How to Be Great on the Job: Interview with Communications Expert Jodi Glickman

Jodi Glickman is an amazingly good communicator. She is so good, in fact, that she has built an entire business, Great on the Job, around teaching young professionals how to communicate.

She also has a new book on the topic, Great on the Job: What to Say, How to Say It. The Secrets of Getting Ahead. This week, Jodi took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few of my questions.

Q: I love the concept of your company, Great on the Job. Can you describe what you do and why you started the business?

A: Great on the Job was founded to teach young people how to talk to one another at work, every day in every situation—when you’re on top of you’re game and when you have no idea what’s going on.

I started the business in 2008 after realizing I had been highly coached and scripted at business school during my interviews with investment banks and consulting firms. There’s a whole lot of networking and interviewing support out there when you’re looking for a new job. But the minute you get to that new job, you’re left to your own devices to figure things out.

There’s no roadmap at work that teaches you how to ask for help in a smart way or answer a question you don’t know the answer to.  No one ever teaches you how to raise a red flag in advance of a problem or tell the boss you’ve just screwed up. Great on the Job was launched to meet that need— to give practical, tactical advice for all of those mundane, daily one-on-one conversations that make up 80% of the workday and are so critical to success yet are overlooked by academic and corporate training programs.

Q: In your new book, Great on the Job, you give some very specific communication strategies. I particularly like your strategy for effective phone calls and use it all the time. Can you describe that?

A: The beginning of every phone conversation should start like this:

  • Introduction
  • Purpose of your call
  • Key question: “Do you have a few minutes to speak?”

You can’t assume everybody is just sitting there waiting for his or her phone to ring. Even when someone picks up their line, they aren’t necessarily ready and willing to engage with you. Give the other person an “out” if it’s not a good time to speak and offer to call back or find another time that works better. Great on the Job is all about generosity—asking someone if they have time to speak before you start talking is the generous thing to do.

Q: What are the biggest mistakes young professionals make when it comes to in-person communication?

A: Have you ever heard: “Hey Julie, did you get that email about the thing I sent you last week?” And you, Julie, think to yourself, “I have no idea what she’s talking about.” You can’t assume that I know what project you’re referencing or client you’re talking about. When you’re talking to me, lead with the punch line. Tell me front and center what’s new, different or important. Young people are often far too casual and long-winded in their communications. Get right to the point and don’t make me guess about what we’re actually talking about.

Q: What are the biggest mistakes young professionals make when it comes to email communication?

A: If you have to ask whether or not an email is appropriate, don’t send it. Conflict, bad news, sticky situations—they should never be left to email. Any time you have a contentious issue at hand, you’ve got to handle it in person.  It’s way too dangerous to send an email that might be interpreted as angry, snarky or whiny. Just don’t do it.

Q: Why is workplace communication so challenging? Is it harder for Generation Y than previous generations?

A: I think the biggest reason Gen Ys struggle is that they’ve grown up with technology as such a core part of their lives and they’re simply lacking practice. Young people need to get out of their comfort zones and drop by a colleague’s office or pick up the phone and speak to a client on the phone. You can’t hide behind email. You really need to practice the art of engaging with people live, face to face.  When you have information to share, instead of sending an email, try out giving an update live in a meeting.

Q: Please tell us where to read more of your advice.

 A: I’d love to hear from you! You can find me online at Great on the Job and check out my new book: Great on the Job: What to Say, How to Say It. The Secrets of Getting Ahead on Amazon. There’s also lots of great information on Facebook at and I spend a lot of time on twitter at @greatonthejob.

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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