Originally published via LinkedIn Dec 22, 2015
This time of year can get pretty hairy. With the holidays upon us and for those of us on a calendar fiscal year, closing out Q4 is liable to lead you to drink. On a Tuesday. At 10:45 AM. But really you can find yourself in some of these situation any time of year.
1. The misery of being caught not paying attention on a conference call: Nothing makes you feel more like barfing in your coffee cup than having a senior VP call you out for your thoughts when you’ve been
shopping on Amazon answering emails for the last 10 minutes instead of listening to his latest idea of how to build synergy in the field.
How to deal: The best course of action here is to not respond for a minute. Try to remember the last thing you heard and when you hear your name again, say, “Sorry, I was still on mute, Bob. I have some thoughts around this particularly related to the ideas you noted earlier. I think we should look at our ultimate goal and focus on working towards that.” And then say you have a hard stop and need to jump but would love to circle back later this week.
2. Suddenly forgetting where your mute button is located. How is it that noises carry on a conference call like nowhere else on earth? It’s like the microphone on your laptop was developed by a species of life whose technology far surpasses that of humans. It can pick up the sound of a toilet flushing behind a closed door across a 2000 sq. ft. house. Even though you check that you’re muted at least 15 times, it never fails. That one freaking time your kid comes screaming down the hall or the dog goes apeshit over that God-bless-it squirrel, your line is not muted.
How to deal: First, lock your office door and/or hide in the closet depending on how important the call is. Close your windows, put SpongeBob on the TV for the kids and Fido in the backyard. Obviously, never, under any circumstances, take your phone to the bathroom. And if an interruption does occur know that most folks have lives outside work and are hardly phased. Unless it’s your VP with no tolerance for squealing children while discussing the new comp plan. In that case, blame those damn neighbor kids and take the rest of the call in your locked car.
3. You were over-served at the company holiday party: It happens. Your ‘dinner’ of carrot sticks and hard salami was no match for the Hennessy-laced cranberry sangria.
How to deal: First, assess the damage. Would a simple acknowledgement and apology to the host suffice? Often if you are the first to step up and say, “Clearly, I had a great time at your party. Please excuse my table top dancing and I’ll replace your lampshade immediately.” forgiveness is soon to follow. If Stanley Steamer is involved or HR requests a meeting a meeting with you the following Monday, you might need to polish off your resume. At the next party, stick to club soda and a lime.
4. When you somehow get stuck with all the action items: Isn’t this the best Christmas present ever? You’re invited to a conference call to “provide some feedback” and 20 minutes later you’re getting assigned a task that will take hours to pull together because someone else’s vacation starts at noon.
How to deal: To keep my sanity, in life and at my job, I try to look at everything in a positive light. Kid pees the bed? 4:00 AM is a perfect time to do laundry! So quiet and peaceful. Husband forgets to pick up your prescription? Some fresh air and quick trip to the store will do wonders for your pneumonia! Colleagues dump work in your lap? They trust you to do the best job.
5. The meeting that could have been handled with an email. We all get thousands of emails. You know why? They’re a great way to communicate! You can refer to them later, you have a record of assigning tasks or asking questions, and you have the ability to reply should you wish to discuss the subject further. Amazing right?
How to deal: A previous manager once told me he never attends a meeting unless there is an agenda. Clearly this isn’t ideal for the meeting your direct supervisor requests of only you, but if there is no specific reason noted for the call, consider passing. Or once you get on the call and realize the lameness of it, bail politely and ask to be updated should your feedback or actions be required.
6. You accidentally wish your Jewish colleague Merry Christmas: You were just being pleasant and festive!
How to deal: Chances are he or she is not offended in the least, however, we are all better off when we make ourselves aware of others’ beliefs and traditions. Take a glance at the calendar. You don’t have to sacrifice your own beliefs for someone else’s, but acknowledging them can make all the difference.