BANTER OR BULLYING?
CHARACTER BUILDING, OR CHARACTER DEMOLISHING?
How important is it for everyone to be resilient, thick-skinned, even hard-nosed?
Life can be hard. Without one or more of these traits we run the risk of being beaten down by the more forceful and ultra-confident types.
To illustrate, let me describe an extreme version of this:
A confident go-getter enjoys ‘banter’ with their colleagues. One colleague is a less confident and seldom joins in with the exchange of ‘winding-up’ and derisory comments. To some, this makes them ideal targets for such banter, and the comments start.
Initially teasing, they are easily shrugged off. But, they continue, and can develop a hint of mocking. Others, wanting to remain with the confident and ‘favoured’ group, will find themselves joining in, sometimes without intending to. Within a short period of time, perhaps a few weeks, one person has become the butt of most of the ‘banter’ going on.
Originators of office/school/group banter will claim it is ‘character building’. They believe they are helping those bearing the brunt of the humour to gain a thicker-skin, to ‘man-up’. The ‘Butt’ may well attempt to join in, but will show their inexperience in making quips and digs and will likely receive more ‘digs’ as a result. Initial banter is usually ignored, but continued and it gradually eats away at the recipient, resulting in lost esteem and confidence.
Life is hard. Perhaps we should encourage this form of banter to help weed-out those not capable of defending themselves and so to form stronger teams.
But, what are we doing if this continues unabated? We are making someone’s life pretty miserable. They will see it as bullying and will find it more and more difficult to become involved, contribute, socialise and engage.
Then there is the other extreme, where we cosset and protect the weak and avoid all banter and ‘wind-ups’. I remember when a boss I had in the mid 90’s apologised to me for swearing. He assumed that, as I didn’t swear, it must be that it offends me. Bless him! Extreme swearing does offend me, but the occasional ‘Anglo-Saxon Derivative’ (as my English teacher used to say) can add richness to the language. The reason I didn’t swear was because I had four young impressionable daughters at home and Dad swearing, even inadvertently, was not the example I wanted to give them.
There is another way. I saw this happen once and it had a great positive impact on me. At one stage in my career, the boss was also the chief source of the office banter. He would rip into anyone, strong or weak and wind them up to a high level. Most of us recognized this and responded in kind (to a lower level; we wanted to stay in good books). There was one chap who did not take this well. He was a really nice guy and had much to contribute to the group. However, it was clear that he was enjoying being at work less and less. His mood changed and his engagement with all of us was less frequent and helpful. He was becoming isolated. This was not the group’s intention, but none recognised it for what it was and no-one wanted to suggest to the boss that he stopped. In the end, the boss sorted it. He was perceptive and understood fully the risks to the team and to our colleague. The boss took him to one side and had a chat with him. The next thing I know, our colleague was smiling, animated and seemingly in awe of the boss! His output increased and his loyalty knew no bounds. He was even seen to join in with the banter occasionally.
What did the boss say? Eventually, my colleague confided in me.
In a nutshell the boss had told him that he was sorry that such actions and comments were upsetting him. He told him how valuable and valued he was, how he should ignore anything that offended and to regard it as immature behavior on their part. He wanted my colleague to come to him and tell him at any time if anything was bugging or upsetting him, because he wanted him to be happy in his work and to enjoy his time. The boss, even said he regretted the way he behaved but that it was now expected of him and he was worried that any change would be regarded as a weakness.
In showing humanity and humility, the boss had succeeded in turning round the whole situation.
Perhaps this is the best approach when such ‘banter’ risks getting out of hand; risks losing a colleague, or worst of all, demolishes someone’s self-confidence and self-esteem.
There is no easy answer. But, taking account of people’s feelings can result in stronger teams, stronger relationships, and stronger leadership.
Some rules of emailing, yes, we’re still making the same mistakes.
How often do you receive and email and have objected to the contents? The objection may be mild, it may be significant or it may be something in between? Too many times
How many of us have written one straight back, assuming our interpretation is correct, and damaged that relationship? Too many of us.
They say that the art of letter writing is being lost due to the convenience and speed of texting, emailing and the like. Speed and convenience is a strong incentive to use these modes of communicating, however, make it too fast and it can be dangerous to your business.
- ‘Hearing’ a tone of voice that changes the interpretation
- Making a sarcastic comment that is either inappropriate or taken literally
- Sending something which no-one has proof-read; which is poorly spelt and constructed
- Only answering one question and ignoring the other three
- Assuming familiarity and making it too informal for the contact
Some simple rules which should overcome these dangers and pitfalls:
- If it reads as though it was written with attitude, leave it and come back later. Try and read it with a smile on your face, it can sound so different! THEN respond accordingly.
- PROOF READ everything. Poor spelling, grammar, or punctuation can suggest you are not thorough or professional.
- Avoid humour, particularly sarcasm. If you want to include levity, an exclamation mark could help to signpost this.
- Read everything received more than once and you will find other things which need a response.
- Read everything before you send it, to avoid these classic blunders, and others.
- Why not pick up the ‘phone?! It is more efficient and effective; you can cover more points in less time; you can build better business relationships. Then summarise and confirm by email. This is far more effective and professional than a rushed email or text.
Avoid the traps of fast texting or emailing and build professional relationships; use the ‘phone, or, even better, meet them face to face.
It has to be said, I am sorry, but it does have to be said.
Brexit has made a difference and will make further differences to business.
Things are changing and there are more changes to come.
But, I am not one of the doom-mongers as I believe it offers us interesting and useful opportunities. I say ‘offers’ as it is up to us whether we take those opportunities or sit back and just hope.
Whatever happens there will be change, and we need to be prepared as best we can. But prepared for what? I believe there are four indisputable facts:
- Brexit will happen!
- Markets will change
- There will be greater focus on domestic markets
- We will find ourselves competing with more UK companies as larger providers seek to replace off-shore business.
This is what happened to Salient in the last 18 months:
- Five larger prospects, (£1M turnover+), were reasonably secure in my sales pipeline.
- As the Brexit vote loomed, happened, and shocked the markets, these five companies retreated, not wishing to ‘spend money when the market was so unpredictable.’
- My cash-flow forecast dropped considerably!
- I initiated my contingency, my Plan B, and targeted the smaller businesses that tend to ‘get on with it’ no matter what the market is doing.
- I had to replace one large opportunity with ten smaller ones.
- It was successful, and I have now progressed to Plan C where I develop the new smaller company market, while attracting new larger opportunities.
But what of the larger companies? What will they do in this Brexit uncertainty?
I believe they will do very much as I did and look to smaller domestic markets to fill the gap in their turnover.
In other words, those who rely on domestic markets for the majority of their turnover will start to find more competition from larger suppliers.
There is another side to this. Those seeking your products or services are less likely to look off-shore for suppliers as these are likely to become more costly. Therefore, they will actively seek domestic suppliers. It could be you, if you are ready! Another point is that if they previously sourced from larger companies, they are likely to spend more than your present customers.
To summarise, this could mean for your business:
- New domestic markets are likely to open up
- Competition will increase for home-grown opportunities.
- The new opportunities have different expectations and spending levels
Are you ready?
Is your sales team and/or your sales process the best it can be?
Your sales effort needs to be at its best; sharp; focussed; forward-thinking.
Don’t miss the boat.
If you fail to address this, others will get there first and will win the lion’s share of the new opportunities.
If you are successful in this, your business growth could be double what you would anticipate for 2018.
If you would like to discuss your experiences of this, please be in touch; call or email Andy
Do you really want it?
Lots of money; holidays; cars; clothes; lifestyles.....?
Do you really want it, or do you just want the end result, the reward? Do you want the omelette but are not prepared to break a few eggs and spend time whisking?
Everything of value to you has to be fought for. A struggle is often needed to move forward. This could entail time; working all hours, repetition; over and over again until you get it right; changes to relationships; being with patient people who share your dreams, and so on. Whatever you do requires effort. How much do you want that dream, that wonderful end result that will make you happy? Are you prepared to struggle to achieve it, to work through the process time and again and again until the outcome is secure?
I meet many people who claim to have a dream, a goal, an objective, but have not yet asked themselves these questions. In fact, too many have not even made a plan or mapped out the route they would need to take to get to where they want to go. (Have you?)
Here’s an example (names and figures have been made up to protect the guilty):
John wants to be successful - how successful John?
John’s dream is to achieve a turnover of £100,000 in 5 years - where are you now John?
So, John needs to find and win £85,000 of new business within 5 years – really?!
That is as far as John gets with his dream.
John’s approach is to keep doing what he is doing to make the business grow.* He believes that “opportunities will arise along the way which will boost the business”.
Hands up who is surprised when, in 5 year’s time, John is turning over £32,000, and most of that is from a couple of clients who are personal friends. John’s expansion plans are on hold.
Did John achieve his dream, his goal? No. Why not? Probably because he chose a goal without considering the process, the effort, the struggle that would be needed to set his sights that high.
Every dream has a cost. That cost includes the time and effort, the loss of focus elsewhere, the reduction of short-term-gain in favour of long term benefit. Likely there will be disappointment, fatigue, despondency, even despair in yourself, and possibly those close to you. Is it worth this struggle, or is it likely to damage other things you value more; your family, friends, principles, standards, enjoyment?
If you have considered all this and it is worth it, then go for it! Or, as I read on Facebook last year: ‘Don’t downgrade your dream to match your reality, upgrade your faith to match your destiny’!
However, if the process, the struggle, the ‘pain’ proves too high a cost; lower your sites. You can still win, and enjoy the journey.
* Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.