Booklets & Manuals: Working Wisdom

The following is an excerpt of a 19-page booklet for entry level employees.

Copyright © 2005 Tom Wallace

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the express written permission of the author.

The Promise

I’m a former hiring and training manager. I spent years showing people how to get ahead on the job. Now I want to share my best advice with you. And I’ll make you a promise that I’ll stand by from now till the end of time. People who follow the advice in this booklet will get more raises, more promotions, more quickly than those who don’t. Period. I know that’s true. I’ve seen people get ahead by putting this advice to work. And the ideas you’ll find in these pages are not things that only a few people can do. You can get ahead by following the advice in this booklet.

The Basics

The basics can take you a long way in life. They can take you far in the workplace too. Things you’ve known all your life will serve you well on any job.  They will make you stand out in the eyes of CEOs, supervisors and coworkers.  These basic principles will help you get raises and promotions.  They will help you deal with problems you might encounter on the job, including sexual harassment, racism, job safety and tax issues. They will even help you enjoy your job more.

We’ll look at those basic principles. We’ll look at your rights as an employee, and your responsibilities.

This booklet is intended to help you take control of your job situation and make it better, more enjoyable, and more profitable. It is not intended as a substitute for your employer’s employee handbook. It doesn’t replace any guidelines your supervisor may require you to follow. In fact, your employer’s specific guidelines will actually help you get the most out of your job.

The Employer/Employee Contract

Your employer may have a written employment contract that you must read and sign in order to be hired.  But on any job, there is an implied contract between you and your employer. It’s a simple contract, but understanding it can make you better at your job. That means you’ll be better at getting raises and promotions. What is that contract? Look at is this way: you’re selling and the employer is buying.  You’re selling your time, effort, credentials, experience, and skills.  Generally speaking, the more you can offer, the higher the price the buyer (employer) will be willing to pay. If you don’t have much in the way of experience, skills, or credentials, that doesn’t mean that you have nothing.  The more dependable, flexible, hard working, positive, motivated, trainable, and easy to get along with you are, the more valuable you’ll be to an employer.

Your employer agrees to pay you a certain price and give you certain benefits. You agree to show up at a specified time, perform a certain amount of work, and follow a particular set of rules.  If you violate that contract, your employer may terminate the contract (in other words, fire you). Likewise, if you feel your employer has violated the contract, you could seek employment elsewhere.  Of course, either party may renegotiate the contract at any time. Later, we’ll talk about renegotiating your price (earning a raise), and your responsibility (getting a promotion).

By always keeping this basic contract in mind, you’ll understand your boss’ point of view better. That means you’ll be able to see what you need to do to advance in your job.

Be Positively Visible

The visual sense makes a greater impact on the brain than any other sense. Any time your employer sees you exchanging work for pay it will make him or her feel all warm and fuzzy about you. That’s called positive visibility. It’s not the same as kissing up or brown nosing. If you do it just for show, your insincerity will be the thing that shows the most. Your boss won’t be fooled by that. Be honest about the exchange and, honestly, you’ll be successful.

