Tag Archives: impression management

Public sector leaders still wasting our money

business_conference_1600_wht_3835The new Police and Crime Commissioners have attracted criticism for some of their actions such as travel arrangements or appointments they have made of political allies.

This week it was the turn of the PCC for Kent, Ann Barnes,  a former teacher and magistrate.

In a story in the Times she is being criticised for spending £150,000 on a new office which is only 2 miles from the old one at a time when officers are losing their jobs.

Her new office also includes a studio for radio interviews even though there is already one on the same site a few minutes walk from her office which is used by police chiefs.

She has been accused of “diva-like behaviour” and having “hissy fits” and it’s reported she is not very popular with staff. She also spent £7,500 on consultants to improve her brand.

She reminds me of Andrea Hill, former Chief Executive at Suffolk County Council who stepped down after criticism of her approach including spending tax-payers money on leadership coaching and glamour PR photographs of herself.

These narcissistic behaviours are not uncommon amongst people in leadership positions who cane be charming and persuasive (manipulative) until things start to go wrong. And as they say “pride comes before a fall”.

I’ve posted in the past about public sector “fat cats”.  It seems nothing much changes.

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Impression Management for Women (true or false?)

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

Working women dress to impress in power suits on Mondays – but by Friday they’re in jeans

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  • By Wednesday most swap high heels for much lower ones – or even flats
  • On Fridays a quarter wear trainers to the office and even more wear jeans
  • Despite preferring relaxed comfort during the day, around one in four bring a change of clothes and accessories to the office and one in three ‘higher heels’ so they can shed their work-wear when the clock hits 5pm.

On Fridays women wear comfy jeans and shoes, with 25 per cent bringing a change of clothes for the evening

<> on October 26, 2010 in Long Beach, California.However, the ‘sliding scale of smart’ gradually decreases as the week goes by, with Tuesday seeing 69 per cent dressing to impress, although 32 per cent admit they spend less time on their hair and makeup than they did the day before.

By Wednesday almost half of…

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How to get your CV/resume wrong

businesswoman_skills_briefcase_1600_wht_11098When you realise that recruiters say they spend less than a minute reading your CV and covering letter you don’t want to drop howlers like these (courtesy of CareerBuilder and BNET bloggers but the comments are mine).

  • Saying you want the interview so you can show off your new tie – just don’t wear it on dress-down Friday
  • Listing your dog as a reference – on reflection it may be that person’s only friend!
  • Husband and wife seeking job-share using a co-written poem to make their point – a limerick springs to mind here…
  • Candidate’s e-mail address contained “shakinmybootie” – I’ve seen a solicitor with “pooh bear” in the address. Is that a code?
  • Candidate used first name only – well so does Madonna and Beyonce, and what about the artist formerly known as Prince?
  • Candidate mentioned he had been sacked for assaulting his previous boss – sometimes you can be too honest but haven’t we all thought about it once in our careers?

And so it goes on. There are no excuses for stuff like this and I haven’t even mentioned spelling mistakes and poor grammar.

Impression management is crucial at all stages of the recruitment process. Get some advice if you are competing in the job market; there are plenty of career coaches out there.

How important are the 3 Rs for business?

“Spelling mistakes cost millions” according to an article on the BBC News web-site.

An on-line entrepreneur said analysis of website figures showed that a single spelling mistake can cut on-line sales by 50%. Would-be customers are put off and may be suspicious of the website’s credibility given their experience with mis-spelled spam and fraudulent sites. First impressions are important on the internet when users might only browse for a few seconds before moving on.

He also complained about the poor quality of job applicants. He says too many job applications contain spelling mistakes and poor grammar with some even using textspeak. And when they tested some of the applicants whose applications seemed OK it was apparent that they relied on spell checkers.

The CBI has long complained about the quality of school-leavers’ levels of literacy and numeracy –  and not surprisingly given that one in three children are leaving primary school unable to read and write properly. The CBI says just over 40% of employers are dissatisfied with basic reading and writing skills of both school and college leavers and half are having to invest in remedial training.

Misspellings and textspeak may be acceptable on social networking sites but not for job applications.

And in America (reported in the Times 12 July 2011), some schools and colleges will no longer be focussing on the “3 Rs” but the “3 Ts”texting, tapping, and typing.

So far 41 states have adopted a curriculum that doesn’t require children to be taught how to do handwriting, it’s just an option.

The argument is that writing is of limited use in this digital age and that keyboarding skills are more important. Which may be true but some experts think that learning to write by hand improves the way a child’s brain develops. It also encourages children to write in more complete sentences and researchers have found that children can compose essays faster using a pen rather than a computer.

So will handwriting be another of those things our grandchildren find hard to believe we actually learned to do and that some of us took great pride in our penmanship? Will pens and pencils be treasured artifacts for future archeologists? Lazlo Biro will be turning in his grave.

No country for grey-haired men

No country for grey-haired men In America it seems more and more men are seeking hair colouring since the recession.

Men of a certain age are trying to retain just enough grey hair to look distinguished but not so much that they look over the hill in the job stakes.

Over the last 10 years the number of men colouring their hair has doubled to 6% overall but risen to 10% for the  over 50s. Sales of DIY hair colouring have risen by the same amount.

First impressions are obviously … Read More

via EI 4u with permission

1, 2, or 3 buttons?

How buttoned up you are could influence your career prospects. Literally.

But many women know that already. Even if you have the brains using your “erotic capital” might give you a boost.

