how to appear more authoritative at work

by Ask a Manager on May 9, 2012

Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter4Share on LinkedIn3Share on Google+1Share on TumblrDigg thisShare on StumbleUpon0Print this page

I have food poisoning, so there wasn’t going to be any content at all today, but just in time, this showed up:  my latest article at U.S. News, on how to appear more authoritative at work.

{ 42 comments }

Joy May 9, 2012 at 11:45 am

Feel better!

Kris May 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Great as always Alison. Hope you get to feeling better.

Victoria May 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm

I also find, as a relatively young person and a super-casual woman at heart, that dressing more formally helps me feel more authoritative. Today I’m wearing jeans and my hair is in a ponytail; I wouldn’t wear this on a day I was doing a performance review (and perhaps I shouldn’t wear this at all, since something could come up at any moment!).

Sophie May 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I can empathize, my work place is really casual and some days I can look a little too casual. Also I don’t wear makeup and I am rather young looking for my age, so a lot of people assume that I’m a student (I work at a university). Not helpful when a professor drops by and wants to speak with the person in charge, they think I”m a student worker.

fposte May 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm

My sympathies on the illness. Foot, food–what is it with you and the foos? Play some Foo Fighters.

Andrea May 9, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Yikes; food poisoning is the worst. Hope you’re better soon.

Cruella Da Boss May 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Bleh…stay hydrated!

Anonymous May 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm

You ought to save the wackier questions for when you’re ill. Turn us loose and enjoy the show!

Nyxalinth May 9, 2012 at 2:20 pm

:( Feel better soon.

danr May 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Or, it’s that nasty virus that’s been going around. One version hits the respiratory tract and the other hits the guts. Take care and get some rest.

KayDay May 10, 2012 at 10:40 am

True–I know 3 people who were sick last week. 2 were just out for 1 day, but the other was out for 3 days.

Anonymous May 9, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Oof, what did you eat?

Corey Feldman May 9, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Hope you feel better soon

Henning Makholm May 9, 2012 at 5:20 pm

A second reason for #9 (drop the defensiveness) is that you might not be being criticized at all. I used to work for a CEO who would habitually respond to even neutral, honest requests for clarification at company meetings (“after this reorganization, will the chocolate teapot makers still be part of the Confectionary division?”) with 5+ minutes of defending the need to reorganize in the first place, describing in minute detail what was unsatisfactory about the current structure and the decision process that led to the new plans — but as often as not never get around to answering the actual question. This tended to make everyone apart from a few chronic question-askers afraid to ask for information they actually needed.

Jessabeth May 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm

My boss does exactly this. I haven’t learned my lesson & still ask questions that *have* to be answered to do my job, but he gets angry at me for it.

Henning Makholm May 12, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Oh, mine didn’t get angry. He’s a great guy and I’d accept an offer from him in a minute if I were looking for a new job. He just seemed to have a default assumption that every executive decision he made would make his employees unhappy, and so when anyone spoke up he panicked and tried so hard to re-happify them that he forgot to answer the actual question.

Kelly O May 9, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Hope you feel better soon Alison! (We had the stomach flu make the rounds at daycare recently and it went through the adults at our house too, pardon the pun.) Not pleasant.

Joanna Reichert May 9, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Sorry to hear that! And would you seriously consider an Awesomeness Workshop? I for one would be grateful to sit and listen to your thoughts. : )

Dan May 9, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Yes! I second the request for an Awesomeness Workshop. I’m on the Left Coast, so hopefully it will be available online.

p.s. food poisonics sucks. Get better soon.

Anonna Miss May 9, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I’ve been reading your blog for several months now and I just wanted to share something that I hope will make you feel a little better today. About a week ago my son, who is in college, told me he was going in for an interview for a really great job. He was concerned about making a great impression, of course. I told him to study up using your blog and to be sure to ask ” the magic question “. He did both. Afterwards, the interviewers said they would be contacting him within 2 weeks if he was chosen for a second interview. Well, a few days later he was called and offered the job without a 2nd interview! I truly believe he has you to thank. Your advice is always spot on. Thank you and I hope you feel better soon.

Dan May 9, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Congrats to your son! Folks getting jobs is always good news here :-)

Anonna Miss May 9, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Sorry if this was off topic.

Anonna Miss May 9, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Thanks, Dan. My husband and I are both out of work so him getting this job is about the only way college can be paid for right now without the dreaded student loans.

Elizabeth West May 9, 2012 at 11:08 pm

:(

Food poisoning sucks. I hope you feel better soon.

Anonymous May 9, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Get well soon, Alison!

Ry May 10, 2012 at 8:35 am

Thanks for the good article. (It was interesting for me to note that my manager follows most of your advice, probably without realizing it, whereas there are a lot of things I should work on.)

Danger, danger, your food poisoning is very likely to be norovirus. It’s been going around all over the US lately (and my hospital has been full of it, by the way, which is why I’m so unfortunately familiar with this topic). It presents with the same symptoms as food poisoning, so people often think that’s what they have, especially since it can resolve very quickly as well.

The big problem (besides that a person feels miserable when they have it!) is that it’s very, very contagious. The board of health in my state mandates that healthcare workers with norovirus stay out of work for 72 hours *after* all their symptoms resolve. Once you feel better, you may continue to shed virus (aka to be contagious) for up to a week. I know you’re not in healthcare, but you could give it to a coworker, family member, or grocery store clerk as easily as to a patient.

