Just Being At Work Isn’t Enough

When an employer is paying you for work you’ve agreed to do in exchange for that income, they’ve got every right to expect you’ll not only actually show up, you’ll also be productive when you’re there. And believe me, there are many people who have a good attendance record but fail to really do much work.

I’m sure you’ve see these people; they might be the kind of people who are lying low, keeping to themselves. They could just as well be the ones who are always walking around, popping in for a chat all around the office; never very long with any one person, but add up all their visits and they waste more time socializing with their colleagues than doing the work they’re paid to do.

Some organizations have productivity targets; ways to measure an employee’s success. They might even go so far as increasing those same quotas and targets if and when an employee reaches those goals. So when you’re new and relatively inexperienced or learning on the job, your targets might be lower than those who have seniority and a wealth of experience. The longer you’re with a company, the more their expectations rise, until you get to the point where you’ve reached what the organization deems your working capacity.

If you’ve ever worked in a commission environment, you’ll understand this model. The sales targets each person has is largely determined based on experience level, with newer employees expected to sell fewer units than well-seasoned workers. If those targets never went up, sales staff would potentially become complacent; never reaching their full potential, and of consequence, the company wouldn’t sell as many products or sell the number of products they’d like. Now while commission sales isn’t for everyone, you get the model. Some people love commission sales; they can determine their own income based on the energy they put out and the more they hustle the more they make.

In many work environments, work isn’t commissioned based. The expectation employer’s have however remains consistent. Come in, do what you’re getting paid to do and at the end of the day, ensure you’ve given your best and repeat this the next day and every day. If and when you’re not working at work; not being as productive as your employer deems is required, you will find your services are no longer required. They may tell you things just aren’t working out; pretty much as saying, “You’re not working out.”

While this can be difficult to hear, sometimes being released from a job where you’re not working out can be a good thing. Without that push out the door, you might not have left voluntarily, and you’d have been trapped for a long time perhaps in a job that was a poor fit for your interests and your skills. Many a person has been fired or let go only to find a much more satisfying job doing something else for another employer. Looking back, many will claim losing their job was the best thing that happened to them; although at the time it wasn’t so great!

So, when you’re at work, be productive. You should know what it is you’re expected to do and you should spend your time doing that work to the best of your ability. If you get to the point where you’re not really being mentally stimulated and this is important to you, you can talk to others in the organization about additional work or relocating to another area. This might be identified as cross-training; learning another job in addition to the first one you’ve mastered. This cross-training makes you more of an asset to the organization because you can be pulled from one job to work in another if and when someone is absent or demand for productivity increases in an area outside of your typical job. It can also help make you an asset worth keeping around if and when layoffs occur.

The one person in the organization – any organization by the way, who knows if you’re not working up to your full capabilities is yourself. Now, we all have a day here and there where our minds are elsewhere; we just can’t focus or work near as hard for some reason and as a result our productivity drops. A day here and there is one thing, but if you find those days are becoming more and more frequent – perhaps to the point of becoming the norm, this is a huge sign to change things up. If you read the signs and do something about the situation before others notice, good for you. But if you ignore the warning signs, you might find yourself brought in for a chat about your performance, put on some kind of probation or at worse, released.

As you’re reading this piece on being more than just present at work, is it speaking to you directly? I mean, do you see yourself being described; not really invested in the work anymore, and spending more energy at work trying to look busy than actually being busy? If so, heed the reason behind the symptoms. In other words, it might be time to move on, ask for additional responsibilities or even a change in work completely but remain with the same employer.

Continuing to miss or waste time at work is a warning sign you can’t afford to ignore.


“There’s A Dead Guy In The Cubicle Next To Me!”

“Well okay, he looks dead anyhow; I haven’t seen him move for days.”

You and I had best hope that dead body look-alike someone is frantic about isn’t you. If so, your days might be numbered. Sooner or later, if you’re hiding out behind that baffle board doing precious little, someone is going to figure they can do without you on the payroll.

Now okay you might not be mistaken for a corpse, but if you think you’re fooling those around you when you’re not being productive, it’s only a matter of time until you’re found out and your productivity is called into question. The cobwebs in your cubicle are also a dead giveaway that not much is going on.

Some employees are pretty good at smoke and mirrors aren’t they? I mean they tend to move with purpose when they are observed walking around the office; even if upon further inspection it’s only to the bathroom or the company kitchen to grab yet another coffee. Once back in the relative sanctity of their cubicle however, they drop the façade and move at a glacial snails pace as they go about their day. Such employees do just enough to get by, contribute very little and try to stay beneath the radar of Management scrutiny until they are released into the world after work.

Now let’s stop and think about this behaviour for a moment. When you were setting out in your early years of adulthood; when you had ambition and dreams, wanted to make your mark in the world, surely you didn’t methodically plan to spend your days idly daydreaming and doing the bare minimum. Hopefully you set out to do something you personally found meaningful and rewarding. So the question is, “Where did that person go?”

Something over time has occurred that has you mechanically going through the motions of going to and from work each day and you’ve lost your motivation. You may be more than aware of this change but for some reason you can’t seem to ignite that passion anymore for the work you do and the people you do it for. As much as you’d like to kick start the fire, you’re oblivious as to how to go about it.

Heed the signs sons and daughters. Continuing down the path you’re on isn’t going to be healthy or end on a positive. Either  you find something to stimulate yourself at work in a positive way that ups your productivity and usefulness on the job or someone will do you and the company a favour and start the proceedings to end your employment. Put plain as day, you either start working and producing at your former level or better, or you’re going to get fired.

I know some people who dogged it; coming and going without any passion. They once showed enthusiasm for the job and now they only show enthusiasm for the last 20 minutes of the day and are sitting with their coat on with 5 minutes left each day, ready to squeal away in the parking lot putting as much distance behind them as fast as they can each night. On their own they’d never have quit or worked productively again and eventually they did get fired. Oddly enough, getting fired was the best thing for some of them and they’d readily tell you that – even though at the time they didn’t believe it.

There are among us those who are proactive and those who are reactive. The proactive people think ahead, update their resumes even when they aren’t looking for work and they’ve got plans for advancement or change. The reactive types only update resumes when they are out of work, and only think about career planning when they are forced to by the changes and pressures they experience in their lives.

“Why”, they would say, “should I bother to update my resume when I’ve got a job and I’m not looking for another one?” They figure they can always update that resume when they decide to go for another job inside or outside the organization, but because they have no date in mind, they figure they’ve got all the time they need. When it comes to taking courses, updating expired certificates or skills, once again they smirk and say, “Why bother?”

Another thing to consider is that if you aspire in any way to advance in the organization you work with now, you should be visible and for the right reasons long before you dust off your resume and apply for a new job. You don’t want to be invisible and have your boss say, “Do you still work here?” when you finally get motivated and want to be interviewed for a promotion.

One last thing and it has to do with your co-workers. Co-workers often pick up cues from their peers quickly. If you’re not picking up your share of the load and you should be, you’ll only have yourself to blame if you feel isolated from the rest. Worse case scenario is that they resent your presence because their workloads increase; and ultimately word will get passed to Management. Don’t blame them if they’re doing their job and picking up your slack too. That’s not fair and certainly it’s going to become more difficult for you to regain their trust and respect.