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How to Handle an Insulting Manager, Online Trolls, Plus the Challenges of White Ink

Be clear about this: “I’m just being honest” is a poor excuse for humiliating someone.




I have a manager who I think can be demeaning in handing out feedback, but when I bring it up, he says, “I don’t believe in sugarcoating criticism.” How should I deal with him?

It’s a fairly thin line, but “I’m telling it how it is”/“I’m just being honest” are poor excuses for humiliating someone. Yes, candor is a good thing, especially in a performance-driven workplace. But so is respect, which can be demonstrated in how things are said. Being direct with the content of feedback doesn’t prevent someone from being thoughtful about the best way to deliver it. It’s also not effective as a form of communication. If people react emotionally or defensively, the core of the message is lost. All that is left is the memory of how that person felt (badly) from his or her engagement with their supervisor. Sit down with your manager and review the recent work histories of some underperforming staff members. Ask him if he believes this person’s performance has improved as a result? If not, put it to them that perhaps he needs to try a softer approach. As he likes to say himself, this is about results.

When is the best time to ask a customer about their budget?

This is a little like asking, “When is the best time to die?” Put it off as long as possible – or if you can manage it, never ask, says sales trainer Dave Richardson. When you ask early or even midway through your presentation, you are exposing your customer’s budget and setting a potentially unnecessary limit on what you can show. “Since a budget is a budget is a budget, most salespeople are reluctant to suggest an add-on,” Richardson says. By waiting, you give yourself the opportunity to be much more creative and build value. The bottom line, Richardson says, is that if a customer inquires about price, provide it. If not, don’t ask. After all, how many times have you seen someone spend more than they’d planned?

A growing staff is making it difficult to do something special for everyone’s birthday. Any advice beyond forgoing birthdays entirely?

Some members of Big Picture’s online VIP survey group, the Brain Squad, are familiar with this problem. Their solution? Don’t celebrate birthdays individually. For example, at Visual FX, Chris Raleigh says he and his crew generally do cake and ice cream for all birthdays in any given month. At Fastsigns Oakland and Fastsigns Hayward, Linda Fong and her team have adopted a similar approach. “When we were a smaller team and in person, we would buy birthday lunches with the birthday person’s choice,” she says. “Now that we are about 20 with a hybrid work model, we celebrate the birthday month with lunch on the day of our monthly staff meeting when we know most of our team members are in the office.”

What’s the best way to deal with trolls on our social media channels?

Ignore them. Unlike customers with a grievance, to whom you should respond quickly and usually with some humility, trolls are just using verbal aggression to get attention. It’s better to ignore them than feed them. “The internet doesn’t turn people into trolls. It just makes their trolling more visible,” notes behavioral psychologist Adam Grant. “Eight studies of over 8,000 people have shown that if you’re an asshole online, you’re probably an asshole in person too.”

We’re struggling with white ink. Any pointers?

If you’re still having difficulty after getting support from your equipment manufacturer, ink supplier, or other experts, you might reconsider whether you even need it? “White graphics don’t always require white ink, which can be more difficult to manage than other colors,” says Tami Napolitano, co-founder/CEO of Awesome Graphics. “It is easy to print on white film and then die-cut to whatever shape you want. When clients want the graphic on the inside of the glass facing out, we can use a clear film and then laminate in white, so the graphic still pops.”




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