her at work because we're smart and know better, right? Right. The point is, our friends and family outside of work don't like hard liquor as a gift, according to the survey.

What else is on our "do not want" list? Plants and flowers. Our little flora friends look so nice sitting on the outdoor shelvery at Home Depot, Trader Joe's and everywhere else, don't they? Plants and flowers are an easy gift -- at least for us as the gift giver! All we have to do is offer up a plant paired with a pretty bow, and then we can wipe our hands clean of any involvement. It's the recipient who has to dig deeper, but does our co-worker have a green thumb? Um. Not only is it a plant, it's one of those small, exotic plants with the fragile flowers that needs just the right amount of light, water, food, and perhaps most importantly of all, a plant handler with the right temperament to guide this plant eventually into a larger planter pot. (ProTip: Never ask how the plant is doing.)

Next up: Books. Who has time for the written word anymore? If we wait a year or two, the best full-length books will be made into a bad movie or a two-hour Lifetime special. Besides, we have too many things going on at home after work -- catching up on personal email, shopping, taking care of kids, cleaning up, doing laundry -- to find the energy for a little bit of late-night reading in bed. We'll just surf Twitter on our smartphones with the bedroom TV blaring as the books on our shelf gather dust. Can we simply read the dust jacket and call it good?

What else is on our "do not want" gift list this year? Kitchen items, clothing and food. Kitchen items because fewer people cook from scratch anymore, and in the worst case scenario, cooking items could be taken as a personal insult. You think I have time to cook?! I'm a 21st-Century, modern working professional! I. GET. TAKEOUT!!! Clothing makes the list because, presumably, it will always be the wrong size, material or style. And food? Well, it will probably be the wrong kind, consistency or taste. And have I mentioned food allergies? In other words, these items can be tricky business unless we know someone very, very well, and even then they might not appreciate our gift. Maybe a gift card to our co-worker's favorite take-out place would be more appreciated?

A small percentage of those surveyed (3%) do not want gift cards, either. But that means a whopping 97% do, so it's a good option.

So, there we are. A quick guide to the gift items we should avoid inflicting on our co-workers this holiday season! In summary, avoid gifts that are either remotely distracting or inherently time-consuming, because don't have time for anything anymore. It's something to keep in mind as we debate whether our BIG REVEAL Secret Santa gift will be a clearance rack book or a small plant, or both. For the third year in a row. Shh, we won't tell.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

CFOs: Managing Millennials Is More Work Than It's Worth

Ah, the Millennials! We can't read the business section anymore without finding at least one article about how awesome they are, and how management should bend to their every workplace whim. A new Duke University/CFO Magazine survey, however, finds companies are starting to quit the Millennial generation due to its workplace-diva ways!

Now as The Workplace Diva, the definitive workplace source for all things trivial and annoying, reading that the Millennials are verging into my turf got my attention. I'm kidding, of course, but this survey could be all kinds of serious so let's take a quick look.

While the CFOs surveyed said the Millennials as a whole are more tech-savvy than employees over age 35, they're increasingly way too entitled and disloyal to be worth the trouble. It sounds like the Millennials are sort of like dating a high-maintenance person who expects to be catered to without bringing much of anything to the table? It gets tiring after awhile, and we start to wonder what our old flame (the one over age 35, ahem) is up to these days.

Now for the real kicker: More than one-quarter (27%) of CFOs surveyed said that the Millennials care more about their own development (gasp!) than furthering the interests of the company!

It can't help that the Millennials don't like to be in the office, which we discussed earlier this year while they were out kayaking during the work week.

Perhaps there's hope yet for employees and job seekers over the age of 35 as management re-discovers our hard-working, diligent, semi-loyal ways? We Gen Xers (and Baby Boomers) are like Navin Johnson in that scene from "The Jerk" when he finds out he's listed in the new phone book. I'm somebody now! Things are going to start happening to me!

