If You Like Working With Someone, Should You Tell Them?

If TLDR, Here’s The Bottom Line:

  • A big fat resounding Yes.
  • Is there a chance you will regret it in the future? Possibly.
  • Might they misunderstand you? Probably.
  • Should you still do it? Undoubtedly.
  • Why? I’ll tell you why.

Why Didn’t You Tell Me?

A few years ago, I bumped into an old colleague. He owned the agency that worked with me when I was client-side. I loved working with his team. They were professional, friendly, creative, punctual, smart, and came sans the usual nose-in-the-air attitude that is often a non-negotiable attachment with advertising agencies. (“You know nothing of the creative process you suited-booted loser client! Nothing!”)

As we caught up he told me he had dropped my brand as a client a few months after I left. “We hated doing your work and you paid us pittance.”

That was a punch to the gut. I had zero knowledge of that. Why didn’t they ever tell me? And if they hated it so much why did they stay so long? “Well, we liked working with you.”

Now you may think I chose this example to toot my own horn and tell you my vendor partners liked working with me, but it is quite the opposite. I felt like I had failed at my role if people who worked with me day in and day out, couldn’t even tell me they were unhappy until after I’d moved on (with a few pints aiding their courage).

Worst of all, why didn’t they ever tell me they liked working with me?!

On The Flipside, A Different Agency

At one of my client-side roles, we outsourced work to a social media agency for a brief period to test the waters. Their account manager churned almost every month, and the stress of having to go through brand briefings again and again began to take a toll on our relationship.

It didn’t seem worth the effort with both parties losing money and precious time. They did not like working with me. And that feeling took no time reaching their boss, and my boss. Several “we need to talk” sessions later, we parted ways, but not before my brands took some heat and damage, as did I, as did the agency’s account managers.

I Absolutely Do Not Like You One Bit

If your daily work interactions are with an average of say 10 people, you are bound to like working with some of them more than others. Pretend to be egalitarian in your love for your colleagues, and you just might fool everyone but yourself. Heck, even parents secretly have a favourite child (we will never speak of this ever again because we love you all equally forever!)

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But as we have all experienced, not everyone pretends to like everyone. Some people are brutally vocal about not wanting to work with a colleague they don’t like and will spare no feelings in doing so. Just ask your HR Manager!

I Like You vs I Like Working With You

Since moving to a new country I’ve spoken to many a trailing spouse about how they build their social lives and make new friends. “We mostly just hang out with colleagues after work.”

If this is true of most of us, surely we must like our colleagues to want to spend even more time looking at their faces than we already do? And we must enjoy talking to them about work and sundry enough to also drag our partners into it? We must click with them on some (at least superficial) level to willingly spend our limited time on Earth in their company.

  • But can you like your colleague without liking working with them? Yes.
  • Other way round? Yes.
  • Like them and working with them? Yes.

So Should I Tell You?

I don’t know about you, but I cannot remember ever telling my best friend – hey, I like you. Mutual likeability is the keystone of friendship, yet it is seldom expressed.

So if you do like your colleague (we’re talking platonic friendship ‘like’ here, I have no idea what to do with any other kind of like, please talk to a therapist), you are in all probability not going to tell them that.

But if you like working with someone, should you tell them?

  • A big fat resounding Yes.
  • Is there a chance you will regret it in the future? Possibly.
  • Might they misunderstand you? Probably.
  • Should you still do it? Undoubtedly.
  • Why? I’ll tell you why.

Because People Like To Be Liked

We all want to be liked. We all want to be told we are liked. Some of us can list “need to be liked” as point one in the W column of our swot analysis.

If you like working with someone (because you are super productive together/you have each other’s back/you both care equally little about your jobs), you should tell them that.

Make their day.

Say – hey man, it’s really cool working with you. Nicely done on this project bro, I enjoyed putting it together with you.

Told the boss the project is delayed, but did it together and split the heat? Cheers mate, enjoy your weekend that I will not be spending with you.

Tell your boss and their boss you like working with them. Tell your other colleagues how cool they are. Write it on email. Use emojis. Try to be specific.

Because Then, You Put The Onus On Them.

When you are in receipt of whatever you consider “favourable” behaviour, making a solid expression of how pleased you are puts instant pressure on them to keep up that behaviour.

If you said to your boss – “I have respect for and like working with you because you don’t micromanage people” – how can they possibly ever do otherwise? If they also have a need to be liked (they do), it suddenly makes them very aware that their actions are being watched, and observed, and judged, and that they risk losing your liking if they alter their behaviour.

Open The Doors To Honesty

When we express things we like, it opens doors for us to honestly talk about things we don’t like, without being shut out.

Had my ad agency in the first example said to me: we hate the jobs you’re sending our way, and we’re not paid nearly enough to work around your brand’s restrictions – I would’ve instantly gone on the defence.

If they prefaced that with: we really like working with you, and we want to make this work – it would’ve put so much pressure on me, I would have fought with my boss to raise their retainer and done my best to make their work interesting.

Oh Hello, Vulnerability, Old Friend

We often hesitate to compliment our colleagues because:

a) we’re insecure monkeys.
b) we think it will go to their head if we praise them.
c)
it makes us feel like we are now somehow below them, at their mercy. In other words, vulnerable.
d) we think they will go around telling people we like them, and that will make us look weak.

There is merit to all of these fears. It is for you to decide if you want to confront them.

What If I Stop Liking Working With Them?

This is the part where we talk about sticks and stones and regret – all the pretty things, really.

After my encounter with the agency owner, I made it my mission to tell anyone I liked working with exactly that – every account manager, every client, every partner-freelancer. I like working with you, I love your attention to detail, I really like talking to you!

So what went wrong? Oh, a few things.

1. Misunderstandings: hey man, this is really cool, I enjoyed our conversation last evening! “Uhh. I’m not really interested.”

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2. A change of heart: someone I told I really liked working with, I gradually stopped as I got to know them better. I found myself less and less attracted to their work actions: excessive capitalistic greed, detached communication, pendulating decisions, anti-feminism. All of it their prerogative! Despite possessing this newfound information judgement-free, I felt pretty silly for saying all the nice things I did, because now my interactions with them are increasingly objective, impersonal, walled-off.

To sum up, it may backfire, but we can all be kinder to each other at work anyway. If you like working with someone, but are afraid you may stop in the future, tell them anyway. There’s an 8% chance you’ll regret it, do it anyway.

By positively reinforcing work behaviours we like in our workplaces, we can all build healthier environments for each other!

 

Do you have a related work-story? Tell me here.

Is Empathy…Bad?

For years now, I’ve been banging on about empathy and its crucial nature in the workplace. So when this article showed up in my news feed, in agreement with the author of ‘Against Empathy’, I had to drop the Dan Brown I was reading (gasp! blasphemy!) to see just what Paul Bloom had to say for himself.

How can anyone be against empathy? How does the world function without it?

Marketers consciously use empathy to build communications. Companies spend millions on intelligence to understand user behaviour, empathise with their problems, and worm their way into their lives to solve them.

If a business does not have empathy, it will fail. If we don’t have empathy in our personal life, it will fall apart.

Or will it.

I went into the book with a resistance so strong, my impulse was to refute every word he wrote. But I came out of it finding myself agreeing with large chunks. (Eek!)

The Crux

I will not spoil the book for you (it’s most definitely worth a read). It’s helped me see my own rendering and reception of empathy from fresh perspectives. The author quotes innumerable studies, delving into the depths of empathy’s multiple facets.

In the end though, the problem with it is down to semantics.

The empathy he is arguing against, is understandable. A gist of what I agree with; perhaps you will too.

– He argues against emotional empathy – believing that putting yourself in someone’s shoes and feeling their pain can mean you are less helpful than you are capable of being.

– Empathy is not objective – it is dependant on you, the person you are empathising with, and the situation itself. It is also distinct from morality.

– Feeling empathy doesn’t necessarily make us want to do something about it.

– The ability to empathise can be (and is) used for horrible things. If you get someone, you can potentially use that to manipulate or victimise them.

Feelings vs Empathy

“And how does that make you feel?” is the single most important question a therapist asks. Why?

Because to work through whatever is causing us “feelings” manifesting in tears, churning stomachs, or boiling blood, we must first identify and label them. Read more about labelling feelings here.

This article by a therapist beautifully explains how she had to learn to distance herself from the emotions of her patients, to be more useful to them. In a sense, she had to be less empathetic, to be more empathetic. It also outlines three kinds of empathy – emotional, cognitive, compassionate.

 

In order to be truly empathetic, and therefore helpful, we must learn to separate it from emotion.

What Kind of Empathetic Should We Be?

And how the heck do we separate that from our emotions? How do we protect ourselves from being paralysed by feeling what someone else is feeling, and find it in ourselves to make rational decisions, every time? Continue reading Is Empathy…Bad?

Arture goes to London Fashion Week

Anybody that’s any kind of entrepreneur will tell you tales of intense highs, and disheartening lows. Of fears holding them back, and of wins propelling them forward.

And this was one heck of a win for Arture – a homegrown fashion brand that I’ve had the privilege to work with.

This February, Arture displayed at the London Fashion Week – the only Indian brand to be showcased at the Commonwealth Fashion Council reception held at the end of Fashion Week, hosted at the New Zealand High Commission in London.

“The CFC works to support and advocate sustainable development, education, youth and gender empowerment in the current and emerging fashion industries within the 52 member Nations of the Commonwealth.”

