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Opinion Editorials

How a simple period in your text message might be misinterpreted: Tips to improve your virtual communication

(OPINION/EDITORIAL) Text, email, and IM messages may be received differently depending on your communication style and who you’re communicating with. Here’s some ways to be more mindful.

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Black woman smiling in communication talking on phone and laptop in front of her.

Life is full of decisions, learning, hopefully some adventure, and “growth opportunities” through our careers and work. One that some of us may have never considered is how our text, email or IM communication comes across to the receiver – thus providing us a growth opportunity to take a look at our own personal communication styles.

It may have never occurred to us that others would take it a different way. After all, we know ourselves, we can hear our voices in our heads. We know when we are joking, being sarcastic, or simply making a statement. The way we communicate is built upon how we were raised, what our English teachers stressed, and even what we’ve been taught through our generational lens.

NPR put out an article recently, “Are Your Texts Passive-Aggressive? The Answer May Lie in Your Punctuation”. This article discussed what to consider in regards to your punctuation in text.

“But in text messaging — at least for younger adults — periods do more than just end a sentence: They also can set a tone.” Gretchen McCulloch, a linguist and author of the book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, told NPR’s All Things Considered last year that when it comes to text messaging,”the period has lost its original purpose. Rather than needing a symbol to indicate the end of a sentence, you can simply hit send on your message.”

While it may seem silly that the receiver would think you are mad at them because you used a period, here are some things to consider in our virtual communication now that we are all much more digital:

  • There are no facial expressions in a text except for emojis (which, even then, could be left up to misinterpretation)
  • There’s no sound of voice or inflection to indicate tone
  • We are emailing, texting, and sending instant messages at an alarming rate now that we are not having as many in-person interactions with our colleagues

Gen Z (b. 1995 – 2015), who are the most recent generation to enter the workplace, grew up with much quicker forms of communication with their earlier access to tech. They’ve had a different speed of stimulation via YouTube videos, games, and apps. They may have never experienced the internet speed via a dial-up modem so they are used to instantaneous results.

They also have quickly adapted and evolved through their use of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and now TikTok. The last two platforms are designed for pretty brief attention spans, which indicates our adaptation to fast communication.

Generational shaming is out and uncomfortable but necessary conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion are in (which includes ageism). You can’t just chalk it up as “those kids” don’t understand you, or that they need to learn and “pay their dues”.

So if you are of an older generation and even a manager, here are some considerations that you can take regarding your virtual communications:

1. Consider having yourself and your team take a DiSC assessment.

“The DiSC® model provides a common language that people can use to better understand themselves and to adapt their behaviors with others — within a work team, a sales relationship, a leadership position, or other relationships.

DiSC profiles help you and your team:

  • Increase your self-knowledge: How you respond to conflict, what motivates you, what causes you stress, and how you solve problems
  • Improve working relationships by recognizing the communication needs of team members
  • Facilitate better teamwork and teach productive conflict
  • Develop stronger sales skills by identifying and responding to customer styles
  • Manage more effectively by understanding the dispositions and priorities of employees and team members

This quiz is designed to help you identify your main communication style. It helps you to be more conscious of how your style may come across to others. Does it builds relationships, or create silent conflicts? It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change, but you can adapt your style to best fit your team.

2. Always ask your direct reports about their preferred method of communication (call, text, email, IM, meeting).

Retain this information and do your best to meet them where they are. It would also be helpful to share your preferred method with them and ask them to do their best to meet you where you are.

3. Consider putting composed emails in your drafts if you are fired up, frustrated, or down right angry with your team.

You may feel like you are being direct. But since tone will be lost virtually, your message may not come across the way you mean it, and it may be de-motivating to the receiver. Let it sit in drafts and come back to it a little bit later. Does your draft say all you need to say, or could it be edited to be a little less harsh? Would this be better as a meeting (whether video or phone) over a written communication? Now the receiver has a chance to see you and have a conversation rather than feeling put on blast.

