There’s a pervasive attitude among employees that “no news is good news” and that if you just plug away, you will be fine at your job. This could not be further from the truth.
The reality of the job market is that companies get restructured and reshuffled all the time, leaving employees who are perfectly capable cast aside for people who might be viewed as “playing the game’ a little bit better. Do your work habits pass the sniff test, or are you committing some of these work sins?
Not Checking In
There’s a comic trope that if you check in with your boss, you’ll just have more work dumped on you, and while that might be true in a handful of cases, just a simple “mini-status” can be the difference between being remembered and recognized by your boss for your contribution, and being forgotten. You don’t have to make this very formal. Ask your boss for 10 minutes to “align your priorities” or to get their feedback on a direction of a project. Yes, they may give you unwanted commentary, or they might ask you to change your approach, but what if you had stayed the course and found out your work was not to your boss’s liking?
Not Giving Enough Details On Projects
We’ve all seen movies where a journalist is chasing down a big story and their editor asks them for specifics, only to be rebuffed, and they are OK with this behavior. Your boss is not a 1970s news editor. It’s important to give a top level update on projects, and fill in the details as necessary. Sometimes, bosses will test you to gauge your involvement or knowledge. Being elusive is not the way to gain trust, it’s the quickest way to destroy it.
“Some bosses need to be over-communicated to. It’s important to notice patterns with your boss and give them the information they need in the way they appear to need it. Some bosses just need a top level overview. Some bosses need more. If in doubt, it is always best to over communicate, at least until you have built trust and your boss is confident you are getting the job done.” Says Sarah Paul, Director of Human Resources at Govan Brown Construction Managers.
You might feel like you need to tout your accomplishments to get ahead, and that is a very important part of your work life, but it’s important to know when and how to do this. Remember, every time you promote your own abilities, it will appear to others on your team like you are marginalizing their contribution. It’s best to save this type of behavior for one on one sessions with your superiors, otherwise you might end up marginalizing yourself.
Not Asking For Input
Everyone wants to appear at work like they have a handle on their job 100% of the time, but it’s a really bad idea to behave like that’s the case. To portray yourself as overly capable, you can cause yourself to have a target on your back from coworkers, or arouse suspicion from your boss. The easiest way to soften this is to ask of input from both your boss and coworkers. If you ask for tangible feedback about specific action items or parts of a project, you will humanize yourself, and share ownership of your success with your team and boss.
Not Respecting Your Boss’s/coworkers’ Time
The other side of this coin is to not be so dependent on others as to look incompetent or indecisive. It’s very important that you value your coworkers’ time as well as you do your own. Don’t wait until you have a meeting with your boss to tell them everything you’ve been dying to in the last 3 months. Stick to 1-3 items, and keep it brief. Also, remember that your coworkers have their own concerns with their projects and can’t always drop everything to answer your questions, no matter how “quick” those questions appear to be to you. Be respectful. Send BRIEF e-mails, and follow up in person if you don’t get an answer.
It’s easy to do things thinking you’re serving a project or ingratiating yourself to your boss or team, but many times those attempts can fall flat. Try to be aware of how your self-interest and bad habits might be negatively affecting your team and your boss.