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I am fairly new at my job and my manager pulled me into a workshop planning for our clients. I started with the agenda and slowly he let me take the lead with planning, coordination, and execution of the same. Most of the team from our company are high level execs. I had to do tasks such as agenda altering, approvals, coordinate time with everyone, discuss with client etc.

As everyone was new to me, I first introduced myself and then started with the workshop topic. My initial connect with the company execs was very pleasant. As the workshop approached, there were scheduling issues that I tried my best to tackle. The team was updated of the changed agenda at every point and also had all the details of the workshop including date, time, place, participants etc.

My manager recently gave me a feedback that 2 of the execs were not very thrilled with the conversations with me. One of them did not remember the place from our initial conversation and got confused. He said that communication from my side was not very clear and that when I went to chat with him the second time, he was not aware of the place and thus that created confusion in scheduling. The second guy asked about his specific time slot even though the agenda was attached on the same email chain and when I replied by saying that "it is already attached and here is your time slot. I also request everyone to join 5-7 mins prior for ease", he did not like my tone/way of communicating and said that it was not clear.

What is it that I can do to be more likeable? Most of the people I am dealing with at work are 40-50+ year old men who are tenured in the industry. I am a female in my 20s for reference. It did not seem to me that my manager tried to defend me as he did not even do his research to see that I had replied and read the other conversations going on.

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    Here's a good place to start It has worked for decades, try it. It is Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People.
    – Tiger Guy
    Apr 3 at 1:23
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    I will go ahead and say it, “it is already attached and here is your time slot”, is a condescending response. There was a better way of saying that you had already sent everyone the schedule
    – Donald
    Apr 3 at 2:29
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    What is your location and what cultures are you dealing with? I've come across a lot of occasions where the English find certain nationalities brusque, short and condescending whereas those nationalities feel they are being efficient and informative (and I suspect they feel the English are too verbose and unfocused but they won't tell me to my face :) ). In both cases it's just that the social norms of the cultures are slightly different, there's no right or wrong but it's useful to know the impression you're leaving when you're trying to communicate stuff. Apr 3 at 12:08
  • "Can't please all the people all the time / All the people all the time / But then, they don't please ME" - The Ramones Apr 3 at 17:52
  • Thank you everyone for you inputs. To answer- I am in NC and dealing with mostly indian men at work. Apr 9 at 23:09

2 Answers 2

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What is it that I can do to be more likeable?

There is no need for people to personally like you (unless you care about that): you want people to respect you as a professional and to be happy working with you. So you I recommend start working on your professional skills and leave the personal stuff aside.

Step number 1 would be your communication skills. A little empathy and preparation goes a long way here, especially if you deal with people at the director and/or exec level (but this applies to everyone you talk to).

Try to see the world from there perspective: While your workshop feels very important to you, it's probably just another "to do" item on their long list. They get requests like this all day long and expecting them to remember interactions with you in great detail is unrealistic.

There are things that you can do to communicate more effectively:

  1. Do a little bit of homework up front: who is this person, what do they do, and how important or annoying is your request to them and how does fit into their goals. Can you create some synergy or overlap?
  2. See whether you can figure their most preferred communication style: message, calendar, Google Drive, call, short and to the point vs. fluffy and flowery, etc. Everyone is different, so adapting to someone's preferred style makes things a lot easier and smoother.
  3. Organize your information well and make it easy to find and look up. E-mail chains are the "dumpster" of corporate communications: no one wants to rummage around in there.
  4. Learn the "state of the art". Talk to your boss about communication culture in your company: what style, what tools, what tone of voice is considered "normal". Often HR has guidelines and classes around this.

It did not seem to me that my manager tried to defend me as he did not even do his research to see that i had replied and read the other conversations going on.

What exactly do you want your manager to defend? You DID honk off two execs enough for them to complain. The complaint is NOT about the accuracy or factual content, it's about efficiency/appropriateness. Both are very important.

it is already attached and here is your time slot. I also request everyone to join 5-7 mins prior for ease"

And what makes you think that your workshop is more important than anything else an exec has to do, so that you can demand 5-7 minutes extra time. Wouldn't it be better for the company if the exec uses that time to recalibrate a project that's off the rails, talk to a difficult employee, or close a deal with an important customer?

An alternative response could have been "Sure: you're on from 3pm to 4pm. I can poke an invite in your calendar and I'll attach a link to a shared doc that has goals, agenda, the detailed schedule, and a presentation template, if you want one. Does that work for you? Anything else I can help with?"

... 40-50+ year old men who are tenured in the industry. I am a female in my 20s ...

That has nothing to do it with. Effective communication is important between all levels, roles and genders. This is not about hierarchy, it's about viewing the world from the other person's perspective and not just use your own point of view. Putting some effort into learning the tools of the trade will serve your career very well.

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    Great points! I always remind myself of professionalism by thinking, "I am not paid to have opinions." Apr 3 at 17:58
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    Agreed. Nothing about gender or likability is relevant here. Clarity, completeness. and to a lesser but significant extent tone, of communications is the issue. Focus on that.
    – keshlam
    Apr 3 at 18:11
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    You wrote: "so that you can demand 5-7 minutes extra time" this is overbearing but the OP says "requested" so if it is was worded "Please come 5 or 7 minutes earlier so we can all start on time” that sounds perfectly reasonable. Furthermore, if an exec is unsure about a schedule then it's their own responsibility to check, and ask clarifications from the organiser. It could be the execs weren't paying attention in the first place or completely ignored the catchup emails, which if true, they would never admit to.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 6 at 13:42
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    I also think remembering or actually going into the trouble of using everybody's preferred means of communication is unrealistic. It might be feasible if fewer than ten people are attending but any more than that would be quite time consuming and more likely to fail. If everyone knows what is the form of communication, it's easier and more efficient for everyone around. Imagine if receiving emails comes last in everyone's list, then what does the OP do? Finally, the execs who complained should first be annoyed at themselves not with the OP's method of communication.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 6 at 13:46
  • Thank you @Mari-LouA - I agree with your points but will also try to do a better job of communicating the next time Apr 9 at 23:12
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The first step towards fixing this is identifying that you need to, so you've already started: good job! I had similar issues starting out of college - I consider myself a fairly likeable person, but in the workplace some of my mannerisms and conduct rubbed higher-ups the wrong way. Enough that it got back to me through the grapevine. Here's what I did:

Brought it up with my manager in 1-on-1s and asked him 1) what he thought I could work on and 2) to keep an ear to the ground for any time he heard someone complaining about my professionalism, so he could tell me more details of what I was doing wrong. Thereafter, I worked really hard at not only fixing the problematic behaviors, but also improving other habits such as attentiveness in meetings, taking on extra responsibilities, and bonding with my coworkers - including the higher ups - by engaging in small talk and making a real effort to learn more about them, as peers and as people. This way, I cultivated a reputation as a professional and reliable coworker, which helped distract from/lessen the damage from any less professional habits I had.

Within six months my manager noted that multiple higher ups had commented to him, unprompted, on how much I had improved in these areas. So I suppose my point is don't take it personally, its not too late to work on it, and that you should focus on professionalism as a whole and not just the behaviors that people comment on.

Note: I strongly agree with Hilmar's answer, especially the last two paragraphs. You should definitely follow their advice, I just wanted to give you my experience.

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    Yes, it is definitely worth trying to improve. But get your DTAP vaccine: Don't Take Anything Personally. Apr 3 at 17:54

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