Help me put my best foot forward at work
September 5, 2010 8:53 PM   Subscribe

What is your personal code of conduct at work? What are the things you learned over the years about the do's and don'ts at work, irrespective of the industry you are in?

I have read this but I am more interested in knowing your personals rules at work- things that you consciously and actively do/don't do at work, things you consciously and actively say/dont say at work. How was your conduct when you got your first real job, what was the impression others at work got about you and if it was not as positive as you would have liked, what are the things you did to change it?
posted by xm to Work & Money (89 answers total) 207 users marked this as a favorite
If you go to someone's office to talk to them or ask them a question, wait until they've finished what they are doing and look up at you before you start talking. It's rude to interrupt and a lot of people can't multi-task well enough to actually hear the first part of what you have to say.
posted by kthxbi at 8:58 PM on September 5, 2010 [13 favorites]

Never discuss politics. No matter what your politics are, the instant you open your mouth about them, the half of your coworkers who disagree with you will assume you're an idiot.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:00 PM on September 5, 2010 [21 favorites]

Don't make decisions when you're angry. Especially if you're angry at someone. In fact, whenever you are angry at someone, do as little as possible before calming down.

Interact as little as possible with the drama-prone.
posted by griphus at 9:00 PM on September 5, 2010 [13 favorites]

I find that when someone really pisses me off, it's almost always more productive to wait a day and cool off before you talk to them about it.
posted by Menthol at 9:00 PM on September 5, 2010

Put your manager between you and crazy, early and often, as many times as required until crazy gets the idea.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:01 PM on September 5, 2010 [18 favorites]

No matter how ridiculous the request or assignment, I make a good-faith effort to complete it.

No matter how distorted timelines may become due to mismanagement, I continue working on all of my tasks, one sub-task at a time.
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:07 PM on September 5, 2010

Show up on time.

Every day.

Sometimes with donuts.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:09 PM on September 5, 2010 [25 favorites]

Never ever criticize someone's work in public, or force them to admit they did something wrong in front of subordinates. All criticism should be done in private -- or, rather, never in front of subordinates, and in front of as few people as possible.
posted by shamash at 9:10 PM on September 5, 2010 [8 favorites]

I should add a corollary to my previous comment -- giving people credit for their parts of projects or a job well done can be a morale booster for everyone if done in public (at the end of a meeting, etc.), and it makes (some) people want to work with you, because they know you'll make sure they get the credit they deserve.
posted by shamash at 9:13 PM on September 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

Dress and attitude go a long way. Probably further than productivity...
posted by WhiteWhale at 9:13 PM on September 5, 2010 [8 favorites]

Never reply to an email when you're angry.

Your co-workers are never wrong. They might be trying to get to a different result than you might like, but they (generally) have the best interest of your company/division/team in mind. Try to find the answer that suits you both.

Don't take it personally when people don't like you.
posted by elcainos at 9:14 PM on September 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Be willing to do the crap work.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:15 PM on September 5, 2010

I've said this before, but: be pleasant. Being smart can help your career. Being assertive can help your career. But the one thing to always do is to be pleasant. Get along with people. The people who get invited to things are the people who will get along with people there. When I'm stressed because I'm so busy, I have to be particularly careful to take a deep breath and be pleasant.
posted by salvia at 9:15 PM on September 5, 2010 [9 favorites]

Never point fingers. If I'm working on a team, I try to never say "Joe broke that" or "Joe didn't get that done yet." Always, "we broke that" or "it didn't get done yet."

Now I just need to find a team where even one other person follows this rule.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:16 PM on September 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Don't discuss politics or religion. There's a time and place for those things, and it's not at the office.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:17 PM on September 5, 2010 [8 favorites]

First in, last out.
Sooner or later the crazy will always come out.
Stay out of drama.
Take the initiative.
Silence is often louder than words.
Managers don't manage; they lead. Be a leader. Lead with your actions. Actions speak louder than words. Even silent words (see above).
If you don't like the way someone makes the coffee make it yourself.
Never drink office coffee.
Never pass up a free beer.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:18 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't gossip, and keep far away from people who like to.
posted by shinyshiny at 9:26 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

If your boss tells you to do something stupid, clarify it in writing and then do it really well. When it fails, it should be clear that you did exactly what your boss asked you to do.

Mr Vita taught me that.
posted by vitabellosi at 9:31 PM on September 5, 2010 [18 favorites]

Take responsibilty for your mistakes, then do what you have to to fix them.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:32 PM on September 5, 2010 [5 favorites]

Never open your mouth about a confidence someone has told you. Never. If people know you keep your mouth shut, they will tell you everything. Even things they aren't supposed to, or could get them in trouble if people found out they told you. Especially then.

Know where your loyalties should lie, and make sure those people know it.

Never go over your boss's head. You might win that battle, but you will lose the war.

Bribing people with food goes further than compentence alone, but bribery and compentence are a pretty good combination.

Being even-tempered (if only outwardly) when things are falling apart around you wins endless brownie points. No one wants to work with someone who can't ever find anything good to say.

Don't copy the whole damn world on the emails you send. People have enough to do without reading through a million pointless emails.

Remember that no one with whom you work is your friend. If you were to be fired tomorrow, none of them would blink an eye. Treat them like you think they're friends, but never slip over that line in your head for an instant.
posted by winna at 9:33 PM on September 5, 2010 [9 favorites]

Never say "that's not my job". Early on in my career I looked around at the people that we succeeding versus the people that were stagnant and I found that was the difference. Be as helpful as you can as often as you can. Sometimes it will bite you in the ass with a ton of extra work, but more often it will get you appreciation and recognition beyond your position.

Also, be happy and pleasant no matter what.
posted by elvissa at 9:33 PM on September 5, 2010 [6 favorites]

1. Do your work.

2. Do a good job.

3. Be nice to everyone.

4. Mind your own business.

5. Keep your mouth shut.
posted by jgirl at 9:37 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't act like any task is below your pay-grade. Seriously; if the toilet needs cleaned, then clean the damn toilet.
Don't gossip. If you do, eventually, the gossip will be about you.
If you screw something up, go ahead and tell your superior immediately. After that, explain what you're going to do to make sure it doesn't happen again. Nobody benefits from you trying to hide a mistake.
Document procedures. People who hoard information about how to do their jobs are weird and sorta creepy.
The best way to get promoted is to teach someone else how to do your job.
The UPS guy/FedEx guy/cleaning staff/building maintenance people? Those are your best friends. You may not need them to help you out often, but when you do, man, they will come through.
posted by Gilbert at 9:38 PM on September 5, 2010 [7 favorites]

"The people you meet on the way up are the same ones you meet on the way down. Act accordingly."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:46 PM on September 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

Be extremely polite to secretaries, janitors and IT.

