Office Trolls

When a team member asks for our help, we want to ensure they leave feeling empowered, not embarrassed or overwhelmed.

I have been on a health kick recently with the goal to reinvent myself. A stronger, happier, and more confident me is the ultimate goal. I have been working out, had laser eye surgery, and have even started a daily skin care routine. With all of this, there was one thing about me that I wanted to change—my laugh lines! 
I laugh a lot, and I am pretty much smiling all of the time. I do have a pretty great life. There is lots to be happy about. Nevertheless, I decided that I would talk to a doctor about reducing those laugh lines a bit. I’m a single guy, still have to date, and albeit vain, I want to make the best first impression.
So I booked an appointment and made my way to one of the many local cosmetic clinics in Vancouver.
When the doctor arrived, she took a look at my laugh lines and told me about injectables and how I could reduce the lines. It sounded OK and was exactly what I was thinking about. I started to feel excited! Hmmm, maybe I will be the “hot guy” around town! Well, as fast as my ego was inflating, a million pins came to pop my bubble all at once.
“Frown for me. Oh, yes, you have very deep frown lines on your forehead for someone your age,” the doctor said.
Apparently, I am aging at super speed, and there is a giant cavernous hole on my forehead, similar to the Grand Canyon. If it keeps going like this, I will be selling tours and sightseeing passes shortly.
“If you really want to get rid of that tired look, we can help with that,” the doctor added. 
I just slept for nine hours! I didn’t even realize I looked tired. So if someone asks me if I am tired now, I just have to say, “No. That’s just my face.”
“Botox can get rid of those wrinkles on your nose and close up your pores.” 
I didn’t even know you could have nose wrinkles. Add those to my crater-like pores; I soon will be taking on the nickname of moon face.
“We can get rid of your muffin top.”
I was wearing a button-down shirt; I don’t even own anything called a muffin top.
“You must grind your teeth, you have lost a lot of enamel.”
All of those fake compliments my dentist gives me about my great smile! I had a dentist appointment last week; I guess I left my enamel there.
As the consultation went on, I started to get depressed. I was coming to the realization that I would no longer be able to live in my apartment near the beach. First off, all of that sun (I was told I had sun damage), is not good for a troll like me. Secondly, I would need to move and take up residence under a bridge or in a drainpipe. I hate drainpipes; they smell! Maybe I could just get a Darth Vader helmet and hope to blend in. 
So after all of the punches, with my head held low, I quickly left the clinic and started to think about how I was going to pay for all of this work I needed to have done. It was a long walk home, and I figured I would enjoy what was left of my time in the daylight. After all, I was soon to become a creature of the night!
During the walk, I caught my reflection in a window. Wait! I don’t seem so bad. I looked up and to my surprise, no one was running in terror! In fact, someone even smiled at me. 
Maybe I’m not a troll after all!
So if I’m not the problem, what is? It got me thinking about my consultation and how intense the experience was. Did I really need all of that information? Were there things that could have been left unsaid? 
Yes, I think so! 
Advice for Giving Advice
We can learn a lesson from this experience when coaching our team members and when they come to us for advice. We want to ensure that when someone asks for our help, they leave feeling empowered. Here are a few simple steps to keep in mind when you are asked for your opinion:

  1. Give advice on only what you are asked about. When someone asks for your help, or your opinion, try to stick to what they are asking about. All too often, we can be tempted to provide some “extra” advice or pointers. We don’t want to overwhelm someone or make them feel like they are a failure.
  2. Give people time to think about what you are saying. Let people sit with your tips or advice. Give them time to digest what you are telling them. At my appointment, I felt pressured to act now and deal with my moon face, but that was really something I would need to think about. Many team members will want to investigate, think about, and even come back with follow-up questions. You should allow and plan for follow-up.
  3. Don’t be overly critical. When someone is seeking your advice, don’t criticize something they are or are not doing. This is not the time. If they are seeking help, be gentle and encouraging. If we are too critical, it might stop them from asking for help in the future. If there is something else you want to review with them, schedule a meeting to review it at a later time. Introduce critiques little by little.
  4. Point out the positives and acknowledge progress. Don’t forget to point out all of the great things they have been doing. Not everything has to be perfect, and any progress is a positive thing. We often are quick to correct, but slow to congratulate. 

Theses are all simple steps, but sometimes we take them for granted. Sometimes we just need to take off our manager hat and put on the training hat, especially when your team members are coming to you!
What about me? In the end, I have decided that living as a troll under a bridge or covering my face with a giant helmet isn’t for me. I just have to accept that I no longer have to dress up for Halloween and I might scare children sometimes. On a positive note, at least I won’t need a guard dog!
I guess I have one of those faces only a mother could love. Luckily, mine does!
Kevin James Saunders is a trainer and the chief company culture director for Oculus Training, a British Columbia-based corporate training and mystery shopping company offering sales management, reservations, sensitivity, and customer service training programs for a variety of service-based industries throughout Canada, the U.S., and the world. For more information, call 888.OCULUS4 or visit You also can connect with Oculus on Twitter @oculustraining, via e-mail at or visit it on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube.