Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How to be a Good Employee Introduction and Chapter 1

How to Be A Good Employee

The vast inventories of thousands of booksellers in cities around the world are replete with self-help business books promising three or more easy steps to being an excellent manager or manage like Jesus for success, or the management secrets from the dungeons of some mythical school of magic. All it takes is a quick perusal of the many tomes to see that one vital segment of business is completely ignored. (“Tomes” is probably overdoing it a little – most of these volumes are less than 200 pages and are littered with bullet points – perhaps because managers think in PowerPoint.) I think it is significant what one does not find. There are no books offering bullet-pointed guidance to the one person that makes or breaks a company, a community, or a country. There are no books to help the employee be the kind of employee a manager needs for success.

Let’s face it, management techniques – even those practiced by seasoned and successful managers – can only do so much and really only motivate employees who generally need no motivation. If I take exception to self-help management books that promise success if only one manages like Jesus or more profits because one approaches his team like the Dali Lama, it is this: they should be titled accurately, at least, perhaps something like these fictional examples would be more appropriate.

6 Easy Steps to Make Your Self Motivated Employees Feel Good About Themselves

Harry Potter’s Secrets to Convincing Your Good Employees to Tolerate the Idiots They Work With

Dilbert’s Guide to Preventing Work Place Violence (Good Employees Should Not Kill the Bad Ones)

This, then, is my humble attempt at creating a self-help book for those employees who seem to always be in trouble; always on the cusp of another written counseling or being placed on a performance improvement plan. This is my contribution to help the team wreckers, the unpopular customer dis-satisfiers, the always late and frequently absent employees who diminish productivity, sow discord, and constantly find themselves in a whirlwind of pressure and paper work. This is dedicated to Them.

• Throughout this book I’ve insisted on using the traditional ‘he’ pronoun for brevity. I do not intend to imply that managers are always men or employees should only be ‘men’. I am just old fashioned and typing he/she is laborsome.

Table Of Contents

Chapter 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . Attendance (Yes one ought to be there when one is scheduled)

Chapter 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . Spade and Barrow (Things one should not say to one’s boss)

Chapter 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . King Makers Not Welcome (No, you are not in charge)

Chapter 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . It Flows Up-Hill (Explanations are nice, but not always practical)

Chapter 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . Until it Hurts (Passive-Aggressive behavior is just plain stupid)

Chapter 6. . . . . . . . . . . . There is No I in T.E.A.M. (But there is a ME)

Chapter 7. . . . . . . . . . . . Munchausen By Proxy (Applaud Me for Clearing up the Mess I Made)

Chapter 8. . . . . . . . . . . . The Mask (Clock-in, Don the Mask, Clock-out, Doff the Mask)

Chapter 9. . . . . . . . . . . . Work for An Excellent Organization (warning: double entendre)

Chapter 10. . . . . . . . . . . The 40 Hour Paradox (You are not guaranteed forty hours a week)

Chapter 11. . . . . . . . . . . Once One Takes the Step (the road back is tougher than the road forward)

Chapter 12. . . . . . . . . . . How to Get Fired with Grace and Dignity

Chapter 1

Attendance (Yes one ought to be there when one is scheduled)

“The biggest fool in the world is he who merely does his work supremely well, without attending to appearance.” – Michael Korda

Be there when you are supposed to be there; leave when you are supposed to leave – if for no other reason than to present the illusion that you are in control, serious about the job you have been given, and feel that you are an important part of the team.

Some of us leave home 15 minutes earlier than we, perhaps, need to for everything. Whether we are going to the movies, a dinner with friends, or a doctor’s appointment, the courtesy of being on time (or the fear of being late) drives us to arrive a little early, even if it means we have to wait a few minutes in our cars or in the lobby; even if it means we are always waiting on those who have no fear of being late, or those whom regard courtesy as an ancient custom no longer applicable to modern man.

