I once worked in a company where incompetent employees who came to work on time were preferred to those who were better at their work but came in 5 minutes late. While that might sound crazy, companies can have hugely different cultures and values depending on who’s on top.
It can be hard to know whether your boss is going to care more about the fact that you’re taking the initiative to contribute to the company, or whether you put his name first on the CC list. Wearing a suit and tie can be met with nods of approval at one company, and make you look like you’re going for a job interview on the sly at another.
But no matter where you work and no matter what the company culture at your job is like, it’s safe to say that there are a couple of good habits that can win you a reputation as that all round awesome guy anywhere.
1. Be responsive to clients
There’s nothing more frustration than sending an email to a business that’s earning your money, only to have to wait days for a response. Busy professionals often just don’t have the time to answer all the emails in their inboxes on time. After all, their focus is on getting the job done, not being a customer service representative for the company.
Ironically, what clients often remember most is how responsive a company or employee is. Even if an employee isn’t able to find the solution to my problems, if he calls me back within an hour or two and is polite and sharp, I’m left with the impression that he’s doing a great job, and would think of him in future if I had something he could actually help me with.
Being responsive and handling clients in an effective manner can go a long way towards boosting your reputation at work—regardless of the actual work you’re actually doing. You might be just average, but you’ll leave a big impression regardless. And since everyone’s always complaining about how bad customer service is in Singapore, upping your game will really help you stand out. So carve out regular intervals in your day to return calls and reply to emails, and try to sound cheerful even if the only thing on your mind is the number of hours till 6pm.
2. Give credit where it’s due
Most employees are aware of the need to claim credit where it’s due, which is why there’s so much wayang behaviour going on at some offices, with workers constantly sending repetitive and unnecessary emails back and forth and ccing their boss just so it looks like they’re doing lots of work.
But fewer employees know how to give credit where it’s due—especially when it’s due to their subordinates. In fact, I’ve even observed instances where supervisors in middle and upper management stole the credit from their subordinates in an effort to make themselves look better to those at the top.
While stealing credit from your subordinates might help you gain recognition in the short-term, in the long-run it reduces company loyalty and increases the turnover rate, something I’ve witnessed time and again at the companies I’ve worked in. Having to constantly retrain your subordinates and get used to a new team makes it hard to excel at your job, and also makes you look like a bad manager.
3. Never stop learning
Let’s face it, some people are more talented than others, as anyone who’s been upstaged by some whiz kid fresh grad knows. But most companies don’t need to hire rocket scientists—they want employees who are constantly improving, no matter what their starting point. It’s when employees stop learning and their progress stagnates that their yearly salary increments start to look like a bad deal for the company.
In the early years, there’s a lot to learn even if you don’t go looking for extra challenges, but once you’ve been on the job for a couple of years, you start to work on autopilot. And when the company thinks it’s gotten all it will ever get out of you, that’s when you’re at a higher risk of being made redundant.
Singaporeans need to stop being so afraid of failure that they stop trying to improve at their jobs. In many SMEs, it’s not uncommon to see senior employees who have given up trying to improve and survive just because they’ve been there so long. But with SMEs struggling to boost productivity in a slowing economy, those easy days might soon be at an end.
What good habits do you think you’ve cultivated at work? Tell us in the comments!