And finally, be curious.

Check out Lindsey Pollak’s books or podcast on the best ways to work with a variety of generations in your organization. Lindsey is a Multigenerational Work Expert and she does a great job explaining her research to drive multigenerational workplace success. She gives ideas on what all employees, managers, and even corporations should consider as we experience so many generations and communication styles in the workplace at the same time.

You may laugh that your children or employees think you are mad at them when you use a period in a text. But there’s a lot more behind it to consider. It may take adaptation on all sides as communication styles and the “future of work” continue to evolve.

Erin Wike is a Career Coach & Lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin and owner of Cafe Con Resume. Erin is fueled by dark roast coffee with cream AND sugar, her loving husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs. She is the Co-Founder of Small Business Friends ATX to help fellow entrepreneurs + hosts events for people to live a Life of Yes with Mac & Cheese Productions.

Opinion Editorials

6 skills humans have that AI doesn’t… yet

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It’s not unreasonable to be concerned about the growing power and skill of AI, but here are a few skills where we have the upper hand.

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Man drawing on a roll of butcher paper, where AI cannot express themselves yet.

AI is taking over the workforce as we know it. Burgers are already being flipped by robotic arms (and being flipped better), and it’s only a matter of time before commercial trucks and cars will be driven by robots (and, probably, be driven better).

It may feel unnerving to think about the shrinking number of job possibilities for future humans – what jobs will be around for humans when AI can do almost everything better than we can?

To our relief (exhale!), there are a few select skills that humans will (hopefully) always be better at than AI. The strengths that we have over AI fall into 3 general categories: Ability to convey emotion, management over others, and creativity.

Let’s break it down: Here are 6 skills that we as humans should be focusing on right now.

Our ability to undertake non-verbal communication

What does this mean for humans? We need to develop our ability to understand and communicate body language, knowing looks, and other non-verbal cues. Additionally, we need to refine our ability to make others feel warm and heard – if you work in the hospitality industry, mastering these abilities will give you an edge over the AI technologies that might replace you.

Our ability to show deep empathy to customers

Unlike AI, we share experiences with other humans and can therefore show empathy to customers. Never underestimate how powerful your deep understanding of being human will be when you’re pitted against a robot for a job. It might just be the thing that gives you a cutting edge.

Our ability to undertake growth management

As of this moment, humans are superior to AI when it comes to managing others. We are able to support organization members in developing their skillsets and, due to our coaching ability, we are able to help others to grow professionally. Take that, AI!

Our ability to employ mind management

What this essentially means is that we can support others. Humans have counseling skills, which means we are able to help someone in distress, whether that stems from interpersonal relationships or professional problems. Can you imagine an AI therapist?

Our ability to perform collective intelligence management

Human creativity, especially as it relates to putting individual ideas together to form an innovative new one, gives us a leg up when competing against AI. Humans are able to foster group thought, to manage and channel it, to create something bigger and better than what existed before. Like, when we created AI in the first place.

Our ability to realize new ideas in an organization

Think: Elevator pitch. Humans are masters of marketing new ideas and are completely in-tune with how to propose new concepts to an organization because, you guessed it, we too are human. If the manager remains human in the future (fingers crossed!), then we know what to say to them to best sell our point of view.

Using what we know, it’s essential for almost all of us to retrain for an AI-driven economy that is most likely just a few years away. My advice for my fellow humans? Develop the parts of you that make you human. Practice eye contact and listening. Think about big pictures and the best way to manage others. Sharpen your mind with practicing creative processes. And do stay up to date with current trends in AI tech. Sooner or later, these babies are bound to be your co-workers.

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Opinion Editorials

Questions you wished recruiters would answer

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Job searching is anxiety inducing, and not getting feedback can be tough. What can job seekers, recruiters, and HR do to make it easier?

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Two men interviewing at a table, job searching.

