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(CINDERS McLEOD FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
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NINE TO FIVE

Are my chatty e-mails really that unprofessional? Add to ...

THE QUESTION

Hi! I want to begin this e-mail as I usually do – saying “Hi!” – because I think it is a friendly way to greet and second, because it is positive and shows enthusiasm. Apparently, where I work, it also shows a lack of professionalism.

As a non-native English speaker, it is very hard to adapt to a foreign business world. I have worked in sales and as college professor. I have passed interviews, English tests, and I even did my MBA here. I am a highly educated foreign worker. I have been working for this company for almost a year and, unfortunately, the only feedback that I have received is about my e-mail etiquette.

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Yesterday, I cried when I got home. I felt extremely frustrated because the feedback I have received is poor, doesn’t motivate or inspire me, and doesn’t give me tools to grow.

I am aware of the culture clash happening here. But I can only feel criticized, bullied, and self-conscious. Apparently, my professionalism is shown by an exclamation point, not the long hours I have committed to this job or the content in my e-mail.

Am I overreacting? Are these, in fact, unprofessional manners in the work environment? Are they being too picky? I feel extremely upset when hearing these requests. They make me feel that I don’t know how to write, how to punctuate, how to speak, nor present. I know my credentials say otherwise.

THE FIRST ANSWER

Billy Anderson

Founder, Made You Think Coaching, Toronto

We are born with a need to belong and the way we do that best is by adding value. That’s why feeling undervalued – as you feel now – is so upsetting. In addition, the feedback you’ve mentioned is definitely not very helpful to your growth.

When work brings you to tears, then something needs to change – either your boss’s behaviour or how you approach the situation. Often we forget that we have to manage our boss, just like they manage us.

Step one is to feel like you’ve done everything you can to help your manager be the kind of person you’d like to work for.

Consider their situation. How long have they been in their role? Does he/she have an MBA too? If not, it’s common for them to feel intimidated. Often, when a boss lacks training, experience or self-confidence, they resort to micromanaging. It makes them feel like they’re adding value with the simple things, rather than focusing on the bigger projects that scare them.

Have you explained, in detail, the kind of feedback you would prefer? That’s your responsibility and it might make it easier for them.

If that fails, you should consider whether this organization is the right fit for you. Might you be happier somewhere else with a less formal structure?

THE SECOND ANSWER

Kyle Couch

President and CEO, Spectrum Organizational Development Inc.

Your issue around appropriate communication could have easily been solved – through communication.

My advice is to be yourself. Authenticity is a scarce commodity in business these days, and if you can find a situation where you can actually be yourself, customers and co-workers alike will gravitate to you, and you will, in turn, become far more successful. It seems as though your current corporate culture does not allow this. While feedback and “onboarding” would have eliminated these missteps, it would have prevented you from acting naturally.

Many organizations work tirelessly to develop their brand. While most of us may only consider the logo as a brand, it goes far deeper than this. A company’s brand is composed of all aspects of the organization, from logo and product offerings, to office space and corporate culture.

While you may feel that your current employer’s corporate culture is wrong, it may just be wrong for you. You work for a company that values traditional professional behaviour. I am a huge fan of “fit” between employee and employer, and this doesn’t seem to be a good fit for you.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to mailto:ninetofive@globeandmail.com..

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