Don't ignore anyone in the hallways or the elevator - the person you snub could be the big boss conducting your next interview.

Always bring ideas to team meetings, even about how to improve mundane tasks. You will develop a good reputation if you try to participate.

Don't be friends outside of work. Don't get drunk in front of co-workers.
posted by cranberrymonger at 9:48 PM on September 5, 2010 [8 favorites]

Number one thing I have learned since moving into the corporate world:

Keep your manager happy. If your manager is happy, thinks you're competent, hard-working etc, it's largely irrelevant what anyone else thinks. Conversely, if your manager is unhappy, it doesn't matter how many other people think you're a superstar.

So, making your manager happy should always be your number one priority, and the first, unasked assumption that operates before you agree to do any work.

A corollary to this to try and avoid having multiple managers or equal stakeholders at any one time. Making sure 2 or more people with different goals, working styles etc. are happy with you at any given time is exponentially more difficult.
posted by smoke at 9:50 PM on September 5, 2010 [5 favorites]

no personal emails and definitely no personal phone calls from your mother
posted by lakersfan1222 at 10:01 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

If I make a mistake, I own up to it and learn from it.

We're all human, which means we all make mistakes from time to time, but some people always blame their mistakes on someone else as if it's always someone else's fault. More often than not, this also means they'll make the same mistake again because they learned nothing other than how to scapegoat.

I elaborated on the story here, but the short version is this: I got called into the general manager's office when I screwed up at work. I walked into his office, closed the door behind me and said:

Here's what I did.
Here's why I was wrong.
Here's what I learned from the experience.
It'll never happen again.

People can accept mistakes, but nobody wants to work with a screwup. Own up to your mistakes. Learn. Grow. That's a skill that'll take you a long way in the business world.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:06 PM on September 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

Never ask a subordinate to a job you're not willing to do yourself.
Don't snipe from the sidelines--if you've got an opinion, speak up directly, but don't just make cracks from the back of the room.
Make personal connections with service departments. Back channel contacts can help you more in getting your stuff processed than insisting on your rights.

Spring for lunch or coffee for your team once in a while.

And I don't know how to do this, but being able to manage up is a great skill.

On the other hand, knowing the names of and some personal data about the janitors, the service workers, the parking garage guys--not only does it serve you well, it impresses the hell out of hire-ups.

Don't take anything personally. It's business.
Never cry in the office.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:09 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ditto on the 'secretaries and janitors' issue. Our admin can make life easier---or harder---if she wants to.

I have two rules to live by that have served me well.

1) Do not be a complainer. We have a girl who does the scheduling, and sometimes a sudden change will come up. It is usually not her fault, but people will wail and complain and it just puts her in an awkward position. When she approaches me, I just say 'okay' and that's it. It creates so much good will, she knows she can come to me and I will not make problems. And...she is the one who makes the schedule. So that goodwill can work in my favour :)

2) Any time a hint of office politics comes your way, avoid. I try and stay as far away from the drama as I can :)
posted by JoannaC at 10:13 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Learn everyone's name as early on as possible.
posted by John Cohen at 10:16 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

If something didn't get done, don't make excuses. Just apologize and try to make things as right as you can.
posted by corey flood at 10:19 PM on September 5, 2010

Be agreeable to taking on new work, but not if it's going to put your workload at a point where you can no longer succeed.

Figure out what your personal boundaries are on your working hours and stick to them most of the time. Be flexible about them when necessary.

Having important things in your life outside work will make it easier to cope with the ups and downs of your career. (ie, don't put all your personal satisfaction eggs in one basket!)
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 10:22 PM on September 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

In describing a problem, or summarizing a point: Be factual, non-emotional, and to the point. Others who need to act upon the information will appreciate it.

Never say "it's not my job" - no one doesn't want to hear what you can't or won't do. You can at the very least attempt to help them find a better resource, or listen to them describe their problem and see if you can offer some generic guidance. Later, that person will return the favor.

There will be people with whom you cannot get along with for whatever reason. They will test you, and you will want to do bad things to them. Avoid this at all costs, because it will backfire on you every time.
posted by HannoverFist at 10:41 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

1. Do not play office politics unless you are very, very good at it. And most likely, you're not. However, beware of others who do try to play the game. You do not want to be used as a pawn in someone else's chess match.

2. Do not spread gossip, but keep your ear to the ground at all times. The best sources of information are admins and IT.

3. NEVER EVER EVER try to hide a mistake. Own up to it immediately, and explain to your superior how it happened, and what steps you have taken to prevent the mistake going forward.

4. Ultimately, the only person who will look out for you is yourself.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 10:47 PM on September 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Dating at the office? WAY bad idea. Yes, it can work, but it can blow up harder than you can possibly imagine.
posted by deadmessenger at 10:59 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't sleep with anyone from work.

Be on good terms with security, the receptionist, the post room, the facilities and the IT guy. You never know when they become handy.

If you need to escalate something about someone, do it to your boss and let them speak to their boss. Never go directly to their boss.

If you get into email communications with your bosses boss then you should always cc your boss.

Take your team out for lunch or buy doughnuts occasionally, even if you can't claim it back.

Say hello to people in the lift or coffee queue. Sometimes it really pays off.

If you have a team, try to dress smarter than them.

Always compliment your team members when they do well.

Keep every email ever sent or received. If something comes around to bite you on the bottom, you'll still have the records.

Ensure that anything agreed verbally is reconfirmed via email for the reasons above.

Separate your personal email from your work email. It doesn't look so good if your Outlook keeps alerting you to personal emails when you are presenting something to someone.

Keep your emails concise and short. The more senior someone is, the less they tolerate waffle. One paragraph which says all is better than six.

Know when a phone call is better than additions to an email chain.

Know when to take senior managers out of email chains. Tell them you'll handle the issue and report back to them directly later.

Don't air your (projects) dirty laundry unnecessarily. Some people really don't care about the issues you're having, just that you'll fix them on time and to budget.

If there is a risk something will happen, it's better to raise it early with your boss rather than tell them when it's already occurred. Prior warning is better than no warning.

