My manager just told me that I’m getting a reputation for being curt and unfriendly. I am shocked. I always, always, always ask, “How can I help you?” when someone comes into my office even though I am swamped. What should I do? T.T., New York, NY
When people come to you, do you immediately ask, “How can I help you?” If so, no matter what your words are saying, your tone is telling them to get lost. Everyone thinks they are swamped, whether they actually are or not. Acting like you have no time by immediately jumping into solution mode is telegraphing to them that you believe your time is more valuable than theirs.
Add social chit-chat to your conversations. It doesn’t have to be a lot—just make sure you are truly present when you’re trading pleasantries. And make sure you are participating—if you only ask about them and don’t participate fully, you will appear insincere. Then, and only then, ask how you can help them. Do this consistently and this experience will just be a blip on your manager’s radar.