'Don’t Mention It': Yeah, Right!
Kathleen Kelley Reardon is Professor Emerita of Management at University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.
She earned her Ph.D. summa cum laude and with distinction at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst after receiving her BA degree with honors from University of Connecticut at Storrs. Kathleen is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi and Mortar Board.
Her primary areas of scholarly interest have been leadership communication, persuasion, politics in the workplace, negotiation and interpersonal communication. Public Opinion Quarterly described her first book, Persuasion in Practice, as a landmark contribution to the field.
Kathleen has taught negotiation, leadership and politics in the MBA, Executive MBA, and International MBA. For 15 years, she served on the USC Preventive Medicine faculty, developing interventions aimed at changing health habits among high-risk populations. She also served as associate director with Warren Bennis of the USC Leadership Institute.
She has authored 10 books and numerous articles, including three for The Harvard Business Review. Her 2001 book The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle (Currency, Doubleday) became an Amazon.com nonfiction and business best seller. It was followed by The Skilled Negotiator (Jossey-Bass, 2004), It’s All Politics: Winning in a World Where Hard Work and Talent Aren’t Enough (Currency, Doubleday, 2005), Childhood Denied: Ending the Nightmare of Child Abuse and Neglect (Sage, 2008), and Comebacks at Work: Using Conversation to Master Confrontation (Harper Business, 2010).
Her first novel, Shadow Campus, is an inside look at the politics of academia, a mystery-thriller and a love story. Forbes described it as a “masterful debut.” The sequel is underway for publication in 2015.
Kathleen was awarded the 2013 Humanitarian Award by the University of Connecticut Alumni Association based on her contributions to underserved groups, especially in originating and working to develop college prep academies for foster teens (www.firststar.org).
Kathleen is a signature blogger at Huffington Post (since 2005) and also blogs at her website (www.kathleenkelleyreardon.com).
One of the most common mistakes in the back-and-forth trading of favors at work is that of showing insufficient gratitude. Now, it can be difficult to figure out what someone expects in return for providing useful advice or for helping a colleague win a promotion — but ignorance of the rules of reciprocity is no excuse.
Some people are specific about what they expect in return for a favor. Most, however, believe that the recipient should be able to figure out what’s expected. It can seem a little crass to stipulate what one wants in return for helping out. Yet, not clearly stating the anticipated nature of a payback — or even disclaiming that there is any debt — can’t be trusted. “It was nothing,” “It was my pleasure,” “Don’t mention it,” should be taken with a grain of salt.
Even when businesspeople help others out of sheer altruism, reciprocated respect at the very least is quietly expected. If you fail to provide it, your Good Samaritan may quickly become cool in demeanor toward you, and eventually even turn into an opponent.
With all this obfuscation, how do you estimate the amount of reciprocity required? What chits are owed, especially at work? If you aren’t fortunate enough to notice or become privy to the give-and-take rules at your company, then seeking others’ advice may be your best option. A mentor can be quite helpful in this kind of situation.
For some people, expressing gratitude can be sufficient. With others, a sincere and public compliment or strong support in an important endeavor may do the trick. Perhaps you may have a special skill or knowledge to offer.
Stay on the safe side. Don’t publicly disagree with the person who holds your chit. Wait until your favor has been repaid and some time has passed. A fresh favor not yet returned can make many donors extremely sensitive.
In the absence of experience or good mentoring, when granted a favor consider asking, “Is there something I can do for you?” If the person resists or can’t give you an answer, you might ask, “Can I at least take you to lunch?”
You’ll want to avoid incurring debts with people who have high reciprocity expectations, even for the loan of a pencil. They exist and they’re dangerous.
Favors are a fact of life in business. They’re a good opportunity to make friends, but often also create enemies. If you’re going to give or accept a favor, it pays to know what you’re getting into.
Kathleen also blogs about communication, negotiation, and politics here.
Photo: Igor.stevanovic / Shutterstock
The controversy around the Torah codes gets a new life.
- Mathematicians claim to see a predictive pattern in the ancient Torah texts.
- The code is revealed by a method found with special computer software.
- Some events described by reading the code took place after the code was written.
Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.
- Community healthcare workers face many challenges in their work, including often traveling far distances to see their clients
- Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
- Pfizer partnered with AMP and the World Health Organization to develop a training program for healthcare workers.
Orangutans join humans and bees in a very exclusive club
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- It took a couple of researchers crawling around the Sumatran jungle to discover the phenomenon
- This ability may come from a common ancestor
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