If you have too much work on, arrange a time to sit with your boss and prioritise your work. His/her priorities may be different to what you think they are. Do this weekly as things change.
posted by mr_silver at 11:01 PM on September 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

take notes

always thank anyone who helps you

tell people when they have done a good job, or when you see something they've done that looks good

joke around when you have a free moment - work is boring, and people do appeciate when you take a minute to liven it up a bit
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:07 PM on September 5, 2010

Say 'thank you' to people who work with/for you or help you out.

Bribe your team with chocolate or home baked stuff.

Don't ever hit 'send' when you are angry.

Get guidance from somewhere if you've never done something - this could be the person who tells you to go away and do that thing or anybody else who's more experienced.

If in doubt pick up the phone and talk to people - there are some things you don't want to have in an email trail and its often easier to just talk to people to get them to do what you want them to do.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:11 PM on September 5, 2010

You asked for a personal code of conduct at the office, so I'm going to give you mine – with the caveat that this is my own direction toward the jobs I've had, and I don't demand or even expect that anyone else shares it:

Having a career is the most dangerous and serious mistake I could possibly make as a human being in the modern world. Having a career means involving myself spiritually in a self-interested concern over my own path in the jobs I work and the directions I go in terms of work. Having a career means joining the rat race, of which the late, great Jimmy Reid said so eloquently:
The picture it conjures up is one where we are scurrying around scrambling for position, trampling on others, back-stabbing, all in pursuit of personal success. Even genuinely intended, friendly advice can sometimes take the form of someone saying to you, "Listen, you look after number one." Or as they say in London, "Bang the bell, Jack, I'm on the bus."

To the students I address this appeal. Reject these attitudes. Reject the values and false morality that underlie these attitudes. A rat race is for rats. We're not rats. We're human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement.
So I refuse to have 'a career.' Society tells us we have to fight in a self-interested way to get the better of other people – but that, at the same time, we much be moral, because if we get caught we will be punished. I don't like that conflict that they try to foist on me, so I ignore it altogether and choose my own path; I don't believe there has to be a conflict between my own well-being and the well-being of others.

It's pretty basic. Always try to do the right thing, regardless of how it will affect my own advancement at work. Always try to deal honestly with people, and be wholly a credit to them. Take care of myself, but not more than I need to, and remember that extravagance isn't beneficial; I almost certainly need less than I actually consume right now, and it will be good for me as a human being to reduce the amount of resources I waste. Cultivate the spiritual practice of avoiding greed and the desire to possess more material stuff. Try to get by on less. Remain serious in my private life.

That's sort of how I approach it. Again, just my perspective.
posted by koeselitz at 11:25 PM on September 5, 2010 [36 favorites]

When asked to give an estimate for time to complete a job, give yourself at least twice as much time as you expect it to take (possibly even more for short tasks). There are always more pitfalls than you are expecting.
posted by that girl at 11:28 PM on September 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

One of the finest pieces of job advice I ever got from my father: "It's okay to get angry--as long as you don't make a habit of it."
posted by Drastic at 11:28 PM on September 5, 2010

1. Every email you send will be read by the CEO. Or at least you must assume it will be. Corollaries to this include: Your boss is always looking over your shoulder, in the toilet stall, at the table next to you at lunch, etc.

2. While at work, you don't EVER talk sh*t about anyone you work with. Rule of thumb: If you can't say directly to the person's face, don't say it to anyone else.

3. If you do have to criticize someone, keep it professional. Always keep your game face. Keep it even if you're the one being criticized.

4. When someone asks you in person to do something, immediately send them an email summarizing the details of their request and an estimated time for completion. Or even better, make sure that they send you the request with all the relevant details.

5. Ditto with treating the secretaries/janitors well. But don't treat the higher-ups like royalty either. Apply the golden rule here.

6. Never, EVER let yourself be pressured into doing something unethical. Nevereververeveverever. Staying clean is the only way to ensure your long-term well being.

7. Always give credit to the one with the idea or busting his/her ass to get something done. Always take responsibility for your own mistakes.

8. Heed well all the other advice given by others here.
posted by holterbarbour at 11:42 PM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

One rule not mentioned so far that I try to maintain (it's not always easy): no bagging the client, no matter how big a jerk, idiot or screwup you may think he/she is. You never know the whole story.
posted by Logophiliac at 11:51 PM on September 5, 2010

Every Friday, note down your accomplishments for the week. That way when it's review time, you'll have a list of everything you accomplished over the year instead of having to refer to your memory.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 11:52 PM on September 5, 2010 [25 favorites]

Seems like a lot of people have a similar code as mine:

- Always be genuinely nice to secretaries, janitors, admins, waitresses, and everyone else who serves you. Even if they are not in a position to help you in the future (and many of them will be, which is one huge benefit) it will show your good character, and people who matter to your career will notice.
- Never betray a confidence. Ever. No matter how tempting.
- Nothing is too menial a task for you to do. Pitch in where you can help, even if it's not technically your job. Subordinates will notice and go all out for you. Bosses will notice that you do what it takes, which will serve you well.
- Work hard, even if you don't agree that a task is the best use of your time. Document instructions so you can fall back on them should the need arise.
- Be cheerful and friendly, even to the person you can't stand.
- Don't let your work take over you private life. You deserve to not be working all the time. (This one took a while for me to learn.)
posted by gemmy at 11:53 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Remember it's a job, not your life...

Always take your lunch breaks (barring emergencies), don't pressure your staff to work during their breaks. Preferably take your lunch away from the building/office.

You have contracted hours, work them. Don't drive yourself into hospital by overworking, the company will never remember.

If you're at home, be at home... leave work at the office.

I forgot these rules for a couple of years when I was young in a management position and ended up highly stressed, physically exhausted and developed a nagging hatred for the job. It wasn't worth it, after successfully completing the project that caused all this, I was let go.
posted by itsjustanalias at 11:57 PM on September 5, 2010 [6 favorites]

Don't read mefi at work. (I got fired once when the mefi thread I was reading was misconstrued as KIDDIE PORN. I am not making this up. I now never, ever load any mefi pages ever while at work.)

Read only innocuous things on the web at work. And do so only at your breaks and lunch. They pay you to work, right? For eight hours or so, not four or five or six and a half? Don't be That Guy. If you need more work to do to fill the time, talk to your boss and make sure you are doing something productive.

