Google+

BBC Capital

Influencers

When the ‘wrong’ thing at work is surprisingly right

(Thinkstock)

(Thinkstock)

If you’ve ever winced at an errant tweet you just sent or felt a wave of worry about wearing the wrong thing in the office or caught your breath after sending off a too-casual email, you know it can be easy to find yourself paralysed for some time afterward. Unsure about whether you might make the same error again, you carefully monitor your words and actions.

But maybe you shouldn’t be so concerned, say several LinkedIn Influencers in their posts this week. Here’s what some of them had to say about abandoning fear of making a mistake, why bad email etiquette can actually be a good thing (in certain circumstances) and how taking a chance at bending the rules can create fresh, new rules in the office.

Gary Vaynerchuk, chief executive and co-founder of Vayner Media

“I am never scared of doing the wrong thing. I'm never scared of tweeting the wrong thing. I'm never scared of promoting too much,” wrote Vaynerchuk in his post How to Never be Scared of Doing the Wrong Thing. “Why? It's simple: Because I'll apologise if I feel like I was wrong.”

 “Intent trumps everything” when it comes to actions and words, he wrote. That’s particularly important, he wrote, when you are still examining new ways to present information.

“There is more value in my continuing to test and be smart than there would be if I were crippled by the fear of doing the wrong thing,” he wrote, adding that apologising is better than letting fear take hold and doing nothing. 

I think it's simple. If you're willing to respect the people who disrespect or criticise you, and engage in an honest, open dialogue with them, you can't lose,” Vaynerchuk wrote. “Especially when you really meant no harm or ill will in your actions.”

Kevin Roose, writer at New York Magazine

“In most business situations, it’s helpful to abide by the time-tested rules of communication — proper spelling and grammar, courtesy and professionalism,” wrote Roose in his post How Spelling Mistakes and Bad Email Etiquette Can Help You Get Ahead. “But… there’s another approach that can be even better when you’re trying to impress someone.”

Roose calls it “strategic sloppiness”. The higher up the ladder you are at the office, the “more license you’re allowed to take with the rules of professional communication,” he wrote. “As the boss, you can make as many mistakes as you want. Cutting corners is a time-saving mechanism that doubles as a display of dominance.”

But, he wrote, in some limited instances, even “non-CEOs can also benefit from bending the rules.” He cited the example of Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel’s surprisingly casual response to an email from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg’s email to 22-year-old Spiegel praised Snapchat — which wasn’t a household name at the time — and expressed his desire to meet the young entrepreneur one-on-one at Facebook’s offices.

“Most experienced professionals would probably advise you to … write a courteous e-mail back, perhaps one that starts “Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,” and … (say) that yes, you’d absolutely love to meet with him at his earliest opportunity,” wrote Roose.

But that’s not what Spiegel did. Instead he “tapped out a shockingly casual e-mail on his iPhone: ‘Thanks :) would be happy to meet — I’ll let you know when I make it up to the Bay Area,” according to Roose.

“Speigel’s email… has been called cocky and arrogant. And it was,” Roose wrote. “But it was also brilliant. By one-upping Zuckerberg's breezy, informal style in his reply, Spiegel positioned himself as the CEO's equal.”

Such strategic sloppiness doesn’t work all of the time. “The ultra-casual approach works best when the person you’re emailing is already familiar with you and your work, and interested in you for a job or a new project. It’s risky with strangers… and riskier yet with bosses,” Roose wrote. When using the tactic, “don’t go overboard,” he wrote. “The goal here is to appear important, not incompetent.”

Jeff Haden, ghostwriter and owner of BlackBird Media

“Once upon a time I single-handedly killed a dress code,” wrote Haden in his post How to Make Your Own Rules at Work.

He had taken a job as a manufacturing manager and at first wore khakis and dress shirts, like all the other managers. But about a month into the job, Haden told his boss he would be working on the shop floor the next day — and he wore jeans. He did the same a week later. “Soon jeans once a week turned into jeans twice a week which turned into all jeans, all the time... because I became known for spending the majority of my time on the floor,” Haden wrote.

“During that same time period I was given additional responsibilities, authority and pay. How was I able to increase my scope of responsibility while decreasing my level of dress code conformity?,” Haden wrote. “Productivity was up. Quality was up. Costs were down. Who could complain about the clothes I wore?”

How can you, too, make your own rules at work — and get away with it?

“To create your own rules, you must first perform at a consistently high level — and those rules must first benefit the company, not just you,” Haden wrote. “The rules are always a little different for outstanding people. First prove you're outstanding and then you can flex your well-earned rule-breaking muscles.”