So, stay away from anybody you don’t want to infect for at least 3 days starting *after* you feel completely better. Wash all your door handles, toilet flushers, phones, TV remotes, and other high-touch surfaces with bleach; alcohol does not kill norovirus. Replace your toothbrush. Having had norovirus provides no immunity to the virus, so you can catch it again, immediately or later on. And try to keep drinking fluids as much as you can.

Cf. cdc dot gov / features / norovirus (Obviously, take out all the spaces and junk if you want to look at the CDC page).

So! I hope you feel better, and thus ends your friendly (and probably annoying), overlong public service announcement!

Anon. May 10, 2012 at 8:40 am

thanks for the psa!

and alison, i hope you feel better very soon.

Ask a Manager May 10, 2012 at 9:25 am

I was thinking food poisoning because it came on so suddenly — one minute I was fine, and the next minute I was clutching my stomach, trying not to violently throw up. But I don’t really know if that’s a sign either way, now that I think about it.

I’ll follow your advice and go on a bleach cleaning binge though!

Andrew May 10, 2012 at 9:40 am

A lot of what people tend to think of as “the flu” is actually food poisoning. There are a great many quality/safety gaps in our system of food production and distribution. It’s a wonder there aren’t more serious, widespread episodes.

The Other Dawn May 10, 2012 at 10:37 am

7. Get rid of fillers like “um,” “I think,” etc.

This is a great tip. I took a public speaking class a couple years ago and learned how these fillers can really derail the message you’re trying to deliver. I didn’t realize how often I used these fillers until I got my peer reviews after my first speech. It was tough, but by the time I finished the class I had eliminated fillers completely.

In terms of being the person in the receiving end of someone who uses a lot of fillers, I didn’t realize how distracting it could be until I went to a seminar and they speaker repeatedly used “um.” It was SO distracting and it completely diminished what he was trying to say. It gave me the impression he didn’t know his stuff.

VintageLydia May 10, 2012 at 11:00 am

My husband had a speech professor who was generally very good at what he taught, but he used a LOT of fillers when he spoke. It truely wasn’t that noticeable (probably because he had an accent) except he (obviously) would get on everyone’s case about using them. Mr. Vintage started tallying how many fillers he could count in his professor’s speaking on a sheet of paper and when the prof realized what he was doing, he got so mad and embarrassed in class–but gave my husband extra credit on his next assignment.

The Other Dawn May 10, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Well, at least he got extra credit. That was nice of the professor.

Before taking the public speaking class I probably wouldn’t have noticed all the fillers. Now it’s like a neon sign I can’t turn off.

Ms Enthusiasm May 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm

HaHa it’s always funny not to notice something until someone points it out to you even though it was right there the entire time. I was in a group listening to a speaking and didn’t notice anything until someone else pointed out that the speaker ended almost every other sentence with “And so forth too”. For example:

So as you come to the end of this training you will realize how helpful it will be for your daily tasks and so forth too.

It was so annoying I couldn’t stop noticing it after that

Ms Enthusiasm May 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm

oops we were listening to a speakER

Lexy May 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm

I heard an interesting story on NPR the other day (can’t remember what program… sorry) about speech and speaking patterns and they posited that there is actually an appropriate balance of fillers. If someone speaks with absolutely zero ums & uhs the listener is less likely to absorb the information, but if you speak with too many it is distracting (and can make you seem unsure of yourself).

I would be interested to find out what the “optimum” level of fillers is.

Ry May 10, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Yes, I agree! The way they taught it to us in school was that since “I” is the person speaking, “I think” is already implied, so to actually say “I think” sounds like hedging, or like you’re unsure of what you’re saying.

I recently had to speak in public before a Very Important (and therefore terrifying, to me) collection of doctors and public health officials. I had to write my speech all the way out and practice it! And I still said “um” once! Argh. I’ll get there eventually… but The Other Dawn, I’m glad to hear that filler words really do matter to people – makes me feel like my efforts to remove them are not wasted.

Ry May 10, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Erm, also, on an unrelated but morbid note… I’m at work, so I typed “The Other Dawn” all the way out because I first typed “TOD” to address you, and then read it back to myself automatically as “Time of death.” Fail. :)

Ellie H. May 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm

I agree with this totally. I also think this applies to writing. It’s SO easy to fill writing, especially academic writing, with useless fillers like “I think” and “it seems” or “ostensibly.” You wouldn’t be trying to indicate it if you didn’t think it, it didn’t seem that way to you, or it wasn’t ostensible to you, so you should omit those needless words and replace them with evidence backing up your declarative statement!

I do agree with Lexy that filler words can have a useful purpose, esp. if you are trying to sound colloquial or non-intimidating – something people do sometimes want to do!

Jamie May 15, 2012 at 3:21 pm

“I do agree with Lexy that filler words can have a useful purpose, esp. if you are trying to sound colloquial or non-intimidating – something people do sometimes want to do!”

I think another purpose they serve is as a qualifier. I was raised to not make absolute statements unless you are 100% positive that the fact can be verified and you are correct.

“I think business plan A is the way to go.” This indicates that it’s my educated opinion, but I could be proven wrong. “Retained earnings for 2011 were $X.”

My rule of thumb is to qualify a statement unless I’m sure enough to bet a paycheck that I’m right.

MeganO May 11, 2012 at 11:19 am

Oh no! I hope you’re feeling better – that’s the worst.

Jess May 11, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Feel Better

Jess May 11, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your article on being more authoratative at work. I have a really tough time being authorative and people know it. I’m a recent graduate with my MSW and I need all the help I can get. Thank you.

Previous post:

Next post: