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Monthly Archives: October 2009

BY FC Expert Blogger Shawn Graham
Mon Oct 19, 2009 at 10:48 AM

This blog is written by a member of our expert blogging community and expresses that expert’s views alone.

As a manager, there’s an invisible and unspoken wall between you and your staff. It would be great if it didn’t exist, but it does. And even though there are times when you feel like part of the gang, at the end of the day, you’ll still be the boss…and that creates a barrier.

You have a sense that group cohesion isn’t where it needs to be and that a few people are frustrated with your management style but you feel the “boss barrier” is keeping them from sharing their feedback. So you decide to create a brief anonymous survey. And that’s no small task because the questions you ask (or don’t ask) will obviously send signals to your team.

In hopes of opening the lines of communication, you come up with three to four questions designed to get at what you believe are the underlying issues and you elicit their response. But that was the easy part. Once you get their feedback, you have to decide what to do with it. And that is particularly difficult because the feedback you receive wasn’t constructive, but more of a personal attack.

Do you confront the group? Meet with each member of your team individually? Do nothing? Do you respond to their feedback in general without mentioning specifics? That would keep you from repeating some of the negative comments from some that might not be shared by all. Or, do you read each response to the group and talk through what you’re going to do to address their concerns while making sure not to come off as defensive or angry?

How you handle their feedback, from the moment you receive their responses, is more important than the questions you asked or the feedback itself. You can’t sit on it, waiting for the right time. The more time that passes, the less likely it will be that you can get to the underlying frustrations that led to their negative comments. Plus, waiting gives the impression that responding to their feedback isn’t a priority.

Whether to respond to their comments in general (without mentioning specific comments), or to go over each comment is a judgment call. If you’re worried that voicing some of the negative comments could poison those on your team who might not feel that way, keep in mind there’s a good chance that they’ve already heard the comments from their peers because there’s a good chance they’re talking to each other about it. If anything, it could provide an opportunity for those on your team who are in your corner to stand up and speak out about some of the negative comments they might not agree with.

Regardless of your approach, you’ll want to drive the discussion, keeping comments from others to a minimum. The last thing you want is for the meeting to turn into a heated discussion or argument. No matter how calm you are (or think you are), it’s likely that others will be pretty tense. It’s okay to have a little group discussion, but for the most part, you’re the one steering the ship.

And don’t forget about tone. If you don’t think you can talk about their feedback without appearing defensive or angry, don’t do it. If you do, you could accidentally make things worse than they already are—especially if some of the feedback you received was that you get defensive when you get negative feedback.

As a manager, it’s hard to open yourself up to potential criticism by asking for feedback on your performance. But it’s even harder to put it all out there and process the feedback with your team. Even though it’s uncomfortable, asking for and addressing feedback from your team will make you a better manager.

Shawn Graham is Director of MBA Career Services at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (

23 October 2009 6:42am

In his blog post on 19 October, Greg Savage wrote:

I have been reading quite a bit lately about creating a personal brand online. The subject fascinates me, not least because I see so many people making a total hash of it by the inane things they post on Facebook, Twitter, blog replies, and to a lesser extent, LinkedIn.

But recently I had such a powerful personal example happen to me, that I feel compelled to share it with you. This small Twitter exchange taught me a huge lesson in how quickly “Brand You” can be harmed by inappropriate online behaviour.

You see last week I was shocked to read a Tweet which, frankly, made a very disparaging remark, directed at me!

TweetDeck advised me I had several “mentions” overnight, and I glanced through them, smiling at some banter with followers, until I struck the Tweet that, for reasons still unknown to me, took a personal shot at me, by name. Look, it wasn’t a vicious remark. But it was personal, it was negative, it was totally unprovoked and of course, it was very public.

Now if this has not happened to you, I can confirm it is an unpleasant experience. The comment was untrue, and I hope it is not how anyone views me. So it rankled! I obviously clicked on the perpetrators’ Twitter page and found that I had never even heard of the guy! Never had anything to do with him in the real world or the online world, although I did work out he is a Twitter follower of mine (or was!). Nor was his comment in response to any Tweet of mine. It was not even directed to me, but to a third party, about me.