Keep personal emails to a minimum and make sure any content is completely innocuous. Keep in mind anything you write can be thrown in your face later.

When you are the smart one and figure out how to do something new / different / difficult, DOCUMENT IT! Share the documentation with your coworkers.

Seconding do not discuss religion or politics at work.

Seconding donuts. I favor a dozen regular glazed Krispy Kreme and a dozen assorted, myself.

Always say "please" and "thank you". This is really more of a Life rule and less of a Work-specific rule.
posted by marble at 12:02 AM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sorry, I thought of one other thing: if you are the only person who can do some vital thing, make sure you get a backup, even if this requires work on your part to train someone else / get it set up. Make sure people know how to get it done without you. You really don't want them calling you at home to come in and do it, do you? And god forbid you are out of state for a funeral or something...
posted by marble at 12:05 AM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

don't be a prick.

if your boss starts trying to blame you for something he did, quit immediately.
posted by philip-random at 12:14 AM on September 6, 2010

I AM the IT guy at our company.... and it's good to see everyone is going to bend over backwards to be nice to me. 8)

My code for being an IT guy is pretty simple.

0. Computers are a tool to help people get real work done. That work pays the bills.

1. My job is to absorb uncertainty.

2. Backups are important, and should be tested often.

3. When things go wrong, it's NOT YOUR FAULT. Example... drag an icon from one folder to another on the desktop... what happens? 3 different things depending on conditions you can't possibly know about. Don't worry... you won't break it.

4. The users lie, but they don't mean to... never assume they know the nuances, nor should you assume they know how to answer your precisely worded question correctly. It's a skill to be able to work through them and get things fixed over the phone... fortunately with UltraVNC-SC, that's not as necessary any more.

5. Computers do everything with high speed and great precision, even if it's stupid and wrong.

6. Always help people out with "personal" stuff... it's a fringe benefit of working for the company to get that kind of IT help.

7. Did you reboot yet? ;-)

8. Can you see CNN? Do you see the story about X? (Always test for internet connectivity before troubleshooting access problems)

9. We can do anything, if you can get a job # to bill it to.

10. I'm on call 24x7, call my cell if there is an emergency.

11. If you have any doubt, don't open the attachment, if you did... pull out the power cable, THEN call me. I'll NEVER yell at you about it... it's not your fault. (See #3 above)

12. I am NOT a network Nazi... I do not monitor your email, browsing, or other habits. You are an adult, and I'll treat you as one.

13. Save important stuff on the G: drive, it's backed up every night.

14. I'm getting paid... I'll gladly help out in any way I can, even if computers aren't involved.

So, I hope that all makes sense, and is sensible.
posted by MikeWarot at 12:14 AM on September 6, 2010 [7 favorites]

Do not project your own personality quirks onto the work situation if you can help it at all. Work to recognize your own particular personality quirks.

Make friends with gatekeepers.
posted by telstar at 1:10 AM on September 6, 2010

Document everything. Don't have a conversation about some important, work-related thing and assume it's all settled. This can often happen in small informal office settings.

Even if you hate your work, don't complain about it to your co-workers. That's what friends, family and SOs are for. At work, no one wants to hear it, trust me.

As telstar said, Do not project your own personality quirks onto the work situation if you can help it at all. Work to recognize your own particular personality quirks. As someone who's worked with a number of loud, shrill, excitable and grumpy people, I can't second this strongly enough. You can't help the way you naturally are; just try to dial down some of your quirks.

There will always be drama. Don't take any of it personally and remember at the end of the day it's just a job and not your life.
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:28 AM on September 6, 2010

I have a poor short-term memory, so if a coworker wants to talk to me about work, I bring a pen and pad. If they stop me in the hall and say can you come by and discuss x, I say "Sure, let me go grab my pen and pad." I write down every detail which seems important and I write each task I need to accomplish based on the discussion I am having. I ask questions as they occur to me.

I keep a To-Do list in the middle of my desk, same as I make on the weekend of what cleaning or chores I want to get done. I re-do it every week or so. It is arranged in order of what deadline falls first and followed by the date it needs to be accomplished in parenthesis. As I accomplish tasks I mark them off.

I try to be nice to everyone, but work is for work and home is for home. I don't involve myself overly much with my coworkers personal lives. That being said, I never neglect to greet everyone and exchange pleasantries. Someone once told me that one day, and it may be tomorrow or ten years from now, you will be on the edge of the abyss and only a secretary/administrative assistant/IT person/janitor will be able to prevent you going over and so you want them to like you enough to pull you back rather than push you over. Plus I think it is just nice to be nice to people.

Don't talk about how busy you are. Do your work as quickly and efficiently as possible and don't waste time talking about it. Especially to your superiors. People notice hard work and people almost universally respect hard work. If a superior says "Do you have time to do x?" your answer is "Sure." If they ask "Do you know how to do x?" your answer is either "Sure" or "I haven't done that before but I could probably manage it if . . . "

As a caveat to the above, some people don't respect hard work and will only take advantage of those who display a tendency to do it and you don't want to work for/with those people. If you are at a workplace where your boss or the corporate culture don't value you or the work you do, find another job. Keep doing that until you find a workplace that values you.

When you fuck up - when, not if - own it. "I did x. I did x because y. I see now that was wrong and I want to fix it." Accept full and unexcused responsibility and do what it takes to make it right.

Work to live, don't live to work. Don't get so wrapped up in your job that you mistake it for your life. You will end up one of these sad 60-year old guys working 75 hours a week because they don't know what else to do with themselves. Don't base your identity on where you work or what you do.

In Clerks they talk about how everyone at every job thinks the whole place would shut down if they didn't come in for a week. Guess what? It really wouldn't. If you quit/were fired your coworkers would take up the slack or they would hire a temp or work would be done badly for a while and then better, but life would go on. The people at the top wouldn't even notice. This is both humbling and liberating. Do your work and do it well and get what you can out of it, but don't mistake yourself for essential.

If you are in a bad situation, sometimes there is no other answer than to walk away. There are other jobs.
posted by ND¢ at 4:16 AM on September 6, 2010 [6 favorites]

Here's a summary of what worked in my career(s):

"Yes" whenever you can; see things done: any things. "No" when you must; know your limits. "I don't know, but I will find out" when necessary; don't bullshit. "I need your help" when true.

"Please" and "thank you" for everyone from doorman to president.

