Posted by Lauren Weiner
Having seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in employees from both sides of the fence—as a entry level employee and now as an executive—these are the things I either wish I had known when I was coming up through the ranks, or that I wish I could get across to my employees now that I’m the “big boss.” Again, like my last post about job seeking, these are in no particular order… but hopefully at least a few of them will be helpful for each of you.
1. When asking for something (a raise, a flexible work schedule, access to a new project, etc), always spin it to why it is good for the company, not just why it is good for you.
If you’re coming to me with a need for a shorter work schedule, for example, your “pitch” should include very specific details about how you’re going to handle the work load in shorter hours, how the schedule helps us as a firm (you’d have to quit if you couldn’t get the new schedule to handle new external demands, and then we’d be forced to recruit and train a new employee without the significant background you have, for example), and how you’ll mitigate any unintended consequences, especially if nobody has tried this before. (In this example, you might want to say that you’ll set the standard for professionalism in working a shorter work schedule but still getting work done, so that any other employee asking for a new schedule would be held to a very high standard).
2. There is a very fine line between highlighting your accomplishments and tooting your own horn.
One lesson I learned very early on in my career—almost every time, people know who really did the work without anyone having to tell them. Someone who claims credit for the work, especially if it was a team effort of any sort, can easily be seen as a blowhard. If you are humble and praise the others in your team, it will come back to serve you well later on, both with your team members and with your supervisors. That said, you do need to make sure that you’re recognized for your accomplishments, and there are appropriate ways to highlight those to the people who matter… but they are usually more subtle than telling people flat-out how wonderful a job you’ve done. Email cc’s or status updates can often convey your worth without any bragging necessary.
3. Don’t expect constant rewards for doing your job well.
Doing your job well is, well, your job. While continuous improvement should hopefully lead to rewards (raises, promotions, positive feedback, whatever) in the long run, it should not require constant reinforcement with those rewards all of the time. I find that people who are constantly asking me for short-term rewards for doing a good job end up negating, in my mind, the great work they’re doing, which is clearly counterproductive.
4. Be willing to take on whatever tasks are necessary to get the job done.
In our company, we tell people that the thing that will get them fired faster than almost any other phrase is, “that’s not my job.” As the president of a company, I still make my own copies (and am more than happy to run and get coffee for not only our clients, but any of my employees, as well). Doing a job—any job—means scut work as well as high-level work.
5. You don’t always have to be liked.
This is an important lesson for everyone to learn. To be effective at your job, you need to be well respected, but you don’t need for everyone to like you. You (hopefully) have plenty of friends outside of work. You need strong colleagues at work, not necessarily more friends.
6. Be careful how much of your personal life you bring into your job.
Of course, you’re with your work colleagues for a good portion of your daily waking life, and you will likely form great personal relationships with some of them (though see #5 above—you don’t need to be friends with all of them). But be careful of exactly how much of your personal life you share at work; remember, your goal is first and foremost to be respected, and too much personal information can get in the way of that goal.
7. Bring up ideas (preferably well thought-out, well-researched ones), but recognize that you may not have the whole story.
Some of the best ideas for how to improve our company have come from our front-line employees, and we always welcome ideas from everyone. However, we often get ideas that are incredibly well thought-out given the perspective of that employee, but that don’t take into account other important information that the employee isn’t privy to. If your idea is heard, but not implemented, it is helpful to realize that there may be more to the issue than you’re aware of.
8. Remember, your thoughts/concerns/feelings are not the only thing on your boss’ mind.
We are all somewhat ego-centric in our thinking—it is the way our brains are structured. But keep in mind that your boss (or even other colleagues) don’t have the same things on their mind that you do. When you’re discussing something with them, try to think of their perspective so that you can all end up on the same page. And, if you need them to understand where you’re coming from to set the stage for your conversation, make sure you tell them. Which leads us to…
9. Don’t wait for your boss to bring up raises and promotions.
Most likely, your raise or your promotion is forefront in your mind for months before it is scheduled. It is just as likely one thing on a growing to-do list for your boss, and it is likely to drop off of that list accidentally, even if you’re a stellar performer. If there is a regular schedule to reviews/raises/promotions, make sure you check in with your boss just before the scheduled time to make sure everything is on track. If there is no schedule, at an appropriate time, ask your boss if you can do a review of your performance with an eye toward future career advancement. One quick caveat—unless it was expressly discussed in your interview that you’d review compensation within the first 6 months, don’t bring this up until you’ve been somewhere at least 6 months, and probably more. And look at #1 before you talk to your boss about why you deserve the raise or promotion.
10. Step back and look at the 10,000 foot view.
If you can look at the point of view of your boss, or your boss’ boss, you will make yourself that much more valuable to them (and to the company). If you can see the big picture, and see where your work fits in with that, it will not only make you more effective, but also should make you (hopefully) more satisfied in your role if you can see how it relates to the larger “whole.”