An Ode to Saying Please and Thank You at Work

Say Thank You at Work
Photo by Polina Zimmerman

How often have we dealt with authoritative emails at work?

The ones that sound unnecessarily aggressive and bossy, instead of courteous yet firm.

After my previous rant on surviving performance reviews, I looked into a couple of emails of supervisors generally well-liked at the office, and those who weren’t.

The ones who were liked (Batch A), were polite and empathetic in their emails:

  • Could you please finish this task by Saturday?
  • Thank you for completing this!

In contrast, the ones who weren’t liked (Batch B), wrote their emails like this:

  • Do this by Saturday!
  • Dead silence after completing any task

See the difference? Would you like to get emails from Batch B? No one is fond of unnecessary aggression.

It is such a refresher nowadays to hear supervisors being polite. A “Thank you” or a “Please,” even if formal makes you look humane and not cold and distant. It motivates employees to do better. Politeness does not mean being weak. You can be firm and polite!

Something Batch A does often (to show the emergency of the situation):

  • Please send this across by Saturday! This is very important.

No unwanted aggression here. A simple message that conveys the seriousness of the task. Most people are smart enough to get the gist of such a message.

Employees perform their best when their supervisors are empathetic and kind. The attrition rate (the rate at which people leave) is always high in companies with bad managers. A 2016 survey in India showed that employees are willing to stay longer and work harder if they were well appreciated in their companies. About 59% felt they were unappreciated by their bosses. That’s more than half of the survey sample! No small number there. Sometimes, all it takes is a “thank you” or a “please,” to make things better.

So why are we so stingy with appreciating others or using cordial language at work?

Each supervisor is shaped by their own experiences in the corporate world. Some might have faced similar situations, a boss being too self-centered or supercilious or manipulative, and they end up thinking this is the only way to climb up the career ladder.

Sadly, this is partially true.

A recent study disturbingly stated that narcissistic, manipulative people tend to become CEOs faster (29% more) than their less self-entitled peers. We look at people at the top for inspiration, and we see a lot of them acting entitled and impolite, and we think “That’s how we become successful.

But is it really? Is this the downside of being successful? Should we dump our emotions, empathy, kindness in the garbage in the quest for power?

I have been in the corporate world for so long, and I have seen and experienced so much, that the first thought when I see a CEO or a leader on LinkedIn is not Wow! I want to be this person,” but “How many people did you demotivate and destroy to reach where you are? How many fake stories have you cooked up to save yourself, by shifting the blame onto your juniors? How good are you at playing politics in office?” This seems very dark and harsh I know. But it is mostly the truth. There are exceptions but the many leaders I have seen have sold their souls to the corporate devil. They will do anything to get on the super boss’ good books and won’t hesitate to drag anyone else down in the process.

Sometimes, from what I have seen, I feel it’s best to stay away from the rat race.

So you don’t end up becoming a rat.

An Ode to Surviving Performance Reviews by Demotivating Managers

Demotivating Manager

It is that demotivating season again.

I say demotivating because my last two performance reviews were negative. I might keep repeating “demotivating” throughout the article because that is how I feel right now.

So demotivated, dazed, confused, furious.

All because of one manager.

Somehow he has made up his mind to never encourage anyone. The only positive word I have ever seen come out of his mouth is “Good.” But he is ever ready to nullify that with 100 negatives.

The worrying part is many in my company feel that way.

2020 was the year I was most proud of myself. I learned things on my own. I built things from scratch. Got everything up and going with minimal errors after several hours of overtime. The least I expected was an “I appreciate your hard work.” An acknowledgement of what I have done.

But nothing came.

Don’t be that manager.

I am at my productive best when I am reporting to a good manager. I am at my worst when the manager is negative. This is true for many. We want to do our best, help the company reach the top when our work is valued.

Don’t get me wrong. I love constructive feedback. But not feedback that is laced only with negatives.

If you are a performance reviewer, here are some “How not to be a demotivating boss” tips:

  • Start the conversation in a light tone. A “Hi, how are you?” at the start never killed anyone. It gives the employee some time to breathe and relax. Remember, most employees get into a performance review with extreme anxiety. Help them out by being courteous and kind.
  • Start with the positives. And by positives, I do not mean just saying a single “Good.” Be descriptive. Tell them what you liked about their work. Use the same number of sentences that you would use while giving constructive criticism. 3 full sentences describing the negatives? Follow it up with 3 honest sentences about their positives. Balance it out.
  • Do not make the employee feel like they have done nothing for the company.
  • Ease into the negatives. Give some time for the employee to respond or tell you what’s on their mind. Don’t ramble non-stop. The moment you start the negatives is when you need to be the kindest. Frame negatives in a nice way, then stop and take a step back, wait for them to respond, ask if they have to anything to say. Be open-minded to listening to them.

