Friday, April 15, 2011

A Little Professionalism Please?

Is professionalism going extinct? The more I interact with people outside my organization, the more I realize that professionalism is becoming the thing of the past. For those of you who are professional, the following list may seem very obvious. But, trust me, the people who are not need to read this:  

1) It is not OK to take credit for another person's work. Whether you are a vendor, a senior, a junior, a stakeholder, SME, client, you have no right to take away credit from hard work done. In today's age of collaboration, it is very unprofessional to steal the limelight to look good in front of others. Always give credit where it's due. If you see good work/manners/attitude, appreciate it openly. You can do the same with anyone regardless of your age or position. It is becoming more and more common for people to say "I am putting in far more effort than I was required to." Why do you feel this way?
  • You didn't understand the effort involved right at the beginning. You probably went wrong in your time/effort estimation. No point blaming anyone else. 
  • You are not working efficiently enough. You keep thinking of new things to add or do or you work in a very unstructured fashion. 
  • You are probably doing a million other things and therefore, feel stretched. You may not be putting in extra effort, but feel over-worked. 
  • You are not the only one working hard. It is important to acknowledge that it is a team effort. Respect other people's time and effort. They have brains too you know. 
SMEs especially think they are doing 'too much'. It was always their job to provide and check content. Therefore, if the review cycles are longer its mostly because they are adding content and making changes at a later stage. Let us NOT expect anybody else to do our job please. 

2) It is not OK to dangle the carrot in front of people till you get what you want. Please say no and people will appreciate far more than adding a list of ridiculous conditions. If you are not the decision-maker, do not arrange meetings where decision making is required. If you have doubts, voice them out loudly. Do not push people in the corner and expect them to do their job well. Do not get so well entrenched in the work and then make demands because it may be tough to replace you. This is just not the way it is done.

I actually had to sit through a call where two stakeholders discussed what working was not coming to me. This is the heights! Please carry out all internal meetings before your call with the consultant. Then, share what is coming to her.

3) It is not OK to lash out. This is extremely common. You raise a point of concern and the other party lashes back with a list of things you have done wrong. Let us understand we are all human and trying to work as efficiently as is possible. Let us also stop the blame game, we are not children any more. Let us please think before we write out an email. Respond with our heads and not react emotionally. Here's what you can do:
  • Use facts and figures to make your case. 
  • Do not be judgmental and assume that the other party is useless. Respect the people you work with. 
  • If you are upset about a mail, do not respond back immediately. Take a break. Come back to it when you have thought it through calmly. Seek a second opinion when in doubt. 
  • Always be honest to yourself and those you work with. If it is your fault, accept it. 
  • Understand what happened from all parties before you respond. There are managers who blindly respond without having all the information. Be informed. 
If people are lashing out, don't take it lying down. Some really unfair things come out when people are lashing out and it is important to make your point. But do so in a professional manner. Other can rant as much as they want. You be in control. 

4) Use some tact and discretion while sharing information. If your association with me is at a business level, I would appreciate if you don't cross certain boundaries. I do not want to hear a word against my organization or my colleagues. Being friendly, does not amount to listening to anything and everything that you may have to say. I am not your counselor. Use discretion when sharing information with people outside as they are bound to use it against you or your company at some instance. Taking feedback is fine, but if people are not tactful, you have all rights to get offended. Everyone thinks that the vendor/client is out to cheat them. Trust people and see before you tarnish their image. Be sensitive to others feelings. If you are writing a blunt mail, do not cc the world on it. It makes it more difficult for the person to see your point.

5) Do not look for a scapegoat to make yourself look good. Some people believe that there are here to make a big difference. Which is great and long as you don't think the way to do that is to whip those around you. Be collaborative and this will be more fruitful than breathing down a person's neck.

I have sat through uncomfortable meetings where the manager questions an employee's actions. I am an outsider, why make your own employee feel uncomfortable. Isn't common sense that you put a common front to me? These kind of managers are always looking to pass on the blame. They will lash out saying 'This is not what I expected!' You point out that these were the expectations and they immediately turn to find another scapegoat. If you are managing the project, every flaw in the product is as much yours as it is your employees. You need to be aware of what is happening. It is not cool to wash your hands of everything. I have seen how great managers take criticism for the work that their subordinates have done. I have admired them and learnt from them. I wish it were more obvious to some other people.