Office Diaries

An insider's guide to success in the workplace

Go from Surviving to Thriving at Work

Jump the biggest hurdles at work.

It is true. We learn from our mistakes - hopefully -- eventually. But sometimes, often times in fact, it takes a string of the same mistake for us to finally "get it." The problem in the workplace is that time is not on our side. We are placed on a track that, for the most part, follows a certain path that has others running along side us. That makes the margin for error less forgiving and the need for a short and shallow learning curve a pressing one.

What's interesting is that after a few years in the workplace, or decades as the case may be, we become socialized in much the same way society shapes us as children. Mirroring our formative years, professional development teaches us how to behave in the workforce the way we were taught how we are supposed to behave as adults in the broader context of life. We observe, we learn, we fall, we get back up, we take our lumps, follow orders and adapt to the behaviors modeled for us, all the while being governed by authority, assumed and not necessarily earned.

Now, while nothing can take the place of experience, there are some ways to get ahead of the curve and shorten the agonizing distance between learning and doing.

First and foremost is communication, because let's face it, without it, nothing gets done. So, if you can improve your ability to be clear with people, you will be leaps and bounds ahead of those who can't or won't. Let people know where you stand and where they stand too. You'll not only put yourself on a course to being understood better, but you'll also ensure that you never get caught in that weird no-one-knows-what's-going-on space. Beyond that though, it enables you to speak for yourself and navigate your way clearly and effectively through your organization and career.

Don't take things personally, which means stop yourself from reading into something and infusing it with the distortion of your own lens. It won't help you and the chances are better than probable that you're wrong anyway.

Stay out of other people's business. This only leads to trouble as you appear to be someone who is not focused on the job at hand and not professionally mature enough to draw the appropriate boundaries. So, rise above it.

Be nice to people. This does not mean that you should try to be liked because that only adds more dysfunction to an already dysfunction-prone environment. It means be nice - cordial, courteous, thoughtful and aware of others. You don't want to be the downer in the office, walking around with a negative attitude. It will only alienate people and eventually relegate your presence to a place where no one else wants to be. Not a good career move.

Finally, at the risk of stating the obvious, you must also perform well in your job. This requires being in a role that plays to your strengths, having the skills to get the job done and doing it in a way that not only allows you to contribute value to the business and organization but enables you to showcase your ability and shine.

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Donna Flagg is the author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations and a New York City-based dancer.

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