You look around and you see many employees dissatisfied with their managers. Why is that? Because there is a huge communication gap. Any thoughts and reviews are left for the last moment i.e. during the performance review. Some companies like Microsoft, Accenture, Adobe and Deloitte have done away with annual performance reviews because of this reason alone.

The best way to give feedback is right after a task is completed. This helps them change their course if need be. Don’t wait till annual performance reviews – to throw unpleasant surprises.

I got a raise and a bonus. So it was not all bad. But all it takes is one person’s words to ruin the high you feel, right? Is that the price you pay for a salary?

By the end of it all, I told him “That was very demotivating.” Probably it was the first time he heard it from someone. Most employees prefer to ignore such bosses. My retort was followed by a one-minute silence. Of all the things I said this year, I am most proud of this one dialogue.

My manager then went on to give several excuses on how the intention was not to demotivate but to give feedback.

But feedback should be a mix of good and bad. Backed up with encouraging words on how you believe the employee can do what’s been suggested. If it is not, it is not feedback, it is being demotivational. As simple as that.

So I would like to say kudos to me for surviving yet another performance review with a demotivating manager. I expect more to come. And I plan to survive them all. By ranting here, and to my friends, and family, and anyone who would listen.

The day my boss says something nice, I will let you know. Stay tuned?

Leaving the company doesn’t make sense because as far as I know most of the people around have terrible bosses. I rather stick to one familiar demotivating one that becomes overbearing during performance review time rather than explore new ones.

If you are feeling demotivated too, rant! To someone.

That is what my colleagues and I do anyway.

One day, hopefully, all managers will learn how to give feedback constructively. Till then, the corporate servants will have to time and again, feel the extreme disappointment of not feeling valued by that one manager, who simply doesn’t know how to give a good performance review.

And I also hope one day we start earning enough passive income from our websites, investments and, other sources. So that we can run far away from everything that is, you guessed it, demotivational! Every corporate slave’s secret dream.

An Ode to Microsoft Edge’s Immersive Reader

I am not sure how many people actually know of this sleek user-friendly tool on Microsoft Edge. It is called the Immersive Reader. Staying true to its name, it is a great tool for readers to indulge in.

Take a look at this article with distracting elements (navbar, widgets, ads).

Article without immersive reader enabled

Now, click on the Immersive Reader option next to your URL bar.

Click to enable

And, voila! You can now read the article peacefully.

Immersive Reader Enabled

I feel this is great for reading long articles. It has a very Kindle-like experience to it. You can increase the font size using the “Text Preferences” tool. You can change the theme as well. There are many options which I have not yet explored. As a reader, I want to focus just on the article, with the freedom to increase its font size if need be. This tool offers all that and more.

You can also use the “Read Aloud” feature if you want the article to be read out to you. The voice is as natural as it can get, not sounding robotic.

The Immersive Reader is still in its early stages. It does not always render the correct page, and you have to wait till the page loads completely to see the icon. But so far, I am extremely pleased.

If you do not see the Immersive Reader icon on Microsoft Edge:

  • Make sure you are viewing an article and not the home page
  • Wait till the page loads completely
  • If you still do not see the icon, use read:// before the URL. For example if the URL is πš‘πšπšπš™πšœ://𝚠𝚠𝚠.πš–πšœπš—.πšŒπš˜πš–/πšŽπš—-πš’πš—/πš—πšŽπš πšœ/πš˜πšπš‘πšŽπš›/πšŒπšŽπš—πšπš›πšŠπš•-πšπšŽπšŠπš–-𝚝𝚘-𝚊𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚜𝚜-πšπš•πš˜πš˜πš-πšπšŠπš–πšŠπšπšŽπšœ-πš’πš—-πš‹πš’πš‘πšŠπš›-𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚝𝚎-πšœπšŽπšŽπš”πšœ-𝚊𝚍𝚎𝚚𝚞𝚊𝚝𝚎-πšŠπšœπšœπš’πšœπšπšŠπš—πšŒπšŽ/ then use πš›πšŽπšŠπš://πš‘πšπšπš™πšœ://𝚠𝚠𝚠.πš–πšœπš—.πšŒπš˜πš–/πšŽπš—-πš’πš—/πš—πšŽπš πšœ/πš˜πšπš‘πšŽπš›/πšŒπšŽπš—πšπš›πšŠπš•-πšπšŽπšŠπš–-𝚝𝚘-𝚊𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚜𝚜-πšπš•πš˜πš˜πš-πšπšŠπš–πšŠπšπšŽπšœ-πš’πš—-πš‹πš’πš‘πšŠπš›-𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚝𝚎-πšœπšŽπšŽπš”πšœ-𝚊𝚍𝚎𝚚𝚞𝚊𝚝𝚎-πšŠπšœπšœπš’πšœπšπšŠπš—πšŒπšŽ/ to launch the article in the Immersive Reader.

