Sunday, April 18, 2010

Getting fired - part 2

Look like a hard worker

As I explained in the previous part, it might be possible that you are a hard worker and still your boss seems to think you don't work hard enough. It's all a matter of perception. What your boss thinks is much more important than the reality.
A lousy worker can get a promotion, while a hard worker may not.
All that matters are 2 things:
  1. There have to be results.
  2. You need to look like you're working hard, regardless of the fact that you are working hard or not.
The first thing is obvious: if you don't work, there are no results. If you don't work hard enough, the results are poor. And results show up after a certain amount of time and it's the results that matter to your boss. Good results mean your boss makes more money. More money makes your boss happy.
The key here, is to make sure you get the work done in an acceptable period of time. But do not overextend your limits to impress the higher-ups. Do not let a promotion interfere with your private life or your health. After all, isn't your private life the very thing you are trying to support, by working?
So get things done within a reasonable amount of time, but let that be it.

The second one is very important for employees. I never thought about this myself, until I read an article about it (on http://www.vacature.com, but unfortunately I can't find the exact article anymore). But here's what I rememebered from it: what you can do to appear busy.

  1. Start your computer up immediately and spread some papers over your desk. Do this before getting your first coffee/glas of water.
  2. When thinking about a solution for a problem, it looks like you're not doing anything. Always have a piece of paper with you and write something down or pretend do be writing something down, whenever you're stuck. It gives you extra time to think, while still appearing busy.
  3. Always have your mail client open. Switch to the mail client and write a mail if you need to appear busy, but can't for some reason.
  4. Walk around. A lot. Go get a glass of water, don't print all information at once, do it in several times so you need to go to the printer a lot.
  5. When getting a drink or going to the toilet, always walk with a fast pace and with your shoulders slightly forward. It makes it look like your upper body is moving faster than your feet. Kinda like you're thinking fast and your body can't seem to keep up.
I'm sure you can invent more ways like this. It's an important part of work. That's something I learnt in school: it doesn't matter how well you know something, all that matters is that you can convince the teacher that you know it. That's why I really don't like exams in school. They put too much stress on you, let you work in conditions that are more difficult than in real life work situations. The result of this is, that some talented or hardworking people get bad grades, all because the stress or unrealistic conditions makes them underperform. Or they may know the theory, but have a hard time appearing like they know the answers.
It's all about perception. They say: 'Nothing is as it seems' or 'Don't judge a book by it's cover', but what manager will take the time to look under each employers cover? On a per project basis, I mean? They don't have the time for that. So it's all a matter of appearance. You need to look like someone who knows what he's doing, even though some projects might be a bit beyond your knowledge.

Be a team player

Also don't be affraid to ask questions. Don't do it by mail, but walk to the persons desk. It will make you look like a real team player and you get some help, which will improve your performance.

Don't overdo it though, you may end up looking like someone who doesn't know what he's doing. It's all a matter of balance. There's balance between work and your private life, balance between giving in on your employers wishes and those of your own, respecting the clients opinion versus respecting your own knowledge, being lazy and being a workaholic, ...
Try to find the point where you are just bearly on the positive side of the balance. It won't make you advance faster in your career, but it will keep you in your job long enough, without putting too much stress on your shoulders.

Conclusion

We have talked about being fired and the fact that you can see it coming and about what you can do to avoid it. I have also given you tips on how to look like a hard worker. But it looks like I'm gonna have to make a part 3 and probably more, because in the next post, I'll talk about another way to fix the problem and I still need to talk about how you should react in case you actually get fired.