"I have a concern" when something is going to screw up. "It's my fault because" when your actions screwed it up. "It won't happen again" when anything you can influence screws up. "I did my best with what I was given [produces document]" when the auditors come.

Buy bagels and/or donuts for cow orkers occasionally. Buy lunch and/or dinner for subordinates occasionally. Surprise your boss with coffee once or twice a year.

Leave your politics, sex and religion at home. Always be polite, especially to crazy people. Never push "send" when angry. Let your boss handle heavy interpersonal issues.

Many jobs have more than their fair share of gossips, incompetents, chauvanists, harassers, malingerers, bullies and nepotism/favouritism. Don't complain about these people more than once (and if you do complain at all, have documented proof). If the problems continue, minimize your exposure to them by keeping conversations short and business-related. Leave at the earliest opportunity, but never in a snit.

Inspire people around you with enthusiasm, and never forget that you're there to get things done. And when it's time to go home, go home and leave work problems and co-workers behind.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:20 AM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't yell.
Don't make people wait for you.

Do have lunch with your team now and again.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 5:28 AM on September 6, 2010

I think the only "don't" that really matters is "don't be an asshole." Especially to admins.

All the other stuff is probably a good idea, but to the extent doing those things makes you hate your job, you can disregard some of them. However, you'll have to make up for it by being really good at what you do.
posted by mullacc at 5:31 AM on September 6, 2010

Document everything, good and bad. It will come in handy.

If you want a career, seek a mentor.

At the same time, it is your career. Look for ways to advance yourself, develop a niche/expertise. Make yourself invaluable.

Develop relationships with those above and beneath you.

This may seem obvious, but if you need help, ask for it. If you are overworked, be sure to communicate that (evenly and unemotionally) to your superiors.
posted by Tall Telephone Pea at 6:04 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

People respect those that have boundaries and enforce them. That means being clear about your rough hours, available time off, etc before you take the job and sticking to your guns after. Not every job has this luxury, but first-in-last-out martyrdom is bad for everyone.

Similarly, if people in your team are doing something that to you seems so far from their job description that it is wasting the time, productivity, energy or morale of the team, figure out why you are being asked to do it and make a case for getting rid of it. If you are a senior person put yourself in the shoes of your junior staff and think of ways to make the bad parts of their job easier.
So often things are done because they've always been done that way, don't be afraid to try to make things better.

In general, be as kind as possible to your junior staff. Save battles for peers and seniors. (Note: This works fine in American cultural workplaces, this may serve you very very poorly in other cultures).
posted by Jemstar at 6:17 AM on September 6, 2010

originally from Investor's Business Daily; follow these ten rules and you will have an impeccable ethos for business, or for whatever you pursue. The editorial comments are from

1. How You Think is Everything.
Always be positive. Think Success, not Failure. Beware of a negative environment.
This trait has to be one of the most important in the entire list. Your belief that you can accomplish your goals has to be unwavering. The moment you say to yourself “I can’t…”, then you won’t. I was always given the advice “never say I can’t” and I’d like to strike those words from the dictionary.
I’ve found that from time-to-time my attitude waivers. A mentor of mine once said “it’s ok to visit pity city, but you can’t stay and there comes a time when you need to leave”. Positive things happen to positive people.
2. Decide upon Your True Dreams and Goals: Write down your specific goals and develop a plan to reach them.
Write down my dreams and goals? Develop a plan to reach them? You mean like a project plan? Yes, that’s exactly what this means. You may have heard the old adage: A New Years resolution that isn’t written down is just a dream, and dreams are not goals.
Goals are those concrete, measurable stepping stones of achievement that track your progress towards your dreams. My goal is to start a second career as a freelance writer – what are your goals?
3. Take Action. Goals are nothing without action.
Be like Nike and “Just do it”. I took action by reaching out and started writing. Every day I try to take some action towards my goals. It may be small, but it’s still an action. Have you taken action towards your goals?
4. Never Stop Learning: Go back to school or read books. Get training & acquire skills.
Becoming a life long learner would benefit us all and is something we should instill in our kids. It’s funny that once you’re out of school you realize how enjoyable learning can be. What have you learned today?
5. Be Persistent and Work Hard: Success is a marathon, not a sprint. Never give up.
I think every story of success I read entails long hard hours of work. There is no getting around this and there is no free lunch. But, if you’re working towards something that you’re passionate about, something you love – then is it really work?
6. Learn to Analyze Details: Get all the facts, all the input. Learn from your mistakes.
I think you have to strike a balance between getting all the facts and making a decision with incomplete data – both are traits of successful people. Spend time gathering details, but don’t catch ‘analysis paralysis’.
7. Focus Your Time And Money: Don’t let other people or things distract you.
Remain laser focused on your goals and surround yourself with positive people that believe in you. Don’t be distracted by the naysayer’s or tasks that are not helping you achieve your goals.
8. Don’t Be Afraid To Innovate: Be different. Following the herd is a sure way to mediocrity.
Follow through on that break-out idea you have. Ask yourself “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?”
9. Deal And Communicate With People Effectively: No person is an island. Learn to understand and motivate others.
Successful people develop and nurture a network and they only do that by treating people openly, fairly and many times firmly. There is nothing wrong about being firm – just don’t cross the a-hole line. How do you deal with people?
10. Be Honest And Dependable: Take responsibility, otherwise numbers 1 – 9 won’t matter.

posted by beelzbubba at 6:29 AM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

When you screw up, always try to have a proposed solution along with the problem when you present the error to your boss/the relevant person. It makes you look proactive, and people like people who make them do less panicking/less work.

For example, I was at a newspaper when one of my articles fell through last minute via a complex series of unfortunate events and, it being the THIRD article that had fallen through that day, my editor had a conniption fit. Luckily I said, "Wait -- I was thinking I could fill about the same amount of space with [similar article and info box] which I know I can get an interview for (at 11 p.m.) by calling [good college friend who has expertise in area and lives on the West Coat so is still awake] and then filling in the extra space with the info box. There won't be a photo, but the info box will at least be a graphical element and I already asked the graphics guy if he could stick around if you approve it." My editor calmed right down, told me to "hurry the fuck up and do it" and, a few weeks later when they were promoting out of the reporter pool into editorial positions, I got one of the editor positions. Largely because of that incident, I think. And as an editor, BOY did I prefer the reporter who said, "X didn't work out, but I thought I could try Y?"