An Ode to the Most Underrated Career Skill

Googling.

Before you laugh, hear me out.

How is Googling a skill? Anyone can search on Google, right?

Yes, but not everyone does. Why? Because most people do not like to research or read.

In the tech industry, many of the answers are easily available online. Just a search away. It is very rare that you are the first one to face an issue. For a lot of coders, Stack Overflow is like a second home.

Whichever industry you are in currently, Googling is a good skill to have. It is right there, all the details, 24×7, for free. If you are able to research and find out an answer on Google for most of your problems, then in my opinion, that IS a skill. To learn more, to be self-reliant, without being overly dependent on others, is a skill.

Even if you get help from someone, you should STILL Google about it to learn more. Most people are too busy to get into in-depth teaching. They will just touch the topic at a high-level. I always make it a point to do some Googling when someone offers me a solution. It has helped me a lot in building on my base knowledge.

Why Do So Many People Dislike Googling?

People are hesitant to Google for an answer even if it is much easier than waiting for an answer from someone.

We are all naturally lazy (including yours truly). We just want all the answers to come to us without effort. We like to be spoon-fed without lifting a finger (even if it is for a search engine that automatically does the rest of the work for you). But growth happens (as clichΓ© as the next line might sound) – β€œoutside our comfort zone.”

I realized many people are bad at Googling when I posted snippets of some random articles on my Instagram story (with the title, website name et all), and my friends still asked me for the link instead of searching on Google using the article name. Mind you, to provide them the article link, I had to go through the exact same steps – search using the article name on Google, copy the URL and paste it on our chat. I did not have the link stored anywhere for easy access.

It continues even today.

Even after explaining to them how to search on Google.

I am not a passive aggressive type, so I find it difficult to use the infamous “sure, let me Google that for you” when someone asks me something that can be easily Googled.

Some Neat Googling Tips & Tricks

Most of the time, we can get what we want by just entering the search query on Google.

But what if we want something extra?

Well, for the curious cats, here are some cool Google search tips and tricks you can use to get a desired result.

  • Double Quotes

My most favourite.

Use double quotes if you want the exact phrase in the same order to appear in your search results.

For example, β€œI want to live in New York” will give results where the phrase appears in the exact same order.

Remove the quotes, and you will have the keywords scattered all over the article, and not exactly in the same order.

Using double quotes is also a great way to search for articles using just their titles.

In the example below, I want to search for posts that have mentioned “I want to live in new york” in the exact same order.

Using Double Quotes to Search for the Exact Phrase on Google
  • Define

Defines a word and also includes an audio clipping on how to pronounce it correctly.

Use Define: followed by the word.

Use Define: to Find Out How a Word is Defined and Pronounced
  • Search

Searches for results on a specific site.

Use Search: followed by the website URL and search query.

In the example below, I want to search all recipes for apple pie on YouTube.

Use Search: to View Search Results from a Specific Site
  • Asterisk *

Use the * asterisk symbol to let Google do the guessing work. This allows you to see the most popular search phrases that match a part of your query.

Insert * wherever you want Google to add in the most popular search words/phrases. In the example below, I have used how to * money, so it will consider popular search phrases like how to make money, how to earn money etc.

Use Asterisk (*) to Search for Missing Words
  • Related

If you find a website you really like, and wish to see similar ones, use Related: followed by the URL of the website you liked.

In the example below, I want websites similar to Udemy that offers courses online.

Use Related: to Find Related Websites
  • Tilde ~

This is a great way to include synonyms.

Use ~ before the word that requires synonyms.

Use Tilde (~) to Find Synonyms
  • Location-specific

If you wish to see search results only related to a specific location use location: after the search phrase.

Use Location: to Find Specific Location Results
  • File Type

In case you are looking for content in a particular format, use filetype: followed by the type of file (example: pdf).

Use Filetype: to Search for Specific Formats
  • Exclude

Exclude something from search results by using dash .

For example, let us consider the example below, when you type -money, this means you want Google to exclude the word “money” from the search results. I have additionally added another exclusion, that is the website YouTube.com.

Exclude Certain Words & Sites from Results (Potato Milk?! You learn something new everyday :))