Then again, the CFOs surveyed could be on the somewhat older side and are just giving off a "get off my lawn" vibe. I, for one, hope that the older-employees-are-an-asset-instead-of-a-cost mantra is an idea whose time has come. The underemployment of Americans over age 40 is a very serious issue that will eventually impact the Millennials unless we work it out.

Besides, many employees are like fine wine; they get only better (at what they do) as they age. It's far past time for management to have this (rather obvious) epiphany, isn't it? Older employees bring maturity, experience, gravitas, and Pets.com sock puppets to work. What's not to love?

To paraphrase a very famous quote from a very famous person over the age of 35: Think not what your employer can do for you, but what you can do for your employer. And stop being such a workplace diva, Mr. and Ms. Millennial. That's my job.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How To Talk To A Co-worker's Spouse At Company Parties

The company holiday party circuit is in full swing, and employees everywhere are making nice with their co-workers over appetizers and eggnog.

Oh! Who do we have here? Our co-workers brought their significant others to the party, too! Here's how to speak with them without coming off as a total dweeb.

A lot of us have been on both sides of this fence. We're standing there, trying to figure out how to make conversation with a co-worker's spouse while roaming the crowded, noisy ballroom of the local Hilton. Or while loitering around the living room of the boss's house. Or while sitting around a long dinner table at a very nice restaurant. Does it matter where we are? Unless we've gotten to know this co-worker's life partner off the clock, we may feel at a loss for words when in their company in a company-casual setting.

Business stories about company parties usually offer tips for interacting with customers and co-workers at the company party, but what happens when our better halves make up half of the guest list? What should we say to the silently-suffering spouse of a co-worker who may have been dragged along to this special occasion?

The spouse of a co-worker has a role to play at the company party, and that "role" is to make a good impression, which, by extension and theoretically speaking, should make his or her spouse (a.k.a., your co-worker) look good. Wow, Jane's other half is so cool and easy to talk to! What to say, what not to say, and how to make others comfortable in our presence is a tightrope act of etiquette learned through years of hard-fought corporate party circuit experience, and perhaps a few (cough) mistakes along the way.

But so much for the spouse's role at the company party; we need to learn how to talk to them when this soiree is in full swing! Without further delay, here are six types of company spouses you might encounter at the company party:

1. The stay-at-home spouse. If you're a stay-at-home spouse/parent who has ever experienced the cold shoulder of someone quickly exiting the conversation after asking "What do you do?", then you know of what I speak. The stay-at-home spouse, however, is most likely wicked smart and is able to converse on current events and pop culture in addition to mundane, kid-related topics. The stay-at-home spouse may also have a decade or more of experience in your industry (a lot of people meet their future spouse on the job, remember). Never forget that he or she is the one holding down the home front so your co-worker can stay late to finish the project. Respect.

2. The oddball spouse. This is the significant other who works alone, perhaps as an independent contractor or small business owner. Perhaps he or she works in a job field that nobody really understands. He or she has eschewed the constraints of corporate life and could feel like somewhat of a rebel at the company party. You might ask about his or her industry, how the business works, what a typical day is like, and so on. If he or she gets tired of talking about it, then he or she will change the topic.

3. The overly-talkative spouse. On the one hand, interacting with a chatty spouse takes the pressure off, since he or she does most of the talking. On the other hand, he or she might just say something at the company party that reveals Too Much Information. For example, we learn that our co-worker is looking for a new job on the down low, is planning to ask for a big raise next week, or wants to move out of state next year. It might be best to try to change the subject. You can always bring up the weather, which is the ultimate white flag of surrender that a conversation has run its course.

4. The super-quiet spouse. You ask an open-ended question and get a "yes" or "no" response in return. Nothing seems to be a real conversation starter. Chances are, the super-quiet spouse is simply shy, feels overwhelmed in social situations, is nervous about putting a wrong foot forward, or takes awhile to warm up to people. That's fine; a lot of us can relate! Simply say, "It's nice to meet you, make sure to try the pumpkin pie if you get a chance!" and move along. Maybe the two of you can talk again later after the initial shock has worn off.