As a former city trader said; “do you want to get noticed or play safe?” in the Sunday Times article  (19/12/10) “Which button says I get promotion?”

On women’s shirts 3 buttons undone is too much but only one or two looks dowdy. It seems dress codes are back in style. And not just relating to cleavage but hemlines, collars, suit pockets and shoes. Swiss Bank UBS has produced on of the most detailed dress codes I have come across.

And this is a subject I have first hand knowledge of. Back when I was an HR Director I suggested that a female member of the team might want to wear something that wasn’t completely backless. (And I mean totally. From behind she looked like she was topless). I felt it didn’t reflect a professional image. My boss the CEO heard about it and his only comment was “good luck with that”. It was considered too delicate a topic to have an open discussion about (we eventually resolved it by getting all the staff to agree what was acceptable and what wasn’t).

So UBS has views not only about how to dress but also about personal hygiene eg sweaty feet, garlic breath and other aspects of grooming which they believe will improve performance at work. And the detail is truly awe-inspiring: heel height, number of buttons on jackets, when to button and when not to, colour of women’s underwear, lipstick, mascara and nail polish, hair style (mustn’t take more than 30 minutes to prepare each day) and perfume strength.

So is this “uniforms r us” and back to wearing ties and cuff-links for men? The recession might have brought an end to “dress down Fridays”. It seems managers are seeing a link between smart dress, a confident mindset and high performance. Will this approach filter down to other jobs? Do you really want to look different when redundancies are looming?

But however detailed your dress code and wherever you work the article suggests one definite “no-no” for men – never tuck your tie in your trousers.

Updated 5 July 2011: Harrods are being accused of having a too strict dress code about wearing make-up (this only applies to women as far as I know).

The Guardian (02/07/11) reported that it made one sales assistant in the HMV department so stressed she felt she was driven out of her job. The 24 year-old says she was sent home on two occasions and also sent to work in the stock room. HMV were supportive but Harrods became insistent.

She says she worked for 4 years without make-up and was described as one of the best employees by her manager and had received a commendation and excellent mystery shopper feedback.

She didn’t wear make-up at her interview and had no problems until senior managers doing a floor walk spotted her and sent her home for refusing to wear it. She was later summoned to a manager’s office where it was suggested she wore some makeup. She didn’t and continued at work for several more weeks until a new floor manager said that the girls had to be made up at which point she decided she couldn’t go through with more meetings with management and resigned.

The dress code requires women to wear full make-up at all times: base, blusher, full eyes (not too heavy), lipstick, lip liner and gloss, and to maintain this during the day. When she refused to wear make-up she was offered a make-up  workshop so she could see what she looked like.

Clearly she has worked there without make-up for several years and performed well. Dress codes have to be reasonable and you might expect them to be concerned with too much or inappropriate make-up.

Harrods insist she left of her own accord but equality lawyers are probably smacking their lips.

Flattery & ingratiation works – if you have class

businessmenFlattery generally gets a bad press.

Abraham Lincoln said “Knavery and flattery are blood relations”, Dante said that their words were the equivalent of excrement, in the 8th Circle of Hell, and Dale Carnegie said that flattery; “is telling the other person precisely what he thinks about himself”.

But the evidence is that flattery can actually work  – even when it is obviously flattery.

For example a new department store in Hong Kong sent out flyers to would-be clothing shoppers which said they were receiving them because they were stylish and fashionable. Even though an impersonal approach it created implicit positivity about the store and swayed them into choosing that stores over others.

The Hong Kong experts put the susceptibility to flattery down to our need for self-enhancement and wanting to feel good about ourselves. The fact that we like to get positive feedback, even when we know it’s not sincere, is a human trait.

With your boss however it’s a different matter as that is  a personal interaction. Research in America shows that empty flattery can backfire. Successful flattery takes skill and the more politically skilled you are the less obvious it is. If you are not politically skilled it becomes obvious what you are doing and it generates a negative response. If a supervisor sees an employee’s flattery as a ploy to get ahead it tends to result in lower performance ratings. If the supervisor is fooled by the flattery it results in higher performance ratings.

Research from the Kellogg School in the USA found that managers and directors who have a background in politics, sales, or law, are significantly more likely to engage in more sophisticated forms of ingratiation. Those from upper-class backgrounds are also more sophisticated in ingratiatory behaviour than people from middle or lower-class backgrounds.

This might explain why there are fewer top managers with backgrounds in engineering, accounting, or finance as compared to managers with backgrounds in politics, law, or sales (who routinely indulge in flattery and opinion forming as part of their job). So for managers from either upper-class or politics, law, or sales, backgrounds, ingratiatory behaviour is a form of interpersonal communications and is both acceptable and expected.

Flattery can be considered one form of “impression management” – showing respect, smiling, and expressing agreement, even when you’re not feeling it. Researchers in Israel think displaying initiative and dedication is also a form of impression management. They found that employees’ tactics varied according to the type of organisation. In rigid hierarchical workplaces, such as the military, where subordinates are highly dependent on their superior’s goodwill, ingratiation is more prevalent and aimed upwards. In more flexible organisations, such as R&D groups, workers used impression management less and focus it on peers as much as superiors. They also use dedication and commitment rather than flattery.

In an earlier post I wrote about Robert Cialdini, the author of “Influence – science and practice” and the difference between influencing ethically and manipulative behaviour. It seems to me that there are many shades of grey along a continuum from influencing ethically, flattery and ingratiation, to manipulation. No wonder some people find it easy to cross the line.