Category Archives: Uncategorized

Supporting Your Boss Effectively

(For ease of reading in this article, I have used the masculine gender pronoun to refer to the boss. This in no way implies that bosses are predominantly men.)

Working With a Boss Who Withholds Information

A friend recently lamented to me that her boss seems unwilling to share information with her.

She would be the last to know about projects and updates. It was also humiliating to hear the latest news about her own department from colleagues in other departments.

Of course, your boss is not obliged to tell you everything that is going on. However, if by not telling you, it negatively affects the way you perform the job, you must deal with it.

Here are some ways to manage this:

  • Gather evidence. Don’t just complain vaguely to your boss. Have some concrete evidence of actual pieces of information that you did not receive from him (when you should have).
  • Explain clearly why the withholding of information bothered or affected you. Just being dissatisfied, for example, is not going to convince your boss that it is important. Tell him how it affected your morale, made you waste more time, or affected your productivity.
  • Emphasise the positives. Instead of just stating the negatives, tell him some positive consequences of sharing the information with you.
  • Show your enthusiasm about projects by asking to be given information.
Working With a Boss Who Doesn’t Seem to Like You

Another friend had some concerns that her boss did not seem to like her. She felt that he would avoid talking to her, and if he had to, he would be curt and cold.

Your boss does not have to like you, but he must respect you and the work that you do.

However, work will be a lot more pleasant if your boss likes you. Try to find out what he doesn’t like about you (but the answer could be hard to take).

It is awkward to ask outright why the boss doesn’t like you. It may be easier to ask if there is anything you are doing (or not doing) that he would prefer to be different.

The best time to ask this would be at your annual appraisal. However, if that is a long time away, then you may need to ask to speak with the boss privately.

And sometimes, you may just have to accept that you and the boss have a personality clash, and he is never going to like you. But he must respect you and the work you do.

Why Figure Out How to Support Your Boss?

Your working relationship with your boss could be the most important one at the workplace. If this relationship is weak or negative, it could lead to dissatisfaction, frustration, stress, and below-expectation performance.

Sometimes, speaking to your boss about your feelings and concerns could be the best way to deal with issues with your boss.

At other times, it may be worth your while to analyse and understand your boss’ work preferences and leadership style, and try to work with this understanding.

Is Your Business Writing Clear, Logical, and Accurate?

A lot has been said about not using an outdated writing style, or being too formal or informal, in business writing.

However, perhaps more important than that, your writing should convey details clearly, accurately, and with a logical flow.

Here’s a scenario. Tammy’s boss has asked her to assess the feasibility of using the office conference room to hold a meeting with some people from CyberWay Pte Ltd, an important client.

After doing the research, these are Tammy’s findings:

  • If everyone shows up (from both sides), there will be 12 persons. The conference room can only take up to 10 persons comfortably.
  • The conference room was recently renovated, but the audio-visual equipment will only be installed on the morning of the meeting. It is a new brand which the company has not used before. Tammy’s boss will need this equipment for a presentation during the meeting.
  • About S$150 will be needed for snacks and drinks for the meeting.

This is the email Tammy wrote to her boss:

____________________________________________________________________

Hi Peter,

Here are my findings on the conference room for the meeting with CyberWay.

Our conference room has recently been renovated and the audio-visual equipment will only be installed on that morning.  We will not have time to test it and it is a brand that we have not used before.  The room is not big enough to accommodate 12 pax and will not be conducive enough to hold this meeting.  We will also need to spend about $150 for snacks and drinks.

Regards,

Tammy

____________________________________________________________________

What do you think of the message? Was it clear? Was the logical flow apparent?

Here are our suggested revisions (in red):

_____________________________________________________________________

Hi Peter,

For the meeting with CyberWay Pte Ltd on 19 Aug, here are my findings on the feasibility of using our conference room.

Our conference room has recently been renovated, and the audio-visual equipment will only be installed on that morning. As such, we will not have time to test it. To compound this, it is a brand that we have not used before. 

On top of that, the room will not be big enough to accommodate 12 pax comfortably (should everyone turn up). The room can only accommodate 10 pax.

We will need to spend about $150 for snacks and drinks.

Please let me know if you want me to book the conference room or make other venue arrangements.

Regards,

Tammy

____________________________________________________________________

These are factors to consider in ensuring a clear, logical, and accurate message:

(1) Ensure Logical Flow in Your Message

In the original message, the writer simply assumed that the reader would be able to follow the logical flow. However, the reader can only read the message, not the writer’s mind.

As such, create logical flow in the message by using appropriate linking words or phrases.

Are you:

  • Describing a cause-and-effect scenario? (as such, because of that, consequently, etc.)
  • Adding on details? (additionally, moreover, on top of that, etc.)
  • Describing additional concerns or problems? (to compound that, to make matters worse, more critically, etc.)
  • Showing contrast? (however, but, in spite of that, etc.)

Another way to create logical flow, simple but commonly overlooked, is the effective use of paragraphs. Use one paragraph for each key point. It makes it easier for the reader to follow the logical flow.

The reader should not be left struggling to connect the dots.

(2) Include Vital Details

Do not omit details that can increase understanding.

Example:

The room is not big enough to accommodate 12 pax and will not be conducive enough to hold this meeting.

(Has everyone confirmed their attendance, or has the writer assumed a maximum-attendance scenario? How many persons can the room accommodate?)

Revised:

The room will not be big enough to accommodate 12 pax comfortably (should everyone turn up). The room can only accommodate 10 pax.

(3) Include an Action or Expectation for the Reader

In this case, it would be easier for the reader to respond if the writer had included an action step:

Example:

Please let me know if you want me to book the conference room or make other venue arrangements.

____________________________________________________________________

Business writing should be about the reader. The objective should always be readability and clarity for the reader.

To sum it up, business writing should be clear, logical, and accurate.

 

 

5 Misconceptions About Speaking English

What do you think about the way you speak at the workplace?

Are you articulating your words correctly? Are you using appropriate speech patterns to convey your message? Are you using grammar correctly?

Self Assessment: Voice and Articulation

True or False?

(1) A gentle, slightly breathy voice shows that I am not aggressive, and it is suitable for business situations.  (True / False)

(2) In order not to waste the listener’s time, I should speak at a faster pace. This also helps me to project confidence.  (True / False)

(3) People should not be judged by the way they speak. Some people sound enthusiastic and confident, but not everybody can sound like that.  (True / False)

(4) I speak with an accent, and I also don’t articulate my words very well. My colleagues know that, and they can understand me, so it is OK.  (True / False)

(5) Children have the ability to improve their speaking skills because they are faster learners, but as an adult, it is too late for me to work on this.  (True / False)

What were your responses? See if they are similar to our observations.

(1) A gentle, slightly breathy voice shows that I am not aggressive, and it is suitable for business situations. 

Quite the contrary. A gentle, breathy voice, while being non-threatening, comes across as unsure, weak, or unenthusiastic.  A clear and strong voice will gain you more respect.

(2) In order not to waste the listener’s time, I should speak at a faster pace. This also helps me to project confidence.  (True / False)

False. When we speak too rapidly, there are two disadvantages:

(1) We don’t have the time to frame our thoughts properly to come up with the best words and phrases.

(2) We may sound nervous or impatient when we speak too fast.

What matters is not how many words we can speak; it is how many words the listener can understand.

(3) People should not be judged by the way they speak. Some people sound enthusiastic and confident, but not everybody can sound like that. 

False. When we speak clearly and correctly, we project enthusiasm and confidence, and we come across as being more professional. With effort, most people can do it.

When we speak in a low voice or with a monotone, we could be presenting important or interesting information, but the listener is not likely to take much notice or be impressed.

(4) I speak with an accent, and I also don’t articulate my words very well. My colleagues know that, and they can understand me, so it is OK.  (True / False)

Accent and articulation are related yet different things.

Our accent reflects our linguistics background, our dialect and first language influences, and the speech patterns we commonly hear in our daily lives. Generally, our accent is a kind of birthright, and we don’t need to give that up.

Articulation, on the other hand, is the way we form the sounds in each word. This can be practised and perfected with the help of phonetic symbols.

(5) Children have the ability to improve their speaking skills because they are faster learners, but as an adult, it is too late for me to work on this.     

This is a common perception, but it is false.

Children, especially younger ones, may not have fully developed articulators. Their motor neurons may also not be fully “connected” for them to coordinate their articulators, so it is actually more difficult for them to produce certain sounds.

Adults, on the other hand, should have fully developed neurons and articulators.

Assuming that their speech mechanisms are healthy and in good working order, adults should be able to practise and perfect all the sounds in the phonetic alphabet, which makes it possible to pronounce most English words accurately.

 ___________________________________________________________________________

If you think that you are not speaking clearly or correctly, or if you suspect that you are not projecting your voice well enough, do something about it.

Train your articulators to articulate sounds correctly. Learn techniques to project your voice effectively.

People at the workplace judge us by the way we speak. It is not fair, but it happens. All the time.

 

Writing to Unhappy Customers? Do it with Care

Jolynn Chow

If you work in customer service, you will sometimes need to write to unhappy customers. They could be asking for things you cannot provide, or asking for decisions you cannot make.

You could feel daunted and depressed when you have to say no to customers, or simply to write in a negative situation.

Handling Conflict in Writing

Good customer service involves responding to customers and resolving conflicts positively, honestly and tactfully.

How do we define a conflict? A conflict occurs when another person’s priorities (objectives, opinions, or concerns) are different from ours or our organisation’s.

Here are some examples of challenging customer service situations you may have to deal with in writing:

  • You work in a fashion boutique. A customer wants to return a dress she bought recently, but she has misplaced the receipt.
  • A mobile phone user wants to have his mobile phone repaired at no cost, because his…

View original post 486 more words

Are You Calling Your Customer a MORON?

Jolynn Chow

This was an actual email (with names changed) written by a marketing executive:

__________________________________________________________________

Dear Mr Tan, 

Thank you for your feedback on our ABC range of organic foods.

I will forward your comments to the MORON, and he will email you by tomorrow.  

Best regards,

Soh Ann Soh

__________________________________________________________________

When asked why she chose to call someone a moron (in all caps no less), she explained that she had meant Manager of Research on Nutrition.

Do you use abbreviations without defining them in your email messages? You should not.

Even if these abbreviations are understood by the reader, good writing practice means you define them on first use. And only if they don’t sound derogatory.

(If you are only using the term once, use the full term, not the abbreviation.)

What about common abbreviations like FYI, ASAP and BTW?

You shouldn’t use these in your business email…

View original post 80 more words

Five Ways to Polish Your Business Writing Skills

Jolynn Chow

Participants of my business writing classes usually say that business writing is important because it provides a form of documentation.

However, many business messages I read do not provide documentation. In fact, sometimes they do not even communicate effectively.

Why do I say that?

Messages could contain long and tangled sentences with needlessly complex words. Grammar mistakes make the writing incoherent. The message could be displayed in a messy layout, and comes across as uninviting and tedious to read (imagine a long paragraph containing five key ideas).

To make reading even more challenging, the tone is sometimes cold and unfriendly.

Here are five ways to polish your business writing skills:

(1)  Make sure there is logical flow in your writing – especially if the message is complex.

Circle key words in your paragraphs, and see if they convey a logical sequence of ideas. Better still, plan your content before you start writing.

(2) …

View original post 637 more words

The Foundations of Grammar

Some people say that grammar is difficult to get right.

To me, it’s very simple. Understand the foundations of grammar – the parts of speech – and learn how to use each part correctly.

Here’s a graphic representation of the parts of speech, and a brief explanation of each part.

Slide1

Slide2I’m not saying it is simplistic; I’m saying that there is a system to the madness. With effort, grammar can be mastered.

Writing to Unhappy Customers?

Jolynn Chow

Customers are often frustrated by perceived insincere responses to their complaints. They feel that writers use template-style messages with standard and meaningless words and phrases without dealing with the real issues involved.

Here is an example.

Henry’s organisation manages a building with retail shop spaces. A tenant, Ms Chew, has complained about the noise and dust generated by a neighbouring unit that is undergoing renovation works.

Ms Chew has also asked for a waiver of rental payment for the following month, as she says that her business has been affected.

What do you think of this reply that Henry wrote to the tenant? (This was the actual message written. Names and other sensitive details have been changed.)

_________________________________________________________________________

Dear Ms Chew,

We refer to your email dated 26 April 2013 regarding your request for waiver of the monthly rental for May 2013.

We have taken measures to reduce the noise and dust generated…

View original post 775 more words

Working With Your Boss

Jolynn Chow

(For ease of reading in this article, I have used the masculine gender pronoun to refer to the boss. This in no way implies that bosses are predominantly men.)

Working With a Boss Who Withholds Information

A friend recently lamented to me that her boss seems unwilling to share information with her.

She would be the last to know about projects and updates. It was also humiliating to hear the latest news about her own department from colleagues in other departments.

Of course, your boss is not obliged to tell you everything that is going on. However, if by not telling you, it negatively affects the way you perform the job, you must deal with it.

Here are some ways to manage this:

  • Gather evidence. Don’t just complain vaguely to your boss. Have some concrete evidence of actual pieces of information that you did not receive from him (when you…

View original post 357 more words