We spend more time at work than anywhere else, but do we really know what it is our bosses want from us? Sure, the obvious answer would be to complete the tasks and objectives at hand, but that’s not really what it’s all about. Former chairperson and chief executiveof Xerox Corporation, AnneM Mulcahy,once said:
“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied and more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.” So what is really expected of you to be able to reach this profitability at work and to achieve the maximum level of success?
How many times have you put your hand up when your boss requires volunteers for a project she’s starting? Being keen is often a characteristic that many people dislike or try to avoid because no one wants to be that “eager beaver” in the office. But sometimes it can pay off. President and chief executive of leadership firm Lead From Within, Lolly Daskal, says the phrase “I’ll do it” is one your boss wants to hear.
“When you’re already in a high-pressure position, nobody wants to take on more responsibility. But if you look at it from a different perspective, it’s really an opportunity to show your boss that you’re proactive, willing to pitch in, are a team player and are reliable. It establishes you as a natural ‘go-to’ person,” she writes in Inc magazine. She adds that although it may seem like a bit of extra work, the benefits are tremendous. It’s worth mentioning that this type of eager is not to be confused with being a people pleaser.
Often underrated,this is an important factor in the workplace. There’s a woman in our office who never turns down an opportunity to help because she understands the importance of the role she plays and that helping out isn’t a step down for her. In a world driven by success, it’s easy to make it all about you.
People would much rather look out for themselves than consider the well being of a company at large. Although sometimes that reasoning is justifiable, being a team player can be beneficial. Robert Galford, the managing partner of the Center for Leading Organisations, writes in the Harvard Business Review that your boss wants you to “build a following of competent people who trust you, trust each other, keep you in the loop, and feel as if you are there to help and guide without getting in the way”.
Daskal further elaborates this by saying that hearing the words “I can help” is a good thing. “Offering to help a colleague who is stuck, overburdened or unexpectedly called away shows interest and a willingness to do more. It also demonstrates your focus on the big picture rather than your own role, and it casts you as an agent of camaraderie and collaboration,” she adds. So next time there’s a crisis, get stuck in and help where you can.
Being optimistic really does pay off sometimes, and although many might think it’s a waste of energy, looking for that silver lining can help you get ahead. Having a solution to a problem not only shows initiative, but displays you are always fully present in the workplace. Daskal writes: “Bosses hear a lot of problems all day, and they’re usually the ones who have to come up with all the solutions. The next time there’s an issue you need to bring to your boss’ attention, come prepared with a solution in hand.” Anyone can identify a problem, but coming up with an action plan is what really counts.
The chief executive and founder of publishing and consulting firm Human Workplace, Liz Ryan, told LinkedIn that the workplace is in fact a place to solve problems. “You learn something new and grow your flame a little bit more every time you solve a problem at work,” she says.
Being transparent in your work environment isn’t just something to do for you to feel good about, it can be a huge growth point in terms of accountability and keeping the channels of communication open and free. Daskal says: “When you make a mistake – and we all make mistakes, even the best of us–find a way to come to your boss and say, ‘I made a mistake and took care of it.’
If possible, also share what you’re doing to prevent it from happening again. In that way, what’s most memorable is not the mistake but your responsibility and accountability.” Honesty is underrated, with many sweeping things under the carpet and leaving them to fester. Ryan goes as far as saying that one owes their employer the truth about what happens in the workplace.
“When you speak up, your muscles grow,” she adds. Trial lawyer and contributor on Americanbar.org, G Grant Dixon III, writes thatconfessing and rectifying your mistakes means you’re human. “You are going to make mistakes, no matter how hard you try,” he says. So accepting that and being honest about those mistakes is worth it.
Tembisa, 32, works at a call centre. She was desperate when she accepted the job, and doesn’t enjoy going to work anymore. In 2013, the Washington Post reported that only 13% of people worldwide actually
enjoy going to work. This boils down to passion: Does the job mean a lot to you or is it just a nine-to-five and a secure salary? “If you hate your job, start a stealth job search on the side, but don’t slack off in your current role. That isn’t fair to your employer, its customers or your team-mates. It’s not fair to yourself. As long as you have the job, put your heart into it,” Ryan emphasises.
There aren’t a lot of people who can say that they’re truly passionate about the work that they do, but it’s never too late to work towards that passion. For some, it comes easier than others, but if you haven’t found a way to make your passion your work yet, push what you’re doing with respect for yourself. Ryan shares her motto for this particular point: “An employee’s job is to give his or her best work every day. A manager’s job is to give the employee a good reason to come back to work tomorrow.”
PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE
Not everyone is confident in expressing themselves, but coming out of your shell can really help you stand out. Daskal says: “It’s great for your boss to know you can fix things and that you’re willing to go beyond expectations, but it’s when you bring new ideas to the table that you really shine.”
She highlights that being seen for what you can do and who you are is the first step to this. If you’ve been putting yourself out there and just not getting any joy from your employer, keep trying, and if that doesn’t work, maybe it’s time to move on. Author of New York Times bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain, is a perfect example of someone for whom speaking out paid off. She writes: “I am not a natural self-discloser at all. It took me 30 years to realise my childhood dream of becoming a writer, partly because I was afraid to write about personal things – yet these were the subjects I was drawn to.
Eventually, my drive to write grew stronger than my fear, and I’ve never looked back.” Although these are but a few of the things that make bosses tick, they’re definitely worth trying to apply in your workplace. ■