Readers Weigh In On Rudeness and Speechmaking
(FORTUNE Magazine) – My, my. There seem to be an awful lot of job seekers out there who, like "Peeved" (Nov. 22), endure several rounds of interviews, sometimes with psychological testing thrown in. Then they wait to hear from the prospective employer (or employers). And wait. And wait. And wait. And hear...nothing. One unhappy correspondent flew three hours to another city, met with a headhunter in the airport for an hour and a half, flew home again, and guess what--never heard another word, not even a "thank you for spending the time and money to meet with us." Writes a reader named Dalton Grady: "Unfortunately I can relate to 'Peeved' only too well, having been on the receiving end far too many times. What is especially shocking is that I am a human resources practitioner, and the ones giving me (and no doubt others) the silent treatment are also human resources 'professionals.' I would have thought that people in this field would know better." Now, look. We're all pressed for time, but it is unsettling to see basic good manners fly out the window. "Even a form letter would be preferable to hearing nothing at all," notes a frustrated job candidate named Pam. "For the price of a stamp, you, the hiring manager, could prevent a lot of needless aggravation. And who knows? Maybe you will want to hire these people one day. You'll want them to return your phone calls then, won't you?"
And speaking of unnecessary rudeness, I can't resist passing along a real shocker, sent in by a reader named Jeff in response to a recent column on the Web (www.askannie.com) about managing people via e-mail. "Hey, I got fired by e-mail," he relates, "and the stupidest thing about it was that the manager who fired me sat five feet away. When I asked him to explain himself, he made some wimpy excuse and scurried away." Sheesh.
Commenting on the letter from "Texas Techie" (Nov. 22), who wanted to know whether he could be sued for taking a great business idea to a competing company, Washington, D.C.-based high-tech intellectual-property consultant Kenneth Poole points out that much depends on the exact wording of an employment contract: "If the employee was not 'hired to invent,' then broad-ranging provisions [intended to keep him or her from profiting from an invention] have generally been held by the courts to be invalid, because the contract provisions had no relevance to the position for which the person was hired." In other words, there may be hope for you, Texas Techie (and anyone else in a similar situation)--but be prepared for a long legal huggermugger.
Is an undergraduate business degree a waste of time? A surprising number of readers, responding to a letter from "Carolyn" (Dec. 6), think so. "I learned more in one year doing an actual job than in four years of college," says an erstwhile business major named Lisa. "Now I'm going back to school to study computer programming. Wish I'd majored in that to begin with." Navin Chandra, an engineer who taught computer science at Carnegie Mellon before starting two companies, suggests that Carolyn take her father's advice and get an engineering degree, followed by an MBA: "Business management itself is not a real career. Management is a tool used to run a real business. But you must have the base skills upon which vision is created."
Thanks to everybody who sent suggestions for how to get a speech off to a great start (Oct. 11). "Ask me a question," writes Art Pringle. "It requires me to focus my attention." Margaret Hope, an executive coach in Burnaby, British Columbia--and author of a terrific book called You're Speaking...But Are You Connecting? (Lions Gate Training, $14.95)--recommends always having a prepared opening, but "be ready to ditch it if, in the moments just before the speech, you recognize a more relevant opportunity." One of her clients, Linda Crompton, who is president of Citizens Bank of Canada, recently "got rave reviews when she ignored her planned opening and instead told a humorous anecdote from the conference [where she was speaking]--one that was relevant to her point but that she could not have planned in advance." Philip Crosby, the product-quality guru who popularized the catch phrase "zero defects," has given thousands of speeches in his 40-year career. "Greet the audience as if they were a person you were just meeting. Never tell a joke, not at any time, although stories--real and with a point--are always appreciated," he writes. "But jokes only encourage people who will want to tell you one."
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