There are books and discussion all about how to succeed in the workplace. Flexibility and doing extraordinary things can be amazing for a career. This is a different approach. Before you can become the most awesome employee ever, you need to make sure you don’t unexpectedly find yourself in the precarious situation of being dismissed, let go, fired. You don’t want to be the Gone Girl.
Lifeguards at Work
Have you or your friends had that hot mess moment? You know, someone watches a makeover show (anywhere from home design to garden makeover to hair color) and tries to do it. They don’t know the TV shows have a budget and editing. It’s a kind of entertainment induced delusion.
The same sort of ignorance of what happens on film has made us stupid, with respect to drowning. People actually drowning are not thrashing and crying for help. Drowning is quiet to observers. The drowning person cannot stay at the surface of the water long enough to cry for help. The body goes straight and bobs up and down. The eyes go glassy from lack of air. There is a stillness.
That same stillness is often present when people are metaphorically “drowning” at work. It’s quiet. Someone out of their depth, beyond their capability is not yelling, help me, I’m in trouble, I have no idea what I am doing.
Have a “lifeguard” at work. Lifeguards are people you trust and have permission to have the difficult conversions with you. Ensure your lifeguard recognizes the signs when you are out of your depth. If you know what your signs are, share them. Don’t assume your colleagues will take on this role without permission or an advance discussion. Yes, this isn’t exactly easy either. However, you have better chance of success when you have a basic safety plan in place. The truth is, it is easier to be a passerby than to get involved. If you want to save yourself, designate your lifeguard.
Make a Point
You have that friend that seems to be conversationally stunted and unable to complete a sentence. Because the person is a friend, you don’t embarrass him or her and say what’s your point? These are the conversations where you have to infer context. The same happens in the workplace. Most rules of business etiquette prevent your coworkers from asking what’s you point, but because they aren’t your friends, they are not going to try to interpret what you are saying.
We have all sat in a meeting, or lecture where someone asks a rambling question about and we are all thinking, what is your point. Don’t be “that” person. Articulate your question in your head before you speak. Spare the rest of us. If more information is needed, a discussion will follow. Lead with your ask.
Your communication should alter a mood, change behavior or inform about something of interest. Your point should be obvious. Don’t make us work trying to figure out your ask. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
You are getting ready to go out with a limited amount of time. You have a list of things you need to do, shave, shower and dress. Each of these things have tasks related to them and there is a certain order you have to follow. It’s obvious to us, you wouldn’t dress and then shower. It’s no different for work.
Look at the things you have been assigned to do. What is the priority? Write it up the priorities and get them validated. The quickest way to become Gone Girl is not to do something that has high priority when you were the one assigned to it.
That’s it. Avoid communication failures. Have your lifeguards, be able to make a point and understand your priorities. From a solid base you can begin to make yourself invaluable and get career longevity,