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10 Things Every Employee Must Do

Insurance against becoming a COVID economic casualty.

No author listed, Pixnio, Public Domain
Source: No author listed, Pixnio, Public Domain

Amid COVID, many employees are feeling increased pressure to perform well lest they become a COVID economic casualty.

Here are keys to employee success that are applicable across many jobs.

Use meeting moxie. Meetings are show time, so, if not rehearse, prepare: Review the agenda and decide if there's any thinking or research you want to do or something impressive you want to say.

Tactic: At the meeting, wait until everyone has had their say on a topic. Then add something wise or synthesize, saying something like, “In light of what Mary, Juan, and David said, it would seem that we should do X. What do you think?”

Ask so ye shall receive. Yes, ask for what you want: to lead an initiative, get a promotion, whatever, but don’t let impatience make you ask prematurely. Ask when the decision-maker has praised you or at least when you sense s/he’ll be in a good mood and not preoccupied.

Conquer conflict with de-escalation. Yes, there’s the occasional time to come out with guns blazing, but far more often you’ll get your way or at least save your job by de-escalating. Here are ways to do that:

  • Find common ground. It’s often wise to begin by pointing out points of agreement. For example, if you’re about to lambast a coworker for shoddy work that reflected on you, start with something like, “You and I both care about this project and like the storytelling approach." Then tactfully point out the problem, for example, “I’m not sure that the result was all we wanted. Can you think of a way we might fix things, either for this issue, or moving forward?”
  • Look for a win-win. For example, you're annoyed that someone else was selected to lead that cool project. Perhaps you might volunteer to assist. Sometimes, the #2 person gets to be the power behind the throne.
  • Save their face. Unless the person has been ever impervious to needed self-examination, allow the person to save face, even to feel superior. For example, “You’re more intelligent than me. So I suspect you had a better reason for doing X than I’ve been able to figure out. I’m curious: What was your thinking behind that?”
  • Diffuse with humor. When the tension is too high, inject a bit of humor, even just, “It’s getting a little hot in here. Mind if I take a quick bathroom break?”
  • Let it go? Some issues aren’t worth going to battle for. Should you say, “Good point” or even ignore the issue?

Speak easy. The shortest route to competent public speaking is simply to make a list of the few talking points that your audience would most benefit from. Do whatever research or thinking is necessary for you to make those points compellingly. For example, come up with an anecdote, statistic, or implication. Then give you talk ad-lib, consulting your notes if you get stuck or lost. Scripting and memorizing is usually a prescription for failure. At a minimum, that leaches the needed chemistry from your talk, or you’ll forget your spiel, get flustered, and have a hard time recovering.

Manage your boss. Get clear on your boss’s priorities and the type of interaction s/he prefers: frequent or infrequent, concise or comprehensive, fact- or feeling-centered, flattering, neutral, or critical. The latter, alas is rare, even among managers who claim to welcome criticism.

Master office politics. Figure out where the power really resides. Then be subtle in your ingratiation. Yes, people like to be praised but do it too much and you’ll be seen as a dishonest suck-up and pay a price. It’s safer to ingratiate yourself by offering to be of assistance, for example, “I have a little extra bandwidth, so if you could use help on that project, I’d welcome your letting me know.” When there’s conflict between power players, avoid taking sides. If asked, it’s usually wise to explain that you can understand both of their perspectives.

Optimize your ongoing learning. Usually, the most efficient learning is just-in-time. When there’s something you want or need to know, Google it to find an on-target article or video, or “attend” the “Hey Joe School”--- Ask a coworker or member of an online forum. Need deeper knowledge? Try a short, highly rated webinar or online class found on LinkedIn Learning, Udemy,, Udacity, or Coursera. Or hire a tutor, perhaps a coworker or someone who teaches a class on what you want to learn, for example, that software that your organization deems mission-critical.

Network strategically. Even if your job is secure, build in a bit of networking: Perhaps participate in an online forum for people in your profession, set up occasional or even regular co-coaching sessions or, consistent with COVID restrictions, get together for a walk, meal, or drink.

Manage projects crisply. Many jobs require managing a project. Perhaps learn a project management tool such as Monday or even use Excel. The art is in estimating the necessary resources and time. Don’t be afraid to ask a more experienced person for an educated guess.

Manage people savvily. Modern management is more about gentle guidance than authoritarian ordering. That said, the good manager is crisp: knowing when to stop getting input and make a decision, and when to make a decision without input. If wise, share your reasoning to the troops.

Another key to effective people management is to recognize that one size does not fit all: Supervisees vary in their need for training, supervision, and accountability, and of course, in the sorts of tasks they’re given. If a supervisee complains about unequal treatment, respond with something like, “Each of you is an individual. My job is to treat you so as to bring out the best in each of you. That requires me to individualize.”

The takeaway

COVID or not, your career success and happiness depends not just on technical chops but on these soft but central skills.

I read this aloud on YouTube.