'Advice' That Doesn’t Apply
Have you ever watched a co-worker refuse to stop doing something that clearly wasn’t working? Or clung to a plan that seemed tight at first but quickly unraveled? Some people keep plugging away out of pride or ignorance when it would be best to cut their losses and try a new approach. It’s the old "winners never quit" philosophy — and while it may work to motivate easily distracted Little Leaguers, it’s counterproductive on the job.
Sometimes conventional wisdom or proverbs that apply to other situations in life don’t make sense in the workplace — and often end up hurting your career. Here are four adages to ignore in the workplace and how to forge your own path instead.
My Work Will Speak for Itself
"If we are each experts in our own arena, we make our work look easy," says Darcy Eikenberg, an executive and workplace coach and founder of Red Cape Revolution. For instance, superiors may be impressed by your finished company newsletter, but they probably don’t realize the 50 steps it took to get there. While your work products should be a positive reflection on you, they can’t speak for you.
Overcome it: To be successful, professionals must learn how to talk about their accomplishments and the effort that went into them, Eikenberg says. For instance, rather than simply taking on a new project and presenting the end result, find ways to keep supervisors informed about the steps that are involved in the process, such as sharing a project timeline or process document.
When co-workers or supervisors ask about what you’re working on, resist the urge to keep quiet and avoid talking about yourself; answer their questions openly and enthusiastically explain what you’re working on. Productive workers who are occupied with their tasks may not flag the attention of leaders, so finding opportunities to discuss the work you’ve completed and the skills involved is vital. Those opportunities could be during your annual review or in casual conversations with superiors — but be judicious; don’t develop a reputation for tooting your own horn constantly. Here’s more on how to talk a big game at work.
Emotions Have No Place in the Workplace
While women’s emotions are sometimes discussed in the workplace with an eye roll, career experts say emotion does belong in the workplace. "The heart has its own wisdom [such as] the greater good and the long-term picture," says Nancy Franz, a Denver-based career coach with Transitions Career Coaching. "The recent economic troubles were a direct result of leaving the heart out of the conversation."
Overcome it: Rather than pretending to be emotionless at work, focus on harnessing the truths of your emotions to bring more clarity to your work. And remember, "getting emotional" doesn’t just mean crying — it can mean righteous anger, sentimentality, empathy, guilt or excitement. "When the wisdom of the heart is added to the brilliance of the brain, amazing things can happen," Franz says.
It’s Not Personal, It’s Business
People often use this adage to assuage their guilt for doing something unfeeling, but it’s not a reliable approach to work. That’s because for those who do a good job, “work is personal,” Eikenberg says. “When we don’t care, we get into all sorts of issues.”
Overcome it: Start by realizing that if you’re going to do a good job, your work has to be personal. It should be something you care about and you shouldn’t have to pretend you don’t. However, if you find that your feelings are often getting hurt at work or by those who work with you, consider making a change. That may mean taking a step back to consider why you’re taking things so personally and even trying to distance yourself from the painful situation. Or perhaps a discussion with your superior or co-workers is in order to determine how to capitalize on your personal investment in the workplace without making it painful.
There is No 'I' in ‘Team’
In many professions, it is important to work as a team with your co-workers. But the sports adage can only take you so far, because it’s unlikely that your team will receive bonuses, promotions or additional job offers as a unit — those are given out individually. Rather than avoiding opportunities to promote your own skills and hiding behind your team, take the initiative to be your own individual at work.
Overcome it: Eikenberg encourages her clients to “brag without being a drag,” noting that it’s OK to talk about yourself and be proud of your contributions. “We sometimes think nobody wants to hear about what we’re doing well,” she says. “But people like to hear what’s going well because we all spend so much time hearing about what’s not going well.”