And HOW to pull away from the pack!
No matter what is going on in our society, it seems that we are destined to have winners and losers. I’ve always found this topic to be fascinating as it seems everyone has different rationales for the reason some people fall behind, some stay the steady course, some get ahead, and yet others have “made it”. As with most things, I like to question my own preconceived philosophy, evaluate how everyone else looks at a topic, and form my pondering into something that perhaps will be useful for someone else.
Winners and Losers
So, why do people get ahead? It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? There are no shortage of videos floating around the internet and social media explaining how people are stuck in their situations, and can’t get ahead… If you list them now I’m sure you’ll come up with a similar list as I did. (Male privilege, white privilege, ageism, racism, sexism, classism, intergenerational poverty, lack of education, too much education, not enough time to work more, too many dependents, etc.) The list can obviously go on. Now, when you read those reasons someone can’t get ahead what does it make you feel? Regardless of whether it makes you feel angry at excuses, or empathy for any of those reasons, doesn’t reading it make you feel uncomfortable? It makes me feel uncomfortable to type it if I’m being honest with you, and uncomfortable putting it out there on the internet because of how polarizing the topic is in general… We seem to have created an environment where having an opinion on the level of existence, and level of impact for any of those reasons, bares with it the risk of being branded as “having no idea what you are talking about”, “haven’t lived it so don’t understand it”, “not educated on the topic”, or just plain and simple being “a bigot”. In fact, I’ve had all those things said to me when I didn’t even have a strong point of view, but was simply conversing with someone on the topics.
Moral Victories: 9,587,213 : Practical Victories: …0
So now that I’m past that part, I’ll jump right in… YOUR EXCUSES DO NOT MATTER IN THE REAL WORLD! Set aside the bubbling rage I just incited in you as it pertains to one or more of those reasons you can’t get ahead and say it with me, MY EXCUSES DO NOT MATTER IN THE REAL WORLD… I think people get far too caught up in the battle between right and wrong, and those moral battles leave them stuck in the trenches of their own existence feeling angry at people and sorry for themselves, it helps no one. Point out to me the person who is angry at “the man” and sorry for themselves and is successful. I’m willing to bet you can’t find that person because they are too busy choosing EVERY battle rather than winning the ones that matter and they have control over.
The rest of this article pertains specifically to employment, because I believe wholeheartedly that “work shall set you free.”
So, now that we are past the making excuses part of the article, and you understand why I’m not going to waste any time on it… I’ll instead spend the rest of the time doing two things. 1) Talking about what makes you a TERRIBLE employee and team member, and 2) What you can do to change it.
Why You’re a TERRIBLE Employee and Can’t Get Ahead
In one run-on sentence, I’m going to sum it up for you, and if you think any of these are you, it may be wise to read further. *Giant gasp of air… “You’re not punctual, you have an excuse for everything, you do the bare minimum, you gossip about everyone, you’re smarter than the whole office put together, you complain about everything that is not exactly the way you want it, you talk smack about your supervisors, manager, and the company as a whole, you never volunteer for anything, you can’t be taught anything, you squirm out of anything you aren’t chained to, you make demands, you steal, you aren’t proactive, you won’t do anything that isn’t in your contract, your motivation is terrible and requires outside input, you put yourself first, Annnnnd you are out sick mostly on days that make it harder on everyone else…” *Gasping for more air…
You know… or your boss “just doesn’t like me.” Whichever.
Let’s Break it Down
YOU’RE NOT PUNCTUAL: It seems like a little thing, but being 15 minutes early to everything you do, and completing tasks on time, the way you said you were going to get them done, instantly puts you in the top 50% of employees in my book… It sets the tone for everything else you do in your work capacity, be that person.
YOU HAVE AN EXCUSE FOR EVERYTHING: Just stop! Stop telling me why something isn’t done and get it done please… At the end of the day if something wasn’t done and needed to be, the truth will come out anyway, so just spend your energy making it right and that’s what a manager will notice, not how great your excuses are… no one cares.
BARE MINIMUM: Hello office person who does EXACTLY what they were given to do and left the rest for the next person coming on… You are very… AVERAGE, and we all know average stands out the best when I’m looking to promote someone. Be ABOVE average.
GOSSIP: “Seriously, I heard that she only got promoted because she slept with Tom, that’s what I heard from Bill yesterday.” This type of office chatter doesn’t help anyone, it just makes what is already a stressful environment an even more stressful environment, do yourself a favor and politely disengage from that type of behavior, it won’t be long and you will be known as a coworker who has a neutral perspective and is fair to everyone.
YOU’RE SMARTER THAN EVERYONE: And that’s EXACTLY why you’re the lowest person in the place you work… Just kidding, you should probably be a little more humble, and accept that other people are intelligent, OR at a minimum don’t show any outward signs that you think you are smarter than others.
YOU’RE A COMPLAINY-PANTS: Think about the people you know in your life, do you just LOVE it when they complain about everything, all the time? No, of course not, because it sucks the life out of everyone in the room… So just STOP and put that energy into doing what is asked of you.
YOU TRASH TALK YOUR MANAGERS AND COMPANY: This one should be obvious, but it doesn’t matter what you think of people who manage you, it’s unwise to talk bad about them in general, especially in a work environment, even if you have no intent on staying there long-term, they are also the people you will need to write you a letter of recommendation. If you have nothing good to say about your company or managers keep it to yourself or find a new job!
YOU NEVER VOLUNTEER: When someone needs to step up and get something done for the benefit of the team and/or business, guess where you are… NEVER THERE. It took me about 15 straight years of always volunteering for working Christmas before I realized that not everyone does that. Be the person who does something good for your coworkers every once and a while and it will pay off.
YOU AREN’T TEACHABLE: As a manager, there is nothing more frustrating than honing your skills in a particular task for decades, and an employee is not receptive to your attempt to teach them how to do something. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS allow superiors to show you their way of doing things when it is offered, its free advice… Heck, it’s better than that, its advice they are paying you so they can give you… It doesn’t get better than that!… I’m going to go EVEN FURTHER and say that you should probably go ahead and ASK for their advice… Yep, people love it when their opinion is valued and you demonstrate a desire to do it the right way the first time.
YOU SQUIRM OUT OF EVERYTHING: You know who you are, office person who somehow always ends up middle-manning projects, but never doing them yourself. If you want to show you deserve more pay, do more work…
YOU MAKE DEMANDS: “Well, I’ll only work on the weekends if I get to pick who is on my team that day” or “I need to get paid more if I’m going to pick up the mail on top of doing my job.” I’m certainly not advocating you be a doormat, but a lot of terrible employees have no flexibility, expecting something in return for even the tiniest inconvenience, and demand what they are going to get in return. Take a chill pill, if you are CONSISTENTLY doing something above and beyond your scope of job description, take that knowledge to the manager, demonstrate your value, and ASK to officially have that responsibility, and have it reflected in your paycheck. If it truly brings value to them, they will be happy to do so.
YOU STEAL: This should be really straight forward, but sadly it isn’t. If it is something your business paid for (including your time) it isn’t yours. Those “perks” of the job better be something discussed with your management PRIOR to you helping yourself to it. Don’t take “five finger” discounts from the people who write your paycheck!
PROACTIVE, THAT’S A NEW YOGURT RIGHT?: Have you ever just sat there as a little kid pulled out a match and lit your house on fire, continued to sit there and let the flames build and build until you have a complete structure fire on your hands before you do something about it? Me neither, because that would be incredibly stupid. So, in a work environment, why do you pass up pending work? Is it because the next person will deal with it? Are you about to go on break? Clocking out in 20 minutes? When a manager sees that you consistently put out fires before they are out of control, you are in effect saving THEIR house, and preventing THEM from having to put the fire out personally… Be proactive, not reactive… So, be Smokey the bear and promotions are in your future.
YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION IS ALL YOU WILL DO: We covered this before, but if you find yourself consistently saying “that’s not my job” or “not my problem” YOU ARE the problem. Do the damn work and THEN ask for a raise, not the other way around. If I’m a manager and I know you hold me to the letter of the law with every task I give you, you cease to be useful to me for anything other than a cog in a machine.
YOUR MOTIVATION SUCKS!: I’m going to break this down Barney style for you… If you require OUTSIDE resources to motivate you to do your work/show up on time/not steal etc. then you will never be that useful to an organization. When you are self-motivated because doing a good job is all the motivation you need to get the job done, you are a shining star.
YOU ABUSE SICK DAYS: Let’s get all the “I have a sniffle” commandos together and form a failing business shall we? You know why, because EVERYONE KNOWS you’re full of crap “being sick” because they saw you out partying last night on social media… You might think your coworkers don’t care, they may never say it to your face, but they do care, because they are the ones doing YOUR WORK while you sleep off last night’s bad decisions. The fringe benefit of using your sick days as SICK DAYS is that everyone believes you and doesn’t question it when you are indeed sick, and you tend to have far more sick days that weren’t wasted on staying up and gaming too late the night before.
A Happy Boss is…
You think about yourself first: IF YOU ONLY READ ONE THING I WRITE in this article, read this, understand it, and employ it. Your ONLY purpose at your job is to make OTHER PEOPLE’S lives easier. Yup, doesn’t matter if you are a mechanic, sales clerk, or a fry guy at McDonalds. Your position exists, and you get money in your paycheck because in SOME WAY you make your supervisor’s job easier, even if it’s just so they don’t have to run the deep fryer and know the fries are going to turn out right. Ground yourself every day at work and think that thought… Ask yourself, “Self, am I making everyone else’s job easier today? Am I going out of my way to make sure I do?” If your answer is yes, I promise you, you are going places because most employees/team members don’t care if they do, because they are at work thinking about themselves.
This amazing thing happens when you put your concerns on other people first at work. You become incredibly productive and everyone sees that you go out of your way for them…
Who Am I Promoting?
*Another giant gasp of air… “You’re always punctual, you never make excuses for anything, you go above and beyond what is asked of you, you never engage in gossip at the office, you’re humble and value other people’s input, you skip complaining and go straight to solving a problem, you never speak poorly about anyone, even people I know you don’t get along with or like personally, you volunteer for your fair share of work, you are teachable and always willing to learn from others, you take responsibility for your actions, you take more responsibility before you ask for anything, you are always helping to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse of company property and time, you are super productive with your time, you’re flexible with what your duty is in order to help the team out, you motivate yourself and your peers to keep a good attitude and get the job done, Annnnnd you always work when you can, and barely ever call out sick…” *Gasping for more air…
You know… or because “the boss hired the other person because the boss is unfair”… Whichever.
Choose your battles, look within to find out what you have control over, fix those things first, if you are not that exact employee/team member above, then you have no right to complain about your situation in my opinion. Why do I take such a strong stance on that topic? It’s simply because I feel like EVERY SINGLE one of those points are within an individual’s control to change that will help guide their destiny, but most people instead look to change something outside of themselves that they have no control over first… All while spending 4 hours of their 8-hour shift at work slacking off on Facebook.
Go be great, only you control your level of greatness, no one else has any power over you in that area… Once you’ve fought that battle and won, focus outside of yourself toward injustices in the world, you’ll have a much better footing and argument.
Rory McLaughlin, CEO