Arture was approached by the organisation, to collaborate with a Sri Lankan designer to produce bags in their signature material – cork. This was part of the new “100% Made in Commonwealth” initiative, aimed at bringing members of the fashion fraternity from the Commonwealth nations together.

Arture’s incredible story was shared with the High Commissioners, diplomats and fashion designers at the event – a feat that Shivani and Keshsa, the co-founders are incredibly proud of (who I’m honoured to have represented!)

“This backpack was a wonderful collaborative project between Commonwealth nations, and we’re so glad we got a chance to be a part of it,” says Shivani. “As soon as I saw the design, I was excited to work on it. Arture provided the technical expertise and its signature material – cork, to bring the design to life.”

Continue reading Arture goes to London Fashion Week

Being #GirlBoss And Everything That Comes With It

Two and a half years ago, when I decided to quit the corporate world and try my luck at self-employment, little did I know that the path held whirlwind lessons and experiences for me.

One of the brands I’ve had the good fortune of working with, is Arture. The brainchild of two young incredible entrepreneurs Shivani Patel and Keshsa Vasant, Arture designs eco-friendly, vegan, sustainable, fashionable accessories. Think functional yet sexy bags, wallets, laptop and Kindle sleeves – all made from strong cork fabric.

Over the year I’ve known them, we’ve worked out of each other’s homes – writing product descriptions, talking database segmentation, stalking bloggers over raw carrots and filter coffee, walking dogs, and skyping across continents.

I will forever be in awe of their thirst for success, and their determination to uphold the values closest to their hearts – something the big bad corporate world can sometimes severely lack.

Shivani and Keshsa came up with #Collaborate – an idea to bring together their team (designers, writers, photographers, stylists) every few months. For the day, one of us teaches the rest of us something new. So far I’ve learned how to dress to express, and had some solid lessons in home decor.

To mark their second anniversary (Yay Arture!) they put together the 2017 Collaborative: #GirlBoss Edition.

“In the last two years, we’ve worked with a whole range of self-employed professionals and business owners – most of whom happen to be women. We wanted to find a way to celebrate that with #GirlBoss” says Shivani.

Breaking The Ice

That title is a lie, because there was no ice to break. We instantly bonded over the challenges we face as 20-something female professionals and business owners. The team included fashion designers, make-up artists, accessory manufacturers, a fitness instructor, retail store owners, a wedding planner, a chartered accountant, a photographer, an NGO founder, restaurant owners, mums, mums-to-be, writers, and certified scuba instructors. Continue reading Being #GirlBoss And Everything That Comes With It

Listen: A New Way To See Chennai

Even before we learned about the Partition in history class at school, our grandparents told us tales – tales of heroism and cowardice, of homes left behind and acquaintances lost. They told us of the fear and the resentment, the times they felt their hearts in their throats.

We listened wide eyed and fascinated, to stories etched in their memories from 7 decades ago. These were history lessons sans facts and figures, but they stuck. I will never forget them – they help me see an entire generation of people in a new light.

I understand why they are the way they are. I understand why they hold on to some material possessions and see no value in others. I understand their warrior instinct, I see why they aren’t willing to let go of some prejudices. All thanks to their stories.

Storytrails

When someone asks us – how is work? The answer is usually along- oh it’s all right, you know, my boss is okay and I have a wonderful team. The highlight of my day is lunchtime as this colleague brings hot mum-cooked food and has to bring an extra dabba for the rest of us!

As opposed to – Work is good, my office has a 5 foot long desk and the A/C is not too cold. I do have to climb up 50 steps though, but can’t complain.

We share experiences through stories.

Surely then, every city and its history has fascinating stories too. Some partially true, some cooked up through the ages, some mythological, some factual.

Going strong for 11 years now, Storytrails has regaled thousands of visitors to Chennai with its stories. The company hosts walking tours in Chennai, Madurai and Pondicherry, with ‘storytellers’ who will entertain you with tidbits you can never find in a book or blog, or even from a travel guide looking to make his quick buck and be done with you ASAP.

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Audio Tours

A brand new venture, Storytrails has now forayed into audio tours, offering trails on an app. It has been a truly humbling experience learning about my city, and lending voice to these tales.

Did you know, for example, that Chennai has one of the only 3 churches in the world, built on top of an Apostle’s remains? I sure as hell (sorry St. Thomas, I mean heck) didn’t!

I learned about Cenotaph Road, about King James’ new crown, the sparring sects of Christianity, the thieving British (but also the good ones like Annie Besant), the love-hate relationship between the English and the French that extended to Chennai as well. I learned about the mighty Pallavas and their mightier egos, that the Pancha Pandava Rathas have nothing to do with the Pandavas, and that Ganesha wasn’t part of Shiva’s family in South India for a long time!

If you live in Chennai, these trails are guaranteed to have you look at your own city from a fresh perspective. And if you’re a visitor, there really is no better way to learn!

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Download the app here, to walk (and listen to) the British Blueprints and Mamallapuram trails!

Editing A Book Is Hard Work

For what seems like an eternity, I have been editing a book by Peter Claridge, titled Chennai Expat Guide. The book started out as a blog post that was meant to outline a few things that expats need to know before relocating to Chennai. It soon turned into a mammoth 65,000 words piece of writing and lost the ability to be called a blog post!

Process of editing

Being an “editor” sounds pretty fancy – it is anything but. I’ve read, re-read and re-re-read at least 6 versions of the book printed out on A4 paper and spiral bound. The process involved hand-written notes, SHOUTY CAPITAL LETTER remarks, arguments with the author about including or deleting something, and just a whole lot of patience.

It didn’t just involve trawling for typos and grammar errors, it also included having to figure out flow, order, context of the content. The book is interspersed with illustrations, photographs and true stories, so it wasn’t simply copy-editing. There was plenty of quality checking alongside many tiny decisions – bullets or numbers? Titles or subtitles? Quote or story? Tell the truth as it is or sugarcoat? Throw the book away in frustration or power through? Continue reading Editing A Book Is Hard Work

Want Better Work? Treat Your Vendors Right!

The client-vendor relationship is complex – riddled with negotiations, expectations, and often, judgement errors. Having worked in an agency environment as well as on the client side of business (and now independently), I’ve been on both sides of the table. The very simple truth is that your vendors will perform as well as you let them.

What can we all do to get more and better work from our vendors? Treat them right.

1. Respect Their Time

The number of instances where I’ve arranged for a vendor to meet, and my superiors have insisted on letting them “sit and wait” has been disrespectfully high. When you’ve set a time to meet them, keeping them hanging isn’t going to make you look super busy, it’s just going to make you look unprofessional. Sure, agencies and suppliers need your business for a livelihood – but present an attitude of triviality towards their time, and you’ve got zero respect from them, for yours. Continue reading Want Better Work? Treat Your Vendors Right!

This Thing Called Work-Life Balance

Last April, I quit the corporate world to go down the path of self-employment. One year on, I finally feel brave enough to talk about lessons learnt, skills gained, fears felt, and priorities re-adjusted.

People are often stunned that I made the decision to leave. “You were so close to the mark, why’d you quit?” The reasons were many (and complex), one of them being I wasn’t sure what this magical “mark” was.

But the most pressing element that drove me over the edge is a seldom talked about issue – Burnout. And I was not alone, my colleagues and I danced around with our heads on fire, smoke coming out of our behinds. We all dove headfirst into the blazing corporate volcano, and forgot to take the extinguisher with us. Continue reading This Thing Called Work-Life Balance

Plastic Plastic In Your Trash

I recently anchored a conference on ‘Positive Attributes of Plastics and its Waste Management’ backed by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Government of India. It sounded technical and when I looked at the programme sheet, I knew I had to pay extra attention to draft notes and comments. To my utter surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed every presentation and learned a few cool things!

The speakers and audience included industrialists, recyclers, educators, NGOs, government officials from the Pollution Control Board and Corporation of Chennai, along with a few students. I was honestly startled at the participation from the audience, having rather ignorantly expected silence and boredom.

In a nutshell, the conference discussed domestic and industrial use of plastics, its manufacturing techniques, technological innovations in the field, and most importantly – managing plastic waste.

I learned about how plastic itself does not pollute, it’s its mismanagement that affects the environment. I learned that most plastic is recyclable and that there are companies in India that are treating and recycling PET bottles and other plastics to produce wires, pillows, clothes, food packaging, zippers, carpets etc. I learned that it takes 6 PET bottles to make a T-shirt. Who knew! Continue reading Plastic Plastic In Your Trash

How To Create A Comprehensive Content Strategy For Your Brand

If your work revolves around marketing, corporate communications, public relations or social media, one of the most challenging tasks you probably encounter is creating an effective content strategy.

While having to constantly think of new things to write about, you also have to ensure product visibility without bombarding your customer’s senses with promotional content. Whether it’s writing an interesting blog, scheduling social media updates, discussing story ideas with journalists, or figuring out what to put in emails, writer’s block decides to hinder your thought process when you need it most. Let’s not forget the horror of allocating the right amount to spend towards creating and promoting your content.

A simple revenue based model can help provide instant visual clarity, and I have found it to be a good first step. While the example is of a hotel/resort, this can be applied to any industry.


Step 1 – Identify Major Revenue Sources
While developing a “persona” of your target audience is a great way to start speaking to them, this may not be the most effective way to begin if your business has multiple verticals of revenue. In a hotel for example, the major sources of revenue are rooms, food & beverage, banquets and spa/gym/pool/sports facilities. Continue reading How To Create A Comprehensive Content Strategy For Your Brand