Corporate life and parties
In high school, we were invited to keggers. In college, it was BBQ’s and in corporate life, cocktail/dinner parties. There were no social expectations in high school. You showed up in a t-shirt and jeans, and if you were going to be late, the only thing you worried about was if there would still be beer when you arrived. For some, it was actually cool if you got drunk.
As you matured and graduated, the keg was replaced by BBQ’s and dinner parties. You also stepped up your social game. You arrived fashionably late, stylishly dressed, with drinks in hand. Who didn’t want to see you arrive to the party with your witty banter and dazzling smile? It was this attitude that got you invited and will make sure you remain at the top of the list for the next function. Yes, you are popular in this circle. In the words of Samuel Jackson, “I am so cool, when I come through the door, you want to see me come through again!”
Corporate Life isn’t a kegger or a BBQ where the expectation is that a least a few people (you know who they are) will have a little too much to drink and embarrass themselves or others.
Think of corporate life as a dinner party with a dress code. The invite list was thought out, there is a reason behind the seating plan, and at the end of the day, there is a goal. Everyone should have a good time. If you get drunk, embarrasses yourself or another guest, everyone’s night is shot. You won’t be invited back, and there will be plenty of gossiping long after you leave.
Corporate Life holds the same potential. Everyone should be productive, no one wants to be embarrassed, and the goal is to move the company forward. No one wants to be laid off and everyone wants to stay on the guest list.
Bring something to the party and you will be invited back. In the same way, you want to be part of a stimulating conversation at the table, you want to be part of the exchange of ideas with Corporate Life.
At a dinner party, you gain social cred by complimenting friends on their fashion statements or giving credit for a food dish they brought. Although you are the guest, you will score some major points if you step up and do the dishes or help clean up. It is not only appreciated at the dinner party, it “stands out” because no one wants to do the dirty work. It is no different at work and it is even easier to stand out at work because so few people step up. At work, setting someone else up for success, giving public credit for effort on a project, or volunteering for something that isn’t your job is the “right” thing to do. Ever notice it is the same people who stick around to help clean up???
No dinner host likes a guest that shows up late, eats, and then leaves. Your classic “hog and jog” or “eat and run”. No host wants a guest that will sit in the corner and not add to the party. I don’t know of any company that promotes or gives additional responsibility to this attitude. To stay on the dinner party guest list:
- Dress appropriately
- Bring a bottle of wine or an appetizer.
- Engage in thoughtful conversation
- Try not to embarrass anyone
- Help clean up
- Send a thank you letter. (more here: Why Thank You Letters are a MUST!)
In Corporate America, it is no different:
- Dress Appropriately
- Bring new ideas
- Discuss new ideas in a positive fashion, (avoid putting down anyone’s ideas, instead give feedback on how to make them effective)
- When mistakes are made or tough projects come up, volunteer to help fix or solve them.
- Give thanks or credit where credit is due.
Work is no different. You have a boss/host who thought about putting together a team/invite list, and they all went through an interview process. Your coworkers were hired because prior performance demonstrated during the interview is the best indicator of future performance. Think of your job offer as the “invite”.
As different projects come up, based on your personal and professional skill set, and the other players involved, you will or “will not” make the guest list. You will be asked to participate. How do you get invited back time and time again? You bring “something” to the table. The more you bring, the more you are invited back.
If you want to participate in a project, just saying you want something isn’t enough. Demonstrate behavior that makes it easy for your manager to see that you will add value.
The more you bring to your projects, your team, and your work, the more you will be invited to work on projects with greater and greater success. Some examples of “bringing something to the table”.
The absolute minimum:
Showing up on time. Showing up on time is a show of respect for other team member’s time. In a meeting of 8 people where everyone is paid 20.00 an hour, you are looking at 160.00 an hour. Show up 15 minutes late, and you just wasted 40.00. You also pissed off 7 others. If you show up to work early every day and get to meetings on time, you aren’t thought of wasting people’s time. Showing up late shows how little you respect other people’s time. Your managers will wonder if you can respect the customers time.
If you are going to be late to a dinner party, you call ahead and let the host know. Same with the meeting at work. Showing up late with a Starbucks coffee in hand is a pink slip waiting to happen. You just told everyone in the room that your coffee was more important than everyone’s time. Ten people in a meeting at 20-50 dollars an hour add up.
Develop a reputation for stepping up. Make a move son! Every department has jobs that no one likes to do. It may be presenting the findings to the group, leading the meetings, or if someone is out sick it may be taking out the trash. Be the first to volunteer for these things and you will make a name for yourself. Remember, your job isn’t your job description, it is to make your manager’s job easier.
When people are bitching about something at work, avoid adding fuel to the fire. Your manager has a hard enough time herding the cats without you making it worse. Shutting up here is good. Getting everyone to see where the manager is coming from is better. If you don’t agree with the manager bring it up with them and find out where they are coming from in private. At the end of the day, you need to support your manager. You may not like the idea personally, but professionally you need to respect the decision and then support it.
You aren’t sucking up, you are sticking out and moving your career.
Think about how you can make your manager’s job easier without spending a ton of money or asking for asking for a number of headcount. Making your manager’s job easier, is the equivalent of bringing Champagne or a great dessert to the dinner party and then sticking around afterward to help clean up.