We would all love to change the world. For the majority of us, we have family, careers, social obligations and personal challenges that suck up our time and energy leaving little time to pursue worthwhile causes. In light of Martin Luther King Day, it would be a terrific time to think of this vision and try to employ them in our daily lives at work. There’s no pressure to fix all of the world’s problems, but if we do something positive for someone, it’s a start. Yesterday, I wrote a piece in Forbes discussing the long-term success that can be achieved through Kaizen. It describes how taking small incremental steps each day can make you 1% better and eventually lead to successfully accomplishing your goals. Imagine the transformation we could collectively accomplish at work if we all took part in initiating positive changes. Here are some examples:
If you look around your office, invariably there will be several bright, young people who look lost. They look polished, sound intelligent, but somehow they are overlooked by management. Why not take that person under your wing and mentor her? It would not take much time, but would mean the world to this person to learn the ropes from a wise and experienced professional. It would make her feel honored, proud and excited about her job and future. It may be the one thing needed to head her toward a great future. If you don’t have the time or temperament for mentoring, invite the person for a cup of coffee or lunch with the goal of answering questions and concerns that she has and offer lessons you’ve learned over the years that could help her avoid costly mistakes.
A job seekers who was invited back for multiple rounds of interviews with your company, did exceptionally well each time, but was ultimately edged out by another candidate has been calling and emailing you for feedback. Yes, there are dozens of pressing matters you have to deal with and fires that you need to put out. However, after the fourth follow-up email from the candidate, how about actually picking up the phone and calling back that person? Politely share what they did well in the interview and offer some constructive feedback and the rationale as to why you went with a different person. Even though he wanted the job, the candidate will just feel elated that you called. He won’t feel as if he was just a transient number and inconsequential. The feedback could make all the difference for his next interview and possibly be the reason why he gets the next job he interviews for. You will also feel better about yourself now that a nagging weight is off of your shoulders.
Hiring managers, human resources and recruiters are inundated with résumés. More often than not, the résumés are not appropriate for the job and they clog up your inbox. What if everyday you read at least one of these résumé and cover letter submittals and contact the person? Share why they’re not a fit and volunteer an open ear to listen to what type of job they really want and provide any advice that you can offer, drawing from your own experiences. The person will feel special and appreciate you taking the time to call. It may make them rethink their strategy and try a more focused approach toward replying to job advertisements. The person may not be right for your position, but there could be other roles within your company or at other places that you could direct them to.
The interview process has become cold, clinical, driven by technology and the humanity has been wrung out of it. Job descriptions can be misleading and exclude people (such as older workers), feedback is sparingly offered and hiring managers ghost candidates that they feel are not a fit. There are innumerable petty nuisances and rudeness that job seekers are forced to endure, leaving them to feel demeaned and belittled. Put yourself in the shoes of the person seeking a new job. How would you feel if you were made to submit résumés to portals and not hear a response? Why should a well-experienced person be forced to submit lengthy applications, share their college GPA from 25 years ago, along with other personal information and then left out in the cold not knowing if the résumé was even submitted to the appropriate party?
I recognize that companies have become entranced with using technology as a magic cure-all, but consider that hiring is an interpersonal endeavor. Artificial intelligence will never supplant an honest and open conversation between people in the real world where you really get to know one another. Wouldn’t it be beneficial for everyone to remember that behind the résumés are real-life people with hopes, dreams and families who desire a fulfilling job, want to contribute and seek a chance to share their skills? Set aside the algorithms and have an actual in-person meeting with a candidate. You’ll learn so much more than what a software program will spit out.
In the same right, when seeking a new position, have some compassion for hiring managers and recruiters. They try their best, but are besieged by hundreds of résumés for each job requisition. Hiring managers are attempting to do their job, while plugging the hole of the employee who left and also interview people. Companies don’t generally train managers in the art of interviewing and they are thrown to the wind to fend for themselves. Their actions are more likely due to their unfamiliarity with the process rather than purposefully trying to be mean.
In today’s corporate world, we are overwhelmed with stress, anxiety and pressure. It’s easy to become surly, comparative and abusive at times. You don’t mean to be like that. It’s just that, from time to time, you reach a boiling point and explode. Moving forward, next time you have that feeling, take a deep breath and consider your actions. Instead of berating a subordinate in front of everyone, pull them aside and calmly explain what they may have done incorrectly, how to fix the error and how to avoid this in the future. The employee will appreciate your reassuring, measured approach and will rise to the occasion in the future. In turn, you will feel good about yourself by having not lost your temper and making a spectacle of yourself and hurting someone who looks up to you.
We are always fighting and jockeying for power, prestige and money. This translates into slashing 10,000 jobs or moving an entire division to other states and countries in a drive to save the company money. As the executive with this idea, you’ll get a big bonus because of the cost-saving measures. Managers casually throw perceived adversaries under the bus to get ahead. Underlings are an easy target to blame foul-ups on and steal their ideas and present them as your own. These behaviors create toxic environments, which perpetuate themselves. Since everyone else is acting in this fashion, I will too, you believe. It’s a corporate jungle and it’s survival, kill or be killed, you rationalize. If we all dialed it back a little, considered the ramifications of our actions, it would turn the culture around. People would work harder and results would improve, as the fear and intimidation dissipates.
It’s easy to get comfortable with your clique at the office. Start reaching out to others that you don’t ordinarily associate with. Put aside your hierarchical hangups. Strike up conversations with employees at all levels, races, religions, genders and economic backgrounds. Keep an open mind. If you are at a senior level, the junior employees will appreciate that you are paying attention and listening to them. You will be amazed at how much you will learn by listening to others opinions, views, ideas and perceptions.
As Martin Luther King said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” You could start right now by doing a small part to treat people with dignity, courtesy and respect.