This is much, much better than the guy who says, "Um -- X is broken. What do I do?"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:39 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Never ever put anything in an email that you don't want forwarded to everyone. Pick up the phone for those things that should not go in an email.

Never ask your staff to work harder than you do but don't work so hard that your staff can't keep up.
posted by eleslie at 7:00 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Never use Reply To All.

Never address an email before you've written it. It's counterintuitive, but write them "upside-down" -- text first, *then* subject, and only when the entire bloody thing is absolutely done and you are ready to hit SEND do you fill in the To, Cc and Bcc lines. And make sure you've got those correctly identified. And be very careful to whom you reveal your knowledge of Bcc.
posted by Etrigan at 7:04 AM on September 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

(Academic IT Support:) At a small university where you've been working forever, it's easy to assume a familiarity with some of the faculty members. You're probably used to calling a bunch of them by their first name. And then there's a few you haven't met before.

DO NOT assume they are OK with Mr. So-and-so (or even Professor So-and-so). Some of them will be insulted if their Doctorate is not mentioned when you address them. And they will remember.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 7:16 AM on September 6, 2010

Never say you're bored or don't have anything to do; always find something or ASK if anyone else needs help. In meetings or on conference calls, don't assume you have to participate all the time; only add something if it's going to add value. Go out for drinks/socialize within reason, but never kid yourself that your co-workers are your friends; set boundaries. Never, ever, ever burn your bridges - if you quit, give notice, be professional and assume that your path may cross with everyone at some point in the future. Don't take advantage of your boss if they're nice and friendly by coming in late, leaving early, etc.; it will sour their opinion of you even if they're not documenting every incident.

My biggest piece of advice is to appreciate that you get paid a salary for doing your JOB - any bonus', little incentives, etc. should always be seen as a cherry on top and you should always show gratitude. Oh, one last thing - find out what motivates YOU and communicate that to your boss during one-on-ones or when asked. Nothing is more frustrating for a manager than trying to ensure employees are engaged and motivated and not having a clue if it's money, or a job well done or the vacation time or whatever.
posted by cyniczny at 7:56 AM on September 6, 2010

Very early in my career, my boss at the time told me: "people never remember all the little good things you do. They always remember all the bad things." So be professional in the best sense of the word, and keep your promises.

Also early on, my dad told me to always stay on good terms with your co-workers as you never know which of them may end up being your boss some day. I would also add that you never know which of your current co-workers will be in a position to get you the next job (and you may desperately need it).

I've know some very bright, talented, capable people who were not offered certain jobs because the hiring managers didn't want to deal with their troublesome personalities. Being easy to get along with and having a good attitude goes a very long way.

As for having a good attitude, I've always kept in mind that my employers are paying me to get something done. I am accepting their pay, so it is only right that I do my best to deliver what they want.

Along the way I found that it is critical to put limits on how much of my life to devote to work. I've had years of working 60-80 hour weeks and I've had other years of working 40 hour weeks. Working too much just made me stressed out, unhealthy and unhappy. It didn't make me rich or provide any other benefits. Work a lot when it's needed but don't do it just as a habit.

On the other hand, if you find yourself with loads of free time at work, use it to do something that will help the company and your career. Acquire new skills, learn things that will make you a more valuable employee, etc.
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 8:07 AM on September 6, 2010

holterbarbour said:
Every email you send will be read by the CEO. Or at least you must assume it will be.

It goes even further than that. When you're writing an email, think about how you would feel if it ended up, a year or two down the line, in the hands of your biggest competitor's (or vendor's, or customer's) lawyers as part of pre-trial discovery. Because there is the chance that--for reasons having nothing to do with you, and everything to do with some jerk in another division of your company whose name you will never hear until you learn about his colossal fuckup on the news--it will.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 8:09 AM on September 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

If told to keep a secret, keep it a secret.
Never argue via email, resolve disputes face to face or over the phone.
Give other people credit publicly.
Don't gossip about people.
Don't discuss religion or politics.
Never allow romance in the office.
Deliver very good or bad news in person.
Tell the truth (you don't have to remember what you said).
posted by Argyle at 8:17 AM on September 6, 2010

One more, after reading the above posts.

Never, EVER, use BCC: with emails. NEVER EVER!
posted by Argyle at 8:21 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

The answer is really very simple.

Ask for a copy of your review from HR. Carefully examine it and see what the company's objectives are and make it a point to score high on any behaviors associated with it. If you need clarification, ask the HR folks, and be specific.

As stated above, recognize the inside team/assistants/subordinates, etc. buy them lunch once in a while, let them know how much you appreciate what they do. When/if the manager gets mad, they will always stick up for you.

The most important thing I've learned in 40 years of working, is to have integrity throughout your career, it pays off in raises and karma.

posted by ~Sushma~ at 8:30 AM on September 6, 2010

Don't blog or Tweet or post on Facebook about your job or coworkers, even if your name's not on it.
(If you really have to blog about your work, like if you're a pundit or big name in the field, keep it bland and never EVER vent or swear.)

Keep a little activity log of what you did, every work day. It's anal, but it can help you see where your time goes. It's also helped me to be able to look back and say "Why did I edit that config file in July 2007? What were we all doing at the time?" I also jot "Next steps to do" for all of the projects mentioned in that log - so handy if I have to drop something and can't get back to it for a week or two or if I go away for a long weekend.

Make your emails brief. Make your questions clear. Use bullet points. You don't have to write a novel explaining all of the background details. If you do have to include long details, put your question FIRST and then say "details below". Seconding the advice above of not putting in people's addresses until last - this prevents you accidentally clicking "Send" too early.

Assume that any email you send could be CC'd or forwarded.

Make your best effort to join in on social events. Don't be "that one person who never goes to the company picnic." Start up some social outings if there aren't any - pub trivia is a great one!
posted by cadge at 8:41 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

If I had to reduce it to one thing only, it would be to show up on time, every day. You'd be surprised at how many people can't manage this -- and I'm not talking about reasonable excuses (eg kid was vomiting). They just can't wake up, shower, and drive to work without getting derailed by something, or maybe anything. They aren't bad people, they just can't get there on time.