Job searching can be frustrating and stressful – not to mention anxiety-driven – but also sometimes filled with hope and excitement for a new opportunity on the horizon. Most people aren’t huge fans of multiple interviews, constantly selling themselves, or the uncertainty of when an exciting offer will come their way. Here are some considerations to try to put it in to a healthy perspective.

Yes, you will feel stressed and anxious. If you can, allow yourself to accept these feelings as part of your journey in life. Take note of what can you do to move forward, and hopefully it will propel your energy into time and space that is well spent.

Just know that you are not alone on a myriad of questions that no one has really answered for you. That is mostly due to the other side of the table which usually includes Human Resources and a Hiring Manager.

Question: What is the status of my application?

Answer: It really depends. Did you apply online? Is it sitting in an ATS (Applicant Tracking System = software to track job applicants and open job requisitions)? Has anyone looked at it? Have you gone through a recruiter and are waiting to hear back? Have you sent it to a friend or former colleague who works at that institution? Do we know if this position is still open?

Ideas to move forward: If there is anyone you can get in touch with about your application, do it. Send a polite email to them asking if there’s any chance if the position is still open and/or if your application has been reviewed. If there is no one to get in touch with, keep moving forward in your job searching. ATS’s are GREAT for the employer. They help track applicants and scan for keywords. The challenge is they may not be great for the job seeker and might be sitting in a black hole. Consider that 300 job searching applications are sitting there with yours.

It’s not that you are not good enough. And it’s not that you don’t have what it takes. It’s that your resume is combined with a lot of other information and may not even have been reviewed. They may have also filled the position and didn’t take the posting down.

OR, clients change their minds all the time – maybe they are going in a new direction with this role. See if you can find out the status first. And if you can’t, move on. You can learn more about ATS here from Jobscan.

Question: May I have feedback from my interview(s)?

Answer: Most likely, no. They may give you some simple answer “You didn’t quite have the experience they were looking for” or “We’ve hired an internal applicant.” Without getting into too many details and legal guidelines (that I’m not even sure I’m aware of), company representatives often cannot give too much feedback to an interview for fear of being sued. They don’t want to be sued for ageism, sexism, etc. so it’s easier to not give any feedback.

Please excuse the gross oversimplification here, but also think about the company. They may be trying to recruit new employees for 100s of positions. If they interview even 3-5 people per position, they just don’t have the time to give detailed feedback to every interview. Try to think back to a time that maybe you had a crush on someone and or were dating and it just didn’t fit or feel right. Did you want to have to give a detailed explanation or did you just hope you (and they) could move on? Move on if it’s not a right fit. NEXT.

Question: If not a fit for this role, am I fit for other roles within the organization?

Answer: You can certainly ask this if you are given a rejection (and not ghosted). The truth is, the team (or people) you were interviewing with are most likely not concerned with too many other roles in the organization. They may not have been briefed on what others are looking for nor care – going back to the time thing, they just don’t have a lot of it.

However, it could be worth asking on the off-chance that Jim from another department did mention to them he was looking for someone like you. However, if you don’t hear back on that, definitely do not take it personally. They likely have no clue and it may take you applying to another position or another person in your network helping you to identify this other role during the job searching process.

Question: Why did the recruiter ghost me?

Answer: Honestly, I’m sorry that they did. It’s crappy and doesn’t feel good. It’s disrespectful and really doesn’t leave a good impression. I don’t have an excuse for them other than to say that they’re busy working to fill roles. It’s unlikely that they are on a 100% commission basis but if they are, think about how they need to move on to the next thing to keep food on their table. And even though most get paid a decent base salary, each role does lead to commission for them. It is part of their job responsibilities to find and hire the right talent. Recruiters have a lot of metrics they need to hit and they only have so much time in the day like everyone else. They may not have the luxury of time to follow up with every person that is not the right fit.

I still believe they should let you know, but chalk it up as something out of control, do your best to move on.

