Common Sense Working

We often become so focused at work that we forget that we don’t work in a vacuum. Here are some tips I’ve mostly learned the hard way; I hope they help you avoid some missteps.

Assume nothing: when you’re given a job by your boss; for example, copying some files, and you notice that several of them are duplicates, don’t assume he/she only wants ONE copy of them. You may not have the whole picture—they may want all the copies for several people. Do what you are asked to do. If you have a question, ask –don’t assume.

Keep it professional: Remain cheerful and professional. Do your best not to take others’ attitudes to heart—you don’t know what might be going on in their lives. (Yes, I realize this is unfair, but that’s life for you.)

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot: Don’t say anything about anyone you wouldn’t want to tell them to their face. YOU WOULD BE AMAZED AT HOW INFORMATION, GOOD AND BAD, FINDS ITS WAY HOME!

Find out how your boss likes his/her information: Always find out as soon as you can whether your boss is a visual type who likes to have a paper trail of everything, get emailed on everything, etc., or one who likes to be told everything. This will save you and your boss a lot of wasted time, not to mention frustration.

Don’t waste people’s time: When you have to interrupt someone at work, make your request short, friendly, and professional. Don’t dawdle and admire their kid’s artwork or tell them you have a headache that just won’t go away. Get what you came for and GO.

Act as if: Conduct yourself at work as if those in charge are watching you on a monitor. (Perhaps they are!)

No such thing as a petty theft: There is NEVER a reason to take home office supplies for personal use–never. People have been fired for much less.

Let gossip die with you: Do not to carry tales about others. This is not only a waste of time, but it often sets false expectations in the minds of those who hear such and prejudices them against the person in question. Don’t let yourself be labeled as a gossip. Just like the playground all over again—it’s not cool to rat on someone!

Always check your work: No one is ever that good that they never make mistakes. Do not assume the copier made the copies perfectly—check them one by one yourself. Do not assume that you put the correct information in the right envelope—check it again. Double-check your work, and when in doubt, check it again. Little things left undone out of carelessness makes YOU look bad.

Who’s watching the watcher: Your boss may have taken the day off, but you won’t know if he/she assigned someone to watch your comings and goings. Don’t try to get away with something you wouldn’t do if your boss was there.

Nothing personal: This should be obvious—business phone calls and visits, unless otherwise indicated, are considered company time. Personal calls, visits, and errands and should be considered personal time. Don’t make personal calls from the office, or anything else that isn’t strictly business.

Put yourself in the caller’s shoes: Remember that as familiar as you are with your business, the person on the other end of the phone is not. They don’t know your products as well as you do, they aren’t familiar with the terminology, and they simply may not know what they want. Try to put yourself in their shoes—how do you feel when you call a company for the first time and get a snippy, impatient reception? It’s just as if you walked into a new fast-food restaurant: you are not familiar with their foods, their prices, their sizes, etc.–you’d want a little understanding.

Diffuse the anger: When someone complains, try to put yourself in their shoes. Your knee-jerk reaction might be, ‘well, it’s not MY fault!’, which is exactly NOT what the other person wants to hear. They want: 1) to be heard, 2) to hear some acknowledgement that they are heard, and most important, whether you can fix the problem or not, 3) they want to hear SOMEONE say, ‘I’m sorry you had a hard time.’ You’d be amazed at how this diffuses anger!

Diffuse the anger #2: if someone is on the phone or in your face yelling, complaining, and blaming you personally for something that went wrong, remember that it really isn’t you with whom they are angry. Each time you hear “you,” replace it immediately in your head with <name of your company>. This will save your sanity.

Cube mentality: When you work in cubicles, be aware that people can hear you at all times. Think of this before you say or do anything that may bother anyone. Try not to put your phone on speaker; this is disturbing to others. Try not to blare your radio or CD player; this is disturbing to others. Try to keep your conversations low; loud talking and laughing is disturbing to others. Get the idea?

Smells, like voices, carry: If you eat lunch at your desk, remember to properly dispose of your leftovers. Other people do not want to have to smell them all afternoon.

Cut back on the perfume: Remember that colognes, sprays, or perfumes can be overpowering to others. People around you may have allergies that can be triggered by strong scents. Please be considerate and keep it light or don’t use it at all.

By now you must be saying to yourself, ‘But what about MY rights?’ Well, here’s the thing—when you are in close proximity with others, then everyone needs to both practice and enjoy consideration. Much of this is what I used to call Common Sense, but I have since learned to my chagrin that common sense is anything but common.

Let me share with you my favorite saying: “Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.”

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