Judith Beck, Founder, Financial Executive Women
If you were being filmed would you act the same way towards your staff and colleagues? Or if your phone calls were recorded would you speak differently? If so why? Is there a mean person inside all of us or is it just human nature to lash out in frustration from time to time?
We have all by now seen the story of two newsreaders who were secretly filmed arguing about having white shirts on. The more senior newsreader came across as being frustrated because according to her she had asked the other newsreader to put a jacket on so they weren’t all seen as wearing white. There was social media backlash for the more senior newsreader and her personal brand was no doubt damaged because of it.
There are three issues here I would like you to think about:
1. Don’t show your frustration in front of people - How many of you have showed your frustration with a staff member or colleague after you requested something and after two or three requests, still no action? If you were filmed at the second or third request how would you come across? My guess is with frustration.
Let’s face it, we all have bad days, come into work tired at times, get frustrated by things not being done, anxious about meeting a deadline, a client went with someone else etc − all the triggers that may make someone snappy. At the end of the day there is no excuse for bad behaviour, as much as we want to justify the why we did something. Was this bullying or just frustration at work? Are we throwing stones when in reality we have all lived in a glass house at one time or another?
If the senior newsreader would have called her a name and personally insulted her then this would be a different story and she would more than likely be given a warning by her employer, filmed or not. There should be no tolerance for name calling or bullying. In my opinion by just watching the film (and without knowing the background behind the scenes), the senior newsreader was trying to make sure visually they were not all wearing the same thing. However we all know she could have handled it better and the other newsreader could have also reacted differently. Remember that your brand is not about just when the film is running. Positive and negative brand is also about the other 98% of what you do at work that is not being filmed. When you are in front of your boss, doing presentations, speaking to your staff and colleagues, greeting the receptionist, holding the elevator door, picking up the phone, answering emails and the list goes on.
2. Why the obsession with what women news readers are wearing? My second point with this story is why having all white on was an issue in the first place. If they were three male presenters wearing black suits would wardrobe be an issue? Ok I know many of you will say there are stats about image on TV and what the viewers want. But aren’t viewers more interested in the story and if not how do we change this attitude about what women wear on TV? I wonder how many of the negative comments that the senior newsreader got were from women. Has she had a backlash before on wardrobe choices? Do men care what women are wearing on TV or is the pressure of image from women? Would love your comments.
3. How we handle the situation will change the result. The third point is about how do we handle situations like these in the workplace? How would you handle it? Here is what I would do if I was the senior newsreader. Remember everything is easy in hindsight, but the key is to continue to learn as no matter how old or experienced you are you will never stop learning unless you are stubborn.
Here are my tips for this type of situation:
1. If you are the person who gets frustrated easily or short tempered, a good rule of thumb is to communicate as if you are being filmed. These days there are camera’s everywhere so this should be easy.
- Communicate the problem you have – ‘We all have white on and visually it won’t look good to the viewers, so could you please quickly get a jacket from wardrobe’ (watch your tone).
- If the response is no, then call wardrobe and get a jacket for yourself. Fix the problem with quick action that is not confrontational in front of others.
- On camera make a joke about all of you having the same thing on, ie that you must have all hired the same stylist, and then move on. The same thing applies if you are at a work function and someone has the same dress. Go up to her and say what good taste you both have and don’t let it ruin your day.
2. After the segment the senior newsreader should ask to speak to the other newsreader privately to discuss. Explanation on the why is the key. True leaders win people over through explanation and communication not dictation.
- The other newsreader in addition should have responded by getting a jacket and if she had any issues she could have addressed them privately as well. If you are the person that is bringing out frustration in others in a work situation, start to look at why it is happening and if you could have also taken a leadership position by doing what was best for your organisation. If you are given a directive, don’t disregard it just because you don’t like the person giving the directive. You work for an employer and you should be doing what is best for the company. Settle your differences with the person in private (another article for another time).
It is not professional to have arguments in front of others especially guest/clients and other staff who are not involved. Take a breath before you speak when you are frustrated and think about how you will come across. How will it sound if you were filmed? Remember your brand can easily be damaged in a minute and could take years to repair. Same goes for phone calls and emails. Love to hear your thoughts.