Bottom 10 Habits of Productive Employees

What sounds like a suggestion from a business magazine is actually a core mantra that is easily learned.

Nobody likes to be embarrassed, and a person that isn’t mean doesn’t like to embarrass others. Your manager, likewise, doesn’t like to be embarrassed, and unless you have a good reason to leave, doesn’t want to embarrass you, either.

If you challenge your manager in public (i.e. at a meeting), (s)he is going to be embarrassed no matter what you say. You may not be aware of it, but the fact itself you have challenged her/him is an embarrassement. If you said something correct, then (s)he will look stupid. If you said something wrong, then (s)he will have to fish for a way to correct you without making you look stupid. No real win scenario here.

Worse still: imagine accusing your neighbor of having farted at a large gathering. That’s very embarrassing for that person, regardless of whether (s)he actually farted, or it was you who did. Same thing, just about thoughts. Get it?

What would an employee do that actually wants to get something done, or done right? Go private, don’t go public first. Wait for the meeting to be over, then walk to your manager’s office, and make your point. Your manager will react one of the following ways:

  • Say: "Why didn’t you say so at the meeting?" Of course, you’ll explain how considerate you were, and everybody’s happy. Your manager will probably say you should speak up at the next meeting. Do so and check the reaction.
  • Say: "It’s too late now, we already made a decision." A weak manager, be cautious!
  • Say: "Sorry, but I don’t think you are right. Here are my reasons…" You may be right, you may not be right, but you surely avoided a rant at the meeting
  • Say: "Oh, you know, I really didn’t think about it! That’s a great idea/suggestion!" Next thing is you’ll see an announcement of the change, and you may or may not be credited with it. Contrary to popular belief, the idea thief owes you more than the honest reporter
My father used to tell me this story of when he was in college: a friend of his would detect some injustice, immediately go and rally the students, and they would all march to the dean’s hall, accusing some professor or another of having done wrong. He would get punished for sedition, and the accused would haughtily continue doing as before.

One day my father caught his friend in a combative mood, and locked him up in the room (remember, no cell phones back then!). He then went to the dean and presented a case. He may are may not have mentioned the rabble-rouser in the closet… The two struck a compromise, and everybody went home happy. The rabble-rouser was upset, but for all the wrong reasons.

Going public before going private is a good idea only if you prefer limelight to getting things done. Bear that in mind, because it’s your vanity that stands in the way of your accomplishment. And you are paid for accomplishment, not for vanity.

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