Request to HR/Recruiters

If there is any way at all that you can make sure you keep in touch with your job searching candidates (even if it’s to say you don’t have new updates), you will really help their anxiety and help them balance timelines and possibly other interviews and offers.

As this article from Evil HR lady shares, if you are unable to give them feedback regarding their rejection for a position, consider offering a couple things you feel they could approve upon. Your advice may not even be job specific but here are some ideas to consider that may be helpful to the job seeker:

  • Make sure you answer the phone with enthusiasm and not sound like I interrupted you or you just woke up.
  • Be sure to do company and role research for every single interview.
  • Dress to impress – even if it’s a virtual interview (and don’t forget to test your camera and audio before).
  • Turn off your phone and IM notifications when interviewing to minimize distractions.
  • Thank you emails or snail mail are still more than welcome and a nice gesture.
  • Google yourself and do a quick look at what a recruiter might see if they Google you – are impressive and professional details coming up? If not, you may want to work on pushing out some thoughtful content.
  • Tread lightly with insincere LinkedIn connection requests.

You cannot control the process so you must hold onto your hope and continue to make efforts. Hopefully this help shares some insights and helps to normalize this process.

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Opinion Editorials

Woman fired for premarital sex, raises questions of company culture

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) This unfortunate circumstance for a former David Ramsey employee has raised the age-old conversation of how to enforce a company culture.

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Company culture being established around a meeting table with dark colored drinks and notebooks.

America, the land of the free, and the opinionated. And in company culture, this is no different.

Over the years the US has grown and changed. A nation that over the centuries formed from the amalgamation of beliefs and cultures. Now let us be frank, there is a majority in certain beliefs and practices. Those groups can also sometimes come with rather large mouth pieces as well, but that isn’t always a bad thing. People’s moral and cultural compasses influence the world around us. Ultimately, we can create cults or communities. We can be harmful or helpful with how we choose to influence those around us.

When you combine that with economics, though, that’s when things can get tricky. The difficulties of mixing the cooperate world with morals and beliefs can get expensive. There are numerous instances of companies being sued for wrongful termination. Currently, Dave Ramsey’s company has recently come into the spotlight due to a lawsuit being filed against them by a disgruntled employee. The company culture has strict rules against certain extracurricular activities. Now usually people would think they would mean recreational drugs, but not in this case. As of March 8th, Ramsey Solutions has reportedly fired 8 employees over the last 5 years for engaging in premarital sex.

Caitlin O’Connor is the latest employee to deal with this situation. Now, while some of us may have seen this company culture and decided to just keep life and work separate, there’s another difficulty here. Ms. O’Connor has recently become pregnant, which leaves no doubt about her outside of work activities. Now there is a number of different emotions that happen here. A woman who is now pregnant is losing her job. This may be a person who has no desire to get married and now she’s thrust into unemployment for doing nothing but enjoying a part of life. It is a frustrating situation to say the least on her side.

In that frustration on the part of Ms. O’Connor, however, there are also similar issues on the part of the company. While they have set up this company culture and laid down rules for all their employees, they now have to uphold and find a replacement for this resource completely unexpectedly. It was not only clearly laid out in their company guidelines that they do not condone this behavior, nor its implications, but Ms. O’Connor openly admitted that she was aware of the implications of her actions as well. This company has built a community with expectations and is willing to uphold them. That is their right.

I remember growing up there was a cake shop in Colorado that refused to create a cake for a gay couple based upon their religious beliefs. It was back in 2012. In 2018 the Supreme Court ruled that the shop had the right to refuse service based on their beliefs, which to be honest was my expectation. However, in the process of this that particular his business has not flourished. Ultimately one has to decide whether they want to follow their beliefs in the face of economic hardship. It’s a true show of faith of course but also, is it practical.

Living your life, your way, is the point of this country. We have to remember to share that space with those who believe differently. Bringing no harm to others is one thing, but can we truly be a common people if we refuse to go outside of our own beliefs and morals?

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