5. The spouse with the dream job. This is the spouse who has a well-paying or creatively amazing job, but is playing the part of tag-along at this company party. This spouse may hold court with fascinating work stories, or bore everyone to tears with the detailed aspects of the work. In some cases, he or she might say very little (back to that "role" and "good impression" thing). The key here is balancing your questions with his or her comfort zone. And stay away from asking for free advice about your bad knee if your co-worker's spouse happens to be an orthopedic surgeon.

6. The long-term unemployed spouse. The last question he or she wants to answer right now is "What do you do?" There are still too many long-term unemployed out there, struggling day in and day out to land a job comparable to what they used to do. It can be easy to start offering unsolicited job seeking advice and networking leads, but it's best to let him or her signal interest in receiving it. Refrain from complaining about your hectic, day-to-day job schedule (you're one of the lucky ones!), and wish him or her the best with the job hunt.

The key to successful conversation with anyone, anywhere, at any time is showing respect for them. Body language says it all without saying a word. Be a good listener who is able to make others feel like the only person in a big, noisy ballroom (no easy feat), pick up on cues that the other person would like to exit the conversation, and welcome your co-workers' life partners wholeheartedly to the party since they're a big part of the company, too. After all, this is the person your co-worker goes home to when the work day is done, which lends a certain air of intrigue, doesn't it? It's amazing how some of the most confusing things about your co-worker suddenly make sense.

Most of all, remember that everyone brings something to the table at the company party -- whether it's telling great jokes, making witty conversation, having a fascinating hobby, touting an interesting back story, boasting an odd field of expertise, knowing everything about wine, being a good listener, keeping the conversation going by creating interesting segues, being a great dancer, or making the best pumpkin pie we've ever tasted.

If all else fails, think about how you've felt attending your significant other's company holiday functions over the years (Excited? Anxious? Bored? Talkative? Exhausted?) and let the conversation flow from there. These company events are always...interesting...aren't they? The answer could be a whole, new conversation starter.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Which U.S. State Has the Most Social Media Braggarts?

A new survey ranks the U.S. states by number of social media braggarts. Hold on to that humblebrag, everyone, because we're going in to assess the state of online bragging!

App company Hey Lets, which curiously seems to have forgotten to add an apostrophe between the "t" and the "s," recently polled 2,500 social media-using Americans to find out how much they self-promote over social media. Okay, let's all roll our eyes together at their unending stream of amazing survey responses!

Among the survey's findings? The residents of some U.S. states are far more humble than others. Utahns are the most humble online, followed by Oregonians (Go, Ducks!), South Carolinians, Kansans and Arizonans. Thanks guys, we appreciate that we don't have to hide you on Facebook.

The most "braggy" state? California hands down, and by a rather large percentage, too. Hey, scoot over six inches so you can get that palm tree in the selfie, guys! The state of Washington ranks second as totally braggadicious, followed by Nevada, Maryland and New Hampshire.

The five most frequent topics for self-promotion? Hey, don't scroll past, because here they are in descending order:

1. Going on a special trip;

2. Attending a memorable event;

3. Meeting a noteworthy person;

4. Mentioning something nice our significant other did for us;

5. Getting work-related good news.

Ah yes, the work-related humblebrag, where we're always very, very, very busy dashing to and fro and feel inclined to announce our impending arrival at a destination business conference five days before it starts. There is no "I" in "team," but there is an "I" in iPhone and Instagram, and we need to spend some quality time taking selfies in the airport!

If we live in California, Washington, Nevada, Maryland and New Hampshire, then we might be more likely to change our Facebook profile photo on the hour. Or so it seems? Hmm. The rest of us would like to say that we don't even use social media, but we wouldn't want to sound like we're bragging.