Keeping Your Mouth Shut

I suffer from  a debilitating illness of the mind, it’s called “Can’t-keep-my-mouthshut-itus”. It is terrible getting into social situations, because of the real fear, that if I saw someone who is full of crap, my eyebrows raise up and my brain engages bypass mode of my mind and goes straight to my mouth.

I have been taking “shutup pills” and am now in a kind of recovery program. I have developed a few little tips that can help.

As a rule of thumb, if you constantly speak your mind, you will find your environment becomes one where everyone hates you. People can not handle the truth, and rarely want to hear it from someone else. And if  you shovel it peoples’ faces, the easier it becomes to ignore you. You  become that niggling bastard in every company who complains, your ideas whether good or bad will be shot down because of the reputation of the mouth you have.

The trick to keep your mouth shut is to hold your breath for ten seconds, that way you don’t have the oxygen to waste on spewing brain farts.

Back in my early days at Yell Global, later to become hibu, I worked in teams of strong, confident people where you were expected to have opinions. If you saw something utterly pointless or stupid happening you were obligated to raise your hand, say “I think this is stupid and here’s the reasons why” (Presentation chart included). Even IF you were right, you weren’t appreciated no matter how much time or effort the changes would make. I argued my point with team leaders, head of departments, and many scary, smart people with more degrees than I. And in the Contact Centre culture this was fine, provided you had a point and could make it well.

In situations like that, it is hard to motivate yourself to keep your opinions to yourself, even less when good ideas aren’t followed through.

But later,  in a new team known as “The Blind Copy Trial” I discovered a world of passive/aggression. No one spoke their mind in public. A Few people worked hard but everyone did as the team leader told them. Quality of the copy, and staff morale, was low.  I felt obligated to raise these concerns as often and as high up the chain of command as possible. I even naively expected to be rewarded for telling people how bad things were. Why wouldn’t they want to hear this? I thought to myself

I began to realize, in other groups, progress and improvement happened not because I was right and took a stand (as much as that is true). It happened because my manager, his/her boss, listened to the points and took action. Having an idea doesn’t change anything unless someone with power, and interest, does something about your ideas. It doesn’t matter how loud you shout it, it wont get the weight unless someone else believes.

Blind copy trial

I should explain, the trial involved writing the website copy from information given by the sales agent, rather than having a consultation with the client as was the normal model. The site would then be built and you would proof that “Concept” to the client in theory cutting down the time from build to live.

That sounds, all well and good. However what happens when the sales agent, or the client wanted the website for a different product or service?

An great example was a plumber who used to do washing machine repairs, fit sinks etc. (As a plumber does) However the client after the site had been written on that basis, then told me I want to start buying old washing machines, dish washers and refurbish them.

That was the site he wanted, yet this wasn’t picked up by the sales agent!

So, I fed back that this was happening about 1 in 6 times. I wrote a small leaflet that I forwarded to my manager, which was basically a set of a few questions for the sales agents to ask when selling the ‘product’. A few weeks went by and it kept happening, so I asked where the leaflet had managed to get to. It had been put in a drawer and left.

I asked for permission to send it to the manager of the website section of the company. It was declined. I happened to be sitting with a VP from the board of directors for the UK product, who was listening to my calls. It so happened that yet another call of the same ilk came through.

Of course, he asked what I would do in similar situations, so I showed the leaflet I had drafted as a leave behind. I happened to mention how regular this was happening. He asked for me to print out my leaflet and went off on his merry way. A few months into the change over to all the teams running the “new standard model” of blind copies, the CEO of then Yell Global invited us to a Q&A session explaining a few things. The change to a new content management system, the new standard model. Yet, there was nowhere mentioned the leave behind leaflet.

speak your mind

Of course there are times when the bullshit or office politics have been slapped on thicker than a marmite sandwich and it becomes necessary to speak the truth, come hell or high water. Forcing some issues can be the only way to get something deserved attention. But pick your battles. If you haven’t taken a single stand, I will call you yellow (If nothing was worth making a stink over? You have to draw your dagger sometimes to remind people you have it). But if you’re taking a stand every day, you’re a glutton for punishment and need to realize you’re working for the wrong people.


So, what happened with Yell and the leaflet? I was told in no uncertain terms, my career would never go anywhere and I would never be a team leader, because everyone knew my views about the “new standard model”.



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