I searched for his LinkedIn page and found he holds a nothing-job in a widely unrespected company. I was not sure if this made me feel better or worse! I racked my brain as to why this stranger would attack me, publicly. I won’t lie to you. It stung. However after about 10 minutes I started to lose interest and decided not to respond in any public way. I resolved to forget about it.

But that’s when it got really interesting. Over the next few hours my Twitter DM inbox (Direct Message) began to fill up with fellow Tweeters who took great umbrage at the remark this guy had made. I had at least 10 in a single day, and the theme was “who is this guy?” and “Who does he think he is” and more specifically “What a rude jerk”, and interestingly “I will never use him or his company again.”

One follower –who I do not know personally at all, and only vaguely remember as an online friend, had done his research on the “offender” and Direct Messaged me to say that he was amazed this guy was in the advertising industry “because he has no idea of how to manage his personal brand”.

And it was that remark that struck me hard. In a flash, I realised that it was not MY reputation that had suffered as a result of this online rudeness. It was the reputation and brand of the person who made the remark that had taken a huge hit. Just one Tweet and provoked such an active response from my followers, all echoing disapproval. The question is, how many people read that Tweet and thought “idiot”?

And so the lesson was learned. By me, if not by the person who chose to hurl cyber-insults. Online, we are what we write. In real life we can make a risqué joke to close friends because they “know” us and take the joke in context. In real interpersonal situations we can pass the odd sarcastic comment, accompanied by a smile, and the receiver feels no hurt because there is context and history, which makes it ok and appropriate. Dropping in the odd swear word while chatting with like-minded buddies does not raise an eyebrow because it conforms with the group culture.

Online we have no such protection.

All this got me thinking about my own online “brand”. I have 500 plus Twitter followers and get thousands of visitors to my blog each month, but I estimate less than 1% of those people are known to me personally. Yet many of the rest I have what I consider to be a great relationship with. We reply to each other’s Tweets, we DM, we offer advice, and we share good-humoured banter as well as seriously useful data. We pass on knowledge freely, and even do business together.

I thought about how I viewed these people. I have an image of them, they have a “brand” with me based on their tweets, their humour, the quality of their information and their online generosity. And that ‘brand’ or ‘reputation’ is as real as if I had met them. And I will make decisions to trust them and buy their services based on the brand they have built up with me online, over time.

So the lesson is this. Consider “Brand You” before you Tweet how many beers you sank on Saturday night. Consider “Brand You” before you use gratuitous profanities online. Consider “Brand You” before you post that heavily politicised or semi-pornographic video on your blog spot, after months of building up credibility as a professional recruiter.

And of course, consider “Brand You” before you hurl insults at people who might actually have a stronger online brand than your own.

23 October, 2009 | Media Release

The ACTU has welcomed the Rudd Government’s draft National Green Skills Agreement announced today which will equip thousands of apprentices in emerging and existing industries with the skills to help tackle climate change.

Mandatory green skills will be included in all apprentice training from the end of 2010.

“The skills of our plumbers, construction workers, electricians and other specialist trades workers will be fundamental in ensuring that Australia is able to move quickly and flexibly in creating a sustainable, low carbon economy,” said ACTU President Sharan Burrow at today’s Green Skills Forum in Melbourne.

“It is estimated that we are going to need to re-train and upskill about 3 million workers in the next 20 years to meet the challenge.

“Unions are already working hard in this area.

“The Plumbers’ Union (CEPU) in Victoria has already set up a “Plumbing Industry Climate Change Action Centre” which is aims to up-skill the state’s 21,000 plumbers and set up similar centres nationally.

“Water management is one area where we are creating new jobs and expertise and an area in which Australia can lead the world.

“However, the creation of hundreds of thousands more jobs and apprenticeships in other clean energy and clean tech industries are on hold because Australia’s climate change laws are being blocked in the Parliament.

“We urgently need national policies in place to drive investment and a fast but fair transition to a low carbon economy.

“Australia is already being left behind, with the rest of the world moving quickly to take advantage of a $6 trillion global market in clean tech products, services, expertise and technology,” the ACTU President told the forum.

More information
The Hon Julia Gillard MP: Address to the Green Skills Forum