“Um…yeah, OK, whatever,” Lois replies when you ask her to stay late to meet a deadline. Will the work get done? Is it too late to find someone else? Did Lois really just say, “Whatever?”
Business communication feels like it’s under a state of siege and employers are responding by lowering standards. This isn’t breaking news; multi-tasking, electronic communications, social networking and generational divides have all contributed to employers seemingly taking down the bar of what is acceptable. More common doesn’t mean less annoying.
They Wouldn’t Dare Say That to a Customer
Marist Poll results reported this month gave, “whatever,” top honors as the phrase respondents found most annoying in conversation. I provided training for a group of managers at a regional bank who lamented the spread of the phrase, particularly when it was accompanied by eye rolling for emphasis. One VP said, “Tellers say it to each other all the time, but they had better not say it to a customer.” Can you predict personality transformation when facing the public? I can’t.
No Slacker Zones
Put a large circle and slash through the phrases that don’t represent the image you seek to present. “Whatever” projects slacker, disturbing almost half of Marist Poll respondents while 25 percent are rankled by the runner up, “you know,” Many public speakers, including prominent politicians, have battled to remove, “you know” from their vernacular. Adding “um” to the conversation does nothing to boost confidence.
It’s All in the Company Culture
I have seen company cultures where formality reigns with everyone addressed by last name and sir and madam. I have also experienced the opposite extreme with daily dialogues eligible for a NC 17 rating. I don’t advocate either one. I do recommend setting an acceptable standard that reflects the culture you are trying to build and maintain, demonstrating adherence and following through with staff.