Don’t let small mishaps stop you from moving forward
Q.I travel a lot for business with colleagues. They always assume we will eat dinner together at the hotel at night. After a busy day, I usually prefer to hang out in my room and relax. How do I skip dinner with them without being offensive?A. It’s a great question, and I’m not sure you’re going to like my answer. You didn’t actually think the guy who wrote “Begin with Yes” would advise saying no to a little dinnertime conversation, did you? The truth is, a lot of good business is done in social situations, and if you bow out too early, you will miss out on many opportunities. Not only that, you will miss out on enjoying getting to know the people you work with in a more personal, and hopefully meaningful way.That said, you also deserve some down time when traveling, and you can say yes to some socialization without staying out all hours of the night. In other words, business travel can include time to work, time to socialize, and time to hang out in your comfortable jeans with a good book.So yes to dinner with colleagues, and also yes to a little down time, too. Fair enough?Q. My boss is constantly emailing me over the weekend with work questions. These are not questions that are of an urgent nature and could easily be answered on Monday, but I feel compelled to respond over the weekend because he’s my boss. How do I handle this situation, which is starting to affect my personal relationship as well as my business relationship?A. My guess is that your boss is sending you the emails, not because he is expecting answers, but because he’s trying to “get the monkey off his back” and onto yours. Or more politely, he wants to get something off of his “to do” list and off his mind by getting it onto your “to do” list, and into your mind. Your need to reply immediately may actually be a product of your own inventing.The answer is pretty simple. Don’t feel obligated to respond to these routine emails until first thing Monday morning. That way, you can be professional, prompt, on top of things, and still enjoy a restful weekend, doing what you should do, getting revitalized for the new week.Q. A wonderful business partner has gone out of his way to assist my company. I want to get him a gift, but because he works for a government organization, he is unable to accept gifts. It doesn’t feel sufficient to me to just say thanks. Any thoughts on how I can express my gratitude without getting him in trouble at work?A. It’s important to respect this “gift policy” and not put your business partner in a compromising position. But there is still something you can do, which in the long run will be more memorable than a lunch, a box of chocolates or a plant. In the days of email, tweets and texts, a “real” card that was picked out by you, just for him, with a real note expressing how you really feel will be a memorable “thank you.”All this realness will make an impression that won’t be forgotten, and your colleague will feel appreciated and grateful too.Q. I ran into someone in my professional circle at a party where, let’s say, I may have had a bit too much to drink. I’m now embarrassed and try to avoid seeing this person, but that’s obviously not a good long-term strategy. What do you suggest I do?A. Although a “bit too much” leaves room for interpretation, I’m going to assume you actually mean a “bit more” than a “bit too much.” With that said, here’s my suggestion: If a lot of time has passed, I’d just let it go and be more careful the next time you’re at a professional party.If the episode is more recent, I’d suggest sharing your embarrassment in a simple, slightly-but-not-overly apologetic way, and then get on with your life. The real opportunity here is to learn a lesson, grow a bit, and avoid being in this situation again. Most of us learn these kinds of lessons, first by accepting responsibility for our actions, and then deciding that a moment of inappropriate fun is seldom worth the embarrassment that follows.Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. As long as you’re learning, you’re moving ahead.Paul Boynton, president and CEO of The Moore Center, Manchester, is also a personal coach, corporate consultant, motivational speaker, host of the television show and radio show, “Begin with Yes” and author of the book by the same name. His most recent book is “Beginnings – A Daily Guidebook for Adventurous Souls.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.