"Why wasn’t I promoted?” I winced. Not because his words echoed my thoughts and stabbed at my heart – but more because his bad breath stabbed at my delicate nostrils.
“Have a Chiclet”, I offered him encouragingly, while backing off slightly to avoid answering his question, and his breath.
But, that’s ridiculous! A person doesn’t get passed over for promotions just for having bad breath! “The G. M. hates me”, he said gloomily, munching on his Chiclet. “That’s ridiculous!” I said aloud. “Why would he hate you? He hardly knows you.”
“No. He hates me,” he insisted.
“When did you get your last promotion?” I inquired, encouraged by his peppermint breath. “Not once in ten years, ever since I started,” he stated mournfully.
I was shocked, but covered my expression by saying instead: “Maybe I’ll talk to the G.M. for you, and see what he says.” “Yeah. But what’s the use? They all say the same thing”.
“What do you mean by ‘they’?” I asked him.
“All the previous G.M.s. He’s the fourth in ten years”, he answered. “Oh?” So there! He can’t really believe that four General Managers ‘hate’ him for nothing. I asked him: “But what do they really tell you ?”
“That I need to improve my ‘communication skills’ – whatever that is! How can they say that? Ahmed who’s been here for only three months, with less qualifications and experience than I, has learned everything from me, and now he’s being promoted, and I’m not. I now know Italian fluently from my guest contacts throughout the years, and furthermore, all the big clients have come through me, by my efforts, and my reservations,” he lamented.
Intrigued by this mystery on his apparent good ‘communications skills’ but his equally apparent career going nowhere, I decided to ask an expert the real meaning of “communications skills”, instead of making an ass of myself in front of my boss (the G.M.) and showing my ignorance to everyone.
Professor Thomas Kempner, honorary Professor at Brunel University, U.K., emeritus Professor at Henly College, and retired Principal for its management college had this shrewd advice to offer:
“‘Communications Skills’? That adds up to about 12 basic rules on how to please your Boss”, he said wisely.
ONE: Don’t give your Supervisor or your Boss nasty surprises. He shouldn’t have to tell you: ‘You should have told me about this before’.
TWO: If you encounter a problem which you think might be beyond your level, discuss it with your boss, and don’t cover it up until it is too late for careful thought and action by the right person..
THREE: It is not helpful to your boss if you tell him: ‘We have to have an immediate decision on this now’ – when you should have prepared the ground weeks, or days ago.
FOUR: Try to see your job in the context of the business, and not just your part of it. You’ll be judged on your ability to see the whole picture and its impact on the organization (or hotel, as the case may be) and that may require minor sacrifices from your corner.
FIVE: Don’t send him only memos or copies of letters to show how clever you are. You can rely on the fact that your colleagues have done the same thing! Besides, your Boss doesn’t need to waste more time on more paper work.
SIX: Prepare your case carefully before you meet your Boss. Give him alternatives to any plan of action, and not just the plan you favour. Partial advice will be remembered next time – if given tactfully – and appreciated.
SEVEN: Don’t bother your Boss with minor issues which you should handle yourself. But, if you want the answer to a complex issue, let him have the details in advance. It’s unreasonable to expect him to come up with an instant reply to a difficult issue. You may have lived with the problem for some time, and he (as well as your colleagues) may have not. Also, a more sensitive type of Boss may feel that you are deliberately putting him on the spot, and he’ll resent you for it.
EIGHT: It is very difficult to absorb a problem if you just shove it under his nose from a piece of paper, while you keep talking. Prepare in advance, and give him time too.
NINE: Once a decision is made, carry it out as if it is your own decision, even if you do not agree with it.
TEN: Don’t whine. Those who are forever whining about their difficulties and saying everything is impossible, are like wet towels and depressing. They don’t improve their bosses’ day.
ELEVEN: Be positive, and press your points hard, but with alternative solutions. It’s refreshing for your Boss to see someone who offers solutions for a change, and has the initiative to complete tasks successfully.
TWELVE: Be brief. Your Boss has a lot of other problems, so try not to be one of them!
“All the above are with the supposition that your Boss is a person of adequate (for the job) ability and reasonably trustworthy: someone who will support you when you are in trouble rather than blame you for his/her incompetence and lack of foresight, and who will not play politics with your career,” concluded the Professor.
Thanking the Professor profusely, I wrote down the precious notes. Next day I typed them, then passed on a copy to Mr. Unpromoted Badbreath, and decided to study the Professor’s advice during my lunch break. I was suddenly interrupted however by Mr. Unpromoted Badbreath, who came running to my desk with my notes in his hand which he clutched protectively to his chest. Phew! He stunk! I could smell his perspiration from a mile.
I bet his real problem is from lack of hygiene and good grooming, after all. I’d have to tell him that some day, after I consult another expert on ‘Hygiene & Good Grooming’!