Nov 07 2005

Your Personal Image

Published by at 5:30 pm under Uncategorized

Each time we write a memo, send an e-mail, talk on the phone or have a teleconference; it is like sending out a resume.  We are ‘asking’ people to judge us, our company, and our degree of competence. Here are some do’s and don’ts taken from a recent conversation.  See how you compare.  How many people you communicate with know you, have been with you, or have seen you?  In today’s electronic age with the almost taken-for-granted use of e-mails and teleconferences, personal communication that says something about you is minimized.

I worked with a guy for several years would constantly preach: “Every memo you write, conversation you have, meeting you attend or opinion you express; is your resume.  It reflects on you personally, your company and your chances for success or promotion.”  It’s a lesson everyone should take to heart.

Recently I received an e-mail from a student in the UK.  The request was asking for some information about part and tooling costs he could download to assist him in a class project.  My response was to point him to my site and the Quick-Sight Estimator, along with some tips on how many cavities he might need based on his volume, my estimate of press rates, and the current cost of his materials.  My formal response was brief.  However I spent several paragraphs telling him what my friend had said, because he committed every offense listed below:

1.    Every computer has a spell checker.  Bad grammar and misspelling are inexcusable.  If you can’t write an e-mail directly without spelling errors, write it on your word processor use your spell checker and then paste it into your e-mail.
2.     In the quest for individuality and privacy people create e-mail names like they came from a fantasy video arcade.  I actually got a business e-mail from an individual named HarleyHogRider@xxx.com  while definitely an expressive ‘handle’ it didn’t particularly conjure an image of a professional engineer with a legitimate question.  AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, Juno and the other e-mail services allow you to use your name and a series of numbers or something to create a business address. Your non-business e-mail address can be anything you don’t mind other people laughing at.
3.    Somehow the language of Å“E-mailese” has evolved.  It is even worse than the rambling of CorpSpeak:  “We will pursue the best possible zero risk option from our optimized supply chain model so that our Product Champions will achieve the mission objectives of maximized profitability success stratagems.” (Forgive me, but why didn’t they just say they’d try real hard to make a lot of profit?).
E-mailese was spawned in the hell of chat rooms. It is commonly noted by no capitol letters either at the beginning of a sentence or when used referring to one’s self: rather than   It also uses pictograms, specifically ‘smilies’ either in the cartoon form or using a conflagration of alpha symbols such as J or : ) or <grins>  in case the reader was too stupid to get the gist of humor or emotion.

Unless you are transmitting jokes to fellow workers (having done the risk/benefit ratio of getting caught and disciplined for misuse of the corporate e-mail system) your smilies and/or alpha symbols don’t belong in business communications.

4.    E-mailese is also guilty of multi-letter acronyms. Many of these types of acronyms are specific to industries, the military being horribly guilty in this.  Read a military memo written in plain text and every fifth word is a multi-letter acronym.  Such as USAF referring to our Air Force as opposed to another country’s.  Some acronyms have generically crept in.  The most notorious is ASAP, which is a rather rude ‘order’ to drop everything and do something else immediately.  But the internet has generated dozens if not hundreds of these: IMHO meaning ‘in my humble opinion’ or LOL meaning ‘laugh out loud’ (is there another way to laugh?).  Most, if not, all of these acronyms probably should be reserved for your private time in a chat room or your job-endangering Blog.They should never be used in a business e-mail.
5.    Good grammar tells us a paragraph is two or more sentences (a sentence having a subject, verb and object) that states or completes a thought.Unfortunately grade school, English as a second language, secondary or high school and especially college (when majoring in engineering) have been polite enough to IGNORE teaching the basics of language, grammar, and pagination.  If you want to look like you just came from the Prison Work Release Program run your sentences together, ramble on for a full page in one paragraph, or refuse to use even the most basic rules of punctuation.  This means one period or question mark will suffice at the end any sentence.
6.    On the phone, try not to use the word “Like” or the phrase ‘“Ya know?” more than once a week at the office.  Answering the phone can be “Hello?” but not “What’zzzs-UP?”
7.    At a party, lunch break, over coffee or even after work having an adult beverage, any opinion you express about your company, your boss, your coworkers will surly go up the grapevine and while accurately attributed to you, will be misquoted. Listen more than you speak, and NEVER gossip, don’t judge (publicly)
8.    You dont and never have had an expectation of privacy using the company’s computer equipment, their credit cards, or their cell phones.  Your employer had the right to examine and JUDGE you based on your using these assets.Computers are easy to ‘bug’ it is called SPYWARE and most corporations actively monitor the use of your computer.  Unfortunately if they want to get rid of someone, this is the easiest way.  While many people might be guilty it is easy and legal to single out someone and fire them for what is deemed to be ‘inappropriate’ use whether it is too much time on personal usage OR going to sites the company deems (in their judgment) objectionable. A few key strokes and they can tell what sites you’ve been visiting and every letter you typed of image you’ve seen or sent.
9.    Your employer can and will look to see the expenditures of your corporate card even if you are responsible for paying the bill.  If you subscribe to a naughty website or use it to purchase lingerie for your wife/significant other when on a business trip, you may have to answer a few embarrassing questions.  Same goes for the numbers you call on your corporate cell phone.
What’s the moral here?
First, a rule to live by: “Don’t do anything you can’t afford to have printed on the front page of the New York Times” This doesn’t mean don’t do anything.  It means assume everything you do at work will become public at some point it time. {It’s your resume.}  Make sure when it does become public you’ll be proud of it and it won’t need explaining or excusing.

Second, there was a time when you were loyal to your company and your company was loyal to you.  In today’s environment that is anything but true.  Your image should show your competence, your integrity, and your professionalism whenever you come in contact with anyone by writing, phone or teleconference.  When thinking about your image always remember the joke of the two guys running away from the hungry lion.  You don’t have to outrun the lion. You only have to outrun the other guy.  If you look better and more professional than some cluck that litters his e-mails with smilies, spells like he’s in fifth grade, and wouldn’t know a capital letter if he tripped over it, who do you think will still come to work after the layoff?  More importantly if you were hiring, whose resume would you seriously consider: The one that looked like a fan letter your pre-teen daughter wrote or a guy with a degree an IQ and some class?

It’s all really a matter of image.  Now remove some of that hardware hanging off your face and go to work.

Your Choice

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