Sunday, April 22, 2007

10 Tips for Being a Better Office Professional

1. Do not discuss your salary/wage with your coworkers.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people do this. There is essentially zero good that can come out of this. One way or another somebody’s feelings are going to be hurt. It can cause a lot of strife between people and it’s even a terminable offense in most workplaces.

The only people that you could share your salary with are the following:

* Spouse or signifigant other if you live together or otherwise share a budget.
* Parents (with the understanding that it is strictly confidential, no telling their golf buddies, AA group or Joey your 4th cousin twice removed.)
* Your accountant.
* That’s it.

2. Perception is reality.

No matter how unfair it is, no matter how illogical it can be, it is the absolute 100% truth. People don’t have time in the workplace to ferret out the whole story. If you’re seen as a slacker, you’re a slacker. If you’re seen as a hothead, you’re a hothead.

Work hard to cultivate the perception you think you should have and protect it once it is achieved. That means you may have to work harder/faster/better than the other guy or gal if you’ve already been branded.

Along the same lines, be careful who you hang out with at work. It’s very easy to be pigeonholed with a group if you frequently go on breaks with, lunch with or otherwise hangout with people who act less that professionally (or proficiently) in the workplace.

3. Be honest with your coworkers, but not too honest.

If this job is just a stepping stone towards bigger and better things, don’t share that with the 20 year lifer that you just met at the office. I was guilty of this at my first professional job. I think back on that and realize what a jerk I must have sounded like.

Hopes and dreams are great, but try to keep conversations with your coworkers light, at least in the early going before you really know them.

4. Choose your battles wisely.

No you will not quit if they switch from Arrowhead bottled water to Sparkletts. Get a grip.

Some battles are worth fighting, others are small potatoes. Think of it this way. Every day that you work and do an acceptable job you earn a certain number of points. As you spend more time at the job you accrue these points until you can cash them in for several purposes.

One of those purposes is in the eternal battle to impose your will on others. Whether it’s a raise or more donuts on Friday. If you’re constantly spending your points you’re going to find yourself fresh out when something REALLY important comes along like… say… layoffs.

You always want to have a cache of points to turn in when you need them.

5. Nobody likes a whiner.

This goes hand in hand with choosing your battles. If you are constantly whining about things then you will actually lose points without getting anything for them besides irritated coworkers. If your chair is uncomfortable, go swipe one from somewhere else, or politely ask the office manager about maybe getting a new one.

If you can’t get whatever ails you resolved quickly and in a polite non-whiny manner, try to learn to live with it or fix it yourself.

6. Don’t get shitfaced at happy hour or the holiday party.

Wooo open bar! Hold on there partner. While it’s ok to have a cocktail or two while you’re at a company function, don’t get obliterated.

I’ve seen more than my share of otherwise normal folks completely crash and burn due to their allowing their cup to runneth over.

Take it easy, have fun, but remember that come Monday morning, yes they will remember if you act like an idiot while plastered. Minus points.

7. Get it in writing.

Email is one of the single greatest inventions ever in corporate accountability.

If there is ever a doubt in your mind about what you’ve been tasked to do, get it in writing. Sometimes people make judgement calls on the fly when they’re pressed for time. More often than not, when they are proven to have made the incorrect call, they will turn to you and ask you why you did that (idiot!). So having their instructions in black and white will save your ass a hundred times over the course of your career.

Get it in writing. Plus points if you catch the office bully with his pants down using this technique.

8. This isn’t high school or college A) debating.

Academic debates about random crap are fantastic fun in a scholastic setting. Nobody wants to debate arbitrary minutiae in the office, especially your boss.

9. This isn’t high school or college B) over the top.

While it may have been fun to be the over the top bombastic “willing to do anything to get a rise out of someone” kind of person back in school, this does NOT fly in the workplace.

Yes, it was jolly good fun to tease people and make people uncomfortable back in the day, but not any more when your livelihood hangs in the balance. This goes for discussing politics and religion as well. It’s just not a good idea.

10. Smile, today’s the first day of the rest of your career!

A positive attitude can have a great affect on your interpersonal relations at work and your career in general. Bosses and coworkers are a lot more forgiving if you can take a beating and still keep a bit of cheer about yourself.

Remember, it’s just work, don’t take it too seriously.

The number 1 rule for all the above is to REMEMBER ALL OF THE ABOVE. Complacency kills. As time goes along it's real easy to forget where you are, and let some things slip.

Make sure you stay on your game.

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