Opposing Office Politics

Hi, Anita:

Two groups of my co-workers have been at odds with each other for the past month. There was a disagreement over the way a project was handled and now it feels like the office is a war zone. I have tried my hardest to mind my own business but I can feel everyone involved trying to pull me in their direction. How do I stay out of the game of office politics?

Dear, Caught in the Middle:

Office politics is present in almost every work environment. Whether you are a forklift driver in a warehouse or an assistant in the executive suite, these games have been known to crash even the best office parties.

Office_GossipI have a few tips for you that will help you steer clear of political mumbo jumbo and center your focus on what matters most: your job!

  1. Do not engage in gossip. Avoid involving yourself in rumors and off-work topic discussions. Seriously, do not touch it with a 10-foot pole. All it will do is get you caught up in the games even more. You will be no better than your coworkers who are in the midst of this spat.
  2. Be a great listener. Not all gossip can be avoided, especially when it is shoved right into your lap. To not be rude or disinterested, practice your listening skills. The other person may need to vent about their opponent, but that doesn’t mean you have to give your opinion. Be a sounding board for their feelings and then politely carry on with your day.
  3. Keep your personal life private. Keep your personal information just how it should be: personal. To avoid conflict, do not discuss politics or religion while you are in the office. Your opinions and preferences that do not relate to work are on a need-to-know basis. As for your coworkers, they fall under the “do not need to know” category.
  4. Be positive and complimentary. Like your mother and I will always tell you, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.” The same rings true in the workplace. You don’t want to start building a reputation of being a Debbie Downer.
  5.  Keep your interactions on an even keel. Be aware of how your interactions with your coworkers, superiors and subordinates are being perceived by others. Unequal treatment will be recognized immediately and could form a breeding ground for even more office politics.
  6.  Stay focused. Nothing can be better for you and your career than staying focused on doing your job well. If you keep your goals and tasks top of mind, you will not only be a more productive employee, but you will set a higher standard for your peers. The troublemakers will begin to see that you do not have time to engage in their quarrels or drama.

Readers, what tactics do you employ to avoid office politics?

Check out this video to see how to best avoid bad office politics:

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Warm Wishes,

Anita

Be Happy – All Day, Every Day

Hi Anita,

I have started to notice that when I am in a fantastic mood I tend to have a much better day at work and get so much done. My positive attitude even has an effect on the rest of the team. From now on, I want to set a positive and proactive tone throughout my office. How can I send my staff and myself down the happy path from the start of the day to the end?

Happy People

Hello, Happiness Helper,

Thanks for the great question. Nothing makes your day go by faster and better than a good mood. I think it is the number one determining factor of how we act, feel, and present ourselves. Even if we do not verbalize how happy or upset we are during the day, it is easily communicated through our reactions to stress, body language, and overall demeanor. I have seen my share of up and down days during my long life but have come up with a strategy of my own to overcome almost anything in my way.

Every night, I set my morning alarm to go off 15 minutes ahead of schedule. I use this extra time for what I call “positive reinforcement.” It is the time when I can do something positive for myself without any interference. I will usually read some selected positive affirmations, look at the nature outside of my window, or spend some time playing with my cat, Clew-cifer, before any outside nuisance can sour my mood. Choose an activity that takes little effort and gives you something to smile about as the day progresses. Coffee or your favorite breakfast meal can be added in here as well. Doesn’t breakfast in bed sound good to anyone else?

Many people view their commute to and from work as a daunting and unpleasant task. Being behind the wheel, navigating through traffic, and steering clear of worldly hazards sounds stressful. What I have done is switch my mentality on the commuting conundrum. Instead of dreading it, I look at the drive as 30 minutes of ME time! I put on my favorite mix tape (created by yours truly) and get myself excited for the day ahead.  It is where I only focus on myself and the things I look forward to accomplishing today.

When you get to the office, be sure to get your work day started with a big smile. Smiling is contagious and will spread like wildfire. Even if you don’t feel happy or in a great mood, research has shown that even fake smiles have a positive effect on how you feel. When someone asks “How are you doing this morning?” or “How is your day treating you?” Happy!respond with something positive. I try to stick with responses like “I am great! How about yourself?” or “Today is going great so far!” Be sure to add in that smile! Refrain from telling others all about your troubles or how awful you feel. I’ll bet that 9 times out of 10, a positive response is better received.

Most employers allow their staff two 10-minute breaks throughout the day on top of a lunch break. Get your blood moving and the endorphins pumping by taking a short walk outside. This is and has been a great stress reliever for me for some time now. I find that I am much more productive and more alert, which contributes to my overall sense of happiness and well-being. It gives your brain a break and lets you refocus your energy on the positive.

As the closing bell rings, be sure to leave your work at the office. The evening hours are there for you to partake in non-work activities and do something you enjoy. If that is reading a book on your couch, grabbing dinner with a friend, or catching up on the latest football game, be sure you allow yourself time to indulge in simple pleasures.  Before calling it quits for the day, try your best to remove all negative thoughts from your mind and think of what was positive during the day. What were you able to accomplish? Remember a few things that made you smile. It can be as small as enjoying a candy bar after lunch or seeing an improvement in your productivity. Just end your day on a positive note!

