Friday, August 5, 2011

KeFactors Friday: Understanding Opportunity: Opportunity is Seeded in Civility

It blows me away that workplace civility continues to be the mysterious, elusive unicorn.
Aside from being untenable, workplace incivility is costly—to the uncivil person most of all.

A young woman described to me her method for dealing with a preponderance of phone calls: there was never enough time in the day to return them, so a certain number were left alone.

“How do you decide who not to call back?” I asked.

“Peers, colleagues, work friends, people I know,” she shrugged. “I figure if it’s important enough to them, they’ll call me back. Besides, they know me. They know I’m not uncaring.”
I was skeptical.

How na├»ve or presumptuous to think the world pivots solely from a knowledge of you and will never fail to give you the benefit of the doubt. The only person who reigns in that category might be your mother and even she might get irate if you don’t reply.

When you do not respond, a flurry of unintended messages goes to the other person:
“I am more important than you are, and I have opted to ignore you.”
• “For reasons not made clear to you, I am avoiding you.”
• “I’m busy; it’s your job to pursue me.”

Sure, people who know you will more than likely know you are not uncaring, but a lack of response also resets their options and sends them in a different direction.

The young woman I spoke with learned that one the hard way. She’d disregarded calls from a former colleague, and was later stunned to learn this individual had changed jobs — this time to work for a larger client organization. Work from that account was awarded to one of her competitors. When they saw each other again, she said to the former colleague, “I’d have liked to have had a chance to bid on your account.”

“I called you twice,” the other replied.
“But you never told me it was for a bid.”
The acquaintance gave her a look. “Sorry.”

If you look at anything that’s ever been said about opportunity, very likely you’ll notice it comes disguised as other things—as small, trivial conversations; as problems and difficulties; as someone just asking a question or reporting a change.
I don’t care how fabulous you are: few people have time to chase you and beg you to consider working on their account. If you want new opportunities, return your calls.

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