Think, Speak, Influence.

It was a simple looking room. Small, probably 8 feet by 8 feet with a wooden desk in the middle and a swivel chair behind it. On the table there was a computer and a name plate with the insignia Julia Mathews. It was pretty bland as far offices go, with no photos or posters on the wall, just an antique looking wall clock that looked completely out of place. The clock was what bothered Peter the most while sitting in that room alone looking at the empty chair in front of him. Not the look of the clock but rather the loud ticking noise that it made as each second passed. Peter had been in the room hardly 5 minutes but the sound seemed to have increased monumentally with each passing second. Peter started wondering if this was some form of office torture employed by HR managers when they wanted to reprimand employees for bad behavior. It reminded him of college when he used to stare at the wall clock at the end of boring lectures and each second could be heard loud as a gong even in the back of the class and each second felt like an hour. It is probably why he was bugged by the clock so much and if he hadn’t been in trouble already he might have done something to it. “Clocks are always a nuisance everywhere” Peter mumbled as he made a mental note in his head.

It had been hardly 2 months since he graduated and got this job which was not as bad as he had imagined. The team was fun, his work was interesting and his boss was cool, at least he felt that way till 15 minutes ago when he was sent to the HR manager for reasons he still couldn’t understand. People in charge can never be cool, thought Peter as he made another mental note. He was about to dissect his boss mentally in his head and think of all the non-cool things he had done when his thought was interrupted by the door opening. A lady walked in dressed in an elegant black suit with a yellow shirt and matching black skirt with a beaming smile on her face. Peter made a quick assessment, probably a few inches shorter than him, probably 2–3 years older than him, probably a warm and friendly person but definitely super freaking beautiful. Peter made a mental note — boss not so evil as initially noted.

She walked in and sat down on the swivel chair. “Hi Peter. How are you doing?” asked Julia. He wanted to say having a great day and smile back at her and ask her how she was doing. What came out was a weird sound that really wasn’t a word and him shaking his head in an up and down direction as well as left and right at the same time as if he was doing a bad imitation of a yoga asana. She had a perplexed look in her eye but she maintained her dazzling smile and without flinching she said, “Alright Peter, let me get straight down to business. We have received multiple concerns regarding you at work.” “First of all nobody has an issue with your work output in fact most are exceedingly happy with that. The problem really lies in possibly the way you communicate with others”

Hmmm. Peter thought wish I could communicate properly now. He paused took a deep breath and relaxed then looked at her again and asked her finally “Can you let me know where I falter; I know I may have cracked a few jokes with colleagues but I have never insulted anyone here.”

“Peter no one has an insinuated that you insulted them but there are certain things that need to be said in different ways as opposed to how you would have said it in college.” “I am not here to reprimand you but rather to share some information so that you can keep saying what you say but in the correct manner.”

“Let me walk you through a few and you should get a grasp of what I am speaking about”

“Don’t say that’s not my problem. Although the issue may not concern you, saying that makes you sound like you are self-serving and not a team player. Alternatively you can say I recommend you to talk to Mr. X”

“Don’t say, but we have always done it that way, as that makes you look like you are inflexible and opposed to change. Instead you could try saying that is a different approach, can you tell me why it’s better?”

“Peter, are you able to get a sense of what I am doing here?”

Peter nodded and said “Yesterday, I told my colleague straight to his face he was wrong, in front of our manager, when he brought a solution to the problem we were working on. I assume me saying that was wrong, but how do I say it because he was wrong.”

Julia smiled and spoke again “Excellent Peter you understand. You could have said I disagree and here is why, could you let me know your thoughts on it.”

Peter thought for a second and said “That does make sense”

Julia looked at him again and said “I think you get it now but let me quickly walk you through a few other examples.”

“Don’t say there is nothing I can do as it makes you seem pessimistic and negative. Instead try saying I’m a bit stuck can you help me find any other option.”

“Don’t say this will only take a minute all though you know the work will be done quickly but not in a minute as people can take it literally and feel disappointed when you delay the work. Instead say that you will get back with a timeframe to complete the work.”

“Don’t say that makes no sense if you get confused with what some one is saying as it again makes you sound negative. What you can try is say I am not sure about that, can you tell me why it is a better option.”

“Lastly don’t say I did my best. Although we expect your best, sometimes your best is not good enough but that is ok. What irks people is when you use it as an excuse. Instead you can ask what I can do better next time.”

Julia looked at Peter and asked one last time“I hope all of that was clear. You seem to grasp things quickly so I am not dwelling on this further and I hope you can implement these thoughts when communicating.” “Do you have any questions for me?”

“What’s your phone number? Are you in a relationship? Do you find me cute? Will you go out with me” A thousand questions flooded Peter’s mind but he just looked at her and shook his head.

“Alright Peter then you can go as I have another meeting” said Julia as she got up. Peter also got up and opened the door and left, pondering to himself about the moral dilemma he was facing. Listen to the great advice she gave as it made complete sense or do the same so that he gets in trouble and visits her again.

PGC is a boutique Management Consulting firm engaged in the business of enabling its clients to transform their Org, Culture & Capabilities.