And then if I could add one other thing, it would be to leave work behind, too. You need to be happy and healthy and have a life -- those things matter more than a job does, and personally I don't think you can keep doing a good job if the rest of your life is totally out of balance.
posted by Forktine at 9:18 AM on September 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

I used to, but now I never take office work back home. Never. (I sometimes freelance from home, but that is my business.) If I have to stay till 3 AM to finish, so be it, but I'll just never take it home.
It is not homework, it is work. So unless your job description says: solving problems from home, available 24/7, don't do it. I'm way happier now, and there's always someone who's willing to take the work home instead of you who thinks is getting ahead by doing so. Any good manager or boss can see they aren't; don't do it.
posted by omegar at 10:11 AM on September 6, 2010

Your job is not your date, your job is your job. You do not "work it out" with your job, you do it as best you can or you get another job that you can do as best you can.

Your job is a contractual agreement between you and an institution that has more power than you. Keep this information to yourself, but remember it when you are asked to do things outside of your normal job description. Try to belong to a union.

Do not discuss religion or politics with people at work especially people who want to discuss them with you. It's better to be thought of as rude than as a radical or an atheist.

Document what you do. Ask for guidance. Check in along the way. Be clear that you understand the chain of command. Choose your battles and choose where you are going to ask for leeway [i.e. some people always come in late, they're less likely to have leverage asking for time off than someone with an impeccable track record. Similarly if you're always dressed sharply, you'll get more leeway when you need some sort of dress code accomodation]. Have personal standards that are higher than your boss's standards for you.

Try to say something nice to and about everyone. Be polite to and about everyone. It's great to be well-loved by patrons [I work in libraries usually] but it's important to at least be tolerated and accepted by the people who sign your paycheck.
posted by jessamyn at 10:27 AM on September 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Before I headed off to my first job (part of which involved spelling the switchboard operator for her breaks) my Mom gave this advice, which she'd gotten from one of her bosses: Never tell a caller "I don't know." Even though she was told this back in the 1950s, I still used it up until the early 2000s (last time I had an office job) and was always commented/complimented on my "professionalism" both by customers and my supervisors. If a caller (whether it is a customer or a co-worker) asks you a question to which you don't know the answer, say "Let me find out for you" or "I don't have that information handy and I hate to leave you on 'hold', may I call you back?" or anything except "I don't know."
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:34 AM on September 6, 2010

No-one likes a Goody Two Shoes.
posted by AlsoMike at 11:15 AM on September 6, 2010

Lot of good advice here. Here's one that I've mentioned a few times already on MeFi, but it's changed my experience (for the better) working so vastly that I can't shut up about it:

You are your boss's little remote control robot. In any situation, you are to do exactly the thing you think your boss would do in the same situation. Not something you think would be even better or more efficient. If a special case comes up that you think is an exception to this rule, pick up the phone and ask.

Other tips:
Very few things in this world are so time critical that you don't have time to do it right. Taking a shortcut to help a customer who's in a hurry and "doing the paperwork later" only causes headaches down the line. Every deviation from how things are supposed to be done causes an increase in your mental stress remembering what you've done and what you have left outstanding. Even reactor operators have time to mentally double check that yes, they really want to scram the plant before turning the switch. Don't settle for being "pretty sure" you're doing the right thing. Take the time to make sure and follow the proper procedure unless, truly, delaying will cost someone their life. Turns out that doesn't come up very often.

Don't just blindly forward someone to your boss if they have an issue above your paygrade. Posit a solution (if you can,) and call your boss with your suggestion. "Hey, I'm sending this person to you. Here's their problem, and I think this is the solution, but that's really your call" is much easier for them to deal with than having to solve the person's problem from scratch when the boss is busy.

We're all on the same team, and the goal is production. My job is safety related, and it often puts me in an adversarial relationship with production workers who are just trying to work. While I can't be afraid to shut them down when necessary, I have best results by coming up with ways they can get the job done safely (and insisting they do that) rather than reasons they can't continue and leaving them hanging.
posted by ctmf at 11:39 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Always do it like you're being watched and graded. If you practice that way, you'll get good at it that way and it won't seem like such a PITA without the shortcuts. Also, you'll instinctively do it that way when someone is watching and won't have to worry about putting on an act.

It's amazing how much lower your stress level is when "I have nothing to hide" is your day-to-day attitude. Let everyone else panic about auditors or senior management being in the building.
posted by ctmf at 11:48 AM on September 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Have a life outside of work. Have people outside of your field who can help you gain perspective. Just because 98% of people in your industry operate a certain way, doesn't mean it's productive, healthy, or something you should put up with.

If you relocate for your job, find friends and a local support network that does not involve anyone from your office. You do not want the only people you talk to in your day to be your coworkers or boss.

If you're working hard and and getting stuff done and are unappreciated, leave. Other workplaces will appreciate your skills. It's better to leave before these things make you angry, passive-aggressive or resentful. This way you still will get great recommendations.
posted by Cracky at 12:12 PM on September 6, 2010

Oh, Additionally, if you're moving abroad for work:

Learn the Language of your new country. Study it before you move. It'll help you do your job better, and, more importantly, will help you get around and find friends without the aid of your coworkers.

Don't play politics. It will bite you in the ass.

Make sure you feel comfortable moving to your new home without significant aid from your new job and coworkers. Your coworkers are there to work- not to show you around this new city.

If you're not going to be comfortable finding housing, food, and friends on your own, without aid from your coworkers- don't take the job. Relying on your coworkers for your basic needs will make you seem either a. weak and impressionable (and at their mercy) or b. incompetent. This goes doubly if you are relocating to take up a managerial position of any type.

Oh, and finally- especially when working in developing nations- don't apply for or accept jobs you're not at least decently qualified to actually do. You're already doing a lot of new things (moving, making new friends, learning a new language)- learning all new tasks for your job will make the experience even more overwhelming.

Sorry if this is long- but I've found working abroad is very different from working in the US (or your own home country- all places have different workplace cultures), and while I made (and saw made by others) a lot of these mistakes when I first left home, they're things I stand by in the jobs I take and do now.
posted by Cracky at 12:27 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for sharing your pearls of wisdom! Not marking any best answer because I think I've learned a little from each and every response. God bless you all.

Cracky, you say one shouldn't ask for moving help from co-workers and you are also talking about working in different countries. If you are moving to a developing country where you don't have the luxury of finding everything online, and you don't know *anyone* in that country, doesn't someone from work usually help out? I thought that was how it worked, at least in the first month or so!

Keep your responses coming in...
posted by xm at 12:36 PM on September 6, 2010

-Don't date anyone you work with - this includes customers and clients as well as coworkers. You do not want to be the one who caused your company to lose an important account because you had a really bad breakup with their rep.

