So instead of saying:
- “I can,” say “I sure can.
- “I can’t,” say “I wish I could.”
- “Yes,” say “Absolutely.”
- “You are correct,” say “That’s exactly what I was hoping to hear.”
- “I don’t know; I’ll have to ask,” say “I can find out.”
- “That could work,” say “I recommend this one.”
- “That won’t work,” say “In my experience, another solution works better.”
- “It will take at least an hour,” say “We will finish that as soon as we can. I estimate about an hour.”
- “That is not my responsibility,” say “I know where you can find the information you need.”
- “That isn’t a good idea,” say “Here is what you can do.”
— Adapted from Great Customer Connections: Simple Psychological Techniques That Guarantee Exceptional Service, Richard Gallagher, AMACOM, www.amanet.org/books.
[Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/93963757@N05.]
I’m a big fan of Dan Pink’s blog, and I particularly look forward to posts in his ongoing series, emotionally intelligent signage. The examples he posts are always thought-provoking, and the series has made me pay a lot more attention to the signage used in stores, restaurants and offices I frequent.
Here’s one I saw at a local coffee shop:
It reads “Newspapers are… For Sale. Please pay at the register. Thanks! (They are NOT free )”
I considered this sign emotionally intelligent because the store owners had a tricky situation—customers who were unintentionally stealing—and handled it with clarity and a bit of humor. As someone who’d be mortified to discover I’d stolen a paper (but might easily misinterpret a pile of newspapers), I appreciated the directness of the statement; I’d much rather read that than have someone inform me of my mistake after the fact. And the smiley face, font and “Thanks!” made it seem a lot less accusatory. Plus, it fit in with general atmosphere of the shop.
Do your signs produce the kinds of emotions you want your customers and employees to feel when they interact with your organization? Have you even thought about the emotional responses you want? Consider these questions:
- Do your signs have any spelling or grammatical mistakes? Those kinds of errors make you look unprofessional and might alienate nitpickers like me.
- Does the font support the message you want to send? Writing in all caps can make a customer feel like they’re being yelled at. “Fun” computer fonts, like Comic Sans are often perceived as unprofessional.
- What tone do your signs use? Are they aggressive? Bored? Professional? Funny? Does the tone of the sign match the character of your organization?
- Where might a customer encounter a sign in your organization? A few that you might not have thought of: the restrooms, employee name tags, tip jars. These too should induce the emotional message you intend.
- What about the signs that only your employees see? Are those emotionally intelligent? Do your employees feel motivated, supported and confident when they read the signs in your office? Or do they feel patronized, attacked or apathetic?
Share in the comment section: How do you use emotionally intelligent signage at work?
Is business casual going too far in your department? How employees dress can reflect negatively on your organization, department and even you, as the manager. You can ensure that employees are making a positive impression by setting a few ground rules.
But how can you enforce those rules without spending too much time on your staff’s attire? Start by avoiding these traps when it comes to addressing dress code issues:
- Being too vague. Many organizations state their dress codes as “You are expected to dress professionally.” Unfortunately, what constitutes “professional dress” is subjective and debatable. Outside of business suits, there’s a lot of gray area. One of my employers had this as its dress code: “Men should wear a shirt and tie. Women should wear the equivalent.” Because women’s clothing options are so much more varied than men’s, I don’t think there is a direct parallel to a shirt and tie. Not surprisingly, the policy was interpreted very differently among the female employees.
- Using the wrong terminology. One company posted a notice about inappropriate summer wear that included the instruction “No rubber beach thongs.” It was referring to flip-flops, but many employees wondered who’d come to work in a bathing suit. The company also was too vague. Even without the problematic term “thongs,” the company might have chosen better wording. My immediate reaction to the rule: “Hmmm, does that mean that leather or other fancy flip-flops are OK?” If the company really meant to forbid only one type of flip-flop, then the wording is fine. I doubt that was its intention.
- Being condescending. Being too vague can cause confusion, but being too specific can make your employees feel belittled. A friend of mine—a teacher—almost walked out of a staff meeting where her principal spent over 30 minutes going over his expectations for dress code. He held up a Talbots catalog and said, “Ladies, for those of you that don’t know the meaning of ‘professional,’ I suggest that you take a look at Talbots. If those clothes are too expensive for you, see me in my office. We’ll try to find something fitting.” His inflection made his words even more insulting. My friend’s reaction: “If he wants to pick out my clothes for me, he can go ahead and pay for them too.” Obviously, you don’t want your employees to have that kind of angry reaction when you discuss policies.
Instead, follow these tips to be clear but respectful when addressing dress code policies and violations:
- Give examples. If your organization has a vague policy like “Dress professionally,” clarify with examples. Tell your staff something like “For example, don’t wear T-shirts, revealing clothing and sandals.” That gives employees an idea of what you expect, but isn’t as condescending as “No tube tops, no halter tops, no belly shirts, no tank tops, no T-shirts, no flip-flops, no sandals, no shorts …” and so on. Plus, when you give a long, specific list, that opens the door for employees to challenge the policy with anything you didn’t mention.
- Enforce the policy. Turning a blind eye to violations can cause employees to doubt your leadership and the policy’s importance. After all, if a rule isn’t worth enforcing, is it worth having in the first place? Enforce the dress code evenly for all employees, regardless of age or other factors.
- Talk privately with violators. Instead of wasting everyone’s time reiterating your expectations at staff meetings, meet one-on-one with those employees who dress inappropriately. Tell them specifically what aspects of their attire don’t meet the dress code and how to fix the problem.
- Emphasize the benefits. During the one-on-one meetings, stress the advantages of professional dress. Say something like, “Debra, you do good work. I want everyone to focus on your work, but instead I’ve heard customers talking about the length of your skirt.”
What tips do you have for dealing with dress code issues?