  1.  Be present. An employer always has the bottom line in the back of his or her mind, if not the front. When you’re present, you’re making money for the company. Your boss will notice your perfect or near perfect attendance and reward you for it.  It’s an easy way to get noticed and get ahead.
  2.  Be prompt. In fact, be early. If you get to work on time, you might spend several minutes “preparing” to work. During those minutes, you’ll be negatively visible to your boss. Get to work five minutes early and do any preparation before the shift begins. Be ready to exchange work for pay when the starting bell rings. Then you’ll be positivelyvisible.
  3.  Break into positive visibility. Leave for breaks on time and come back on time. If you don’t have assigned break times, get in the habit of taking them at the same time every day. This will show your supervisors that you’re consistent. They’ll never wonder where you are at any particular moment.
  4.  Don’t break down. But do take your breaks. The reason you have breaks is so that you can recharge your batteries. That makes you better at your job. Your boss wants you to be charged up throughout the day.
  5.  “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Baseball great Yogi Berra was right. Stay busy until it’s time to go home. It’s one of the best ways to be positively visible to your boss. It says that you’re making that fair exchange of work for pay. What if those around you are already calling it a day? That’s exactly the best time for the boss to see you working. It says that you intend to earn your paycheck. You’ll stand out in sharp contrast at that moment, and, quite possibly, when promotion time comes.
  6.  All good things come promptly to an end. Ask around and find out how the boss feels about this one. If there are some loose ends to tidy up, an employer may appreciate you staying a few extra minutes. In many cases, however, supervisors may be waiting for you to leave so they can leave. What you interpret as extra effort may be nothing more than annoying to higher-ups. You may also be violating company policy with regard to overtime and other issues.
  7.  Tempo! Be about your business when you’re at work. If you need to use the restroom or get a soda between regular breaks, do it quickly. Don’t stop to talk to everyone you see along the way. Your work station will always be your boss’s favorite place to see you.
  8.  Clothes clues. Don’t overdress, but lean toward the high end of the dress code. If the minimum standard is jeans and a T-shirt, come to work wearing jeans and a polo shirt, or khakis and a polo shirt. If you’re required to wear a skirt and blouse, show up in a dress once in a while. Or throw on a sports coat over the minimum standard dress shirt and tie. If you look just a little sharper than those around you, your boss will get the message. Be a walking advertisement for your own success.
  9.  Keep it clean. Just as your dress and grooming habits tell your boss a lot about you, so does the appearance of your work station. Keeping it neat and orderly says that’s the kind of person you are.
  10.  Give your coworkers a break in the break room. The company you work for may not have a janitor on staff all day to clean up after you. Cleaning up after yourself in the break room will make you a hit with coworkers and will let your boss know that you care about the company. It also says you can get along with others, and that you’re responsible for your actions.
  11.  The nose knows. In addition to looking good, make sure you don’t inflict any ugly smells on your boss or coworkers. You want to brag about the trout you caught on Sunday? Heating up the leftovers in the break room on Monday may not impress anyone. And choose a kinder, gentler cologne or perfume for work than you might for the club.

Win Friends, Influence Supervisors

Build a reputation as a person who’s helpful, friendly, and cares about others. It will give you more power than you can imagine. Your coworkers will want to help you. Your supervisors will want to give you raises. Your CEO may even want to promote you. Making friends on the job is not difficult. Just follow these rules.

  1.  Remember “please” and “thank you?” The fact that many people don’t, means that you’ll get noticed if you do. Be polite to everybody: supervisors, CEOs, and coworkers. Don’t be phony about it. Offer a simple greeting at the beginning of the shift and a friendly goodbye at the end. You’ll be seen as a friendly member of the work community.
  2.  Handy holidays. Use holidays to your advantage. Give cards for holidays and special events. Give treats at Halloween, or even just at random. If you work for a large company, save these special reminders of how nice you are for the people in your department or unit. But whatever you do, don’t forget your boss!
  3.  Collect interest on investments in others. Express interest in those around you. It’s one of the best ways to make them interested in you. It may also broaden your horizons. Ask others where they’re from, what they’re hobbies are, what they do for fun. If you listen sincerely to the answers, you’ll learn about people and make friends.
  4.  Generate success by being generous. Hold doors for people, offer to help them carry things, share your salad dressing with a coworker who forgot to bring some from home.
  5.  Team work will work for you. Find out from your supervisor if it’s okay to help a coworker with work when you’re caught up with your own.  If so, pitch in. Helping someone else stay on deadline will win you a friend who may do the same for you someday.
  6.  Raise your hand if you want to succeed. Volunteer for special assignments. It says volumes about you: you’re flexible, a hard worker, and eager to help bosses and the company. It might even say you’re eager to make a good impression, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
  7.  Overtime equals cash and credit. Obviously, you’ll be making more money if you volunteer for overtime, but you’ll also be earning credit. Your  supervisor will think of you as someone who’s always ready to work. When it comes time to promote someone, you’ll be among the first people he or she thinks of…