Things About Work I Wish I Knew Earlier – Recap of Parts 1-6

I began this series of posts six Fridays ago, and each post that I have written has been part of a common theme:  Don’t put yourself on the radar at work.  Let others put you on the radar.

The essence of this idea is that your focus at work should be to get noticed for reasons that pertain to your career, not for any other reasons.  It is better to create no impression than to create a negative one.  This means that some things we have been taught to do or some behaviors that we may have picked up should be eliminated or never started.  I will have a few more thoughts along these lines later in the series, but this seems like a good place to pause.  To recap, parts #1 through #6 are:

#1 Don’t Complain or Make Waves
No doubt at your company or firm, it is common practice to complain about things that could be improved.  From my experience, that is relatively normal.  However, I wish I knew earlier to stay out of these conversations entirely.  You don’t want to be known as a complainer. Swallow your thoughts.  Tell your significant others or friends.  Just don’t talk about it in the office.  I’m not suggesting you be Pollyanna and talk about how wonderful things are.   I’m recommending that you keep all complaints to yourself.

#2 Don’t Talk Negatively About Anyone Behind Their Back
This is also extremely common.  Everyone talks about everyone else.  I recommend you avoid these conversations.  Don’t get sucked in to a session bashing your boss or anyone else.  You do not want to be known as someone who always talks about others when they aren’t around.  In fact, studies show that when you criticize someone, the quality about which you are being critical is reflected back on you.  If you say someone is a jerk, others think you are a jerk.  If you stay out of these conversations, this can’t happen.

#3 Don’t Ask Questions in Large Meetings
I think this piece of advice is easy to follow.  As I wrote in the post, the risks of asking questions far outweigh the benefits.  Let others take those risks.  Keep your arms folded at your seat.

#4 Don’t Offer Suggestions Unless You Are Asked
If you look at offering your help or suggestions proactively, there are only two reasons why:  the other person is doing something wrong or isn’t doing something all.  When you offer help or ideas, you are criticizing what they are doing, by definition.   People don’t like that.  I suggest you stay away and only help if asked.

#5 Volunteer, But Choose Wisely
Most volunteer opportunities are worthless and should be avoided.  When the boss asks for volunteers, it’s because she doesn’t care who does the specific activity.  Thus, the benefit of doing it is limited or zero.  In fact, there are risks if you do “it” wrong.

#6 Keep Your Mind on Your Own Job and Only Your Own Job
When you concern yourself with functions or actions outside your direct job and ask questions, you will be viewed suspiciously and considered to be butting in where you don’t belong.  It doesn’t matter what others are working on.  It only matters what you are working on.

In each of these six items, I’m recommending that you don’t do things to call attention to yourself, for I believe the risks outweigh the rewards.  It is better to have someone else call attention to you than to call attention to yourself.   It is much better when someone else puts you on the company radar than to put yourself on the company radar.

A few readers have understood my points but commented, “If I don’t put myself on the company radar, I won’t get on the company radar.”  What I think most of them are really saying is “If I don’t put myself on the company radar, I won’t get on the company radar as fast I want to be.”

We justify violating the above six recommendations because we add a time factor to the risk-reward equation.  For example, our thoughts might go something like this regarding point #3 above:

  1. I understand the risk of asking this question.
  2. However, no one knows me enough to even see what the quality of my work.
  3. While I know I’ll get on the radar eventually, if I ask a question, people will know who I am now.
  4. Because they know who I am, they’ll notice the quality of my work and other positive attributes.
  5. I’ll then move up faster.

As a result, the risk-reward equation flips.  Where as before, the risks today > rewards tomorrow, now the rewards today > risks today.  And, we stand up to ask a question and make, what I believe is a big career mistake.

In the next several posts, I’ll build on this and explain what I wish I knew earlier about the time frame for advancement and/or expansion of responsibilities.  Understanding this make it easier to follow parts #1 through #6.

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One Response to Things About Work I Wish I Knew Earlier – Recap of Parts 1-6

  1. Pingback: Things About Work I Wish I Knew Earlier – Part 7 « Life With Spidey

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