8 May 2018

A compliment, not an HR complaint

Many people in the workplace struggle with how to make sincere and authentic connections, both with internal and external clients. Many men tell me they want to interact professionally with women in the workspace and could use some guidelines. In fact, Barbara has a great phrase, “when you are talking to someone new, please don’t go to creepy-town.”

From a recent Reuters article “… a backlash could take place subconsciously if men in power gravitate toward working with other men rather than women to limit their discomfort or risk.”

So how do we stay citizens of Professionalville rather than Creepytown?

It’s simple: compliment their taste and not their genetics. Focus on what someone has earned or chosen rather than an attribute they were born with. “Those are nice shoes” is preferable to “those are nice legs.” The former is a compliment, the latter can result in a complaint to HR.

“Your presentations are always so interesting.”
“Is that the latest model iPhone? It looks quite elegant.”
“Congratulations on completing that program, I heard it was quite challenging!”
“That’s a wondaful photograph you have on your desk of you and your children!”

About 3 years ago, I was sitting on a Go Train headed into Toronto. I noticed the lady across from me had a Lululemon bag resting on her lap. I believe I said something like, “I see you’re a fan of Lululemon, that’s great, my wife really likes some of their clothes as well.”

She smiled and we struck up a conversation about where we worked and what we did. (Please note that I paid the compliment in 3rd gear: with no expectations or strings attached. If she had ignored me or reacted in a negative manner, I would not have judged her.)

When Shannon found out about the RHB concept of “Assume everyone is intelligent” she passed along a story I used in a subsequent talk:

“I’m a EA. The president of our company once handed me a resume and asked whether we should hire this individual. I advised against it. When the applicant had originally dropped it off, I suppose they didn’t consider an executive assistant to be a human being and were quite rude.”

Shannon and I have kept in touch via social media and we still provide value to each other.  Making a simple authentic connection isn’t that difficult!

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