Living Right and Doing Well at Work

There is an expression, “right living” that means roughly being ethical in your behavior and truthful with yourself. Being happier at work is within your control and can result from “living right” at work. As an employee for over twenty years I have made all the mistakes noted in this material. Some, more than once. These mistakes combined with my human resource training, clinical background and an Al-anon program of recovery have led me to some suggestions that might help you.

It is assumed you generally perform well enough and pick the right jobs over time. This post won’t apply to someone in an abusive workplace or who are working for an abusive boss. It’s meant to help the majority of folks who work for someone else and perform reasonably well. It is certainly easier to try these principles if the workplace is healthy but ironically, they are actually more useful to reduce stress in a less-than-ideal work situation. It is in those times that one needs to monitor his/her own behavior at work. These strategies will work. You will be happier and will feel less stressed in the place where you spend the majority of your waking hours – at work.

Ten Principles to Living Right and Doing Well at Work

1. Turn in your best performance
2. Put out the energy that you want back
3. Accept what you can and can’t control
4. Take responsibility for what you do and think and say
5. Compliment others when they do well
6. Don’t take responsibility for what others do wrong
7. Accept that the owner runs the business
8. Read the political landscape – eyes wide open
9. Make suggestions to improve workplace effectiveness
10. Stay long enough to make a contribution

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

1. Turn in your best performance

Your paycheck is compensation/exchange for helping the company. It’s an implied agreement. Working within your framework come to work everyday doing your best to understand your job, know what you are accountable for and work toward the company’s goals. Stay knowledgeable about your industry. Read the news, research techniques and ask questions. Learn about what your coworkers are responsible for so you can see how your work fits into the bigger picture. This may also include helping others do well at their jobs too, when you can.

2. Put out the energy you want back

The golden rule is cheesy but it does apply. Put out the positive perspective you would want if you owned the company. When everything around you is going to hell in a hand basket, focus on the little things that went well for you. Don’t get involved in gossip. Don’t talk negatively about co-workers or the boss. You don’t have to avoid co-workers who do gossip and you don’t have to get them to stop (I know it’s tempting). Try acknowledging the struggles they talk about, be sympathetic but stop short of agreeing, and say you have things to get back to. I have experienced toxic coworkers who read my silence as agreement so I simply indicate that my experience has been different but I understand they are struggling. “Great boots (scarf, suit, hat, sweater, etc.), gotta go” and move on, smiling.

3. Accept what you can and can’t control

You can control literally: what you do and think and say, period. People burn out when they try to control the uncontrollable. If you are working harder to get someone to change their behavior than they are working themselves, that’s the signal. Wait, “Am I in charge of what this person says, does, or thinks?” The answer is no, no, no. You are not the boss of the world. Your judgments about what others should do (unless you get paid to do this-coaches, etc.) are YOUR vision, YOUR ideas, YOUR life plan, not theirs. Leave others to the natural consequences of their choices. When they ask or if the opportunity presents itself provide observations, suggest available choices and give them encouragement to find their own way. This does not apply to supervisors who must judge and evaluate the performance of others. That’s a whole different article.

4. Take responsibility for what you do and think and say

When you do or say things that hurt others or that put up barriers to achieving business goals (i.e., offending a customer), admit it, apologize if necessary and move on. You can choose to acknowledge the event, learn from it and improve or you can choose a less effective course, say: A., Pretend it didn’t happen, B., Blame others, or C., Go on and on about your shame, humiliation and worthlessness. Your co-workers will quickly see which style represents your ongoing approach. If taking a reasonable perspective on your own mistakes is difficult for you (it is for many) you might need either an AA or Al-anon meeting. Those who are familiar with these models will understand my point.

5. Compliment others when they do well

People naturally gravitate to those who support them to feel good about themselves. In addition, when a person (meaning you) feel good about yourself, it’s not threatening to give credit to others when it is deserved. This is both fair and right. Never take credit for what others do right. If you are living right and doing well, others will notice and even if they don’t, you’ll be a better, happier person.

6. Don’t take responsibility for what others do wrong

While you don’t have to shame others you can allow others to sit with or in situations they create for themselves. This is how we learn to change. If you touch the hot stove and get burned, you learn. If someone puts their hand between yours and the burner, they get burned and you get off scot-free. If you rescue others too often, they will not learn and you will quickly fatigue. We all know people who blame themselves for everything that goes wrong. It’s tedious and it’s not helpful to a well-run workplace. What I do when a co-worker is feeling badly about a mistake is acknowledge they made a mistake and tell share when I’ve made mistakes too. Help them focus on the future and encourage them to move on.

7. Accept that the owner runs the business

Everyone thinks they know better than the real boss. The owner is the owner, not you. An employer has a right to run his/her business as they please. It may not be “fair,” or “right,” but it’s life. I’m not saying you should work for a jerk but over time, owners who respect employees and run a healthy workplace will do better. This is the natural consequence. Conversely, those who are abusive to employees or allow employees to intimidate one another will suffer unproductive turnover. It is not your responsibility to speed things up or to change the outcome. Your job is to decide if you want to work there. You might be able to achieve small improvements by giving professional feedback but be realistic. If things are very negative look for work elsewhere and let the owner suffer his/her own natural consequences.

8. Read the political landscape – eyes wide open

If there is one mean person in the office that no one seems to “take on,” watch and listen to see why that is. Maybe this employee is someone’s romantic partner. Maybe this person is a toxic ringleader with mad retaliation skills. Don’t get hung up on how this is so wrong or unfair. Yes, it’s unfair but this is the reality. Work within your frame-work to turn in your best performance. If this dynamic prevents you from do well in this job, start looking for work elsewhere. You can certainly confront these individuals and it is possible that something might change for the better but it is more likely that you will make yourself a target. AND you are not responsible for rescuing coworkers from this behavior or saving the business from it’s own poor lack of attention to negative employee behavior. That is a lot of heavy lifting. Chances are many other people have tried and failed. Identify the informal power leaders.

9. Make suggestions to improve workplace effectiveness.

If the business does better, everyone benefits. Providing feedback at work is a part of every person’s job. The trick is to know when to speak up, with the right motives. If you constantly complain about the things you can’t control or the things that make it hard for you, people will stop listening. If you provide professional, well-timed (and not too often) suggestions that will improve things for everyone or a whole department, people start viewing you as a valuable asset with good ideas.

10. Stay long enough to make a contribution

Human resource professionals do not like job hoppers. Yes, you can explain that you had a personality conflict with your boss if this happens at one out of five of your last jobs. If there is a personality conflict with every boss in the last three jobs perhaps you are in the wrong field OR you need to do some personal improvement work.

Contact the author with questions or comments.
Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed