Communication: Avoid 10 Phrases to Improve Your Image



Many professionals unknowingly undermine their careers. That’s right. They either self-destruct or limit their career potential by giving away their power in communication.

How? They do it by communicating certain phrases either verbally or in e-mails.

By eliminating the use of such phrases, you’ll look and feel more successful. Seriously? Yes, you’ll project stronger self-confidence, intelligence and credibility.

ID-100270901So avoid using these 10 phrases:

“I hate to ask” or “Sorry to ask” – You’re giving away your power if you’re asking for something that’s part of someone’s job or is reasonable.

In essence, you’re apologizing. Don’t apologize unless it’s necessary.

“Does this make sense?” – There two possible ramifications from using this phrase.

The other person might be insulted because the phrase implies the person doesn’t have enough intelligence to understand your point.

The other possibility – it makes it appear as though you are inadequate in explaining something.

“This is probably a stupid question, but …” – Understand that there are no stupid questions. If you don’t know the answer to something, simply ask your question. You run the risk of looking as though you don’t have self-confidence.

“I wanted to ask …” — Always aim to use an economy of words. This phrase is unnecessary. Just ask your question. People who get to the point quickly also accelerate their careers at a faster rate.

“I may be wrong” – In business, many ideas are worth millions of dollars. Don’t devalue or lessen the impact of your ideas before you even mention it.

“I think” – This phrase introduces a thought in the other person’s mind that you’re really not certain. Be confident and use a phrase like, “My sense is that …”

“Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success.”

-Christopher Lasch

I’m looking for another job” or “I don’t make enough money” – If either is true, it’s no longer a secret.

“I hate her/him” – Never complain about one of your peers or your boss. Sooner or later, it will get back to the other person and it will only hurt your reputation. Plus, carrying around a bag of resentments will only wear you out emotionally. Positive, enthusiastic people earn promotions and raises.

“He/she is hot” – Again, don’t ignite the rumor mill in your office. Keep your conversations and e-mails on a professional level.

“I want a raise” – It’s OK to make your case in person for a raise, but never ask your boss for a raise in an e-mail. Always discuss money in face-to-conversations, after you’ve laid the groundwork to ask your boss for a pay raise.

Finally, if you want to accelerate your career, you can do yourself a favor by using two thoughtful phrases in the majority of your conversations and e-mails.

The phrases are “please” and “thank you.” Think I’m kidding? Try it for a month and you’ll experience a positive difference in how people respond to you.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are additional career tips:

The Professional Way to Disagree with Your Boss — If you value your job and reputation, there are productive ways and unproductive ways to disagree with your boss. Here’s how to do it professionally.

Workplace Bullying – Tips for Victims and Bosses — Workplace issues include bullying. It’s a widespread problem for employers and employees, alike. Here are valuable tips for both employers and workplace victims.

Having Trouble Breaking through the Glass Ceiling? 5 Tips — If you’re having trouble breaking through the glass ceiling, you probably need a change in strategies. There can be several reasons for your struggle to break through the glass ceiling.

Responding to Negative Criticism Requires Professionalism — No one likes being criticized in their work. It’s difficult to hear and it’s understandable why many people make the mistake of being defensive. If you get negative feedback, it’s in your best interest to remain calm and receptive. It’s actually your responsibility – to yourself and the organization.

5 Personality Traits for Personal and Professional Success — Five personality traits are important for overcoming stress and achieving goals academically, professionally an d in personal relationships.

Checklist to Build Self Confidence for Career Success — Everybody occasionally struggles with self-confidence. But some people have continuing low self-esteem. Their lack of confidence serves as a big obstacle.

“Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success.”

-Christopher Lasch


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Photo courtesy patrisyu at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Why Executives Emphasize Communication Training for Employees



Among human resources training priorities, employee communication is often now more important than skills, say many executives.

Two-thirds of executives responding to a survey say communication skills are most needed by certain employees.

That’s according to a 2014 study by AMA Enterprise, a division of the American Management Association.

business man-170645_1280“It appears that many companies are stepping up training and development for individuals, employees who aren’t necessarily considered high potentials or the equivalent, but who are essential to meeting business objectives,” said Jennifer Jones, Director at AMA Enterprise, which provides organizations with assessment, measurement, and tailored training solutions.

“These are the key people who get things done but may not be part of a team or have any direct management authority. They were sometimes overlooked in recent years, but that may be changing,” she explained.

“Being able to frame ideas and share them with colleagues in both writing and speaking is so fundamental that these are most often a starting point in professional growth and development,” Ms. Jones added.

“Being able to frame ideas and share them with colleagues in both writing and speaking is so fundamental that these are most often a starting point in professional growth and development,” Ms. Jones added.

Here’s the breakdown of responses to this question:

If your organization makes an effort to develop individual contributors, which of the following kinds of content are included in such programs?

Communication skills – 66 percent

Skills/competences specific to individual’s role – 60 percent

Leadership development – 52 percent

Project management – 49 percent

Interpersonal skills – 48 percent

Collaboration – 43 percent

Decision making – 40 percent

Critical thinking – 38 percent

Cultural sensitivity/diversity – 32 percent

Creativity/innovative thinking – 32 percent

Ethics – 30 percent

Business/financial acumen – 30 percent

Emotional intelligence – 25 percent

Global perspective – 14 percent

“Being able to frame ideas and share them with colleagues in both writing and speaking is so fundamental that these are most often a starting point in professional growth and development,” Ms. Jones added.

“Communication is actually an umbrella term for such core skills as listening, thinking clearly, interpreting organizational concepts, being alert to non-verbal signals as well as dealing with any stress or emotional issues in working with co-workers or supervisors,” she explained.

“Indeed, understood correctly communications helps a person understand a situation, resolve differences and build trust,” she said. “It’s essential for a productive workplace to encourage creativity and collaboration in order to solve problems or achieve business objectives.”

Ms. Jones contends for companies seeking to avoid a perception of elitism, an important goal is to build an environment of collaboration and team work.

(Note: I’m a former member of the American Management Association, a global leader of comprehensive talent development. AMA Enterprise, a specialized division of AMA dedicated to building corporate and government training solutions, transforms enterprise-wide talent to fuel a culture of innovation, high performance, and optimal business results.)

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related communication tips:

10 Management Attributes for Effective Communication – Communication skills are critical for managers. People with enhanced abilities in communication typically have successful relationships at work and home. Good communicators typically have 10 attributes.

Make More Friends at the Office with 6 Etiquette Tips – In many companies, good etiquette is nonexistent and office co-workers fail to make friends of one another. Lack of trust and turmoil is seemingly evident everywhere. You don’t have to like everyone, but it’s best to be respectful, and assertive versus aggressive. That makes for good office relationships.

Acting, Speaking Coach: How to Improve Communication with Others – Do you know when you marginalize others? If you’re having communication problems with someone important in your career or life, chances are one or both of you will profit from tips in honest communication. This is also true if you want to get a job. Savvy employers know poor communication skills hamper efficiency and productivity.

Communication – You Can Train Yourself to Stop Stressing – It’s OK to be nervous before giving a speech or when you’re entering an important round of negotiations. Feeling pressure is one thing but allowing it to morph into stress and tension is another. When you allow this to happen, in a sense, you’re giving away your personal power, which inhibits your performance.

Workplace Communication – Is the ‘Queen Bee Syndrome’ a Myth or Reality? – Regrettably, women’s same-sex conflicts in the workplace have long been maligned in books as inherently more problematic than men’s. Hence, the negative stereotypes – the “queen bee syndrome” or worse, “cat fights.”

A Top Marketing Goal: Enhance Your Internal Communication – Businesses have two communication sources that are expenses that conversely are sources of profit – the external marketplace – and internal, their human capital. But all your money poured into marketing doesn’t accomplish much unless you devote equal resources to employee programs and communication.

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”

-Peter Drucker


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.






Listening Skills to Improve Your Relationships and Business Performance



What counts in communication? Listening skills for discernment and trust. Discerning people are the most successful and listening skills are important for discernment.

So if you’re in management but don’t listen, you’re not discerning in human resources and not viewed as trustworthy. As a result, you’ll harm employees’ morale and risk losing them.

If you’re in sports, your team can’t possibly win unless there’s teamwork from every player listening to the team coach, captain or quarterback.

Mergers & AcquisitionsIf you’re in sales and don’t listen, you’ll lose prospective customers.

Top salespeople listen 80 to 90 percent in every customer interaction, which enables them to be discerning to make the best recommendations.

Even longtime customers won’t put up with it. You’re guaranteed to lose them once they have as many as five unfortunate experiences with your company.

Customers leave 70 percent of the time because they feel taken for granted.

In my experience as a corporate trainer, every time I ask women to name their No.1 complaint about men, I get just one answer: “They don’t listen.” It never fails.

But it’s not just men who don’t listen. Both men and women are often guilty of not listening because they’re task-oriented.

When approached by employees and coworkers, they keep on writing or reading without paying close-enough attention to what’s being said.

This also means they miss important signals – what’s not being said – otherwise, known as reading between the lines.

The author of “Just Listen,” Mark Goulston, Ph.d., (markgoulston.com) is a clinical psychiatrist, who says there are four Rs that people listen. Some are productive and some aren’t.

Discerning people are the most successful and listening skills are important for discernment.

From published reports, here are his four Rs of listening:

1. Removed listening

A removed listener doesn’t really listen when multi-tasking.

“If you’re foolish enough to be glib and parrot back the words the other person said just to show that you were listening, that’s not going to win friends and influence people,” said Dr. Goulston said.

2. Reactive listening

Even more annoying is the reactive listener. They react instead of responding. Someone who responds will think about what to say before saying it. They’ll think about what to do before they do it.

 “You take issue with everything the other person says. There is no such thing as a dialogue in your conversations,” he observed. “They immediately become a debate.”

3. Responsible listening

A responsible listener will hear the words and respond appropriately. People commonly do it. It works well, but it’s not the highest form of listening.

4. Receptive listening

The highest form of listening occurs when we demonstrate the deepest type of listening – by responding with kindness after reading between the lines.

As a scenario, he suggests when a friend survives a rainfall and arrives drenched at your residence. The friend mentions she’s soaked.

A receptive listener will respond:  “Yes, you’re all wet from the rain…You must be freezing. Let me take your wet coat and make you a cup of tea to warm you up.”

From the Coach’s Corner, more tips related to communication and listening skills:

How New Managers Can Win as Great Communicators — Poor communication results in managerial dysfunction and vice versa. That often happens because a significant number of workers is mistakenly promoted into management. You’ve heard of The Peter Principle, right? That’s when people rise to their level of incompetence.

The late University of Southern California professor and author Laurence J. Peter also theorized about what he called “percussive sublimation.”

Secrets in Motivating Employees to Offer Profitable Ideas — Savvy employers know how to profit from their human capital. Such knowledge is a powerful weapon for high performance in a competitive marketplace. Furthermore, there’s a correlation among excellent sales, happy customers, and high employee morale.

Proverbially speaking, employees are where the tire meets the road. They daily experience firsthand a wide variety of problems – including dysfunction from vendors, shortcomings of software, aggravations of customers, poor intra-company communication and dangers facing your company.

18 Tips for Productive Behavior to Win in Office Politics — Most people troubled by office politics are too focused on the behavior of their adversaries. Stop giving away your personal power. Don’t think or act like a victim. Office politics aren’t fun.

Ironically, one of the most entertaining TV shows that’s all about office politics is “Suits.” It’s a fun, engaging and thrilling legal drama on the USA Network. Gabriel Macht plays the role of New York City corporate attorney Harvey Specter, who will do almost anything to win a case.

The 22 Dos and Don’ts for Successful Negotiations — No matter what you need to negotiate, there are easy strategies to get anything you want. But you must first remember it’s important to reach a fair compromise – with win-win negotiating skills.

You’ll want both parties to feel positive after the negotiation is complete. In other words, emotional needs for both of you have to be met.

Discouraged in Job Hunting? Powerful Tips for the Best Job — Few things in life are as shattering to an unemployed person’s self-esteem as the inability to draw a paycheck. In this downturn, good jobs can be difficult to get. And most job seekers are weary from their character-building trials. Under-employment is another result of this economy.

Whether unemployed or under-employed, a person needs two things: A sense of hope and the right tools to negotiate a job. More than 100 years ago, Oscar Wilde wrote: “What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”

“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”

-Bernard Baruch


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




How New Managers Can Win as Great Communicators



Poor communication results in managerial dysfunction and vice versa. That often happens because a significant number of workers is mistakenly promoted into management.

You’ve heard of The Peter Principle, right? That’s when people rise to their level of incompetence.

The late University of Southern California professor and author Laurence J. Peter also theorized about what he called “percussive sublimation.”

ID-100223612 stockimagesHe said people are promoted to get them out of the way of high-performing workers.

When, actually, they should be demoted to their level of competence.

Let’s consider the basic shortcomings of many new managers.

They simply don’t understand human nature and how to communicate with employees.

So many people don’t receive adequate professional management training or they don’t receive any at all.

So what can be done?

The prescription: Adequate professional training and self study.

It’s a simple concept but can be a challenge to implement.

There are four ways new managers typically misfire in communication:

1. They don’t correctly address attitude problems among their employees. For instance, there are common traits among employees who are likely to quit — even those who are secretive about their plans. Managers often don’t know when they’re losing employees.

2. They don’t adequately follow organization policies or direction from their supervisors. That’s one reason why they don’t or can’t market HR-policy changes to employees.

3. Because of a lack of authority with peer managers, many fail to use persuasive tactics to resolve problems. Savvy employers know poor communication skills hamper efficiency so they continually strive to improve communication.

4. Open communication is not used to issue directives to their staff – employees perform better when directives are explained well and they feel empowered. Companies succeed when they power their brand with employee empowerment.

Furthermore in management:

Managers must learn to deal with know-it-all workers; learn how to motivate shy people who aren’t assertive even if they have good ideas; and motivate workers who only view their tasks at the end of their nose and simply follow orders – no matter what the consequences are.

Managers need good listening and communication skills, especially for the majority employees who are competent with good ideas and performance.

The best managers create a positive environment and encourage the expression of ideas from their workers. In disagreements, they need to be assertive in managing disagreements.

From the Coach’s Corner, related management content:

25 Strategies to Succeed as a New Manager — Congratulations, new manager. Welcome to a job you’ll find most challenging – and satisfying – if you do it right. You’ll be carefully watched by your staff. You’ll be judged on values demonstrated by your actions. What values will you show your employees?

21 Tips to Avoid the Dark Side of Management — News headlines from Seattle to New York are cause for some serious head slapping when it comes to managing employees. Here’s how to avoid HR troubles. 

Management — 4 Mindsets for Leadership in Performance Reviews — Are you nervous at the thought of giving employee-performance reviews? You’re not alone. Your employees aren’t exactly thrilled, either. Typically, employees aren’t convinced they can get valid feedback. If they’ve experienced poor managers, they likely dread the performance-review process or are skeptical of the outcome. 

Sales Management: Motivate Your Staff in 10 Seconds — All too-often when sales managers are busy, they’re task-oriented. Not to be critical, but they’re focused only on what’s at the end of their noses. 

HR Management – 8 Best Practices in Employee Delegation — Avoid frustration in delegation. Save yourself time and develop your staff for the welfare of your organization.   Delegation is a fundamental driver of organizational growth. Managers who are effective in delegation show leadership. They know they’ll be more effective in management and that they’ll develop their employees. 

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”

-Peter Drucker


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Photo courtesy of stockimages at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Your Career: 10 Tips for Writing Better Business E-mails



Do you want to be a standout as a business e-mail writer? To enhance your career, it’s important to write effective e-mails and memos.

You don’t have to be an English major to write effectively.

This article is designed to cover the most salient points of better e-mail writing. You are encouraged to research any of the following topics if you need a further explanation.

cyber imagerymajestic www.freedigitalphotos.netUse these basic tips:

1. Review your goal. What do you want to accomplish? Your writing should be focused. If you want someone to act, you need a call for action.

2. Don’t leave the recipients guessing. Summarize your objective in the first paragraph. Include the topic in the subject line. In this way, busy persons will know instantly why you’re writing to them.

3. Use an economy of words. Most memos and e-mails will be read and more easily understood if you keep them short.  Don’t use unnecessary words. In most sentences you can avoid the use of the word “that.”

Ideal content is a maximum of three short paragraphs — no more than two or three sentences each. If it’s a complex subject, include an attachment.

An example to use an economy of words: Instead of writing “our appointment that we scheduled for January 2nd,” simply write “our January 2nd appointment.”

4. Limit your use of prepositions. Regarding point No. 3 on wordiness, know that prepositions aren’t always necessary. A preposition begins prepositional phrases. It links nouns, phrases and pronouns to other words in a sentence to introduce the preposition’s object.

Don’t insert prepositions following a verb, for example, “where did he go to?” It’s correct to write “where did he go?”

Also, never end a sentence with a preposition, such as “the car has been lost track of.” It’s correct to write “lost track of the car.” Again, prepositions are correctly used in prepositional phrases.

5. Be specific in your adjectives and descriptions. Avoid using vague words or phrases, such as “that is incredible.” Your reader might get the wrong impression.

For example, by using the phrase “that is incredible,” do you mean “that is outstanding” or “that is undesirable?”

6. When plausible, come across as dynamic as possible. Use active verbs. Try to avoid using past tense, such as “she believed” instead of “she believes.”

7. Be authentic in your writing. Avoid using the latest buzz phrases just to be ostentatious or hip.

Over the last several generations in business, succeeding generations have used different phrases as glittering generalities to describe the same concepts. That doesn’t mean, however, you should “dumb down” your writing. A good vocabulary is to be respected.

8. Show maturity by not using exclamation points. They should be rarely, if ever, used in business communications.

9. Be careful in your use of punctuation marks in quotations. For example, commas and periods should be inserted outside the quotation mark. (In case you’re wondering, this portal’s articles are written in journalistic style, which is why punctuations are inside the quotes.)

10. Review your writing before sending an e-mail. Read your content out loud to catch errors. Other than typos, the most frequent errors are missing words.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more writing tips:

25 Best Practices for Better Business Writing — If you want to accelerate your career or turbo-charge your business, one of your priorities should be good communication. Good writing is necessary in a myriad of ways, including letters, advertising copy and presentations. 

11 Best Practices to Profit from Writing a Business White Paper — When you’re writing a case study for a client or you’re commissioned to write a white paper – there are best practices — then, there are only attempts at shameless promotion of a biased idea.  

Rock in Your Marketing Messages with 5 Writing Tips — In this digital age of consumer overload, words are powerful – if they’re used strategically. The challenge is to help your prospective customers quickly understand your message.  

Secrets for Attracting, Keeping Readers on Your Blog — Content marketing is a valuable tool, but only if you observe best practices in substance and style – writing the most intriguing headlines and most relevant copy.  

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

-Mark Twain

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Photo courtesy of imagerymajestic at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Insights – Why Marketers Should Show Moderation in Digital Communication



Businesses will decrease their chances for customer loyalty and repeat business if they don’t act with more self-control in digital marketing, according to a study.

Consumers have become more and more discerning.

“The possibilities for the future of customer loyalty are profound.” said Martin Hayward, vice president of global digital strategy at Aimia and the author of the study. “The real challenge for the marketing and loyalty industries is to embrace the digital transition with both hands while showing enough restraint and respect for consumers’ permissions and preferences.”

Aimia, a global leader in loyalty management, released the study, “The Four Futures,” in June 2013.

Results indicate “offer anarchy” is a very real threat to relationships with half of consumers feeling overwhelmed.

Mr. Hayward said the 86 percent of consumers who receive marketing emails, only 12 percent look forward to receiving them and 46 percent think they receive too many.

Ironically, targeted marketing communications are acceptable. Of those surveyed, 70 percent are happy to receive voucher offers for products purchased regularly.

Fifty-five percent are happy to receive product recommendations based on their lifestyle data.

Marketing desperation

But the study warns marketers to avoid the temptation to adopt a short-term approach and overload consumers with communications.

“Building ‘real relationships’ with consumers provides the key to success and enlightened companies that understand how to effectively and responsibly use new data and new channels in the right way will have a significant competitive advantage in the future,” added Mr. Hayward.

To help marketers navigate the digital transition, Aimia has assessed the possible outcomes that lie ahead and developed four futures:

Future 1: Offer anarchy
The increasing volume of customer data created by digitalization remains freely available and loosely controlled. Customers tend to be over-exploited by many vendors, leading to highly transactional, deal-based behaviors, limited loyalty and frustrated, over-messaged consumers.

Future 2: Pay to play
A market where data is increasingly acknowledged to be valuable and powerful – data begins to be controlled and traded as a valued commodity, requiring businesses to pay to access customers through increased rewards.

Future 3: The hunt for affinity
An environment where consumers and brands realize that it is possible to locate meaningful relationships that offer more relevance, value and affinity, which ultimately allows for long-term relationships to be built.

Future 4: Real relationships
Winning companies build deep, trusting, long-term relationships with customers – a truly virtuous partnership to help consumers manage a complex environment and achieve value and satisfaction from their commercial relationships.

Mr. Hayward says the ultimate future requires marketers to leverage data and build long-term customer loyalty while giving customers control over how, when and where their data is used. It is a future of “real relationships” and one where everyone wins.

See the full report here.

From the Coach’s Corner, see these related articles:

A Lesson in Great E-mail Marketing Using Social Media, VideosDog lovers would love a promotion by Orvis. Actually, you don’t have to own a dog to appreciate the digital marketing by the firm. Orvis is a nationwide high-end purveyor of men’s and women’s clothing, products for the home and travel, and of course you can buy gifts for your dog. 

Marketing – Have You Considered the Potential of e-Newsletters?There are several benefits if you include e-Newsletters in your marketing mix. The most salient is that they’re a great way to achieve top-of-mind awareness with your customers. Further, as a form of content marketing, they’re a favorite of B2B marketers.

14 Steps to Profit from Online Customer Reviews — For competitiveness and profits, businesses can’t afford to ignore the potential of online reviews. They’re a factor in revolutionizing commerce. Reviews are important because they influence prospective customers to buy from you. They’re also beneficial in improving your Internet presence because search-engine crawlers consider them to be relevant.

“What happens when you combine blogs, Google and millions of dissatisfied customers? An e-mob.

-Bob Garfield

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

 Image Credit: Discerning woman consumer by Vera Kratochvil


Workplace Communication – Is the ‘Queen Bee Syndrome’ a Myth or Reality?



Regrettably, women’s same-sex conflicts in the workplace have long been maligned in books as inherently more problematic than men’s. Hence, the negative stereotypes – the “queen bee syndrome” or worse, “cat fights.”

The typecasting prompted a 2013 academic report, “Much Ado about Nothing? Observers’ Problematization of Women’s Same-Sex Conflict at Work.”

The research concludes it’s nonsense. Two researchers, Leah D. Sheppard and Karl Aquino of the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia published a paper in the journal, Academy of Management Perspectives.

woman office teacherExcerpts from an Academy of Management press release:

They researched three workplace conflict scenarios – they were the same except for the names of the individuals involved. In one version they were Adam and Steven; in a second version they were Adam and Sarah; and in a third they were Sarah and Anna.

The authors wrote “when all else is equal…female-female conflict is generally perceived as having more negative implications for the individuals involved…than male-male or male-female conflicts….Observers view female-female conflict as more problematic.”

As the authors put it, “Female participants were just as likely as male participants to problematize female-female conflicts.”

Workplace ramifications

The authors wrote this “could have serious implications for women’s work-related outcomes. For example, a manager might decide against assigning two female subordinates to a task that requires them to work together if he or she suspects that they cannot set their interpersonal difficulties aside.

“This might result in lost opportunities for female employees, given the ever-increasing implementation and importance of teamwork in organizational settings. Women who have had interpersonal difficulties with female coworkers in the past might be overlooked for future career-development opportunities as a result.”

More study results:

  • In the experiment that yielded these conclusions, 152 individuals, 47 percent female, from an online participant pool were randomly assigned to read about a workplace conflict involving two account managers in a consulting firm. The conflict developed when manager A gave orders to an intern working for manager B without informing manager B, as a result of which manager B complained to their common supervisor. This in turn led to an angry confrontation between the two managers in B’s office.
  • Participants were asked to make judgments on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree) on three sets of items: 1) the likelihood that the two managers would be able to repair their relationship going forward; 2) the extent to which the conflict would affect the two individuals’ job satisfaction, commitment to the company, and interest in leaving the company; and 3) the effect of the dispute between two of the firm’s 10 account managers on the reputation, morale, and performance of the organization as a whole.
  • On the first question – whether the two managers would repair their relationship – participants judged the likelihood to be 4.1 on a scale of 1 to 7 when the conflict was between Adam and Sarah, 4.2 when it was between Adam and Steven but only 3.6 (roughly 15 percent lower) when they managers were named Anna and Sarah.

This suggests observers are “inclined to believe that women hold grudges against one another and struggle to move on from past transgressions. This perception casts female-female conflict in a particularly shameful and petty light.”

  • On the second question – the extent the conflict would disrupt the account managers’ feelings for the company -participants rated it at 4.0 when the conflict was between Adam and Sarah, 4.5 when it was between Adam and Steven, and 5.0 when it was between Anna and Sarah, a disruption 25 percent greater in raw terms than that caused by male-female conflict and more than 10 percent greater than that occasioned by male-male conflict.
  • On the third question – damage to the organization – there was no significant difference between the effect of female-female conflict and the effects of the other two.

Researchers’ reactions

The researchers hope their findings will persuade “researchers and practitioners to think more critically about the language that is often used…to describe conflict between women at work. For example, we are hard-pressed to think of a term comparable to catfight that is regularly used to label conflict and competition between two men.

“Although this particular term is more common in the media than in academic research, management scholars have widely adopted the queen bee syndrome terminology. This term is troubling because it dehumanizes women and suggests that competition and conflict between women is akin to a disease, when, in reality, moderate amounts of same-sex hostility are natural and expected across male and female members of many species.”

Recommendations

The authors hope for change.

“Hopefully, our findings will have some effect, however modest, in increasing managers’ awareness of this bias when they have to deal with workplace conflicts,” said Dr. Sheppard. “And, although I hate to put the onus on women, it also might benefit them to avoid ruminating with coworkers about their same-sex conflicts, since this study suggests that observers are already inclined to overly dramatize them.”

Amen. The use of labels is often unproductive.

My sense is that’s also why career women often have to be more careful than men in their communication styles – to develop an image of being assertive not aggressive. That’s another obstacle for women to overcome particularly if they management ambitions, so here’s how: 18 Tips for Productive Behavior to Win in Office Politics.

As a former member of the Academy of Management, I highly recommend it as an organization as well as its publications. The organization has 18,000 members in over 100 countries – the world’s-largest group geared for management research and teaching.

From the Coach’s Corner, additional resources:

Management

Employees

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”

-Peter F. Drucker

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry. 

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.