What is Tangible and Intangible Accessibility? (Part 2 of 2)

As you work to raise your visibility in your organization and industry, visibility is comprised of presence (the tangible ways that individuals connect with you) and reputation (the intangible ways that individuals connect with you). Similarly, accessibility has tangible and intangible characteristics.

Intangible Accessibility

Do you create a welcoming atmosphere that reflects your desire to be accessible? When your colleagues comes to see you, is your behavior creating or hindering access? Here are some ways to create a welcoming atmosphere that inspires access.

Your office or workstation chair is facing the door. This way, you are able to see colleagues as they enter your office or workstation. When your back is facing the entrance to your office or workstation, you are subliminally sending the message “Don’t interrupt me.”
You stand and welcome colleagues to your office or workstation. To minimize the perception that your colleagues are interrupting you, demonstrate that your colleagues are not bothering you by physically welcoming them to the conversation.
You ask your colleague how you can help them. Even though your colleagues have come to see you, take the lead. When you answer your phone, you are the first one to say something like “Hi. This is Carl.” When you respond to a knock on your door, you are the first one to say something like “Hello. Can I help you?” Colleagues entering your office or workstation should be treated in the same way. Welcome colleagues to your office by taking the first step.
Do your interactions with colleagues inspire them to reach out to you again? Once you have welcomed your colleagues into the conversation, is your behavior helping or hindering the goal of the reason your colleagues came to see you in the first place? Here are some ways to inspire your colleagues to reach out to you in the future.

You have the answer at that moment. This is the simplest way to ensure your colleagues benefit from the interaction with you. You have an answer to their need and you can provide the answer at that moment.
You have the answer, yet you are not available at the moment. Just because someone is attempting to ask you a question or ask for help does not mean you have to respond at that moment. Your fast-paced and frenzied work organizations do not leave a lot of free time for unanticipated interruptions. If you are not available at the moment a colleague comes to see you, yet you can help her, let your colleague know that you are busy as the moment and schedule a time to reconnect.
You don’t have an answer, but you will get an answer for them. You may be the best person to help your colleagues, yet you don’t know the answer. Let your colleagues know you can help them but you will need time to get the answer. Schedule a time to reconnect.
You don’t have an answer and direct them to someone who does. You don’t have to know everything! If you are not the best person to help your colleagues, don’t just send them away without benefiting from their interaction with you. Identify another colleague who can assist them further.

What is Tangible and Intangible Accessibility? (Part 1 of 2)

As you work to raise your visibility in your organization and industry, visibility is comprised of presence (the tangible ways that individuals connect with you) and reputation (the intangible ways that individuals connect with you). Similarly, accessibility has tangible and intangible characteristics.

Tangible Accessibility

Ensure your colleagues know where your office or workstation is located. Some corporate offices are like labyrinths and finding your office may not be as easy as it sounds. Concurrently, some corporate offices have “cubicle farms” – dozens and dozens of similarly looking workstations that abut one another. Your colleagues could go insane trying to find your location. Rather than confirm that mental health is covered under your organization’s insurance plan, make sure that your colleagues know where your office or workstation is located.
Ensure your colleagues know the hours that you work. In today’s busy and fast-paced organizations, you may have non-standard schedules, either to fit the needs of the business or to respond to personal needs. You may work Tuesday through Saturday, or work a ½ day on Wednesdays, or Fridays off. Regardless of your schedule, make sure that your colleagues know your days and hours of work.
Ensure your colleagues know your contact information. Sometimes your colleagues are unable to access you as your colleagues simply do not have your email address, office phone number extension, or cellphone number. Many corporate switchboards are now automated; and if your colleagues do not know your extension number or how to spell your name in the “dial-by-name” directory, finding you can become frustrating. Make sure that your colleagues have your contact information for easy access to you.
Ensure your colleagues know when you are not accessible. As important as it is to create access, it is equally important to ensure that your colleagues know when you are not accessible. You may be out of the office at a meeting, traveling, ill, or, on a rare occasion, enjoying a personal day. Make sure that your colleagues know when you are not available, whom your colleagues can contact during your absence, and when you will return to your office. For example, you can create the following “out-of-office” email that your colleagues will automatically receive until you are back in the office.
“I am currently out of the office, returning next Thursday, January 22nd. If your need is urgent, please contact Susan Jones at 555-555-5555. If you are able to wait, I will begin returning emails when I return to the office. Thank you in advance for your patience.”
My next blog will focus on intangible accessibility. Stay tuned for more!

Nature or Nuture?


The degree in which you interact with colleagues may be driven by your natural interest to interact with others (nature) or the culture of your organization (nurture).  Each of these situations alone can significantly increase or reduce the degree in which you interact with your colleagues.

Imagine the impact to your visibility when you do not possess a natural interest to interact with colleagues and your organization’s culture does not support it – neither nature nor nurture are working in your favor.  When you possess a strong interest to interact with others and the culture of your organization supports such interaction, it’s magic!

Œ–  No time to interact with others + low interest.  Your interaction with others is limited to meetings and conference calls.  You are not interested in interacting with others and you justify that your low interaction is due to the lack of time you have at work to do anything but keep your “nose to the grindstone.”  You are at risk of becoming invisible in and irrelevant to your organization.

–  No time to interact with others + high interest.  While you possess a sincere interest to interact with others, the demands of your job and the culture of your organization are preventing you from doing so.  You are likely very frustrated by the requirements of your job, which is forcibly sequestering you in your office or workstation.  Unless you find a way to satisfy your interest to interact with others, your frustration will grow into dissatisfaction, affecting your work performance in negative ways.

–  A lot of time to interact with others + low interest.  Your job or work environment allows you many opportunities (as stated earlier, this is not unproductive time) to interact with others, yet you have little interest in doing so.  You are at risk of being viewed as an office hermit – reclusive, standoffish, and, at worst, misanthropic.  Your colleagues will demonstrate little patience for your behavior and you will quickly become irrelevant to your organization.

–  A lot of time to interact with others + high interest.  Your organization provides many opportunities to interact with colleagues and you take full advantage of these opportunities.  The high degree to which you interact with colleagues is driven by your interest in doing so.  You recognize the benefits of interacting with colleagues (i.e., increased knowledge, influence, productivity) and take advantage of your organization’s environment to do so.

What Are the Benefits of Being Accessible?

One of the seven Raise Your Visibility and Value visibility accelerators is being accessible, defined as the degree to which colleagues can reach you and benefit from the interaction.

Being accessible benefits everyone. Ram Reddy is a Director, IT Operations for Harte Hanks, one of the world’s largest marketing services companies. Despite the daily challenges he faces in his busy workplace, Ram is committed to being accessible to those who reach out to him.

“Being accessible is a key part of collaboration. Although many of us have offices that physically separate us from one another, it is important to act as though there are no walls. If a colleague needs me, I want her to be able to get to me. Likewise, I like getting out of my office and rather than email a colleague a question, ask him my question or follow-up with him in person. This also allows my colleague to access me in ways that help them.”

When you work to be accessible to your colleagues, you are the one who truly benefits because you:

  • identify issues and problems earlier, leading to quicker resolution, enhancing productivity, and reducing frustration.
  • increase your influence in your organization as you become a “go-to” person who is known for helping others solve problems.
  • create opportunities for yourself to participate in activities that are meaningful to your career and your organization.
  • bolster your reputation in your organization and industry by modeling behavior that your colleagues can emulate.