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February 7th, 2010


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08:22 pm - Virginia, Slim
Last week, one of the senior CRAs (clinical research associates) decided to become quite effusive with praise and sent the following e-mail to my bosses:
I just wanted to let you know what a pleasure it is to work with Sunil.
He is always so on top of things and is eager to help in any way.
He now has volunteered to give a webinar on Friday to all the sites and CRAs on SAEs [serious adverse events] and Med Net [EDC (electronic data capture) system].

All the [sponsor] CRAs have told me that he is such a great resource and is always available to resolve any questions that they have on SAEs and MedNet ( and we know these are a lot!)

Just thought it would be nice for you to know we all appreciate him!
My boss responded:
Thank you for your e-mail. It is great to hear that others appreciate him as much as we do!
And then her boss—my former boss—passed the e-mail along to his boss, the VP:
Just thought you'd appreciate this message as well – he really has come a long way!
And then he responded, copying a couple other VPs (I should note that I was not copied on any of these, but my boss forwarded them to me):
This is a terrific email and evidences your focus on Sunil's professional growth and development. I hope that you are both proud of the tremendous opportunities you have afforded him.
This is the VP who, in my first year at the company, got on my case—through my boss—about nodding off in meetings and being unprofessional in my business communications. And, looking back at those early e-mails recently, I am embarrassed at what I thought was appropriate. But now, over three years later, I have grown professionally, increased my responsibilities, and earned a promotion.

And yet I still refuse to believe I am deserving of such praise. I get points for answering people's questions? Of course I answer their questions! It saves me a lot of headache! I am eager to help because it makes my job easier. I gave the webinar so sites would stop being stupid. I feel like all the things I do are just part of being a good worker and a good person in general, nothing special or impressive. Every time someone tells me how good I am at my job, it makes me wonder what other sorts of people they've dealt with. I get annoyed and angry at the fact that there are so many incompetent people who have jobs.

I am at least mostly competent.
Current Mood: complacentcomplacent
Current Music: Green Day - Last Night on Earth

(41 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:miniglik
Date:February 8th, 2010 04:24 am (UTC)
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Yay!

I think there are a lot of unhelpful people in the world.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 8th, 2010 04:24 am (UTC)
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What is their DEAL??
[User Picture]
From:miniglik
Date:February 8th, 2010 04:27 am (UTC)
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Selfishness and entitlement.

Mostly. Along with other shitty things. But even the "good" people get into a job situation and can act like entitled brats.

True story. *nods*

Edited at 2010-02-08 04:33 am (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:lembeau
Date:February 8th, 2010 04:37 am (UTC)
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Sunil, YOU ARE AWESOME!! It's good to see other people acknowledging that fact. \o/

I get annoyed and angry at the fact that there are so many incompetent people who have jobs.

And because they are there in those jobs it means that there are no open spots for me. :/ *shakes fist at economy*

[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 8th, 2010 06:35 am (UTC)
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I know! I know all these great people who don't have jobs, and all these terribly stupid people who do. It sucks.
[User Picture]
From:tripoli
Date:February 8th, 2010 04:37 am (UTC)
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Look at you :-D

As for the email--I would consider it good practice to incentivize behaviors you want to see, and one way I've found works most of the time is that you make sure the person's boss knows they did good. My dad is the best manager I will probably ever meet, and he makes a point of doing this, either by email or in person. There are always exceptions, and you don't want to go overboard, but assuming the person actually is doing what they're supposed to do, it's a social capital win-win for everybody.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 8th, 2010 06:37 am (UTC)
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incentivize
Look at you with the corporate-speak.

one way I've found works most of the time is that you make sure the person's boss knows they did good. My dad is the best manager I will probably ever meet, and he makes a point of doing this, either by email or in person.
Positive reinforcement is pretty sweet, I agree.

it's a social capital win-win for everybody.
Mmm, social capital.
[User Picture]
From:tripoli
Date:February 8th, 2010 07:26 am (UTC)
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oh god save me. the grad school, it has reached my brain.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 8th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
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It was quite an impactful e-mail!
[User Picture]
From:behindpyramids
Date:February 8th, 2010 04:52 am (UTC)
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You, are AWESOME. Congrats congrats.


and erm...hey...I am that incompetent newbie who sends those awful e-mails (I have gotten into so much trouble over my e-mails) and I don't even want to count the number of times I've fallen asleep in meetings. (There was one where I did that and I was sitting across from my boss and his boss. It was horrible because at least two people commented on it.)

...any tips? advice on how you got here? *hopeful* entry on how to be all awesome at the work place?
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 8th, 2010 06:40 am (UTC)
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Tips on how not to fall asleep in meetings: er, get more sleep. I'm not sure how I stopped doing that. Also, I think it was because I started going to more meetings where I was a participant instead of an observer, so getting used to that helped me pay attention or at least fake it in meetings I wasn't getting anything out of.

As for learning how to send e-mails, the easiest way is to copy what other people do. All the older, more experienced people will be sending very professional e-mails, so learn from them. Copy and paste their wording if you have to. And eventually you'll know how to write business-appropriate e-mails.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:behindpyramids
Date:February 8th, 2010 04:10 pm (UTC)
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Thanks! I've put it on hold.

I'm really struggling with the school/work transition. Not in a huge collapsing way, but in this little minor way where I kinda know that I'm not up to par but unlike school, there are no grades or direct feedback unless you really screw up, so it's kinda hard to figure out what to change.
(Deleted comment)
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From:behindpyramids
Date:February 8th, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC)
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Oh my lord it was such a relief to read this...you understand! I've spent so much time waffling over e-mails...send? do not send? how to phrase? wondering if my boss wants me to take more initiative or if he'd prefer for me to wait for further specific instructions to minimize the risk of a screw up.

(I'm lucky enough to only have one boss who is a really great person, but because he's so great he's also tremendously busy and I get the sense every question I ask him better count.)

My annual review is actually coming up this week and I'm composing a list of questions...I was a little weary of asking for feedback though--now I will, without fear. (Didn't know if it was kosher. I'm a feedback junkie. I love getting feedback.)

Also coworker...thanks so much for that one! My department is small, only one other coworker who started a couple months before me, and since he never asks me to read over I always feel like I'm impinging on his time if I ask him to read over my stuff or my important e-mails, but now I will. I just sent out an e-mail with a simple math error to about three different departments and was so embarrassed because that was the kind of catch that I could have made.
And oh god, my first month, I sent out an e-mail that implied someone didn't know what they were talking about---very unintentionally, I just meant I had exhausted their supply of info and need another point of contact---but it was awful. The e-mail was fwded to his boss, and to my boss and the guy got yelled, which he didn't deserve. I'm really not used to the idea that an e-mail is like writing a blog to the entire office. You never know whom it's going to get fwded to.

[User Picture]
From:behindpyramids
Date:February 8th, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC)
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*and I meant leary instead of weary. gah. imagine this mind in a work setting. >
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 8th, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
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Ooooh, you better get used to that quick. That can get you in trouble. As I mentioned above, this e-mail got forwarded around without my knowing.

Anyway, Nicole has very good advice, and she's saying the same things I would.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:February 8th, 2010 04:45 pm (UTC)
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For workplace communications, I've always felt formality was key. People are usually very informal in their electronic communications... for e-mails, forum posts, LJ comments and instant messages, they tend to try to recreate how they talk verbally. The comment that I'm replying to, for instance, has slang, capitalization to indicate raised voice, ellipses to indicate dramatic pauses and even verbal ticks. That's fine for informal commucation like this... great even, because the more one recreates the experience of verbal communication, the more it's like a real conversation. Lots of people also get real sloppy about spelling, grammer, punctuation and capitalization on the internet. That's... actually a bit of a peeve of mine. (Oh, and see? Now I'm doing the ellipsis "pause" thing, too.)

But for work, one must be formal, even in electronic communications. These are not "conversations" but "documents". You have to treat it like you would an official memo on company letterhead that your boss is going to read. People like to get the impression that the people that they're giving their money to are knowledgeable professionals, not lay-about punks. Not to mention that anything you send through company e-mail could be subpoenaed and publicized as part of a court case, if the company were ever sued.

I have to do incident reports for my work, and I always write them with as formal a tone as possible, bringing the full brunt of my vocabulary to bear. I didn't "go" anywhere, I "proceeded". I didn't "call", I "contacted by telephone". It's never "the guy" I'm describing, it's "the individual in question" or "the suspect" or "the complainant". The car didn't crash, "the vehicle suffered a collision". It's not "junk" or "crud", it's "detritus". I'm sure your job involves completely different terminology, but the basic idea is the same. Use of "sir" or "ma'am" when addressing people who outrank you or who you don't know very well never hurts, either.

As for not falling asleep... well, I have a lot of experience with sleep deprivation, so I know a lot of tricks for staying sharp when tired. (I can't imagine falling asleep in a meeting, however... not with all those people in proximity and the bright lights and noise. I couldn't sleep if I was trying to.) Getting more sleep when not at work is a good start. Use caffeine to stay more alert when tired. Sit up straight, no slouching or putting your head down. Keep your mind occupied (preferably on what you're supposed to be paying attention to) so that you don't zone out. Unfortunately, you probably can't do one of the best things for staying awake: stay standing.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:February 8th, 2010 05:24 pm (UTC)
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Heh. By all means, feel free to.
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From:soleta_nf
Date:March 21st, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC)
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Do you have any ideas on how to prevent yawning during meetings? I have never fallen asleep in a meeting (like you, I can't imagine doing so) but yawning used to be a problem of mine when I was going to meetings regularly. Thankfully they're not really a part of my current job.
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:March 23rd, 2010 11:10 am (UTC)
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For yawning? Sorry, I don't really know any tricks for that. Getting more rest and doing the same sort of things you might do to make yourself more awake and alert are all I can really suggest. Anything that might stave off tiredness.
[User Picture]
From:soleta_nf
Date:March 23rd, 2010 11:20 am (UTC)
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Thanks! I've always been frustrated with yawning because, while you might be able to prevent falling asleep, you can't really prevent yawning (beyond preventative measures that you suggest).
[User Picture]
From:plazmah
Date:February 8th, 2010 05:00 am (UTC)
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Awesome awesome stuff!

Every time someone tells me how good I am at my job, it makes me wonder what other sorts of people they've dealt with.

I think this is the crux of the matter; there are so many lazy complainers who drag companies/workplaces down with their negative energy that being NORMAL is like a breath of fresh air. O_O
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 8th, 2010 06:54 am (UTC)
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That's just sad, though.
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From:rowanceleste
Date:February 8th, 2010 06:23 am (UTC)
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Very cool! And honestly, I think there's very few people who don't think 'I could be better'...most of the people that walk around thinking 'Damn, I'm good!' on a consistent basis are actually just blowing smoke up their own ass.

[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 8th, 2010 06:55 am (UTC)
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Honestly, if someone can blow smoke up his own ass, that's pretty impressive.
[User Picture]
From:rowanceleste
Date:February 8th, 2010 09:46 am (UTC)
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I used to have a co-worker that excelled at that, passing the buck AND dropping the ball, so he was multi-talented! Luckily, he's a formercp-worker now, but he got away with it for years.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:rowanceleste
Date:February 8th, 2010 05:27 pm (UTC)
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No, No, really, that's okay! You keep him.
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From:ashfae
Date:February 8th, 2010 01:50 pm (UTC)
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So awesome. =)
[User Picture]
From:hugecerealbox
Date:February 8th, 2010 06:24 pm (UTC)
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Honestly, you sound like a great co-worker! I know several people on here have already said this but it's worth repeating: not everyone is a team player and not everyone makes themselves available to help others.

It's kind of weird hearing praise you don't feel you deserve but it sounds like you do! It could be worse;)
[User Picture]
From:chrryblssmninja
Date:February 9th, 2010 06:56 am (UTC)
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this is so awesome.
[User Picture]
From:thetheatremouse
Date:February 16th, 2010 07:28 pm (UTC)
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Of course I answer their questions! It saves me a lot of headache! I am eager to help because it makes my job easier. I gave the webinar so sites would stop being stupid.
Have you found that answering questions has actually saved you a lot of headache? I'm just curious because I find myself more and more frustrated with the stupidity of others. I've run into the problem that most seem to A: like that I answer questions and say good things about me to the boss so yay, but B: don't bother to internalize those answers and retain any information. They treat me like google, asking the same things over and over again, and seem to truly have no memory whatsoever that we've had the conversation 12 times in the past six months. And your post made me think of that and wonder whether this sad fact is a sign of the absurdity of the atmosphere at my place of employ, or if that symptom is more widespread than I think.
I get annoyed and angry at the fact that there are so many incompetent people who have jobs.
Right there with ya. The bar seems to be so damn low.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 16th, 2010 07:36 pm (UTC)
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Have you found that answering questions has actually saved you a lot of headache?
Oh, no, people are stupid.

And your post made me think of that and wonder whether this sad fact is a sign of the absurdity of the atmosphere at my place of employ, or if that symptom is more widespread than I think.
People are stupid everywhere.
[User Picture]
From:soleta_nf
Date:March 21st, 2010 05:39 pm (UTC)
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They treat me like google, asking the same things over and over again, and seem to truly have no memory whatsoever that we've had the conversation 12 times in the past six months.
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<i/i>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

<i>They treat me like google, asking the same things over and over again, and seem to truly have no memory whatsoever that we've had the conversation 12 times in the past six months.<i/i>

I'm not sure if this would work in your workplace, but in cases such as this, could you not create a document or email to say something like "I've been getting this question a lot lately, so I've written this FAQ everyone can consult in the future..." And then send it to everyone. When that person asks again, refer them to the document you drew up (or help them, but remind them that next time they should refer to that). Adjust as suits your needs.
[User Picture]
From:thetheatremouse
Date:March 25th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I tried that. Unfortunately, the response to FAQ/reminder emails has generally got me, "that's great but can you just tell me real quick". I do have a couple of form emails which have been moderately successful. Especially lovely are questions in response to the form email that are answered by the form email. Nothing to be done.

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