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 Not Telling Everyone Everything

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels

I am into a new experiment nowadays.

Over the past one year, I have been trying not to announce all my latest material possessions, achievements and personal milestones online.

Why? To find out if I can enjoy them without the world getting to know.

I used to be obsessed with posting everything on the gram. Every little thing. “If it’s not online, it never happened,” applied to me. But then I started getting agitated – when I didn’t get enough likes, when my friends or relatives whom I thought are close didn’t respond as often. It sucked out the joy in me and I felt I was getting more and more negative with every passing post.

It was then that I decided to cut back on announcing everything online.

I realized, weirdly, once online, a personal achievement didn’t feel personal anymore. It is now out in the open for the world to judge. It kind of loses its value (for me, at least).

Exposing something that’s near and dear to you has its cons. Once it’s out there, after a day or two, when the comments and likes dwindle down, you lose the high. And then you are looking for the next high. Another super hit post that can derive the maximum likes and comments. You forget to just “sit” with your latest achievement. Your high is not linked with your achievement anymore, it is linked to those likes and comments.

I realized by not posting online, I was able to extend this high. Savor it like slow-cooked food instead of junk. The type of soul-food that’s healthy for you. A high that lasts for days, weeks and sometimes even months. You look back at the milestone and it still seems raw and precious, not yet exposed to anyone’s judgments. It is something that I am enjoying and appreciating a lot honestly.

This is not just applicable for achievements by the way, it can be a selfie that you love, a video you took to capture the beauty around you, a beautiful moment.

Sometimes, the intensity with which you feel about something is not reflected by the people around you, and we all know how big a mood dampener that can be. Our highs might (just might) end up not feeling like a high anymore. Something gets lost in the whole process of displaying things online. For me, it feels like whatever I have posted about has been disconnected from me, and now it’s up to the others to give it value.

I keep telling my friends that if ever there comes up an old-school social media network, that doesn’t rely on validation like likes, I would gladly join it, and ditch the others.

Most of my posts are limited to Insta stories nowadays and are aimed at providing information that others might find helpful in some way – on what I have used, the benefits, cons if any, experiments, thoughts. Rarely about what I have achieved. I share that with my loved ones, but not online.

The rest are for me to savor. For my mind alone, for my heart to hold dear.

An Ode to Peace, Calm and Freedom

Freedom
Photo by Fuzail Ahmad on Pexels

I love to meditate.

I close my eyes and think of all my blessings and feel this surge in energy. It is something everyone should experience. Makes you feel the world is a wonderful place.

But I am privileged.

I can afford to shut my eyes and just lose sense of my surroundings.

There are many right now in war-torn areas who are afraid to even get a good night’s sleep, let alone shut their eyes to meditate.

How did we land up so lucky? To be able to enjoy this peace and calm.

How did they get so unlucky?

Prayers do not seem to be the answer, because for sure many in turbulent places are religious.

It is more or less like a casino, where a country’s fate is decided over a roll of dice.

Only if luck could be donated like money. Everyone would have contributed a bit to ensure no country is left empty.

Still I pray for Afghanistan. It is the only thing I can do.

I pray for other countries too who have not experienced what freedom is like.

It is said that only when you experience something, do you understand its value. When you have never been free, you do not know what it is like, so the pain is less. But when you have experienced freedom and you lose it, you feel pain, because you now know how liberating it can be, and how happy it made you feel.

A bird whose cage has been opened, will look around for a while, unsure and skeptical. But it will eventually fly away and appreciate its new found freedom.

Let’s hope all countries get to that point one day, where the cage opens, and the birds stare at the world in wonder, finally free.. to choose life. The only life they will get to live.