Some of us, however, are perpetually late. I thought about dividing the perpetually late into two categories – those who do their job well and those who, when they do decide to show up don’t even have that going for them. But, in reality, businesses have held timely attendance separate from job function for too long. A recurring theme in this text, should you decide to stick with me until the end, is that everything an employee does is connected to overall job function and performance. Timely attendance has a profound effect on job performance, customer satisfaction, and staff morale.

When you are there with the rest of the team you are showing them that you are all in this together. You’ve got their back and they’ve got yours. Nothing wreaks havoc within a team more than one member of the team rarely being where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there. Soon every member of the team perceives that the outlier is being treated differently than they are. Within six months of this kind of behavior, every member of the team will be setting their own schedule or completely pissed off at everyone else. The true victim in this situation is the customer. If your own teammates can’t count on you then your customer can’t either.

Being on time has other benefits beyond customer satisfaction and team morale. Remember that pay raise you asked for? Remember the recognition you did not get? Remember that new efficiency your boss was trying to get approved that most surely would make your job easier? Well, if your manager has to spend too much time tracking your attendance he will not have the time to lead your organization to new levels of efficiency and he definitely is not working to be more profitable so he can pay you more money. I’ve seen one person completely derail a project that would have put more money in all of his team-mates pockets simply because the manager had to spend too much time tracking attendance, producing paper work, and counseling.

Most companies detest overtime. The reason? They can’t control it, report it in advance, or accurately budget for it, even if it is based on sales or production estimates – it is still an estimate. Additionally, overtime wears you out. One of the ways a perpetually tardy or absent employee “evens out” their weekly hours is to volunteer overtime work whether it is truly needed or not, claiming to work from home, or actually adjusting their schedule if they do have to work overtime. Meanwhile, the person that works overtime to fill in hours or fails to show up the next shift because overtime wore them out, wears out their coworkers and teamwork and morale suffer.

Ask many employees and they will tell you that their boss has no soul. Ask many bosses and they will tell you that the reason for this is that their employees have slowly killed it over time. I tend to agree with the bosses on this one. Many of my peers in the management world appear to be soulless vampires sucking the remaining life out of their employees. However, as is the trend in modern entertainment with empathetic blood suckers in the movies, I understand that the vampirism of many managers has been developed by years of employees turning them to the darkside through the invocation of the human story into their excuses for absenteeism. Enough of the humanity. A valid excuse for an absence is good as far as it goes. Embellishing an excuse with the sordid details of how the world is out to get you or how you are up against the greatest odds may prick a little compassion in the soul of your manager but eventually the number of times you have to give an excuse will outweigh the validity of the excuse. Eventually the manager won’t believe anything you tell them and he becomes tired of or immune to the feelings of compassion that an employee tries to create in him; hence the appearance that the boss is a member of the ranks of the undead. By this time, however, your credibility is pretty much shot. A good manager will intensify his scrutiny of your attendance and the leeway he may have shown in the past will disappear. This makes him seem even more soulless.

Enough lecture? – here are your 6 bullet points for Self-Help Attendance Excellence

• Being there when you are supposed to has a positive effect on the cohesiveness of the team

• If you are always a few minutes late – leave earlier. Your manager should not be responsible for what happens in your life before or after work, and your manager, if he is worth his weight, will not accommodate a new schedule to help you get there – that’s special treatment no one else gets. The bottom line? Be at work when you are supposed to. That’s it. No further hints necessary.

• If you get overtime the night before – do not self adjust your schedule “to help” reduce your company’s overtime or to recover from the personal strain a late night may have on you. Do not leave early or come in later to offset overtime hours. Give your manager the courtesy of making these decisions for himself.

• Even if you have a good excuse for being late or for an absence, eventually the quality of the excuse no longer comes into play. The quantity of excuses will eventually catch up to you. Besides, there is some truth to the old saying, “An excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” Too many excuses and a manager begins to doubt your honesty. And rightly so.

• Do not make a habit of appealing to the humanity of your manager in the excuses you provide for absences or tardies. This sucks the life out of him and he will eventually turn into the monster you’ve always dreaded he would be.

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