A friend of mine shared this great video that I can’t help but smile at. We should all try to be this happy and cheery in the morning.

What do you do to make your days pleasant and positive? I would love to hear them!

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Warm Wishes,

Anita

Customer Service Tips and Tricks

A reader writes:

Dear Anita,

I am so excited to report that after a long and exhausting job search, I have finally landed a great customer service job through my local temporary agency. Now that I am employed, I want to make sure I have the skills and know-how to perform my job to the best of my ability. What are some pointers you can give me about being successful in customer service?

Hi, Customer Service King!

Congratulations on your new job placement! I always love hearing success stories from my readers. You are proof that you can accomplish whatever you put your mind to.

Now for your question, customer service is a great job to have if you enjoy working with people, are a great problem-solver, and have the ability to diffuse seemingly unpleasant situation. Companies spend millions of dollars a year to provide and improve the service they present to their customers. Client and potential customers base their opinions of an establishment heavily on the service and attention they receive. To be the best that you can be, here are the MUST know actions that I got from my friends at Select Staffing.

These are surefire ways to be top-rated in customer service:

Sales AssociateSmile, no matter what! A smile or the bright sound of a representative’s voice can change the entire direction of a call. When working with a customer, try to smile. Even though your customer won’t see it, it will have a positive effect on the messages you are trying to communicate to the caller or customer.

Know your goals. It is important that you are aware of the company’s goals and how you plan to achieve them before starting your day. It will help you better evaluate your position, job performance, and the future expectations of the hiring company.

Become an expert. Have a deep understanding of the products or services you will be representing. Be prepared to discuss competitor offers and products. This will be very useful when you are asked questions by the calling customer.

Be prepared to handle unhappy customers. When faced with an unhappy customer on the other end of the phone or in person, remain positive and respectful during your entire interaction with them. All customers must be handled with dignity and respect at all times. If possible, do your best to calm the customer and cool down the dialogue.

Listen to your customer’s needs or concerns. Allow the customer to fully explain why they are calling before providing a solution or alternative. Even though you may already know the answers, give the customer the opportunity to fully express his or her feelings and opinions before acting.

Remain focused on the job. Keep non-work conversations to a minimum. These can be distracting to other employees and cause a disruption in customer service.Man Taking An Order

Confirm that your call or interaction is complete. Before disconnecting with the customer, be sure to confirm that they have no other questions, comments, and concerns, and ask if there is anything else you can do to assist them.

Always go the extra mile. When working with any customer, always strive to go the extra mile to ensure their satisfaction and happiness. Your customers will greatly appreciate your commitment and dedication to fantastic service.

I hope these guidelines help you in your new employment venture. I know you will be very successful and provide the best experience for your employer and your customers.

Readers, who of you have worked in a customer service position before? What was your experience like? Anyone have a good/bad experience that they are willing to share?

Best Wishes and Luck!

-Anita

The Importance of Customer Service

A reader writes…

Dear, Anita,

I have been asked to speak at my company’s annual retreat that is coming up next month. The topic I have been assigned is how to improve customer retention in 2013. The number one reason I think that my company has trouble keeping clients for the long haul is the lack of customer service. Can you please help me explain why customer relations are so important?

Hi, Customer Service Conscious,

Thank you for the question, and congratulations! What a great opportunity you have!

Customer service is an incredibly important aspect of a business and a predictor of future success. In all businesses, your customers are your lifeline and the driving force that keeps your doors open. Without customers, we would be in a world of zero commerce and, worse, zero employment opportunities. Let’s take a few minutes to cover the 3 reasons why customer service should be your top priority on a day-to-day basis at your company.

Return Business:  As I have already mentioned, customers are required for your business to remain operational and profitable. If your customers feel neglected, ignored, uninformed, or disrespected, chances are they will run into the arms of your nearest competitor. With personal consumption expenditures increased by $41.3 billion dollars in Q3 of 2012, according to the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis, don’t you think you should be putting most of your effort into keeping the spenders happy? The more greenbacks you get from your customers, the better off your company will be. According to Flowtown, it can be 6 to 7 times more costly to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.

New Business: Great customer service is what makes your business stand out from the crowd. If you had to choose between a business that provides lousy service and one that greets you with a smile and takes the time to understand your needs, which one would you pick? The service you provide your customers distinguishes you and puts you a step ahead of the competition. When you bring together an excellent product or service with a strong reputation for outstanding service, you will begin to create opportunities for new customers without changing your routine.

More Business: Word-of-mouth recommendations are a significant driver of business. Very satisfied customers will recommend your services to their friends. Alternately, very unsatisfied customers will tell even more friends than the satisfied ones! Either way, you have a viral self-perpetuating PR machine built into your customer service performance. According to Consumer Affairs, people that have a positive experience with a company’s customer service department will likely tell two or three others about their experience.

Tune in next week for a related blog post on training customer service representatives to perform at top levels!

Readers, what do you think about customer service? Is it a factor when you are deciding where to spend your money? What are your good, bad, and ugly customer service stories?

Here is a little something on the subject to brighten your day. Enjoy!

Best wishes,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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