-Maintain good working relationships with everyone. You're with them for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and it's a much better environment if it's not a battleground.

-Don't take sides if two coworkers are in a dispute. At one job, the two other coworkers on my team had a huge blowup and didn't speak for a couple days. It was a pretty difficult time, but I told them I was staying out if it since I have to work with both of them. They respected that.
posted by SisterHavana at 1:09 PM on September 6, 2010

@ xm,

It depends on your workplace, and where you're moving. Larger companies will have offices and staff who specifically aid employees in relocating- and if your job does, that's awesome and utilize that service as much as possible.

If the office doesn't have such a service- then you're usually taking productive time away from other coworkers. Several of the offices I've worked at did not have staff relocation aid, and so any you received was based on the goodwill of your colleagues.

At the most recent office where I worked, we brought in a half-dozen new employees from abroad in a six-month period (one of those was a new manager). Most made good-faith efforts to find and do things on their own before asking coworkers to lend a hand, while two relied on their coworkers to mediate living in a new country. Those in the former category turned into strong long-term employees; those in the latter either quit or were fired. Most of the other organizations in my current country are similar- you're expected to relocate and set yourself up in your new location before work begins, with minimal aid. That said, different industries and countries operate differently- it's a bit big-mouthed of me to generalize so much.

It's not so much that you'll receive no aid- but that if you're unable/unwilling to make a good-faith effort to do things on your own in a new location, it's very difficult. I suppose it would be more succinct to say that if you're uncomfortable moving to a new country, don't move there for a job.
posted by Cracky at 5:23 PM on September 6, 2010

* apologize to people when you are wrong; publicly if necessary;
* set aside an hour before leaving to get you stuff ready for the next day. This prepares you to let go of the day and also prepare for the next;
* if you are already organized at the end of day with time to burn then do something to learn whether reading or some online training like Heck, an online quiz to work some other part of the brain is always handy;
* No meeting is worth your life. Plan to be prompt and not need the speeding ticket;
* work on your resume each year and keep a portfolio of your best work across multiple categories. It allows you to access what you learned and did. It also allows you the leisure to work on a very important document without freaking out and stress;
* All the advice above is great but I wish to emphasize this, that kindness and courtesy should be the default;
* when managing a project or people, keep in mind this: that everyone can be successful given the right framework. This includes you, so rethink project management as setting up everyone to be successful so that the project is successful;
* take your dev team out to a decent lunch -- maybe I just like taking people put to lunch
posted by jadepearl at 6:43 PM on September 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

so, in summary ...

Be more or less perfect but don't be a goody-two-shoes ... and ummm, ... apologize to people when you are wrong; publicly if necessary; (probably the most important point of all, assuming you're competent in the first place). You will mess up. You will be tempted to either A. cover it up, or B. let someone else take the blame. Don't. Own your errors. Only make them once. If your boss (or manager) can't handle it, you're better off working somewhere else.

This thread is starting to read like notes for a book called "How To Put Your Best Foot Forward At Work"
posted by philip-random at 7:00 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Being right is not that important. Often it's obnoxious. No one likes the person who comes into every conversation just to be right, or the person who corrects them publicly about minor things.

If you have to correct someone, only do it if it's important, and try to do it gently and privately. "I thought that we were going to do X because of Y, but you said in the meeting that we were going to do Z."

Definitely don't correct people who are really confident and proud of their knowledge. You know the type. "Yeah, Brian De Palma is great, I noticed him when I saw that he directed Jurassic Park". Just nod and say "hmm".

Some people are defensive and sensitive because they're insecure and those are often the people who end up spreading rumors, getting people excluded from social groups, stuff like that. You want to avoid them. Hang with the people who love everyone and talk about how much everyone rocks.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:50 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I also work in IT (I appreciate everyone who has said to be nice to the IT folks -- wish everyone thought so!). The advice I give the techs who work for us most often is: You can't control everything. You can't know when you go on site whether the Blue Screen you're fixing is a simple firmware update or a full-on rebuild. But control the things you can control: be on time. Be polite and pleasant with the customers. Keep your shirt tucked in. Get your damn timesheets and expense reports in on time.

For the things you can't control: When you need help, ask for it. If a truck overturned and you can't avoid being late, call before you are late. Document everything. Save every e-mail, incoming and outgoing. Automatically assume that every web page you're visiting is being tracked (it probably is).

Contrary to what a few people here have said, know when to use Reply All. And BCC.

An addition to the People You Should Always Be Nice To: ACCOUNTING. Although truth be told, just be pleasant to everyone, regardless of rank or department.

Don't be Facebook friends with people you work with. Or clients. For the same reason you shouldn't discuss politics or religion.

Be honest. Own up to your mistakes, and find a solution to fix them. Don't be afraid to apologize.

If your superiors don't give you goals to meet, create your own.

By the way, if you really want to get in good with your IT people: archive your mailbox regularly. Don't save your work to your desktop. Stay off Facebook at work (Number 1 cause of viruses). Don't install unauthorized applications. And if you happen to make a mistake and screw your computer up, be honest about what you were trying to do when it went to hell. We'll be able to fix it a lot faster.
posted by stennieville at 12:40 AM on September 7, 2010

You may be interested in this thread from quite some time back, in case you haven't seen it. I stand by what I said there, which is mostly what Forktine said upthread--it's such a simple thing to plan ahead so you are always on time, with a bit of a window to spare actually so you can relax and mentally prepare and cushion yourself for those crazy times something goes offkilter. That's what my mother's work habits for 20+ years taught me by example, and it's such a basic but to me important thing, just being on time and prepared.
posted by ifjuly at 8:26 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Remember that (with some exceptions) your work higher-ups are generally reasonable and will not knowingly give you more than you can handle. If this happens, it is typically because the higher-ups are themselves dealing with more than they can handle, and lose track of things. So if you are overloaded with more than you can reasonably accomplish, tell superior - politely - that you have been asked to do A, B, C and D, and while you want to help and can probably accomplish three of these things today, you likely can't complete all four. Which thing would superior like you to defer?

This is one of those obvious realizations that took a while to hit home, but has really improved my work life since. A lot of people will say nothing as they are heaped with tasks from varying sources and then complain bitterly about their workload, forgetting the powers that be might have no idea of all they've been handed, or assuming the higher-ups are intentionally setting out to ruin their lives.
posted by nicoleincanada at 1:34 PM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

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