By: Chris Warren.
Every year around this time the internet starts buzzing with business advice for job applicants, presumably in response to the annual release of college graduates who now need to turn their degrees into paychecks. Largely out of the mix is wisdom on how to thrive and get along after you are in the workforce.
I think I’ve learned a thing or two in all my years happily plugging away at the same company. I’ve had more bosses than I can remember; some of them were pretty classy, some of them were tasteless jerks. I managed to have a good working relationship with all of them even if I may not have liked them personally (or vice-versa) or agreed with their management decisions. I’ve reduced my success down to a few simple workplace behaviors that you won’t find suggested anywhere in the glut of internet wisdom.
Don’t make the boss’ phone ring. In the over twenty years I’ve been on the job, my boss has received a random call from someone saying I’m awesome on maybe two or three occasions. But if I screw up there is a nearly 100% chance somebody will squawk loudly about it. The average supervisor takes dozens of calls every day from people with problems. You do not want to be the reason for any of them. When someone calls your boss to talk about you, it’s almost never to give compliment.
Always give a response. If your boss or a coworker walked up to you in person and asked you a question, you would not silently turn around and walk away, then come back and answer the question a day later. Treat emails/texts/voice mails as a personal interaction. In a era where there are fewer face to face conversations in the workplace, it’s sometimes not clear when or if a message was received. Immediately acknowledge receipt of electronic communications, then commit to keeping all involved parties updated until the issue is concluded. Do not make the boss, or anyone, have to guess what’s going on to the point that they make your phone ring.
When someone calls your boss to talk about you, it’s almost never to give compliment.
Be a Yes Man/Woman. The best thing about this behavior is that it can be incorporated into any of the others. It’s about always finding a way to say yes to all requests. To be clear, I’m not talking about being a doormat or a “management suck up.” Being a Yes person means your default should be to find a way to make things happen, not to squirm out of it. Send everyone away better than they arrived, even if the Yes you give them isn’t exactly the one they wanted: “I’m sorry, I don’t have the information you need but I forwarded your request to another department that I’m sure can help you.” A compromised Yes is always better than a no.
Hand out bonuses. Doing the minimum required is fine and will keep you out of trouble, but no one ever got a promotion or raise by doing the minimum. Bonuses do not need to be big, huge deals. It can be as simple as completing an assignment before being asked or taking extra steps that were not part of the original assignment: “I ordered the toner cartridges you wanted and noticed that we were low on paper too, so I included it with the request.” Bonuses are pleasant surprises and show others that you care and have attention to detail. When done properly, they are a big payoff for little effort.
Do not take advantage of others’ ignorance. I work as an electronics technician on communications equipment. The job requires specialized high level skills and few people outside my field fully understand what I do. It would be easy to get out of difficult tasks by making up technical reasons why they can’t be done, and most people would not initially know I’m hustling them. I don’t use my knowledge as leverage to avoid undesirable assignments because it’s dishonest and wrong. All lies, including small ones, ultimately return to their origins. Taking advantage of others on any level has no lasting benefit and in extreme cases can end careers. Never, ever do it.
It’s easy to overlook that getting the job is only a small part of a much bigger picture. Giving one’s best effort long enough to get through the hiring process is not hard compared to developing attitudes and behaviors that will need to be strong for an entire working career. There is nothing deep or complicated about the Golden Rule of treating others as you would want to be treated yourself.