Stop Sucking: A Brief Guide to Hiding Your Incompetency in the Workplace

16 Feb

If one more person at work asks me if the email address I am giving them is in “uppercase or lowercase” I will put down the phone, walk to their place of business, smack them across the face, and then report their blatant incompetence to whomever is their immediate manager.

In fact, this repeated incident along with a myriad of other office snafus worthy of a good handspanking has inspired me to compile a list.  It’s called

“Stop Sucking: A Brief Guide to Hiding Your Incompetency in the Workplace”

1.) Your signature line is not a carnival. There are few things that can damage your credibility as a professional more quickly than a long, annoying signature line.  There is no need to include a favorite quotation, a customized background, a large, brightly colored font, buttons with links, a disclaimer or confidentiality notice, and pictures of things that make you smile.   Every time that email is forwarded or replied to, all of those things come with it.  It’s long, and it’s annoying.  So just stick to your contact information and titles and anything required by your company.  The more concise, the better.

2.) Before you forward an email to someone, review its contents. This also counts for hitting “reply” and changing the recipient.  I once received an email from the assistant to a very distinguished woman in the community inquiring as to the instructions for her arrival at an event that evening.  After scrolling down to see which event he was referring to, I saw the email from his boss that prompted him to email me, asking him to inquire because she “didn’t want no crap at the door.”  Protect your colleagues and protect yourself – read, edit, then forward.

3.) Bcc and Cc: Know the power, know the difference. It seems simple, but it is a common mistake.  Cc stands for Carbon Copy and is intended for those whom you want to be aware of information, but who are not required to take any action on it.  These persons will be visible to anyone who receives the message.  Bcc means Blind Carbon Copy, and will result in those persons receiving the message without anyone being able to see that you shared it with them.  Carbon Copy is a great way to keep assistants informed on things that you are sending to the person whom they support; Blind Carbon Copy is a great way to get people in trouble.

4.) Seriously.  Understand the power of Bcc. If you have an enormous distribution list for an email, do everyone a favor and stick the recipients in the Bcc line.  Doing so will eliminate that 50-line-long chunk of text that prefaces your message.  In addition, it will protect others from copying and pasting those emails into their own contacts.   If you are still confused about how this works and want to start to reestablish your credibility as a non-moron, do yourself and everyone you email a favor and check out this explanation.

5.) If you’re going to be out of office, put up a freaking message saying so. We all understand that there is a world outside the corporate jungle with children and trees and puppies and sprinkles and that sometimes you’re going to want to bust out and explore that magical land.  When you finally do, do others the courtesy of listed an Out of Office reply, so that they are made aware of your absence, your return date, and any contacts you can provide for questions requiring an immediate response.

6.) Learn how to leave a voicemail. Absolutely nothing should come out of your mouth before list your name, your position and company, and a number at which you can be reached.  I repeat – Absolutely nothing should come out of your mouth before you list your name, your position and company, and a number at which you can be reached. Doing so will save the other person from listening to 3 minutes of your flustered gobbledygook over and over until they are sure the number they wrote is correct.

7.) Master phone number rhythm. 1-2-3/ 4-5-6 / 7-8-9-10.  If you have any confusion about this whatsoever, please refer to this 3-minute tutorial provided by Kevin James.  He also covers my peeve in number 6.

8.) Do not answer the phone for your place of business with “Hello?” When you order pizza, you expect to hear a confirmation of the business name when you order.  Or a thank you for calling them.  Or perhaps even the name of the person to whom you are speaking.  I suggest working all three into one.  An efficient, concise greeting like “Thank you for calling ______, this is ________; how may I help you?”  In addition, allow me to add that unless you are prepared to answer your cell phone in a similar fashion, you should not have it associated with your place of business either.

9.) Dont be a grumplepuss. People can hear whether or not you are smiling on the phone and they can read tone in an email.  They may not always be accurate, but that will never matter.  What will matter is that you have made them grumpy and defensive and that in the close quartered corporate jungle, that grumpiness is likely to reverberate with anyone they meet throughout the day.  So be nice.  Fake it if you have to.  Because I don’t want your grumplepuss ‘tude.

and finally…

10.) Don’t ask if an email someone is giving you is in uppercase or lowercase. It doesn’t matter.  And if you don’t believe me, please send yourself an email with “I’m an idiot” in the subject line – once to your “correct” email and once to your correct email with a letter capitalized.  Enjoy your double affirmation.  



6 Responses to “Stop Sucking: A Brief Guide to Hiding Your Incompetency in the Workplace”

  1. egills February 16, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    I think an email test and answering the phone test should be mandatory! However unfortunately because I get loads of cold callers trying to get me to sell my business.. or such like and they get the grumplepuss tones quite vividly 🙂


    • Jackie February 17, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

      I absolutely agree! How are these people not weeded out during the application process? They had to have talked to someone on the phone to get the foot in the door, right? Or written an email? Somewhere, an HR company is misguiding folks on effective hiring processes. And when I find that company, I will bust through the door and deliver my keynote address.


  2. pegoleg February 16, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    In defense of old people in the workplace: Long, long ago, before you were a gleam in your father’s eye, you had to worry about upper & lower case, temperature – heck, everything about computers was sensitive.

    Some of us remember spending the last week of term sleeping on the floor in the computer lab, trying to get our cards punched and programs successfully run in FORTRAN class. One hanging chad, and it was back to the drawing board.

    We oldsters remember. Remember, and shudder at the memories. Please be gentle. Revile us not in the fullness of your cyber-strength.


    • Jackie February 17, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

      The fact that I have no idea what you’re talking about prompts me to sit up straight and pay homage. I try to be understanding when assistants would prefer to use a pen and paper rather than a digital calendar. And I really do try to be nice and lend a hand with the construction of an Excel table, or a issue with Word that’s wasting an hour of someone’s time. But as a subscriber to your blog, I’ve gotta say you don’t strike me as one with a lot of patience for stupidity in society – and I’d like to emphasize that my issue is not with the elderly, but with the morons.


      • pegoleg February 18, 2011 at 9:38 am #

        Point well taken.

        Somebody asked me right after I read this post if an address was upper or lower case. Usually I would think it was a legitimate question. Thanks to your example, I just sneered at them.


  3. Lori February 16, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

    Love it, love it, love it. Though pegoleg has earned some of my sympathy… just some, though.


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