Management

Why Are Constant Disturbances At Work So Mainstream?

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Constant disturbances are very commonplace where there is more than one manager and there’s no communication between one and the other. The same goes with employees that talk a lot without getting a whole lot done.

This however is a big problem, since how does someone with tight deadlines requiring 100% concentration, as well as employees to train, answer questions “on the spot?” If anything, that’s non-productive as less work ends up getting done. This becomes frustrating for everybody.

I firmly believe that the source of these disturbances is in employees not being busy enough. This especially applies to insensitive interns and junior level employees who don’t care but think that you’re so smart that you can afford to waste time and that their time is more important. Sorry, that’s not living in reality, sweetie.

In a way, I can relate as I was once struggling in a work-atmosphere similar to that. When I started a job at a certain Internet Marketing company in Richmond Hill, I initially impressed everyone with my ability to learn quickly on instruction. However, when it came to learning a certain website framework, I became stuck and started asking questions, an apparent taboo there. My trainer, who was rather overworked himself, got wind of this and eventually chastised me, calmly, about not being able to continue figuring things out on my own. This frustration mounted further when I was literally thrown into a particularly overwhelming project that heavily involved this framework. I was so poorly trained that I literally felt worthless. This led me to job-hunt once again and leave that company after a very short period of time. The owner couldn’t believe it, said I was something else, and that he saw this coming a mile away. Believe me, I “get it” as I was once one of those disturbances.

How to Reduce Disturbances At Work

So, I guess I’m getting what I deserve in many ways. However, this also wizened me up. Here’s what should be done:

  1. Set aside special times to train an employee each day, for a half-hour-to-an-hour time at the very least. The time invested will be worthwhile in the long run.
  2. Notify the employer(s) about this time and that all emergencies need to get pushed off until after the training session has ended.
  3. Be clear and firm with the employee(s) that all questions that they have, long after the session has ended, need to be written down and brought up during the next session. Calling out “help I cannot do this” is unproductive for both the trainer during his production hours, and the trainee.
  4. For mainstream (not proprietary) products and frameworks, Google is your best friend. If Google doesn’t have what you’re looking for and your product is under support, then technical/customer support is your next option. Those are places where I usually go when in doubt, so there’s no reason you cannot do it yourself. However, again, with proprietary, do #3.

Getting Respect from Bullies to Bosses

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Tips to Influence Everyone from Your Bosses to the Office Bully

Ever feel like the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield — that no matter what you do at work you just “can’t get no respect?”

From the bully in the cubicle next to you to a boss who seems oblivious to your accomplishments to the people reporting to you who are loathe to make any tough decisions themselves, your day at the office carries more baggage than the annual Thanksgiving dinner at the in-laws. Yet every moment of the day when we are interacting with other human beings, there is an opportunity — if not a pressing need — to assert our influence and move closer to our various goals by cooperation of others.

What follows is a list of five circumstances in which you may find yourself interacting with the incumbent players and actors these situations feature, any of which can either stand in the way or provide critical support for your various goals and objectives.

Entire books could be written about each of these situations, but my goal was to give you at least one way of exerting influence that tilts the odds of success in each of these situations or contexts in your favor. You’re well advised to seek out additional resources, but the following should give you a start.

1. Influence with Bullies

Whether you work for one, have one on your team, or live with one, bullies can make life miserable, send productivity and morale at work into a tail-spin, and cause lasting psychological damage to victims of such harassment.

Some causes for bullying have been identified as poor problem solving skills, low self-esteem, as well as the drive for power, status and even affection.

While you don’t want to respond to a bully’s aggressive behavior in kind — meaning you lash out in the same way — it can be effective to call the bully on unacceptable behavior and let it be known you are documenting each incident of the harassment you experience. Keep your emotions in check and respond calmly and with reason to bullies. Seek feedback from your professional and social network and bolster your ranks of allies, so that when it comes to a showdown you have solid support, not to mention witnesses on your side. Bullies often display poor emotional intelligence and a lack of effective problem-solving in interpersonal conflicts and relationships in general. Improving your own emotional intelligence by better managing your emotions in response to bullying and approaching relationship strife in creative ways will help you become a less attractive victim to the bully.

If you’re in a supervisory situation, make clear that you will not tolerate bullying from anyone, and that you will set and enforce a standard of respectful behavior in the workplace. Incorporate emotional intelligence components when training new hires and new leaders, and intervene immediately to disrupt any bullying behaviors.

Finally, lead by example. Treat colleagues with respect, and  model the behavior for others to follow.

2. Influence in Meetings

Meetings — from online to in-person gatherings — are a necessary byproduct of business and the professions. And whatever the objective for the meeting, one critical aspect whether you lead or participate is that you want others to pay attention to what you have to say. Here’s an influencing strategy that’ll help increase your chances of that happening in your next meeting.

Scientists call it the ‘recency’ effect which means that we are wired to pay particular attention to the most recent information, minimizing in importance any information received earlier. Imagine the scenario of your manager going around the table asking for input and your idea gets heard somewhere half-way around the group; the best way to take advantage of the recency effect then is to take the opportunity at the end when everyone was heard, to reiterate your point by restating it in a different way — leaving the group to hear your idea as the most recent and most focused on.

Whether it’s a decision you want others to make, an important feature you want to highlight or a call to action you want others to heed, to be most influential it pays to have the last word.

3. Influence in Teams

The old cliche “there is no I in team” might be correct in literal terms, but as anyone who’s ever been a part of team knows, teams are always made up of individuals; each with their own style, cultural background, experience, and preference for how to work. One way to exert influence in teams is to make sure attendant differences and diversity serve as sources of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking and where various perspectives are highly valued.

Gender balance in mixed teams is also something to watch for to increase team influence. Research shows that teams where neither gender’s presence serves as tokenism — i.e. one woman on a team of seven, and where no-one feels like a minority — perform much better than those where gender imbalance is obvious. If you can staff or at least recommend teams with a gender ratio of at least 60-40, chances for team success increase profoundly.

4. Influence with Peers

We all know and criticize those who talk too much, but how often are people criticized for listening too much? It’s unheard of, because most of us lean towards talking rather than listening.

A rarely employed skill then, active listening, and one you can employ with ease to influence your peers. Start by paying attention to their body language, the attitude in the tone of their voice, and listen for meaning as you concentrate on what they’re saying. Respond with appropriate comments, as questions and confirm with the speaker that you understand what she is saying. Skip jumping to conclusions in favor of hearing the speaker’s conclusions, but feel empowered to reflect on what the speaker is saying and, again, ask for clarification when needed.

Keep in mind, too, that everyone comes to work with their own set of experiences and perceptual filters, and don’t assume in haste that everyone else shares your worldview. Be conscientious in respecting the individuality of your peers and don’t let your personal differences turn into professional disagreements. Attention and respect are some of the most influential communication strategies you can employ with your peers.

5. Influence with Peers

Workers tend to be both happier and more productive the more autonomy they’re given — but what counts as autonomy may vary across organizational and national cultures.

To have more influence with direct reports it makes good sense to focus on autonomy as an important contributor to productivity and success.

In this context a manager could give a group autonomy to organize themselves in order to meet important objectives; one could also discuss with an individual contributor what standards should be set and how the contributor expects to meet them. Another scenario would look at how teams might work with supervisors both in defining goals and determining how to meet them. The overall goal should be to give people a sense of freedom and control in their contributions, so you need to devise ways that fit your organizational culture and objectives.

Autonomy can work hand-in-hand with accountability, mainly by empowering people to meet and report on their own progress toward set standards. Your interactions with employees and colleagues will be far more productive if you treat them as partners in achieving goals and give them the resources to do so.

6. Influence with Bosses

Engage your boss. Come out from that far cubicle and demonstrate that your work is connected to her goals. Whether you’re a new hire or a veteran employee, ask to meet with her to discuss what she wants the organization to achieve, and suggest ways in which you can aid in that achievement.

We often go to bosses for feedback on our behavior — and it’s important to do so on an ongoing basis — but instead of asking her to review you, offer to review yourself. In other words, don’t wait for her to notice you, but put yourself forward and make yourself known.

This isn’t about “kissing up,” but about recognizing and respecting her leadership. She’ll have her own agenda (everybody does!) within the organization, so your ability to work with her in carrying that agenda forth will mark you as a reliable colleague. Furthermore, by working with your boss in an ongoing fashion, if you do err she is likely to see that in context of all the good work you’ve done — rather than noticing you only when you make a mistake.

Make yourself visible, offer yourself as reliable, and when an important project or promotional opportunity arises, she’ll think of you.

Influence Your Way to Success

This list may not make your family holidays any easier, but as far as getting some respect at the office, you just may have a shot at success.

Recommended Reading

Thank you for reading. We hope you enjoyed this article and as an added bonus, the Salary.com editorial staff has compiled a recommended reading list:

 

 

7 Things Administrative Assistants Hate About Their Bosses

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It’s Administrative Professionals Week & They’re Getting Some Things Off Their Chests. Courtesy of Salary.com

Here’s Everything Your Assistant Wants to Tell You But Can’t

Administrative assistants (aka executive assistants, or secretaries if you’re stuck in the Mad Men days) are essential for any successful business to run properly. They epitomize the phrase “in the trenches” because they’re the ones getting their hands dirty by doing all the things that need to be done that no one else can do quickly and efficiently. All the creative planning and brainstorming is great, but it’s the administrative professionals who turn pie-in-the-sky pipe dreams into reality.

But because they’re so reliable and always there, it’s easy to take them for granted. Case in point, if you’re a manager and completely unaware this week is Administrative Professionals Week, you likely fall into the aforementioned category. But even though you should be giving your assistant a gift this week, we thought we’d turn the tables and do something different.

Most administrative professionals need their jobs and therefore can’t tell their bosses what drives them nuts about work on a daily basis. That’s why we surveyed some assistants, let them vent and came up with seven things about you that your assistant wants to change.

7. “Stop Being So Inconsistent”

Administrative assistants aim to please and are always trying to do things the way you want them. But if the way you want things done keeps changing, it becomes pretty impossible to hit a moving target.

“Don’t keep changing the rules for answering your phone. Do you want me to interrupt you no matter what you are doing when you get a phone call no matter who it is? Or do you want me to use my judgment and know there are certain people you don’t want to talk to or would prefer to call back later?” said one administrative assistant.

The point is, be consistent. And if you do want to change the way you do things, let your assistant know. Because while they’re good, telepathy and clairvoyance are not skills most people possess.

6. “I’m Not a Babysitter”

Administrative professionals are many things and wear several hats. But while they often have to babysit their bosses, most of the assistants we talked to said they draw the line at babysitting kids.

“Really? You want to bring your kids into the office for a day and you expect me to keep them entertained, while getting all my regular work done too?” said one exasperated assistant.

Sure the occasional emergency is understandable and most of the assistants we talked to said they’re OK with stepping in as a babysitter due to severe and unforeseen circumstances. But making it a regular occurrence not only destroys productivity, it’s demeaning and insulting to assistants everywhere who never saw “Romper Room Coordinator” in their job description.

5. “Don’t Take It Out on Me”

This one was a biggie from just about every administrative professional with whom we spoke. It’s true that most people usually end up hurting those closest to them. But assistants are not spouses, and they’re not paid enough to take emotional abuse for eight hours a day.

“I know other people can get you irritated and that sometimes that irritation is going to spill over,” said one administrative professional. “But try really hard not to take it out on me when someone else screws up. I’m in the direct line of fire every time it happens and it gets old.”

Another assistant agreed, and said it’s not acceptable for assistants to morph into emotional punching bags just because the boss has some family drama going on at home.

“My boss’s dysfunctional marriage constantly affects how the office runs,” said one fed up assistant. “He gets mad at her, comes into work in a bad mood and doesn’t want to do any work. But when he doesn’t do anything, he gets mad that he isn’t making enough money. They’ll eventually make up but then start to fight again and the cycle starts all over.”

4. “You Never Make Time for Me”

Exceptional assistants do their best to anticipate what their bosses need before they even know they need it. But that level of understanding and professionalism only materializes with time and a lot of communication. That’s why all managers need to understand the importance of carving out some time every day/week to go over things with their assistants and make sure everyone is on the same page.

“Make time for me, even if it’s just a few minutes each day,” said one personal assistant. “I can’t effectively do my job if I don’t know what you expect me to do or if I don’t know what’s going on. I need to know how you like every type of situation with every type of variable handled, and then I’ll need to ask less and less in the future. The more you invest in me the more you’ll get out of me.”

3. “You Don’t Trust Me”

As with most things in life, the issue of trust (or a lack thereof) came up repeatedly when we talked to administrative professionals.

Companies go through the arduous hiring process because they want to make sure they get the best candidate for the job. It probably took several job interviews, assessments, and personality tests before the perfect assistant was hired, yet despite clearing all those obstacles, some bosses still question and nitpick every single thing. And it drives most assistants nuts.

“Don’t check to make sure that every single thing that you ask me to do has been done,” said one perturbed assistant. “Either you trust me to get it done or you don’t. If it requires follow-up or an update to you, you will get one…I promise!”

Another assistant mirrored that sentiment and said “Sometimes he trusts me to get things done and sometimes he doesn’t. But I always get it done.”

2. “Stop Taking Advantage of Me”

The general consensus among the administrative professionals we spoke to was that they care deeply about doing a good job and making their boss’s life easier. But that enthusiasm is often dampened when a boss does something callous and thoughtless.

Most administrative professionals have enough work to complete given their own job duties. But all too often, bosses will fall into the trap of passing too many of their responsibilities down to their assistants. “It’s rotten when you get me to do your duties for you while you take an unexpected vacation, while telling me not to fall behind on my responsibilities,” said one miffed assistant.

But of all the stories we heard, this one takes the cake:

“Sending me out for a daily drive in a hot car to get your Starbucks mocha-frappa-whatever, in 100-degree August weather when I’m eight months pregnant? Really?? I will never, EVER, forget that.”

1. “You Never Say ‘Thank You'”

A lack of thanks was — by far — the biggest complaint amongst the administrative professionals we surveyed.

The interesting thing is, the assistants we talked to weren’t necessarily interested in raises and bonuses (although they wouldn’t have turned them down). The thanks they seek is much smaller and more basic than that. While they realize it is not a boss’s job to hand out gold stars all day long, a good boss will make a concerted effort to simply let his/her employees know they are appreciated on a basic level.

“Please know how much I take care of, divert, and/or process without you knowing to make your life easier,” said one executive assistant.

Another agreed and said “Show us your appreciation now and then by letting us leave early, buying us a lunch or simply by letting us know how happy you were with a job we did, or how we handled a situation. Good assistants thrive off that.”

Show Administrative Assistants Some Love

For people in positions of power, there is often great responsibility. Executives have a lot going on and more things to do in any given day than they can handle. But if they’re smart, they’ll take some of the advice in this article to heart and gain a renewed appreciation of the hard work performed by the people working underneath them.

A good first step is overnighting one of these thoughtful gifts to celebrate Administrative Professionals Week!

Demanding a Raise

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Q. I have a hard-working worker who is demanding more money. Do I have to negotiate with him?

A. This is probably the most common question I get: workers who feel they are underpaid and would like to compel their employers to pay what they are truly worth, and employers who face employees who insist on it.

Most authorities agree that the underlying employment paradigm in the Talmud and Jewish law is at-will employment, meaning that the sides are obligated only by their work agreement. The employer is free to discharge the employee at any time, assuming the agreed-upon employment period is done (usually this is a month, though often there is a requirement for more than a month of notice), and the employee is free to quit any time, even before the employment period is over.

Another principle of Jewish law is that work agreements are assumed to be according to local law and custom. Since most common law countries also have a rule of at-will employment, if you live in such a country, then the underlying paradigm and the validation of secular law would give two reasons to give you the right to discharge your employee according to your best business judgment.The Talmud relates in a number of places the situation you describe: where the employee is convinced that the true value of his work is higher than that agreed upon.In one case, the Talmud speaks of a case where a wage of four zuz is common and it is possible to demonstrate that the employer would have been willing to pay four zuz had the workers insisted. But the workers agreed to work for only three.

The conclusion is that the workers are not entitled to four zuz; rather, the payment is according to the original agreement. However, the passage also relates that if the employer was freely willing to offer four and the manager, of his own initiative, decided to squeeze the workers down to a wage of three, the workers are justified in harboring resentment towards the manager.(1)In another place, the Talmud relates a case where the wage bargain was made at the going rate, but in the middle of the contract period the wage rises. As a result, the workers begin to complain, and the boss convinces them to stay on with some vague non-committal comment. (We may imagine that he says something like, “I’ll make some changes to make it worth your while to stay.”) The conclusion is that this does not constitute a promise to match the new market wage; rather, the employer can fulfill his obligation with some minor improvement in working conditions. (The Talmud gives the example of giving larger meals.)(2) We learn that the boss is not obligated to re-open the original agreement, but is also seems that some degree of meeting the employee halfway is justified.I think the conclusion for your case is as follows: If you think there is some merit to the employee’s demands – he is, in fact, making less than the going wage, like the workers in the Talmudic passages – it is a good idea to agree to negotiate. In both cases the Talmud seems to indicate that the ideal outcome involves some concessions to the worker. But the worker is in no sense entitled to a raise, and he cannot demand or insist on one. If you don’t think the demand is justified, there would not seem to be any ethical requirement to discuss the matter.

Of course the worker is a free actor is well, and is totally within his rights to make whatever demands he likes and to quit if they are not made. If your worker does a good job it is may be simple good business sense to make him happy. But he does not have the ability to agree to stay on yet compel the employer to meet his demands, even if they are reasonable ones.

Sources: (1) BT Baba Metzia 76a; Shulchan Arukh Choshen Mishpat 332:2. (2) BT Baba Metzia 77a; Shulchan Arukh Choshen Mishpat 332:5.

This article originally appeared on OU Torah.

Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir is one of the Jewish world’s best-known lecturers and educators in the area of business ethics. Rabbi Dr. Meir is known by a wide audience from his “[email protected]” column in the Jerusalem Post, through the popular syndicated column “The Jewish Ethicist,” and through his lectures and books. His extensive background includes a Harvard education and obtaining a Ph.D. in economics from MIT. 

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos – Staying Calm Under Pressure and Scrutiny

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I recently watched a video interview with Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, and Charlie Rose, celebrated interviewer and broadcast journalist. The topic was on the Kindle 3, also known as the Kindle Keyboard. The questions that Charlie Rose asked Mr. Bezos had more to to with what made Amazon different than, say Apple and Walmart. Apple’s iPhone 2, for example, was supposed to be a “Kindle Killer.” The interview lasted 40 minutes and many of the questions essentially repeated themselves, suggesting that Mr. Rose wasn’t interested in hearing the answers the first time around.

What I found more interesting than Jeff Bezos’ actual answers (e.g. The Kindle serves a completely different purpose than the iPad2 where most people play Angry Birds) was his poise and ability to stay calm under intense pressure. Charlie Rose didn’t seem to give him a break at all and at times seemed to attack Mr. Bezos. This calmness in my mind is what makes him a multi-billionaire.

If I can only attain a fraction of that calmness, I’d be alright.

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Why it’s bad to micromanage

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Micromanaging is something I find a lot of managers like to do. Rather than think of the big picture, they’re impatient and like to nitpick on how someone does something. Their impression is that it causes employees to move faster and get jobs done quicker. Anything from listening to headphones to coming in 5 minutes late to how one types on a keyboard to how one blows ones nose is included.

For the Employee

This is terrible for the employee in that he feels that he’s being watched and is more worried about that rather than getting work done. That can be demoralizing and actually would make him less productive.

Some personal examples of micromanaging that I’ve experienced were:

  • Not being allowed to send a YouTube video to coworkers because it’s 6 minutes times 10 people equals an hour of productivity lost.
  • Being criticized for working on someone’s computer since the boss is losing double. He’s paying you for work and paying for the person not working on his computer. Better to utilize the person for something else.
  • One can’t take a break since it costs manhours.

For the Employer

This is terrible for the employer in that he focuses on the individual rather than the big picture with each project. That suggests one of two things:

  • It shows how shortsighted and ineffective he is as a manager, or
  • It reflects the direction with which the company is headed. If there’s no important work to do, the manager may have nothing better than to bully his underlings.

Realize that getting the job done in many cases is more important than HOW the job gets done. Which is more important, focusing on time lost or to focus on quality time/productivity? Google for example demonstrates how personal time can work by having volleyball tournaments on campus, bringing pets in the office and giving each employee one hour a day to do a project they feel like doing. And, give the employees a break. They’re not robots!

We Have a Vested Interest in Seeing You Grow

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“We have a vested interest in seeing you grow.” Ever heard that before? What does “vested interest” mean?

Dictionary.com defines this term as follows:


vested interest

— n
1. property law an existing and disposable right to the immediate or future possession and enjoyment of property
2. a strong personal concern in a state of affairs, system, etc, usually resulting in private gain
3. a person or group that has such an interest

Therefore, you, the employee, are property. Property that the employer can gain from privately. Privately meaning that your work will pad the employers pockets while you still make peanuts.

The Office Exodus – Jewish Passover – Slave Driving at Work

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Horowitz’s boss is a real slave driver. Written by Richard Rabkin.

We at Raise Or Praise appreciate how many of us work VERY hard for anything, let alone taking off for Jewish holidays.

Next year in Jerusalem, where Jewish holidays are celebrated and Gentile holidays are shunned.

“Giddyup Horsee! Yee Hah!!!”

Young People Are Not Loyal – Jerry Luftman – A Rebuttal

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Professor Jerry Luftman of Stevens Institute of Technology wrote in his lecture presentation (slides 81- 83), that new grads lack loyalty. 45% of all workers want to change jobs at least every three to five years, and a whopping 34% of all employees stay with their current employer for less than 1 year. And the blame is therefore shifted on the young grads. When I first saw this, I became very angry.

All relationships, including business relationships, are two-way streets. The employee needs to “put in his time,” but an employer needs to learn how to appreciate ones efforts. Young employees are generally perceived to be inexperienced and therefore immediately expendable. As a result, they can be taken advantage of. They can be asked to work longer hours for less pay, and they will most likely say “yes” since they need the experience. And, if the employee speaks up, he’s in danger of being fired since the mantra with dealing with young employees apparently is “hire fast, fire faster.”

However, this is not a healthy attitude. True, young employees come with inexperience and in most cases, immaturity. Nonetheless, one can only work for little pay and longer hours for so long. If such an employee sees a better job offer that doesn’t look like slave labor, who wouldn’t take that?

An employer needs to look at an employee as not only an asset, but as a human being to nurture into a position. With new employees, NOT EVERYTHING IS ABOUT MONEY, even in business. Viewing that employees are robots that don’t need to be treated humanely is standoff-ish and immature, in my humble opinion. Employers barking orders, threatening to fire if a differing opinion is stated, is not healthy and would naturally tempt one to look elsewhere for greener pastures. Also, paying an employee extra money in order to motivate him more may produce better revenue results than paying young people close to minimum wage.

However, I’ve found that the “hire fast, fire faster” mantra is overly used, especially in small businesses. My personal experience as a new graduate from University was that more employers saw me as a young kid (I’ve until recently always looked a lot younger than my age dictated, and in a society where requiring that one posts ones age on a resume is illegal, this poses a problem) with little experience that was not only expendable, but could be taken advantage of. I would be asked to perform tasks that in certain instances were logistically impossible, be talked down upon, and in some cases, was outright fired. I HATED each moment of loss and felt myself dying a little more inside with each experience.  I’ve even quit a couple of employers, not having faith in them, partially in retaliation for past employers not having faith in me. Whether that was fair or not is irrelevant at this point.

From my experience, young people are looking to learn and grow with a new company they seek as a second family. I’d say that the employers are even less loyal as they see young people to be expendable.

It works both ways. Dr. Luftman, do not tempt me. If you can publish this info then I can certainly publish this blog post!

Email Wars and Toxic Partnerships – End Both Now!

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Don’t you just love it when you’re involved in an email war with a BPCW (boss/partner/coworker) and are continuously CC’ing the client? My, the tension it creates!

Those kinds of situations should be an early indicator of a toxic partnership worth dropping like a hot potato. Work with harmony with your BPCW’s and partners and all will go well. The client and everyone else will take notice and appreciate you for it.

Tip: If it’s necessary to email or CC the client on certain issues, only do so when it’s absolutely necessary. The client generally has a million other things on his plate, therefore a quick read of your emails may brand you and your co-workers as complainers, and who needs to pay for that kind of service? The client only cares about results – that’s all he paid for, nothing else. Only contact the client in case of emergencies, and email the BPCW independently when doing the project. While this keeps the client out of the loop for a while, it’s much safer to not clutter up his inbox until the very end.

Drop nasty emails and toxic relationships with BPCW’s ASAP!